Although Most Of The Action Of The Mezzanine Occurs On The Escalator Of An Office Building, Where Its Narrator Is Returning To Work After Buying Shoelaces, This Startlingly Inventive And Witty Novel Takes Us Farther Than Most Fiction Written Today It Lends To Milk Cartons The Associative Richness Of Marcel Proust S Madeleines It Names The Eight Most Significant Advances In A Human Life Beginning With Shoe Tying It Asks Whether The Hot Air Blowers In Bathrooms Really Are Sanitary Than Towels And It Casts A Dazzling Light On Our Relations With The Objects And People We Usually Take For Granted


10 thoughts on “The Mezzanine

  1. says:

    At almost 6 45pm, I approached my house, noticing with annoyance that the bin men had left the bins obstructing the driveway I got out of the car, leaving the engine running , put the bins in their proper place, and drove the final few metres, parking in the shade of the laurel I noticed it needed pruning, and worried that if we didn t do it soon, our delightful neighbours might be put to the embarrassing inconvenience of having a quiet word.As I walked to the front door, I spotted a weed, optimistically pushing through a gap in the block paving and I made a mental note to zap it before it exhumed some of the underlying sand, making the surface uneven The geometric precision of the blocks makes any such imperfection especially irritating I disentangled my jingling keys and put the first of two in the front door, and turned it it was the heavier, mortice lock, with a pleasingly confident thud as the weight of the bolt was withdrawn Then I swapped to the smaller key to open the sprung Yale lock This is trickier as I have to decide whether to quickly remove the key or leave it in place as I dash to the keypad to disable the alarm I m always anxious of setting it off, especially since we mislaid the quick disable plipper.As the alarm made its reassuring beeps of disablement, I was free to turn and look at the pile of post Even though there is rarely anything interesting birthdays and Christmas excepted , it s always a thrill to see something waiting And there was.Between several ordinary brown and white business envelopes was a small padded one The edges had been slightly bent to fit it through the letterbox but better that than a soggy parcel or a note to fetch it from the misnamed Delivery Office It was the size and shape of a small book, though I wasn t expecting one But I recognised the handwriting immediately something my mother trained me to attempt before opening any letter or parcel, though I m not sure why It was addressed with black felt tip pen, in capital letters that were slightly slanted, though written horizontally across the envelope It was prefixed by a charmingly angled and redundant To.I picked it up, noting the weight of what did indeed feel like a book, cushioned by the smooth lumpiness of a Jiffy bag There s always the temptation to pop the bubbles , but first, I had to open it, gently squeezing my little finger under the seal, in the hope of being able to reuse the envelope Inside, there was a postcard, a DVD and a book A distinctively perfumed book I felt a shadow of guilt at not remembering the conversation which must have given rise to this unexpected gift I opened the pages I opened the pages and read a whole stream of consciousness novel if novel is the right word like this, describing the minutiae of a single lunch hour, during which the nameless narrator has to buy shoe laces He documents the undocumented daily texture of our lives , and textures feature strongly Everything he sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches is recorded, triggering rambling diversions about office etiquette, seminal childhood experiences, and the aesthetics, usability, and impact of the design of simple, quotidian tools and machines milk cartons, paper towels versus a hazards of disease machine , staplers, vending machines, shoe laces, escalators, ear plugs, paper versus plastic straws It s rather like observational stand up comedy Everything is described with reference to at least two senses In contrast, the time he was mugged is worth only a few words.In some chapters, a single footnote covers several pages as long as the chapter itself an original and creative conceit that I mostly enjoyed The joke grew a little tired towards the end, but Baker saved it by the chutzpah of a lengthy footnote about the luxuriant incidentalism of the footnotes If you enjoyed this review, read the source that inspired it Footnotes This may be 2016, but I have only ever seen bin men I feel I ought to use a gender neutral term, but the