I’ve had my own Nicholson Baker post sitting in draft for many months, but thankfully Barrett Hathcock observes what makes Baker’s work tick:
Perhaps what’s striking about his prose is that it “feels” old fashioned. It feels in some ways pre-Modern. It feels written by hand. I have no way to quantify this, and I’m not sure I can offer a more canny analysis of this gut response. I suppose it comes partly from his vocabulary and partly from the feeling that his narrators are almost totally without a sense of or aspiration for hipness or a certain type of contemporary sophistication. They are, basically, excitable dorks and are energetically unironic. And—and perhaps this is the source of the lack of drama, the reason why these novels are one quiet still pool in the middle of so many contemporary prose-whales—the narrators are basically happy. In their compulsive noticing they exude a type of strange joy.
[UPDATE: Derik has discovered Baker of late too. Maybe this is the cue to read the Baker volumes I haven’t read that have been sitting in my long-term TBR pile for quite a while.]