The Mezzanine

( 16 )

Overview

In his startling, witty, and inexhaustibly inventive first novel—first published in 1986 and now reissued as a Grove Press paperback—the author of Vox and The Fermata uses a one-story escalator ride as the occasion for a dazzling reappraisal of everyday objects and rituals. From the humble milk carton to the act of tying one’s shoes, The Mezzanine at once defamiliarizes the familiar world and endows it with loopy and euphoric poetry. Nicholson Baker’s accounts of the ordinary become extraordinary through his ...

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The Mezzanine

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Overview

In his startling, witty, and inexhaustibly inventive first novel—first published in 1986 and now reissued as a Grove Press paperback—the author of Vox and The Fermata uses a one-story escalator ride as the occasion for a dazzling reappraisal of everyday objects and rituals. From the humble milk carton to the act of tying one’s shoes, The Mezzanine at once defamiliarizes the familiar world and endows it with loopy and euphoric poetry. Nicholson Baker’s accounts of the ordinary become extraordinary through his sharp storytelling and his unconventional, conversational style. At first glance, The Mezzanine appears to be a book about nothing. In reality, it is a brilliant celebration of things, simultaneously demonstrating the value of reflection and the importance of everyday human human experiences.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Baker's irresistibly readable short novel presents the quirkyand often hilarious inner life of a thoroughly modern office worker. With high wit and in precisely articulated prose, the unnamed narrator examines, in minute and comically digressive detail, the little things in life that illustrate how one addresses a problem or a new idea: the plastic straw (and its annoying tendency to float), the vacuous civilities of office chatter, doorknobs, neckties, escalators and the laughable evolution of milk delivery from those old-fashioned hefty bottles to the folding carton. Using the keenly observed odds and ends of day-to-day consciousness, Baker allows his narrator to recreate the budding perceptions of a child facing a larger mysterious world, as each event in his day conjures up memories of previous incidents. Through the elegant manipulation of time, and sharp, defining memories of childhood, the narrator dissects each item of apparent cultural flotsam with the thoroughness of a prosaic, though wacky, technical manual. The rambling ``footnotes'' alone are worth the price of this cheerfully original novel.
Library Journal
Baker's first novel recounts one afternoon in the life of an office worker named Howie; or, more precisely, an afternoon in the life of Howie's mind . There are more digressions, asides, and tiny facets than one can imagine fitting into an afternoon or a short novel, for that matter. Each 'real' event or action -- getting onto an escalator, for instance -- is surrounded by the narrator's meditations on any number of thoughts or processes spawned by that event. A notable departure from traditional novel form is the extensive use of often lengthy footnotes, wherein many of the digressions take place. The line between the footnotes and the main text in fact tends to blur, with the reader drawn repeatedly into the highly detailed odysseys of the footnotes and then pulled back out. A very funny, enjoyable novel by a writer whose work frequently appears in The New Yorker-- Jessica Grim, New York Public Library
Library Journal
Baker's first novel recounts one afternoon in the life of an office worker named Howie; or, more precisely, an afternoon in the life of Howie's mind . There are more digressions, asides, and tiny facets than one can imagine fitting into an afternoon or a short novel, for that matter. Each 'real' event or action -- getting onto an escalator, for instance -- is surrounded by the narrator's meditations on any number of thoughts or processes spawned by that event. A notable departure from traditional novel form is the extensive use of often lengthy footnotes, wherein many of the digressions take place. The line between the footnotes and the main text in fact tends to blur, with the reader drawn repeatedly into the highly detailed odysseys of the footnotes and then pulled back out. A very funny, enjoyable novel by a writer whose work frequently appears in The New Yorker-- Jessica Grim, New York Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802144904
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2010
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 142
  • Sales rank: 230,742
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholson Baker
Nicholson Baker is the author of eight novels — The Mezzanine, Room Temperature, Vox, The Fermata, The Anthologist, A Box of Matches, Checkpoint, and The Everlasting Story of Nory — and four works of nonfiction, including Human Smoke. He lives with his wife and two children in Maine.

Biography

An elegant writer who has taken stream of consciousness to dizzying postmodern heights, Nicholson Baker has produced a body of work that is eccentric, inventive, and extremely difficult to categorize. In his virtually plotless novels, characters ruminate on the minutest details of everyday life and lose themselves in memories of Proustian intensity. His nonfiction is equally unconventional, filled with meticulously researched minutiae and passionate polemics on topics of great personal interest -- perhaps only to himself.

