Nicholson Baker on The Charms of Wikipedia

Yes, yes, that Nicholson Baker, the one who in a novel called “Bullseye” (or something like that) proposed the assassination of President Bush. Anyway, he’s written a nice article on my favorite source of information in the latest edition of the New York Review of Books. Here’s a sample:

Wikipedia is just an incredible thing. It’s fact-encirclingly huge, and it’s idiosyncratic, careful, messy, funny, shocking, and full of simmering controversies—and it’s free, and it’s fast. In a few seconds you can look up, for instance, “Diogenes of Sinope,” or “turnip,” or “Crazy Eddie,” or “Bagoas,” or “quadratic formula,” or “Bristol Beaufighter,” or “squeegee,” or “Sanford B. Dole,” and you’ll have knowledge you didn’t have before. It’s like some vast aerial city with people walking briskly to and fro on catwalks, carrying picnic baskets full of nutritious snacks.

When he’s not thinking about murderous treason, Baker can write well. He once wrote a novel, U & I, about his love for John Updike, perhaps even requited. Rufus should read it. The Mezzanine was pretty good, and he wrote about Libraries and “the assault on paper” that Rufus might like as well (haven’t read it myself).


  1. Rufus McCain says

    In fact, I’ve read U&I, and it’s not a novel but more of a half-cocked memoir of his literary admiration for Updike. He claims to, in some minor and momentary way, have influenced Updike. Something about Updike reading a story of Baker’s and some reference to it showing up in Updike’s work. He says something like, “So, for a moment at least, the stream of literary influence reversed itself.” The same thing happened with a poem I wrote in honor of Updike. It fell into Updike’s hands (not my fault) and I later saw what seemed like an allusion to it in Updike’s writings. If Baker hadn’t already written U&I I might have to write it, but now there’s no point.

    Baker also wrote an indictment of Librarian stupidity in a book called Double Fold. Now, in praising Wikipedia, he’s once again getting under the skins of librarians who turn up our noses at uncontrolled bibliographic spectacles.

  2. The Ironic Catholic says

    Hmmm. I would have thought the Korrektiv crew would be mentioning Baker’s vox first.

    Then again, you are upstanding, good Catholic guys. Mostly.

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