Here is Nicholson Baker at his obsessive-compulsive best, with humour and observation to die for, but with underlying truths and sadness about the ephemerality of life, the joy of small things, the darkness which is just the other side of everyday life - all human life in a box of matches. This book gets at the real meaning of 'the examined life', ...
Here is Nicholson Baker at his obsessive-compulsive best, with humour and observation to die for, but with underlying truths and sadness about the ephemerality of life, the joy of small things, the darkness which is just the other side of everyday life - all human life in a box of matches. This book gets at the real meaning of 'the examined life', and it's unmistakably serious, but also side-splittingly funny. 'It is 4.32 am...' most chapters start similarly...A man gets up earlier and earlier each day, dresses in the dark, makes his coffee and lights the fire with a box of matches, also in the dark, feeling his way around, through his silent house, where wife and children sleep, and then rummages through the thoughts which crowd his head and preoccupy him. Meanwhile outside, there's snow on the ground, Greta the duck is asleep in her dog kennel with a rug thrown over it, but that doesn't stop her bowl of water freezing each night. This is mid-life man, domesticated but still an alien creature, whose thoughts veer brilliantly from love and marriage, to firelighters and suicide, from peeing in the dark to ant-farms in the twinkling of an eye. This is virtuoso writing, idiosyncratic, brilliant, funny and touching. Nicholson Baker back on MEZZANINE form for a new generation of readers.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-10-14 The science of the insignificant has always been Baker's field of study. Treading a fine line between microcosmic dazzlement and banality, he has carved out a minuscule kingdom for himself. After his recent excursion into nonfiction (the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Double Fold), he returns to fiction with a novel in the classic Baker tradition. For Emmett, a 44-year-old father and textbook editor, the predawn wintry darkness is an invitation to musings and meditations on life's events-make that nonevents. Each chapter begins virtually identically ("Good morning, it's 4:45 a.m...."), with Emmett reflecting on something as he sips coffee and warms himself by the fire: the family's pet duck, outside in the cold; a well-worn briefcase; an alternative career as a lichen expert; the idea of collecting paper towel designs. His family-two children and wife Claire-occasionally appear in his ruminations, and his love for them is palpable. But they never emerge as more than background figures, because Emmett's preoccupation is with himself; at one point, he (literally) gathers lint from his navel. Baker struggles to manufacture drama ("Last night my sleep was threatened by a toe-hole in my sock"), and his prose is evocative (a match bursting into flame becomes a "dandelion head of little sparks"). He is such an excellent writer, a master of descriptive detail with an unusual perspective on the world, that he can almost be forgiven for his tendency to focus on the mundane-almost. Emmett's life may seem rich to him, but it isn't rich enough to propel an entire novel. Even readers with a weakness for Baker's particular brand of minutiae may find themselves hoping that next time he will find a subject worthier of his prose. Agent, Melanie Jackson. Author tour. (Jan. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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