Mr. Coffee

Nicholson Baker Starts a Fire

This is also how to write—and whether you are the kind of reader who just likes coffee, or the kind who likes coffee tinkling into babies' brains, the metaphors build as slowly and as well as one of Emmett's fires—from the fact of "filter" to the transformation of the coffee into sludge, the sludge into taco-filling, the hole into a hole in the top of a head, the carafe into a brain.


Good morning, it's 4:10 a.m., and some lines make no sense—doughnuts showing through the plastic window of a box look "like the mailing address to a world in which everyone spoke with his mouth full"—and others seem torn from a children's book: "The idea is to remove all traces of soap [from a dish], because soap tastes bad." Such are Baker's powers that, as Emmett's kindling may be apple boughs one day and an apple core the next, all become part of the blaze.

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