The Way the World Works

Nicholson Baker

The Way the World Works

The Way the World Works, Nicholson Baker's ranges over the map of life to examine what ails us, what eases our pain, and what gives us joy. Baker-recently hailed as "one of the most consistently enticing writers of our time" by The New York Times-moves from political controversy to the intimacy of his own life, from forgotten heroes of pacifism to airplane wings, telephones, paper mills, David Remnick, Joseph Pulitzer, the OED, and the manufacture of the Venetian gondola. In one essay, Baker surveys our fascination with video games while attempting to beat his teenage son at Modern Warfare 2; in a celebrated essay on Wikipedia, he describes his efforts to stem the tide of encyclopedic deletionism. 3.3 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
The Way the World Works

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Essays, Journals & Letters
Format Hardcover
Pages 336
RRP
Date of Publication August 2012
ISBN 978-1471102660
Publisher Simon & Schuster
 

The Way the World Works, Nicholson Baker's ranges over the map of life to examine what ails us, what eases our pain, and what gives us joy. Baker-recently hailed as "one of the most consistently enticing writers of our time" by The New York Times-moves from political controversy to the intimacy of his own life, from forgotten heroes of pacifism to airplane wings, telephones, paper mills, David Remnick, Joseph Pulitzer, the OED, and the manufacture of the Venetian gondola. In one essay, Baker surveys our fascination with video games while attempting to beat his teenage son at Modern Warfare 2; in a celebrated essay on Wikipedia, he describes his efforts to stem the tide of encyclopedic deletionism.

Reviews

The Financial Times

George Pendle

Baker’s gentle hyper-competence is both similar, and yet the opposite, to that of another encyclopedic essayist, the late David Foster Wallace. While Wallace formulated his essays into sweating self-conscious missives filed from a forever-alien terrain, Baker produces reveries and daydreams that are totally under the control of their author.

10/08/2012

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The Independent

Laurence Phelan

In this collection, as much as in his novels, Baker proves himself one of the great miniaturists working today. His talent is for the telling detail; for the accretion of minutiae into, if not the whole story, then at least the most important part of one.

16/09/2012

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The Observer

Sam Leith

Even to a Baker fan – and I count myself firmly in that number – this isn't essential Baker, though there are glories. A handful of the articles are still available online, a couple for free (Painkiller Deathstreak, on video games, and The Charms of Wikipedia, one of the standouts), which seems to me a bit of a swizz. Many of the pieces rehearse familiar themes … But the nature of Baker's worldview – microscopically and encyclopaedically attentive; morally puritanical; heroically unselfconscious and ingenuous – is one that makes the distinction between essential and inessential moot.

09/09/2012

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The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani

The individual essays not only carom around the world in subject matter, they also vary greatly in quality. Some showcase his eye for detail and his ability to nail down those details in velvety, Updikean prose. Some read like parodies of self-absorption that highlight Mr. Baker’s apparent need — shared with his idol, John Updike — to capture even the most trivial of his jottings between the covers of a book.

12/08/2012

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The Guardian

Leo Robson

Some of the essays aim for charm or warmth, others for penetration, none for both. The jacket copy says that Baker "surveys our fascination with video games", but that's exactly what he doesn't do in "Painkiller Deathstreak", essentially a review of a handful of video games he failed to master. The essay, which rambles on for 7,000 words, is in some ways the most typical, turning something that Baker doesn't like – violence, warfare – into something he does – play, imagination, "explorable specificity" – without acknowledging any connection between the two. He allows himself to be analytical only about things that disagree with him. Otherwise, he is mostly content to skim the surface – and to offer the reader whipped cream.

02/11/2012

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