“A love letter to the book as a physical object, a source of intellectual ardor, and a form of emotional salvation” (Salon)—and a nod to U and I, Nicholson Baker’s classic memoir about John Updike—from an award-winning author called “wonderfully bright” by The New York Times Book Review.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, Nicholson Baker wrote U and I, the fretful and handwringing—but also groundbreaking—tale of his literary relationship with John Updike. U and I inspired a whole sub-genre of engaging writing about reading, but what no story of this type has ever done is tell its tale from the moment of conception, that moment when you realize that there is writer out there in the world that you must read. B & Me is that story, the story of J.C. Hallman discovering and reading Nicholson Baker…and discovering himself in the process.
Our relationship to books in the digital age, the role of art in an increasingly commodified world, the power great writing has to change us, these are at the core of Hallman’s investigation of Baker—questions he’s grappled with, values he’s come to doubt. But in reading Baker’s work, Hallman discovers the key to overcoming the malaise that had been plaguing him, through the books themselves and what he finds and contemplates in his attempts to understand them and their enigmatic author.
B & Me is literary self-archaeology: an irreverent, incisive story of one reader’s desperate quest to restore passion to literature, and all the things he learns along the way. “A wide-ranging and idiosyncratic career survey for Nicholson Baker’s work, a love letter to the act of reading, and a commentary on the modern novel, this is a book that readers will absolutely adore” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Hallman (In Utopia) is a talented writer, but more than that, he is an obsessive reader. As he states at the start of this witty literary study, he had long known of Nicholson Baker's work, but had never read any of his books until encountering Baker's U and I, about Baker's literary relationship to Updike. At that point, Hallman conceived of writing a book following the entire process of discovering a new author. While working his way through Baker's bibliography, he draws heady parallels between it and Hallman's own books, reflects on the experiences of writers and readers, and charts the ups and downs of his relationship with girlfriend Catherine. The result is a wide-ranging and idiosyncratic career survey for Nicholson Baker's work, a love letter to the act of reading, and a commentary on the modern novel. It's difficult to do Hallman's work justice, but this is a book that readers will absolutely adore.