word is firmly embedded in my mind from childhood excitement at watching them come and go For now, it seems accurate, despite the advent of wheelie bins lessening the physical demands of the role I wonder if the continued use of such a term serves to entrench the apparent male exclusivity of the role, albeit one that few women might want I never know whether it uses fuel to switch off and restart the car, or to leave it running for a few moments Perhaps I should investigate There must be websites and apps for such things In this specific case, at the end of a quiet residential cul de sac, I never worry about someone leaping into my car and driving away Smugness is a nasty emotion, but I indulged it a little when I recalled my suggested design, at 45 degrees to the house, which would also be parallel with the street, being dismissed by the paver, only to be proven right when he checked the angles I like the finished result Excessive excitement at seeing post is, I think, related to boarding school Away from home, before the internet, with phone calls brief and rare, any missive from the outside was a thrill My mother s enthusiasm probably sprang from that, and was infectiously instilled in my brother and me even before we were despatched to discover its importance for ourselves Three possible reasons come to mind 1 To build the anticipation boarding school again.2 To hone detective skills which raises the question of when and why they might be useful.3 As practice, because so many family members have barely legible handwriting Popping the bubbles of a Jiffy bag is far less tempting than those of a sheet of bubble wrap the paper backing makes successful squeezing harder to achieve and dulls any resulting sound A secondary factor is that popping a few bubbles of a Jiffy bag condemns the whole thing to the dustbin I wonder if bin men are ever tempted to pop things , whereas popping the corner of a piece of bubble wrap merely means cutting off a small piece, and keeping the rest Footnotes are necessary because the outer surface of truth is not smooth, welling and gathering from paragraph to shapely paragraph, but is encrusted with a rough protective bark of citations, quotation marks, italics the anticipatory pleasure of sensing with peripheral vision a gray silt of further example and qualification waiting in tiny type at the bottom Quotes Shoes are the very first adult machines we are given to master Creases in shoes like the line of the heart and the line of the head in palmistry Since the pervasion of carpeting, all you hear when people walk by are their own noises the flap of their raincoats, the jingle of their change, the squeak of their shoes, the fficient little sniffs they make to signal to us and to themselves that they are busy and walking somewhere for a very good reason The pleasure of sweeping, as if I were putting each chair leg and caster and doorjamb in quotation marks, made me see these familiar features of my room with freshened receptivity The nuances of signature placement on a card for a colleague, when working in a hierarchical company Traffic nicely spaced close enough to create a sense of fellowship and shared purpose, but not close enough to make you think that you couldn t swerve exuberantly into another lane at any time A milk carton gracefully uses the means of closure as the means of dispensation Trigger vibratiuncles of comparison Vibratiuncle A minuscule or slight vibration I also learned tribology the study of friction, wear, lubrication, and the design of bearings the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion and opusculum a small or minor literary or musical work Mugs have replaced cups because mugs have larger handles allowing a pluralism of grasps and have become places for people to proclaim allegiances This renewing of newness as a vending machine operates, is one of the greatest sources of happiness the man made world can offer Hmm Individual white fulsomenesses of popcorn I like the fact the final word is plural CVS pharmacies a whole chain dedicated to making available the small, expensive, highly specialized items that readied human bodies for human civilization Mixing so many kinds of privateness together in one public store Final Thoughts Being alone in an elevator is a unique moment of true privacy in an otherwise public space When it occurs, why not take creative advantage of it Maybe it s no coincidence Baker chose a foot related theme shoe laces for a footnote heavy book The trademark attention to detailed sensations that works so well here, was of a distraction in his sex chat novel, Vox, which I ve reviewed HERE.


