Literary criticism helps determine interest in a book but rarely arouses reading. Here in B & Me, Hallman struggles to find a way to read and analyze the literary works of his near-contemporary, Nicholson Baker. Perhaps envy will interfere. Along the way, readers are treated to a treasure trove of literary anecdotes and insider information.
The title, B & Me, is a take-off on Baker’s book U & I, in which Baker shares his deep analysis of John Updike’s work. Hallman does the same with Baker’s work. Almost beyond his will, Hallman comically relates “experiencing a spontaneous outbreak of Nicholson Baker in my mind.” Thus compelled to read Baker’s work, the chase is on, and we are along for the ride.
For an added twist, he mirrors Baker at the risk offending readers who are not expecting the author to expound on his personal sex preferences and intimate details of romps with his wife, Catherine.
Along the way, besides an entertaining story of book lust and physical lust, Hallman teaches us a great deal about literature, storytelling, and writing. This career survey of Baker’s work will better inform fans of Vox, U & I, The Mezzanine, and Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, and numerous other Baker titles.
Adding depth beyond literary criticism of Baker, the sense of playfulness reveals Halllman may perhaps have a serious obsession with Baker. Through it all he teaches the reader to be a better reader, to seek an understanding of an author’s awareness of his own weaknesses and strengths and experiences.
Both funny and daring, Hallman shares his personal thoughts about authors, jealousy, lust, and love. After avoiding Baker’s works for years, Hallman becomes a champion for Baker’s writing.
In the end, Hallman reveals the book’s true thesis. He discovers that Baker’s work has been largely overlooked and regrets “the whole world is slowly going mad and forgetting writers like Nicholson Baker, writers whose books truly need to be books.” Hallman laments it has become difficult for any reader to find their Nicholson Baker, to find the writer who will become Nicholson Baker for them.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=9781451682007]