The Fermata

The Fermata

3.8 14
by Nicholson Baker

View All Available Formats & Editions

Having turned phone sex into the subject of an astonishing national bestseller in Vox, Baker now outdoes himself with an outrageously arousing, acrobatically stylish "X-rated sci-fi fantasy that leaves Vox seeming more like mere fiber-optic foreplay" (Seattle Times). "Sparkling."--San Francisco Chronicle.  See more details below


Having turned phone sex into the subject of an astonishing national bestseller in Vox, Baker now outdoes himself with an outrageously arousing, acrobatically stylish "X-rated sci-fi fantasy that leaves Vox seeming more like mere fiber-optic foreplay" (Seattle Times). "Sparkling."--San Francisco Chronicle.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Baker follows his surprise bestseller, Vox , with a novel once again filled with elaborate sexual fantasies. The "fermata'' of the title refers to the fold in time that narrator Arno Strine can induce; this allows him to stop the flow of events around him and proceed in his own fashion to undress unsuspecting women. The 35-year-old Strine, appropriately enough, works as a "temp'' in Boston, moving in and out of various office situations, completing his business and then disappearing. Despite his questionable ethics while "in the fold''--fondling women's breasts, going through their pocketbooks, writing erotic marginalia in the books they are browsing, stopping their cars and replacing their music cassettes with ones containing his own pornographic compositions--Strine is blithely confident that, since he means no ill will, he is innocent of any wrongdoing. Despite Baker's vaunted object fetishism, which in all his books registers as an unparalleled gift for description, he once again fails to find a novelistic context that would lend his art any lasting resonance. The sexual escapades here--a lonely woman's fascination with sexual toys strapped to a riding lawnmower; a laboratory investigation of the role masturbation might play in Strine's carpal tunnel problem--border on the ludicrous, however titillating. Still, many Vox readers will flock to this erudite smut even as Baker stalls in his campaign to eventually succeed Updike as America's most polished stylist. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Having raised temperatures with the long-distance sex in his best-selling Vox ( LJ 11/15/91), Baker here promises to test "how far is too far,'' notes his publicist.
Stuart Whitwell
Were not the subject of Baker's novel pornography, one would speak without hesitation of its delicious wit. On the other hand, this "is" the story of a 35-year-old man who, by snapping his fingers or by resorting to some more desperate measure (for example, turning on a rubber-band stretching machine built by a woman at MIT), can and does stop time for the mere pleasure of taking sexual advantage of the women around him. Sounds sick, doesn't it? Well, get over it and you will find yourself in one of the funniest and most inventive books you've read for a long time. For the nice thing about our hero--and this is what subverts our own values as well as his--is that he is really a rather sensitive and even tender young man. For instance, he has no intention of embarrassing the women whose lives he explores and whose bodies he undresses. He would certainly never undress a woman he did not think he could put back together so precisely that even she will not notice. And anyway, what is most delighful is not this sexual naughtiness but the guiltless pleasure the hero takes in all the sensual data of life: the way chalk rubs against the blackboard, the way a voice sounds on a dictaphone machine, the noise a ball bearing makes when shaken in a can of paint. Baker knows all this can lead to something dangerous and corrupt, but his hero is not only playful, kind (he gives away a brand-new dildo to a woman he will never see and will never know him); in his own way he is also very moral. This last point is tricky. We see that our hero refuses to take money in the periods he freezes time and he is delicately prudish ("'Panties' is a word to be avoided, I feel"). So what do we have here? Let every reader decide for themselves. All we will say here is that Baker can be very funny and that, perverse or not, he certainly knows how to write.

