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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Nicholson Baker burst upon the literary scene in 1990 with The Mezzanine, a powerful meditation on the familiar that takes place during a ride on an escalator. Box of Matches reinvigorates the formula in this short, quiet tale about 44-year-old Emmett, a married father of two and a textbook editor, and his new regime of getting up at four in the morning to reflect on his life. Very little else takes place. We witness Emmett's daily ritual of striking a match and lighting a fire. We watch him bump into furniture, blind himself by turning off the lights too soon, set his sock on fire, and sit and drink his coffee. And we listen to him think -- about work, his father, what he ate last night, something funny his wife said, or how his pet duck likes to peck the cat on the rear end.
Baker's straightforward prose captures with razor-sharp precision the minutiae of daily life and the uninspired thoughts that occupy most of our time, raising them into the realm of poetry and encapsulating Emmett's life as the essence of the collective human experience. Emmett's solitude and its trappings -- the fire, the coffee, the silence -- become a sort of divine experience, and his daily reflections turn into the most devout secular prayer -- poetry without pretense. A Box of Matches offers extraordinary insight into the sovereignty of the individual human experience; this unusual novel's quiet power will strike a fire in your heart. Stephen Bloom