September 24, 2013

Quiet Maine author decides to speak up

Nicholson Baker joins a protest in Portland, goes on national TV and is touring to promote his new novel.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

click image to enlarge

Author Nicholson Baker, a South Berwick resident, photographed Monday, September 16, 2013,

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

Friends and fans anticipate Baker's new book with great hope.

Richard Lethem, a painter from Berwick, has read Baker's books and magazine essays, and attends Quaker services with him on Sundays. He enjoys the thoughtful banter that Baker brings to the community and appreciates his willingness to speak publicly about pacifist issues.

"He's intelligent and smart, and he's a hell of a good writer," said Lethem, whose son, Jonathan, is also an award-winning writer. "He's got a lot to say, and I enjoy his company at our meetings on Sundays."

Liberty Hardy, events coordinator at the RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H., brought Baker in last week for his first stop on the book tour. The store was full to capacity, which is typical when Baker shows up for a reading.

"He's not just a staff favorite here, but he's very well respected nationally. Whenever I tweet about him, so many people respond, 'Oh, my God, I love him.' 'Please tell him hello.' I think it's really cool that he lives in the area," she said.

Baker is revered in the literary community for his wit and insight, Hardy said. "His attention to detail is unmatched."


Baker and his wife moved their family to Maine because they liked the idea of living a quiet life in a nice place with good schools. Their kids, now 26 and 19, are living on their own.

Maine has been very good to him and his family, he said, and he cannot imagine living anywhere else. "It's the first place since I was a kid that really feels like home. It is the way life should be. It's a state slogan that's actually true," he said.

They bought a house that was built in 1730. There isn't a single right angle in the place, which is impossible to keep warm in the winter. But Baker loves it. He enjoys living in a house that is older than the country. He thinks of the number of shoes that have crossed the threshold over the years, and it makes him feel part of something much larger and more important than his solitary life.

At last week's reading in Portsmouth, someone in the audience asked Baker about his sense of humor. With perfect timing, Baker laughed gently and paused to consider his answer.

"I have never been able to tell a joke, and I don't even understand what jokes are. ... The key to writing is telling the truth," he said.

"Sometimes it strikes me as mildly funny, and that's the end of the chapter."


Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)