Room Temperature

( 4 )

Overview

In his second novel, Baker turns a young father's feeding-time reverie into a catalog of the minutiae of domestic love.

The author of the quirky masterpiece The Mezzanine turns a young father's feeding-time reverie into a dazzling catalog of the minutiae of domestic love. "A delightful book, homey and comfortable as a slipper. . . . Every page provokes the shock, or at least the smile, of recognition."--Washington Post.

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Room Temperature

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Overview

In his second novel, Baker turns a young father's feeding-time reverie into a catalog of the minutiae of domestic love.

The author of the quirky masterpiece The Mezzanine turns a young father's feeding-time reverie into a dazzling catalog of the minutiae of domestic love. "A delightful book, homey and comfortable as a slipper. . . . Every page provokes the shock, or at least the smile, of recognition."--Washington Post.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Baker's first novel, The Mezzanine , was hailed for its minimalist conceit--the story of a lunch-hour sortie to buy shoelaces--and its exhaustive cataloging of objects encountered and thoughts entertained. For readers impressed with the precision of Baker's descriptive powers but chilled by its clinical rigor, this second novel will deliver a welcome warmth. Occasioned by a 20-minute bottle-feeding of his infant daughter ``Bug,'' narrator Michael Beal, a young house-hus- band, transforms the sounds and textures of an autumn afternoon into an absorbed--and absorbing--reverie: ``The Bug's nostril had the innocent perfection of a cheerio a tiny dry clean salty ring, with the odd but functional smallness . . . of the smooth rim around the pistil of the brass pump head that you fitted over a tire's nipple to inflate it.'' In a refreshing bit of candor, the narrator baldly states the author's goals: ``I certainly believed, rocking my daughter on this Wednesday afternoon, that with a little concentration one's whole life could be reconstructed.'' In a classic pairing of form and content, meditations on the images of infancy develop into mature, if somewhat ingenuous, reflections on the transit to adulthood. This is a small masterpiece by an extraordinarily gifted young writer. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This stunningly original novel is more like a prose poem than a work of conventional fiction. Rich in playful humor, and with an abundance of ingeniously observed detail, it describes a young father's inspired musings as he spends a quiet afternoon with his infant daughter. Baker has a poet's way of investing everyday objects and experiences with a magical, emblematic intensity his loving description of the musical qualities of a glass peanut butter jar is truly memorable. The result is a deftly woven interplay between the narrator's childhood memories and his experience as a new parent and husband. At times, the disarming intimacy of the author's tone seems to border on the self-indulgent, but Baker is such an inventive stylist that this minor fault should be overlooked in the light of his impressive achievement. Highly recommended for all collections of fiction.-- Christine Stenstrom, New York Law Sch. Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802144911
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholson Baker
Nicholson Baker has published five novels–The Mezzanine, Room Temperature, Vox, The Fermata, and The Everlasting Story of Nory–and two works of nonfiction, U and I and The Size of Thoughts. 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

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