From the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, The Everlasting Story of Nory celebrates the splendor of childhood curiosity. Nicholson Baker, whose writing revels in the oft-ignored nuances of everyday life, is at ease imitating the style and manner of a child. Baker, whose book was inspired by his daughter Alice, explains its title in the words of Nory: "The idea of everlasting life came partly from the kinds of things you say in Cathedral, and partly from a movie called The Neverending Story, which was an extremely good movie in many ways, one of which was that it was unusually rare to have a two-part movie and have the second part be just as interesting as the first, basically." Although the arc of the story does not include a standard exposition or development, by the end of the book a subtle picture of Nory has been drawn. In 54 brief chapters, Baker reveals her world in a collage of independent episodes. Many of the scenes take place in the Threll Junior School, where Nory ponders everything from the fate of Achilles to the intricacies of a compass. "Really the compass is called a Ôset of compasses,' and the things that stick out are called the Ôarms of the compass.'" Having moved with her family from the United States to England, Nory learns to cope with the peculiarities of her new British classmates, who use words like "bin" and "false palate" to describe garbage cans and retainers. Baker's love for quirky speech shines through here, as he conveys the conversations of children in school. But there is more to this story than witty depictions of child-like language. In portraying the kindness with which Nory befriends the bullied Pamela, Baker illustrates a child's potential for goodness. In Nory's world, kids are not simply sidekicks complementing the adults who surround them. They are the main characters here, puzzling over curiosities and acting out their dreams. It may seem odd that The Everlasting Story of Nory was written by the same man who dreamed up Vox and The Fermata, the sexy novels for which Baker is widely known. But like this one, those earlier books were essentially about fantasy, imagination, and the importance of affection. With fine descriptive skill, Baker has once again created a poignant portrait of emotional intimacy, this time through the eyes of a child. Reviewed by Jeremy Caplan.

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