Baker's quirky brilliance was evident early on in several convoluted short stories that appeared in The New Yorker and Atlantic. But he hit his own idiosyncratic stride with his 1998 debut novel. Essentially one long, loopy digression riddled with footnotes nearly as long as the narrative, The Mezzanine traces a young man's meandering thoughts during a brief escalator ride from the ground floor to the mezzanine of the office building where he works. The "action," such as it is, takes scant minutes, but it's time enough to lay bare the protagonist's entire inner life. In his review for The New York Times, Robert Plunket singled out for commendation "...the razor-sharp insight and droll humor with which Mr. Baker illuminates the unseen world."

In other novels, Baker has taken us inside the heads of many characters: a young father bottle-feeding his infant daughter (Room Temperature); a middle-aged man whose early-morning ritual begins with lighting a fire (A Box of Matches); a man who stops time in order to fondle and exploit unsuspecting women (Fermata); two people a continent apart who indulge in graphic sexual fantasies over the telephone (Vox). (Fermata and Vox were widely criticized as "literary pornography." Vox created additional buzz, when it was revealed that Monica Lewinsky had given a copy to President Bill Clinton.)

Although Baker can never be accused of dispassion, the peculiarity of his nonfiction has led to mixed reviews. In lengthy essays and articles and wildly discursive books, he has paid extravagant tribute to his literary hero John Updike (U and I: A True Story), decried the destruction of library card catalogs (an essay in The Size of Thoughts), led a crusade to preserve and archive entire collections of American newspapers (Double Fold), and challenged the traditional view of World War II as "inevitable" (Human Smoke).

Baker's brand of erudite obsession may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is easy for literate readers to fall in love with his glittering prose. He is, above all else, a lover of language; and in his deft and capable hands, even the most mundane objects and events spring to glorious, full-bodied life. Summing up the singular, seductive charms of Baker's writing, Salon critic Laura Miller may have said it best: "...dazzling descriptive powers married to a passionate enthusiasm for the neglected flotsam and jetsam of everyday life."

Good To Know

A two-week writing seminar with Donald Barthelme at the University of California jump-started Baker's writing career.

His great-grandfather Ray Stannard Baker served as press secretary to president Woodrow Wilson and won a Pulitzer prize for his biography of Wilson.

Baker's first area of interest was music, rather than literature. A talented bassoonist, he attended Eastman School of Music with an eye to becoming a classical composer. Midway through his first year, he changed his major to English. He transferred to Haverfod College in Philadelphia, graduating in 1980.

One of Baker's most passionate concerns is preserving complete runs of newspapers as a valuable record of American history. To that end, he founded the American Newspaper Repository in 1999, when he learned the British Library was selling off or trashing its bound volumes of post-1870 newspapers.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Rochester, NY
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1980

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 11, 2013

    "The Mezzanine" is a short novel by Nicholson Baker pu

    "The Mezzanine" is a short novel by Nicholson Baker published in 1988. It was the author's first published book, and it follows the character of Howie, who is your average American office employee. The story begins by following Howie as he makes his way up the escalator to the mezzanine where his office cubical is, and ends with him stepping off the escalator onto his office's floor.




    Basically, the story is about the wearied human mind and the thought process that goes through Howie's head on a typical Monday. There is this little place in the normal human mind that then takes a tangent here and there and never seems to fully focus on one thought all the way through to the end. This book is full of those tangents and seems to live off of all of the tiny details of every single thought that could possibly go through one's mind while at the office.




    All in all, I give the book 4 stars because it's a good one and I do recommend reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Favorite

    This is my favorite book of all time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2004

    Inside an obsessive mind....which borders on insanity

    While the premise of Mr. Baker's novel is a unique one, it fell a little short with me. The character's over-analytical thoughts grew tiresome halfway into the novella. It was an okay read, however, I wouldn't recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2003

    A Charming and Informative Book with Subtle Humor

    The book, The Mezzanine, was greatly informative in the mundaneness of daily life and the small things that come into use in our lives. The book is greatly enjoyable for anyone and should be a 'must read' in everyone's booklist

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2000

    Uncommon and Underappreciated

    In twenty years, English teachers will all be wondering why nobody appreciated this guy in the first place. Baker's eye for minutiae is playful yet professional - it's unlike anything else I've read. Sometimes tiresome, but then again so is Joyce. Give it a chance.

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