  2. says:

    A jaded, young wealthy aristocrat in French author Joris Karl Huysmans slim novel rebours Against Nature retreats to a country villa to construct a custom made artificial world where he can live his entire solitary life on his own aesthetic, highly refined terms In many ways, the main character in this slender Nicholson Baker book is the complete opposite of Huysmans rather than being a jaded aristocrat, Baker s narrator is an ordinary guy supremely attuned and energized by commonplace things and events instead of retreating to a country villa, he commutes to a routine office job in the city rather than seeking the extraordinary in fine arts and exotic tastes, his experiences the extraordinary in the ordinary, so much so that I see him as the perfect instantiation of what nowadays is referred to as everyday aesthetics So, with this in mind, here are my observations on Baker s novel coupled with quotes on everyday aesthetics articulated by Thomas Leddy, a leading thinker in the discipline We are thinking of everyday aesthetics in the context of the world wide city based culture within which most of us live First page to last page, this is exactly the subject for our pleasant, perceptive twenty five year old officer worker as he encounters and recollects during the hours of his workday in the city, as when we read in the opening paragraph On sunny days like this one, a temporary, steeper escalator of daylight, formed by intersections of the lobby s towering volumes of marble and glass, meet the real escalators just above their middle point, spreading into a needly area of shine where it fell against their brushed steel side panels, and added long glossy highlights to each of the black rubber handrails which wavered slightly as the handrails slid on their tracks, like the radians of black luster that ride the undulating outer edge of an LP As readers we are given a unique opportunity to concurrently experience with the narrator not only what he sees but the various feelings he derives from his seeing Take my word for it here Nicholson Baker s novel is a jewel a narrator particularly sensitive to life s minute details, those objects and events usually overlooked and underappreciated by the rest of us Everyday aesthetics emphasizes how objects can take on an aura when perceived aesthetically The narrator reflects while walking down a city street It seems that I always liked to have one hand free when I was walking, even when I had several things to carry I like to be able to slap my hand fondly down on the top of a green mailmen only mailbox, or bounce my fist lightly against the steel support for the traffic lights, both because the pleasure of touching these cold, dusty surfaces with the springy muscle on the side of my palm was intrinsically good, and because I liked other people to see me as a guy in a tie yet carefree and casual enough to be doing what kids do when they drag a stick over the black uprights of a cast iron fence He derives pleasure on two levels 1 the fact that his hand is free, and 2 the feel of his hand being free free to slap against a mailbox, bounce off a steel pole, feel the cold, dusty surfaces, pleasures having no greater aim or purpose beyond the intrinsic goodness of the feeling itself And it is the second level that is aesthetic taking pleasure beyond the fact of things to taking pleasure in the feel of things And by being open to the feel of things, in this case hand and mailbox and steel pole, these very things take on a certain aura Actually, in addition to 1 and 2 above, he values 3 the social benefit of being seen by others as a man who has retained a kid s aliveness and freshness when interacting with the world For me, this is so charming a simple happening providing our narrator with triple decker pleasure as if savoring a slice of triple decker strawberry cake Everyday aesthetics is a category separate from the fine arts and the natural world Although the narrator notes how there are Edward Hopper prints in the office hallways and observes the blue sky out his office window, his focus is not on the fine arts or the natural world but rather on things like the difference between working in an office with a linoleum floor and ones with carpets Linoleum was bearable back when incandescent light was there to counteract it with a softening glow, but the combination of fluorescence and linoleum, which must have been widespread for several years as the two trends overlapped, is not good Everyday aesthetics studies the whole field of human experience, not just the high points There really isn t any drama here in the conventional manner of storytelling, such thing as a runaway spouse or the loss of a parent or a psychological crack up or artistic, spiritual or life shattering epiphanies, not even close on the contrary, we read about episodes in the narrator s life leading to revelations about shoe tying, brushing tongue as well as teeth, applying deodorant after being fully dressed, the virtues of sweeping with a broom made with straw rather than plastic and the time saving benefits of owning your very own rubber stamp imprinted with your home address Sounds like fun Actually, these subjects make for great fun presented in Nicholson Baker s breezy, frequently humorous, carefully crafted language Everyday aesthetics appreciates how artists are close and constant observers of everyday life Case in point here is our young office worker narrator entering the corporate men s room I negotiated the quick right and left that brought me into the brightness and warmth of the bathroom It was decorated in two tones of tile, hybrid colors I didn t know the names for, and the sinks counter and the dividers between urinals and between stalls were of red lobby marble This bathroom sequence, complete with observations about towels, hot air blowers, toilet paper, the habits and sounds and sights of other company men goes on for several pages I don t think I have to include any quotes as I am sure you get the idea Everyday aesthetics is immensely important for our lives Important in the sense you can use the realm of everyday aesthetics to gauge how awake you are to your everyday world If you are like Howie yes, we learn the narrator s name in the closing chapters when his fellow workers address him directly , then you will have the feel for what it is to be reading this review, a feel for not only the language and ideas contained herein but also the size and font of the letters and words on your screen And what is the level of brightness of the white behind the words What color is the border around your screen Black White Silver What is the texture of your keypad Is your computer making a pleasant hum If your desk is made of wood, does the grain have small groves .Nicholson Baker at age 31 in 1988, publication year of this, his first novel.


