Laughing (from Pere Ubu’s debut album “The Modern Dance”)
Eric Baker’s book proves that everyone lives in the empty spaces of this life. Like Pere Ubu’s song, there are many quiet moments in life punctuated by moments of extreme activity. Awkwardness, nervousness, they all lead to the occasional climax. With ‘Eric Baker: In His Own Words’ literature and norm core are one. By taking the moments of life that everyone has but few write about (watching their cats, changing the ink toner, eating salad) Eric Baker has created an enjoyable, throughly engrossing narrative.
Norm core serves as the closest approximation to Eric Baker’s method yet there is a kindness here. Whoever is responsible for this particular book has an empathy for people as these are the moments that make up a life. The book is laugh out loud funny, the sort of gentle surreal quality that few are able to come close to, with most shooting for the moon and not even ending up anywhere close to the stars. Eric Baker tells it exactly how it is with no embellishments whatsoever. Instead of glorifying anything he goes for the plainspoken nature of the report. What goes on within these pages is a thing of true beauty. A few moments exist within this book that convince me there ought to be a celebration of the beautiful mundane.
Real estate appears to define Eric Baker, much that careers tend to define many people. Some people try to rebel against this notion, stating what they do for work does not define them. Eric Baker lets his work define him for he is proud of what he has done. Throughout his life he seems to revel in the selling of real estate, sometimes to famous individuals like Noam Chomsky (who apparently is rich in this book). Other famous figures include Jeff Koons, who appears responsible for getting Eric Baker’s cat addicted to catnip.
A paternal spirit defines Eric Baker’s relationship with his boss, known only as Bill, a kind-hearted soul willing to help out what is probably one of his best employees. Besides Bill, Eric Baker has a few friends at work, of whom Ron from accounting seems to be his closest workplace friend. Outside of work Eric Baker has the love of his life Lucy who supports him much as he does her. Together the two of them enjoy an uncomplicated relationship though nothing is mentioned other than their similar interests and their sharing of a home.
To give these snapshots of a life some color, Eric Baker worries about his arch-nemesis Rick, who stops at nothing to extract little acts of revenge against Eric Baker. Indeed this moments are reminiscent of the small arguments had in the suburbs: over parking spots, varieties of tea, ice cream, and the taking of the last slice of pizza. Due to the low-stakes quality of Eric Baker’s life, these little affronts take on a playful nature.
“Eric Baker: In His Own Words” represents a new form of literature, one that celebrates the common experience rather than distracting from it. Brisk, humorous, and downright gentle in tone, this is hands-down the best book I’ve read all year.