Read More

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
File size:
2 MB

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Fermata 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
ianmcg More than 1 year ago
I found this book a little too prurient for my taste. I don't consider myself a prude, though I can be somewhat old-fashioned. Perhaps that was my problem. I only got about 100 pages through this book before I decided there were books I'd feel better spending my time on. I did enjoy some of the writing style and perspective, but I was impatient with the lack of forward motion. It was highly anecdotal, and I couldn't see where it was going, and became less and less interested in finding out where it might go.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although many reviewers dismissed the central premise of this book as a sophomoric misogynistic fantasy, Baker is able to make the protagonist someone who genuinely likes women. The prose itself is outstanding,(even the non-dirty parts), and the characters interesting. And 'the good parts' are so far and away the most erotic I have encountered. I introduced my wife to this book, and she in turn told several friends about it. Our copy is somewhat tattered from loaning out, but we always get it back, as everyone decides they need their own!
Beauty_in_Ruins More than 1 year ago
Nicholson Baker's The Fermata is a strange read . . . awkward and hard-to-categorize, much less review. It's comprised of equal parts literature, science-fiction, romance, comedy, erotica, and memoir. On the one hand, it absolutely deserves an five-star review for its sheer audacity, innovation, and mastery of language. This is a very clever, beautifully written novel that manages to deliberately meander without boring the reader. It's also a very humorous novel, not so much in a laugh-out-loud sort of way, but one which succeeds in delivering a smile (or more often a smirk) per page. When I allowed myself to become lost in Arno's voice, I quite enjoyed the read, even as I rolled my eyes and scoffed at his good-natured laziness. It's no wonder Baker gets far more attention as a purveyor of literature than as a genre author, but you get the sense that's entirely how he likes it. Having said all that, this is a book that struggles to earn more than a single-star review for its plotting, pacing, and story-telling. It's is a story comprised of musings, observations, and asides, in which very little happens to advance the plot. Being a fictional memoir does excuse the narrative struggle to some extent, but the 'fictional' element does demand something more. There's a great concept at the heart of the story, with Arno able to freeze time and manipulate those around him, but his own odd sense of morality and decorum won't allow him to exploit it, while his own laziness holds him back from maximizing it. Of course, Arno and his failings are, essentially, the story, so it's hard to find him at fault. Still, it's a read that frustrated me to no extent because it adamantly refused to explore the concept. If you're a fan of literate novels, one who favours concept over content, and one who appreciates narration over narrative, give The Fermata a shot. It is a fun read (taken in small doses) but the novelty does wear thin after a while. On the other hand, if you're at all intrigued by the concept, but (like myself) tend to lean more towards plot and characterization that storytelling showmanship, try giving Dean Koontz's Dragon Tears a read instead.
pencilpusher More than 1 year ago
Inventive use of language to produce some very detailed descriptions. I bought House of Holes and The Fermata at the same time. I started House of Holes first which almost made me delete The Fermata without reading it. I'm glad I did because it is so peculiar, but I don't think I would bother with any more of Baker's stuff. I should sue him to retrieve the couple of hours of my life spent on House of Holes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Other reviewers have said that this is a guy's book. While it is true that The Fermata undoubtedly has an innate appeal to men, I whole-heartedly recommend it for women as well, if for no other reason than to gain insight into the way men think. Which I think Baker has captured very well. I enjoyed this book so much that I immediately bought and read all of Baker's other books. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. None even came close to this excellent work, which is a terrific blend of humor and erotica.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jordan Showalter More than 1 year ago
Tragically accurate. Well written. A genre transcending work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book. A friend had glowingly recommended it so I said, 'sure why not?' I've repeatedly thanked my friend ever since I finished it. This is truly a guy's book and while I've heard some criticism of the juvenile premise, we must not forget that most guys are pretty juvenile when it comes down to it. BRAVO Nicholson Baker!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read The Fermata, and I have read Vox as well. Baker, to me, is one of the only writers out there for real men (guy Guys.)My only complaint about Baker is that he writes a new book so seldom that I lose patience. The Fermata is a guy book. There is no man alive that hasn't pondered what he would do if he could freeze time. Baker illustrates what most of us have thought about.