  3. says:

    As I read battled with was exasperated by yelled at finally accepted was tickled pink by was strangely transformed by Nicholson Baker s utterly brilliant not really a novel various thoughts went off in my brain and made snapping cracking noises like ice breaking It s one of the world s thoughtiest books, even though it s really quite tiny, but they re not thoughts like Einstein or Wittgenstein or Stephen Hawking, they re all eensy weensy thoughts, it s like being attacked by a slow but relentless army of tiny little geeks with pincers like red ants all over everything geeking everything to bits, in your desk drawer, in your stationery, in your toilet, all these thoughts everywhere but at the same time very statelily expressed, very demure, with many graceful clauses, like Henry James osmosised a technical manual, a kind of iciness and a charm, particularly when talking about his inability to urinate if another man is standing next to him in the office urinal, and straws and pencils, O God all these things you really never wanted to think about much.I ve had to buy about four copies of The Mezzanine because I lend them and I don t get them back This book made me break one of my two rules of book lending, which are 1 Never lend anyone a book Don t do it 2 Never borrow a book from anyone Don t do it.Number 1 is easily explained you ll never get it back and if you do this person who eagerly seized it and claimed that she wished to do nothing other than devote her next waking moments to reading it six months later will not only not have done so but will have forgotten that she borrowed it and where she put it And maybe forgotten who the hell you are, too As for rule number two, I have met a few people who read one book a year and then wish to immediately lend it to me because they know I like books yes, I do, but that doesn t necessarily mean I like all books, and I really don t want to read Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab.Anyway, yes, The Mezzanine Lovely.


  4. says:

