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Nicholson Baker and me

My book club meets today to discuss Nicolson Baker’s The Size of Thoughts. It was my turn to choose the book, and Taryn, my agent, turned me onto Baker’s work during my initial revisions of Something Missing. Specifically, she suggested I read Baker’s first novel, The Mezzanine, and later, The Fermata, which she described as the “dirtiest book that can still be called literature… filthy, hilarious and wondrous.”

She was right on all accounts.

Taryn explained that there were similarities between Baker’s writing style and my own, and while I understand what she meant, it’s simply absurd to think that Baker and I are even in the same universe. He is an amazing writer and thinker, full of insight, humor, wit, and intelligence. I am a newbie who still hunts and pecks on his keyboard and worries that he’ll never sell another book.

One of the strangest and most surreal questions that I have been asked in this publishing process, by Taryn, Melissa (my editor), and the marketing department at Broadway was to compare my work to another author, and each time, I have found myself tongue-tied.

First, to presume that my writing is comparable to anyone seems a little ludicrous. I’m a first-time novelist whose book has yet to hit the bookstore shelves. Comparing myself to anyone of any prestige seems presumptuous and insane, so I have yet to answer this question with any adequacy.

Second, even if I had a dozen successful novels under my belt, I still wouldn’t be sure where I fit in. As I’ve written before, it’s difficult for me to categorize Something Missing or my latest manuscript. People ask me if Something Missing is a thriller, a mystery, or a romance. Is it action adventure, or science fiction? But it’s none of these things. It’s just a story about a guy named Martin who leads an unusual life. I’ll take credit for an original concept, a well-developed character, and moments of genuine amusement, but to classify my novel in any regard has been so challenging for me. More often than not, my attempts to categorize the book result in furrowed brows and more questions.

Last week Elysha forwarded me this link from New Yorker magazine, which provided an amusing list of the top ten most abusively blurbed authors. These are authors who are constantly used as a base of comparison for other authors. For example:

Chuck Klosterman (whose book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs was quite amusing): If you write about pop culture, and the peoples of pop culture, and you’re not visibly sexy in your jacket photo, you’re a Chuck.

Sadly, I do not appear to fit anywhere on this list, nor do I think Nicholson Baker does.