Baker's brilliance is that he makes all this seem funny, and he makes it seem significant. He doesn't give us many clues about Emmett's personality other than his obsessions, but they're more than enough to let us understand him. At one point, while discussing the duck outdoors in winter, Emmett says, "I want to take care of the world." And Nicholson Baker can almost convince us that this is some kind of ultimate nobility.
Nicholson Baker is in town for a week, reading from his fiction at the Michigan Union on Monday, February 3, and lecturing at Davidson Hall on Wednesday, February 5, about his campaign to preserve hard copies of old newspapers.
[Originally published in February, 2003.]