Nicholson Baker Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 42 quotes)
The neurons that do expire are the ones that made imitation possible. When you are capable of skillful imitation, the sweep of choices before you is too large; but when your brain loses its spare capacity, and along with it some agility, some joy in winging it, and the ambition to do things that don't suit it, then you finally have to settle down to do well the few things that your brain really can do well--the rest no longer seems pressing and distracting, because it is now permanently out of reach. The feeling that you are stupider than you were is what finally interests you in the really complex subjects of life: in change, in experience, in the ways other people have adjusted to disappointment and narrowed ability. You realize that you are no prodigy, your shoulders relax, and you begin to look around you, seeing local color unrivaled by blue glows of algebra and abstraction.
Sometimes I'll spend an hour writing a tiny email. I work on it until I've created the illusion that I've dashed it off in three minutes. If I make a typo, I let it stand. Sometimes in fact I correct the typo without thinking, and then I back up and retype the typo so that it'll look more casual. I don't know why.
There's something narcissistic in the phrase "collected poems." Who's collecting them? The poem. How hard is that? That's not a real collection. Now if he had made a collection of water fountains, or of oven mitts, that would be a collection. Or if he'd collected editions of Festus, the long mad poem written somewhere in the nineteenth century by a lost soul named Bailey--that would be an achievement. But collecting your own poems? What's so great about that? And mixing and mingling them in with some new? New and and Collected Poems? Oh, well! Good job. Nice going.
And now I'm back outside again sitting in the white plastic chair looking at the dew on the gas cap of my car. A fly wants to bit me on the ankle. The mosquitoes are all asleep. They're just not out at this hour. Only one biting fly. And a mourning dove, who blows through his thumbs to make that sound.
I don’t think that loneliness is necessarily a bad or unconstructive condition. My own skill at jamming time may actually be dependent on some fluid mixture of emotions, among them curiosity, sexual desire, and love, all suspended in a solvent medium of loneliness. I like the heroes or heroines of books I read to be living alone, and feeling lonely, because reading is itself a state of artificially enhanced loneliness. Loneliness makes you consider other people’s lives, makes you more polite to those you deal with in passing, dampens irony and cynicism. The interior of the Fold is, of course, the place of ultimate loneliness, and I like it there. But there are times when the wish for others’ voices, for friendliness returned, reaches unpleasant levels, and becomes a kind of immobilizing pain. That was how it felt as I finished packing up the box of sex machines.
And I'll flip through the newest issue, walking back from my blue mailbox, hunting for the poem he chose over mine, and it'll be the same thing as always. The prose will have pulled back, and the poem will be there, cavorting, saying, I'm a poem, I'm a poem. No, you're not! You're an impostor, you're a toy train of pretend stanzas of chopped garbage. Just like my poem was.
The Pop-Tarts page is often aflutter. Pop-Tarts, it says as of today (February 8, 2008), were discontinued in Australia in 2005. Maybe that's true. Before that it said that Pop-Tarts were discontinued in Korea. Before that Australia. Several days ago it said: "Pop-Tarts is german for Little Iced Pastry O' Germany." Other things I learned from earlier versions: More than two trillion Pop-Tarts are sold each year. George Washington invented them. They were developed in the early 1960s in China. Popular flavors are "frosted strawberry, frosted brown sugar cinnamon, and semen." Pop-Tarts are a "flat Cookie." No: "Pop-Tarts are a flat Pastry, KEVIN MCCORMICK is a FRIGGIN LOSER notto mention a queer inch." No: "A Pop-Tart is a flat condom." Once last fall the whole page was replaced with "NIPPLES AND BROCCOLI!!!!!
Gerard Manley Hopkins somewhere describes how he mesmerized a duck by drawing a line of chalk out in front of it. Think of me as the duck; the chalk, softly wearing itself away against the tiny pebbles embedded in the corporate concrete, is Joyce's forward-luring rough-smooth voice on the cassettes she gives me. Or, to substitute another image, since one is hardly sufficient in Joyce's case, when I let myself really enter her tape, when I let it surround me, it is as if I'm sunk into the pond of what she is saying, as if I'm some kind of patient, cruising amphibian, drifting in black water, entirely submerged except for my eyes, which blink every so often. Each word comes floating up to me like a thick, healthy lily pad and brushes past my head.
Though simple, the trick was something that struck me as useful right now. Thus, the 'when I was little' nostalgia was misleading: it turned something that I was taking seriously as an adult into something soupier, less precise, more falsely exotic, than it really was. Why should we need lots of nostalgia to license any pleasure taken in the discoveries we carry over from childhood, when it is now so clearly an adult pleasure? I decided that from now on I wouldn't get that faraway look when describing things that excited me now, regardless of whether they had first been childhood enthusiasms or not.
It's time for bed. And here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get in bed, and I don't have anyone to sleep with now, so what I do is I sleep with my books. And I know that's kind of weird and solitary and pathetic. But if you think about it, it's very cozy. Over a period of four, five, six, seven, nine, twenty nights of sleeping, you've taken all these books to bed with you, and you fall asleep, and the books are there.***Some of the books are thick, and some are thin, some of the books are in hardcover and some in paperback. Sometimes they get rolled up with the pillows and the blankets. And I never make the bed. So it's like a stew of books. The bed is the liquid medium. It's a Campbell's Chunky Soup of books. The bed you eat with a fork.