    Whenever I get onto a train I look for the seat farthest from other passengers as possible If I m going to read, I need silence, or near silence I need at least five or six seats distance Finding the right seat is an exact science This night, coming home from a concert, I enter the car and there are people spread at an infuriating equidistance apart, almost positioned on purpose at four seat gaps to upset my four to six gap rule I walk past a few shaggy night people, including a man lurking at the back who wants to rape me.Once I ve passed people walking up the aisle, I don t want to turn around and go back if the seat situation is favourable where I came from I don t want my behaviour to appear to these passengers, who watch you out of boredom, as odd, and I don t want it to seem as though I m dithering because I m somehow repelled by their presence It s important to have this sensitivity on a night train, when all passengers are potential rapists and murderers, until proven otherwise.So I find a seat on the left row in between two solo passengers, with a gap of about three seats in front and two seats behind, with another man two seats ahead on the right row There s a group of women conducting a conversation up ahead, their voices quiet at first but getting louder from time to time, competing with the rattle of the train as it speeds up This will pose the greatest threat to my undisturbed reading of the Nicholson Baker The Mezzanine requires concentrated reading and is not ideal for trains It s ideal front room reading The book s protagonist discusses the exaggerated minutiae of certain trivial aspects of his life, from shoelaces to escalator etiquette, to the value of paper towels over hand driers, each topic getting and detailed until it becomes absurd comedy, Flann O Brien style I read for a few moments before a large giggle hits my ears from across the train The women misled me I had expected late night sleepy train talk, instead I got a rowdier bunch, with one blonde shrieker the ringleader.I push on, but it becomes impossible My ears are picking up threads in the conversation, following the repeated half drunk drivel about some bloke being a dick and someone needing to phone someone and tell him something about being a dick or something because he shouldn t have said that, whoever he is, the dick It becomes useless to keep reading knowing this will go on and on, this dick and this phoning of There are frustrating lurches in the conversation when the woman shuts up, but almost invariably, she will start talking again when I get into a long sentence, forcing me to backtrack and read it again.There are further dilemmas I don t have the greatest eyesight, and the lights on Scotrail trains are diffuse and dim So reading the footnotes becomes a chore for me, trying to follow these complex sentences in the tiny font under appalling lights, and the darkness outside offers no additional help I don t want to bring the book right up close to my eyes, as that can effect my long range vision, so I have to squint a little or focus really hard If I m focusing my eyes, I ll stop focusing my brain, meaning I m reading but not taking in the words, their meaning or what s being said So there s no emotional response no laughter, merely slavish word counting There is no point reading like this.As the train picks up people from other stops, the pressure of concentrating my mind and my eyes becomes impossible, so I stop reading and wait until the women get off When they do, I start reading again At the next stop, the paranoia that a psychopath has boarded the train and wants to rape me in the bum becomes so great, I have to look up and make a quick assessment of the new passenger, check his psycho credentials If he sits behind me, which he does, of course, I ll have to keep one hand on my possessions, in case he should slide a hand through the half inch seat gap and steal my valuables Or go for my penis.When the inevitable happens, and I m alone in the train with a man behind me, I get too paranoid and start thinking about rape and how terrible it might be to get raped tonight I start thinking how awful it must be to be a woman and be paranoid about getting raped, but here I am, an ugly man, thinking about getting raped, so I m there already All I need are the breast implants There s no point reading now, not with rape and death on the cards I start to get a little dour, thinking about other problems financial, personal, familial making each problem into something huge and insurmountable, until I can t stand to even hold the book, so depressed and self involved have I become in those four minutes.Soon it s time to get off My only concern then is getting away from the rapists All fourteen of them Fast This may be the case, depending on the smell of alcohol or cigarettes coming from each passenger If there s an especial stink, I will make allowances and escape to the next compartment, if available, or the farther end, if not There are three categories of books those to be read with extreme patience and concentration in my front room, with next to no sounds except outside traffic or my girlfriend clawing at her keyboard Ideally she wouldn t be in the room, but I read a great deal, and we do live together, so it isn t exactly plausible to get her to leave while I read I could try, though The other two are bedtime reads books that can be read while dozing off to help dozing off The other can be read on trains potboilers, thrillers, etc.


  5. says:

    The mind is refrigerated by interruption the thoughts are diverted from the principle subject the reader is weary, he suspects not why and at last throws away the book, which he has too diligently studied Samuel Johnson Too fat, fat you must cut lean.You got to take the elevator escalator to the mezzanine,Chump, change, and it s on, super bon bonSuper bon bon, Super bon bon.Soul Coughing, Super Bon Bon LyricsThis book is a literary scrimshaw of the mundane It is basically a man breaking his shoe lace, using an office urinal, taking the escalator down to the first floor, visiting the CVS, buying a cookie and milk, and riding the escalator back up That is it I ve totally ruined the plot for you Sorry The rest is just filigree and details fracturing and fractaling into discussions of straws, milk cartons, urinals, urination, papertowls, escalator etiquette, etc This is Proust expanding on a urinal cake instead of a madeleine This is a micro Ulysses This is deuteroscopy of dust I remember first being exposed to Nicholson Baker right after I left high school I read The Fermata and Vox, two of Baker s early literotic efforts Vox was made famous because, if I remember right Bill Clinton gave Monica Lewinsky a copy of Vox in celebration of their phone sex Anyway, this novel isn t one of Baker s dirty bits It is just an exploration of details of bits I think it was Stephen King who once remarked that Baker book Vox was a meaningless little finger paring But that is really where Baker s genius lies All those forgotten parings, those little details can be infinitely described Like Microcosmos, you lower the glass and look at sand, or salt, or grass and you become lost in a whole new world Baker glances at an escalator and describes a universe There was a period right after HS when I was very entertained by sexy, literary writing Nin, Miller, etc.


