Baker in 2013
January 7, 1957 |
New York City
|Education||Eastman School of Music|
|Alma mater||Haverford College|
|Genre||Novels, non-fiction, essays|
For me, as a beginning novelist, all other living writers form a control group for whom the world is a placebo.
True, the name of the product wasn't so great. Kindle? It was cute and sinister at the same time – worse than Edsel, or Probe, or Microsoft's Bob. But one forgives a bad name. One even comes to be fond of a bad name, if the product itself is delightful.
I don't do all that well in the writerly world. I'm happier being outside the flow.
While I was writing I assumed it would be published under a pseudonym, and that liberated me: what I wrote was exactly what I wanted to read.
The great thing about novels is that you can be as unshy as you want to be. I'm very polite in person. I don't want to talk about startling or upsetting things with people.
Until a friend or relative has applied a particular proverb to your own life, or until you've watched him apply the proverb to his own life, it has no power to sway you.
I really practiced hard and got to a certain level of technical proficiency. I overcame some of my limitations. I was a hard-working, dedicated bassoonist, but I have to say I'm not a natural musician.
One's head is finite. You pour more and more things into it – surnames, chronologies, affiliations – and it packs them away in its tunnels, and eventually you find that you have a book about something that you publish.
The music wasn't going to happen, and I realized I had read so little. I didn't know my way around any century. I was very under read.
From my music training, I knew that, some Spanish rhythms apart, 5/4 is a time signature used only in the modern era. Holst's Mars from the Planets is 5/4. But if you speak lines of poetry in that pattern you just end up hitting the off-beats. It's only when you add a rest – a sixth beat – that it sounds as it surely should sound.
Haven't you felt a peculiar sort of worry about the chair in your living room that no one sits in?
Wikipedia is just an incredible thing. It is fact-encirclingly huge, and it is idiosyncratic, careful, messy, funny, shocking and full of simmering controversies – and it is free, and it is fast.
That was the problem with reading: you always had to pick up again at the very thing that had made you stop reading the day before.
Maybe the Kindle was the Bowflex of bookishness: something expensive that, when you commit to it, forces you to do more of whatever it is you think you should be doing more of.
The nice thing about a protest song is that it takes the complaint, the fussing, the finger-pointing, and gives it an added component of sociable harmony.
I blush easily. I have difficulty meeting people's eye, difficulty with public speaking, the normal afflictions of the shy, but not to a paralysing degree.
I keep thinking I'll enjoy suspense novels, and sometimes I do. I've read about 20 Dick Francis novels.
When I really want to be soothed and reminded of why people bother to fiddle with sentences, I often read poetry.
I think I am done with Wikipedia for the time being. But I have a secret hope. Someone recently proposed a Wikimorgue – a bin of broken dreams where all rejects could still be read, as long as they weren't libelous or otherwise illegal.
I like shelves full of books in a library, but if all books become electronic, the task of big research libraries remains the same – keep what's published in the form in which it appeared.
Spoon the sauce over the ice cream. It will harden. This is what you have been working for.
I was very shy and somewhat awkward. I studied too hard. And to have this exciting dorm life was a whole new thing.
Printed books usually outlive bookstores and the publishers who brought them out. They sit around, demanding nothing, for decades. That's one of their nicest qualities – their brute persistence.
It's true that I don't rearrange that much in the fiction, but I feel if you change even one name or the order of one event then you have to call it fiction or you get all the credits of non-fiction without paying the price.
I hadn't played any music since freshman year of college, more than thirty years ago, so I had to relearn everything. I started writing songs. Some were dance and trance songs (I listen to them a lot while I'm writing), and some were love songs, because that after all is what music is about – dancing and trancing and love and love's setbacks.
I'm often called obsessive, but I don't think I am any more than anyone else.
I've never been a fast reader. I'm fickle; I don't finish books I start; I put a book aside for five, ten years and then take it up again.
I no longer want to live in an apartment furnished with forklifts and backhoes.
I ordered a Kindle 2 from Amazon. How could I not? There were banner ads for it all over the Web. Whenever I went to the Amazon Web site, I was urged to buy one.
E.B. White's essays are the best things I've read about Maine – especially the one in which he's not sure if he can go out sailing any more in his sloop.
There's a time and place for the Kindle, and I own one now and have books on it that I don't otherwise have. But I don't find that my hand reaches out for it the way it does for a trade paperback, or (in the middle of the night) for the iPod Touch.
So I really began as a failed poet – although when I first wanted to be a writer, I learned to write prose by reading poetry.
First, if you love the Kindle and it works for you, it isn't problematic, and you should ignore all my criticisms and read the way you want to read.