Nicholson Baker on the joy of writing on rubber with a ballpoint pen

I read Nicholson Baker's book of essays, The Size of Thoughts, when it came out in 1997. If you are familiar with Baker, you know that he has a knack for making the familiar seem wondrous, even bizarre. Dan Shepelavy posted this page from Baker's book, and now I want to find it and reread it.

The Size of Thoughts



  1. Wow, he so eloquently described why it was so much fun to write on my sneakers as a kid……. and an adult :)  I never even thought about why I did/do it.

  2. I’ve long thought that latex checks should become a thing – not only would they give the frisson of ball-point on rubber, but tearing each one off would give a very satisfying stretch, stretch, thwack!  Handing over an obviously rubber check would leave your cashier nonplussed.

  3. Thus the reason my erasers in grade school were always scribbled all over. I also found the experience of inline skating over pavement that had been coated with some sort of rubber/plastic surface  (like in the plaza they put the ice skating rink in every winter) very similar at least in a tactile sense.

  4. “There is nothing better in life / Than writing on the sole of your slipper with a Biro” – Half Man Half Biscuit

  5. A once girlfriend of mine gave me The Mezzanine to read, saying it was one of her favorite books. I made the mistake of trying to read it while at work at the bike shop, during my lunch break. When your job consists of obsessing over small parts in a room by yourself for hours, the last thing you want to read is another individuals obsessive steam of conciseness involving small objects on his desk. Yes I assume he had a point, it’s just dear God the stationary.

  6. i have a complicated relationship with Baker, because The Fermata is a deeply, troublingly misogynistic book. however, he redeems himself rather with Human Smoke which is a haunting, compelling and very necessary one, especially when the narrative of the 20th century is supposedly so firmly established. Human Smoke made me want to head down to Westminster and take a sledgehammer to that fucking cunt-ugly statue of churchill.

    1. Complaining about The Fermata’s misogyny in the same paragraph as using the phrase ” fucking c**t-ugly”. . . That is impressive.
      I actually met Baker when he came to my college to speak. I was expecting to be skeeved out by said author of The Fermata, especially since he seems like an writer for whom it is exceptionally difficult to separate author and fiction. I was surprised to find him quite pleasant in person. I had to reassess, but then he was talking about Double Fold, so I don’t know I was too charitable in the reassessment.

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