  6. says:

    THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A BUSINESSMAN HE GOES UP AN ESCALATOR AND THINKS ABOUT THINGSDue to my vast intelegense and uncanny ability to read minds, I believe I know what you re thinking It s probably something like this You fucking cockbag I ve been waiting for a review from you for a month and a half, eagerly visiting your page every two hours, hoping the number of reviews will have gone up from 42 to 43, hoping also that you will have finally uploaded a picture so I can see your handsome visage and have something to think about in my dreams, and each day, when I would see that you hadn t posted a review, I would cry for days, would think about ending it all, if you must know, but would know if I did that, I would never see your reviews again, and today, I check your page and see that the number has gone up, and, after slaughtering a goat or two over the altar I have erected in your honour, I begin to read the newest review, and it s one of those fucking shouting teen things Fuck you Or something like that I m sure I didn t get the thought process entirely correct For instance, the number of slaughtered goats is probably higher.But, really, it s a pretty good description of what actually happens in this novel A man, Howie, buys a hot dog, a cookie, and some milk, goes up an escalator to his office on the mezzanine, and thinks about everything He recounts breaking his shoelaces in his office, making small talk with a secretary and asking her where to get new shoelaces, urinating, washing his face, eating half a bag of popcorn, buying new shoelaces at CVS, and sitting down on a bench to finish his food and contemplate Aurelius s Meditations That s about it, as far as plot goes The real meat of the book is all the things he thinks about as he goes about his daily activities Among other things, he considers the possible reasons his shoelaces both broke at once and at around the same time, the function of staplers, office manners when talking to a secretary and s he takes an especially long call, the use of toilet paper to wash his face in lieu of towels if the bathroom has a hot air blower rather than a paper towel dispenser, his former inability to urinate in public settings with people near him, his resolution of that problem by imagining he is pissing on the head of whoever is closest to him, the formation of popcorn, the various items he finds at the CVS, and, of course, the Medoitations That s just what came to mind first, though there is much , with each description getting longer and detailed as the book progresses, with some of them eventually branching off into a footnote which can run for several pages, until, by the end, it s all one giant tangled mess of explanations And therein lies the joke Maybe I m ruining it, but that s what this book is It s a 144 page version of the Norm Macdonald Moth Joke It kind of reminds me of a class I m taking to learn the Linux operating system There s a guy in that class who likes to talk A lot And he doesn t like to stop At one point, the instructor was telling us that Linux isn t like Windows, you can t just belt the tab key over and over until you find a button to press, and you can t fuck around with buttons and links and figure it out, if you are to be a proficient Linux user, you have to learn to read the man pages or suck it up and do some Internet research The person I m thinking of began to talk about propper ways to get good results out of your research on the Internet He must have gone on for three minutes or , when the norm for that class was thirty seconds, maybe a minute if what you ve got to say is really important By about minute two, I was paying no attention to what he was saying because I was laughing so much It didn t matter what he said, the most hilarious part was how long he took to say it, with each thought triggering another which would in turn trigger another, and sometimes, he would sound as if he was about to stop talking, and start right back up again, until, to me, it was all just a giant stream of words falling out of the front of his head and into the microphone he was using The Mezzanine is similar Even at it s longest and most detailed, I was still interested in what Howie had to say, but the real comedy lay in the length of each meditation Evidenced by the fact that I read this beautiful little book in its original Norwegian, under the title Les traducteurs en ligne me rendent sembler plus rus s que Mein Name ist Huhnziege r ellement ils sont Aren t I just the most smartest It s not Unless you want to include the many events in his past he describes as part of the plot, in which case, the book is simply a 144 page flashback, with ocasional glimpses into the present Though I doubt it, since I knew what I was going to encounter before starting the book, and still found it funny once the joke finally made sense to me 144 pages with small type, I m guessing The word count of this book is 53121, and it s around 305,000 characters That averages 368 words In a normally sized book, that many words would take up about 200 220 pages, maybe William Gass s The Tunnel is similar At 326,658 words, it is only 662 pages, averaging 493 words per page Of course, the illustrations must be taken into consideration, still, that bitch is pretty fucking dense Yet Stephen King s latest telephone directory of a novel, 11 22 63, is 273,901 words long, but my edition is 848 pages, averaging only 322 words per page It s because of larger type, I m guessing, along with short or blank lines, smaller pages, ETC Why is it that all the difficult books are known for having microscopic type, and the easier, bestselling books have large, eye friendly books which are easier to read because of larger type, when it should, to some extent, be the other way around If I want to reread Infinite Jest, I don t want to have to wrestle with Wallace s delightfully long and convoluted sentences while pressing the paper against my face to read it better Not that that s a problem for me, for obvious reasons, and for all I know, I have underestimated the power of sight, and no matter how small the type is, people can read it with no issues, but I do wonder 651, really, since the copyright information and other minutia I skip takes up the first ten pages, and the actual book begins on page eleven Fuck, I hate HTML I keep forgetting whether the slash goes before or after the A I m not the only one I know people who have been in the computer business since around the time I was born, and they hate it as well Key used by blind people to navigate through the controls of the majority of propperly coded, accessible programs Sighted people can use it too, as it s a Windows command, but never think to because of the mouse.Documentation It s called a man page because to get to it, you have to type man command It s short for manual , I assume.


