Have you ever won an award of any kind for your writing?
Yes. National Book Critics Circle for Nonfiction for Double Fold, the Madison Freedom of Information Award, the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, all in 1997 (in connection with the San Francisco Public Library card-catalog controversy).
Have you ever won an award for another one of your “talents”?
Various high school music awards.
Did you attend college? If so, which one? What was your major?
Haverford College, English Major.
How would you describe yourself in a phrase, school-wise?
What other occupations do you hold, or have you held, besides being a writer?
Orchestral musician. I was a bassoon player, a double reed man, a player of Stravinsky's Berceuse, from the Firebird. I wanted to be Brahms but I wasn't.
Low-level securities analyst, temp typist, night shift word processing operator, technical writer, short order cook, waiter, maintenance man.
How old are you?
What is your astrological sign?
Has your work ever been "made an example of" by various people with an agenda?
Don't think so. Maybe there were shocked reviews of Vox, but I don't remember them. What I remember is Louise Bernikow from Cosmopolitan saying that the book was like Ravel's “Bolero,” and that she was "too wrung out to go on"-- one of the nicer things that could possibly be said about something one has published.
The Fermata was fun to write and I knew as I was writing it that I was probably going to get skewered. That was part of the excitement.
When the skewerage is actually going on, though, it can be unpleasant. Michiko Kakutani of the NY Times said the book was "repulsive"-- not a positive response-- and then Victoria Glendinning of the London Times ended her review with "Goodbye, Nicholson Baker, goodbye forever," which had a real slap of finality to it.
Whatever I'd managed to do, The Fermata undid it, apparently. What to write next? A short story about potatoes gone wrong. Stick to what you know.
I'm no longer a sex writer (a rauncheur?) because I'm 49 and I have a lot of gray in my beard and because I don't want to repeat myself. I could say that I'm busy repressing and denying and glossing over now, so that when the time comes I'll burst forth in a hideously glorious filthfest, but that probably won't happen. Who can predict, though?
Do you have any noteworthy hobbies, regimes, pursuits, or collections?
I founded the American Newspaper Repository, a collection of original newspapers discarded from libraries.
Photo from Identity Theory's interview with Nick.