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The Fermata

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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.

Having turned phone sex into the subject of an astonishing national bestseller in Vox, Baker now outdoes himself with an outrageously arousing, acrobatically stylish...

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New York, NY 1994 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. (s7-4) 1st edition Hardback Book is brand new in Near Mint condition with dj in Near Mint condition Sewn ... binding. Cloth over boards. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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New York 1994 Hard Cover First Edition New in New jacket 8vo. New York: Random House, 1994. First edition, first printing. 8vo. Hard cover binding, 303 pp. "Arno Strine likes to ... stop time and take women's clothes off." Dream on. New in new dust jacket, protected with an archival-quality mylar cover and includes publisher's acetate over-title cover. Read more Show Less

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The Fermata

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Overview

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.

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.

Read More Show Less

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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679415862
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/1/1994
  • Pages: 303

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

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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(5)

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 16, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    not for me

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2000

    Intellecutal Erotica

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Nicholson Baker's The Fermata is a strange read . . . awkward an

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 16, 2011

    Inventive

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2001

    Outstanding Mix of Humor and Erotica

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Loved it

    Fun fun read

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  • Posted August 31, 2011

    Awesome

    Tragically accurate. Well written. A genre transcending work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2001

    A diff'rent kind of enjoyable read.

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2000

    Baker Rules!!!!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

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