  7. says:

    Tantric YankThis novella almost felt like having tantric sex with Sting.If it had lasted any longer, it would have become tedious So, at 135 pages, it was just the right length Nicholson Baker set out his goals and demonstrated his ability to achieve them, but he stopped just before either he or we lost interest in the whole project.Semen and ShoelacesWhat was he trying to achieve As often happens, Baker gave us some insight in the book itself Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is all mortal life yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of spice and ashes Manifestly, no condition of life could be so well adapted for the practice of philosophy as this in which chance finds you today Chance found me that day having worked for a living all morning, broken a shoelace, chatted with Tina, urinated successfully in a corporate setting, washed my face, eaten half of a bag of popcorn, bought a new set of shoelaces, eaten a hot dog and a cookie with some milk and chance found me now sitting in the sun on a green bench, with a paperback on my lap What, philosophically, was I supposed to do with that The Minutiae of Quotidian LifeThe narrator, Howie, tells us about one day in his life at work, which is on the mezzanine floor of a city building accessible only by escalators once you ve passed the corporate bathrooms and vending machines in the hallway.Howie is fascinated by the minutiae of quotidian life In the felt periphery of life , everything becomes an object of attention, scrutinised with all the enthusiasm of microscopy It s almost as if he s trying to outnumber and supersede his childhood enthusiasms, his nostalgia driven memories and the sentimental distortions of his youth The Kink in the ChildDespite his admiration for grown up ideas, there are no real moments of sublimity Most of the novella smacks of childish kinkiness When I started reading it, for some reason I thought Nicholson Baker was English As a result, I thought I detected an element of Post Modern Lad Lit However, I soon realised that he was American Nevertheless, the same comic tone is there, and maturity is only hinted at belatedly Still, I d settle for humour any day It saves the novella from sinking under the weight of its own authorial earnestness, something Howie s mother was sensitive to My mother found it affected and irritating and thought I should stop Incentradental as AnythingHowie s preoccupation with the mundane protects him from the drudgery and demands of work life While the problems you were paid to solve collapse, the nod of the security guard, his sign in book, the escalator ride, the things on your desk, the sight of colleagues offices, their faces seen from characteristic angles, the features of the corporate bathroom, all miraculously expand and in this way what was central and what was incidental end up exactly reversed This confusion of the central and the incidental is reflected in the structure of the novel, as well as its subject matter The Subdued Tantalisation of FootnotesThe minute particulars of miscellanea are supplemented by extensive footnotes, some of which extend to four pages, and comprise a luxurious incidentalism which offers the reader a subdued tantalisation Footnotes are the finer suckered surfaces that allow tentacular paragraphs to hold fast to the wider reality of the library Let me not be censured for mentioning such minute particulars Everything relative to so great a man is worth observing The Mezzanine OdysseyHowie is no hero, or at least he is only a modern day hero, whose journey to work, gliding up the long hypotenuse of the escalator to his mezzanine destination, is the tongue in cheek equivalent of Ulysses mythic Odyssey and James Joyce s Modernist tribute to it.


