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The Size of Thoughts [Hardcover]

Nicholson Baker

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Book Description

14 Mar 1996
A collection of essays which range from "The history of the comma" to an amusing account of reading aloud, from a lament on the disappearance of conventional library classification to an appreciation of cinema-going. Nicholson Baker has also written "The Mezzanine", "The Fermata" and "U and I"

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (14 Mar 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701163011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701163013
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 695,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essays on important little things. 3 Dec 1996
By A Customer - Published on
Nicholson Baker writes about important stuff; not things like affirmative action or the cumulative effect of the Marshall Plan on Postwar Europe, but essential little things like fingernail clippers and Testor paints.
In his new book of essays, "The Size of Thoughts," Baker deals with such weighty issues as the machinery of movie projectors and the relationship between rarity and writing on rubber. But don't get the idea that Baker's book is a frivolous rambling; included in this collection of essays is a careful mini-history of punctuation, a report on the computerization of library card catalogs, and a hundred pages devoted to an exacting essay on the word "lumber."
Arranged under six headings (Thought, Machinery, Reading, Mixed, Library Science, and Lumber), the essays in this collection range from playfully comical to earnest and sentimental. Among Baker's more informal offerings are a recipe for chocolate sauce, a collection of mistyped sentences put in poetic form, and excerpts written under the influence of "nearly a hundred dollars' worth of marijuana."Baker's sentences are rolling and pun-laden, his vocabulary sharp even under a cloud of THC. A good part of his talent rests in his ability to articulate the quirky joys and silly idiosyncrasies that we all share but are shy to admit. His "Model Airplanes" may well put many readers in toy store aisles looking for the biggest B-17 on the shelf and three little jars of olive drab. His "Clip Art" will have readers closely inspecting the chrome plating of their fingernail clippers, searching for tiny clues to their origins.
These essays and others reveal an amateur's curiosity, a dabbler's impatience, and a romantic's simultaneous love of and disappointment with the new. Baker's writing, both here and in his earlier works, evidences a mind in motion; his prose jumps flaming hoops and juggles chainsaws. His observations are sharp and smart, frequently pushing up a good laugh. "The Size of Thoughts" is full of closet-size thoughts, and maybe some house-size ones, too.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arcane pleasures 15 July 2000
By Karen - Published on
After reading this book, you will never clip your toenails again without marvelling at the fine and delicate engineering that went into the noble toenail clipper. You will develop a nostalgia for flipping through the card catalog, and for the days when consumer items did not come in fashion colors and an overwhelming number of forms. We are unaccustomed to the results of such honed and loving attention paid to the quotidian. Who knew such pleasure could be gotten from the history of film projectors, or the semantic evolution of the word "lumber?"
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So what size are they? 15 Jan 2002
By Cat Lund - Published on
"So what size are they?" I heard a voice asking. Blinking in the Queensland sunshine I looked up from my book and smiled when I realised what my questioner meant. "There's only one way to answer that question" I said, and proceeded to read the opening paragraph of the book aloud, while my questioner listened, spellbound.
Back in rainy Britain I'd woken up with a dry mouth and aching head after one of my farewell parties in a friends house. Desperate for something to read I spied this book upon a shelf. Attracted by the tasteless pink and orange cover adorning this particular edition I picked it up and immediately disappeared, enthralled, into the lumber-room of someone else's mind. This charming book is filled with some of the irrelevant bits and pieces that somehow sneak into our brains. We turn them over from time to time, pulling them out of our subconscious like a paper covered boiled sweet from a fluff-filled pocket.
The author leads you down the byways and alleys of his thought processes, challenging and amusing you by turn and always asking questions that you wish you had thought of. This gentle philosophical meandering leads you to look at your surroundings with fresh eyes and broadens your horizons because you suddenly understand how at least one other human being thinks. It's a charming book to suit a wistful mood, a beach, a cloud, a river. Pack it in your holiday suitcase and wander gently through it at a holiday pace when the mood takes you. You won't be disappointed.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Books, wood, lumber, libraries 19 April 2004
By alexander laurence - Published on
Which brings us to the book of the month: The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber by Nicholson Baker. With all this travel and displacement, I didn't read that much in the past month except for a few scant pages of this or that book, or leafing though New York Girls, or the Doris Kloster book, or flipping through pages of The Complete Reprint of John Willie's Bizarre. Baker's book was sort of a meditative book after enjoying the "over the top" quality of a Kern or a Kloster. Baker is a very intelligent man as an essayist and this sober and funny book reminds me of the thoughtfulness of his previous novels, The Mezzanine or The Fermata.
In fact, Nicholson Baker has been assaulted once or twice in the past by a reviewer or two for being a minor pornographer on the last two novelistic outings, and I guess that he is now asking for our forgiveness. He portrays himself here as a regular guy, with a great interest in the most minute particles. The careful essays are about simple things: changing your mind as opposed to making decisions, the size and shape of thoughts, and rarity in life and experience. Baker is also a physical guy and likes his hands on the machinery, so he devotes a word or two about typewriters, model airplanes, clipping your nails, and the movie projectionist.
He is a severe literary critic (refer to U and I), and Baker here elaborates his views on the literary profession which include the art of reading aloud, the history of punctuation, thoughts about Alan Hollinghurst and J. E. Lighter's The Historical Dictionary of American Slang. Things read at weddings, typos, a recipe, dewey decimal system, and books as furniture are thrown in the shuffle; glue keeps it all together. And finally a long essay about the history of lumber, where he comes out in favor of lumber, is his most strongly political. I say that I love lumber! Ever since I was hit on the head by a two by four as a child.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow! 25 Dec 2001
By A Customer - Published on
A weirdly eclectic mix of topics, each of which stays with you.
The essay on card catalogs makes me want to scream and tear my hair out. I have a few friends who are librarians. I have raised Baker's issue with them, and they are to-a-t EXACTLY how he would have predicted. "Well, we're not really archivists."
Wonderful, compelling stuff here.
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