  8. says:

    I feel bad about giving this book only two stars Because Baker is a good writer No, not just good, he is quite brilliant It can t be easy to write a book about everyday life s nothingness But Baker pulls it off The novel is written in a stream of consciousness kind of manner, except the thoughts aren t incomplete or muddled up The writing is perfectly articulate Baker flows from one thought to another very smoothly You know there are times when we find ourselves thinking of something, but can t remember what train of thoughts led us there This book too has that kind of a feel, to an extent On the whole, I doubt if this could have been written any better.BUTYawwwwwnnnnnnn It is a very tedious read The narrator is in awe of every not at all fascinating thing that we barely ever pay a thought to And all these mundane things are described in excruciating detail The kind of things that he discusses at length include why plastic straws are the way they are, what makes shoe laces wear out, the art of tying shoelaces, why it is better to cut a toast diagonally, staplers, milk cartons, garbage trucks and lot How to put on deodorant after he was fully dressed, shoe tying etc count as life changing lessons for him There might have been some pieces that I found funny or interesting I liked how the narrator would often re visit his childhood days and build up on his thoughts from back then In spite of that it was just too tiring to read, even when I started skipping sentences I can t help but wonder about the narrator s sanity Such over analysis of anything and everything can easily drive him crazy Perhaps a career counselor should have directed him to a research lab so that he would have something to occupy his mind with But given how easily he is fascinated, he might have died of excitement on his own discovery invention Had this dude been born in an older era, stuff like discovery of fire or invention of wheel would have totally blown his fuse off.I am still somewhat curious to see how Baker concludes the novel I found a few 5 star reviews where the readers seemed to have found it a tedious read, but ended up liking it 5 stars worth May be I should finish it after all, but am not sure if it going to be worth the effort.I might pick up another book by Baker in distant future, but warily He will have to go through a thorough background check before he gets a place on my bookshelf again.


  9. says:

    Whatever happened to predictabilityThe milkman, the paperboy, evening TVHow did I get delivered hereSomebody tell me, pleaseThis old world s confusing me The corporate environment has changed a lot since 1990 These days, memos are no longer circulated in hard copy, and the stapler is something of an arcane object The world has moved on We no longer lament the loss of the milkman or paper straws who knew that straws used to be made from paper But many things remain the same the implicit rules of coworker acknowledgement, elevator etiquette, the bathroom awkwardness Baker obsessively explores these minutiae of everyday interactions in an astute and entertaining way The book is filled with observations such as this have you ever noticed that while women will say oops , men will almost always say it in the singular, as oop This is a 100% true fact, and something that I ve never consciously noticed Mezzanine is a little bit Seinfeld, a little bit David Foster Wallace, maybe a little bit Gurion Maccabee, but different enough to all of those to be its own thing A fun and unique little novel.Note In case you couldn t place it, the opening quote is from the theme to the 90s sitcom, Full House, which for some reason kept intermittently popping into my head while reading this book.


  10. says:

    This book is so good It s about something I ve wondered about and been fascinated by but have remained unable to articulate for almost my entire life how the material culture and physical environment of our time and place shape human experience I ve been interested in that idea since I was a little kid but have never understood how to conceptualize it clearly.At the moment I can t think of many things exciting than discovering a novel that addresses a huge question you ve had for so long that you ve stopped noticing you wanted it answered It s kind of the best thing in the world I feel a guardedly renewed faith in fiction, and by extension, the world.