HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Mezzanine (Vintage Contemporaries) by…
Loading...

The Mezzanine (Vintage Contemporaries) (original 1986; edition 1990)

by Nicholson Baker

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,671446,797 (3.98)46
Turns an ordinary ride up an office escalator into a meditation on our relations with familiar objects--shoelaces, straws, and more. Baker's debut novel, and a favorite amongst many of us here.
Member:the_darling_copilots
Title:The Mezzanine (Vintage Contemporaries)
Authors:Nicholson Baker
Info:Vintage (1990), Edition: Reissue, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:8e

Work details

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker (1986)

  1. 00
    Remainder by Tom McCarthy (machinemachine)
    machinemachine: Obsession with the intimate experience of the present moment binds both these books together
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 46 mentions

English (40)  French (2)  German (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
What virtually ever other first person novel has tried (and failed) to do. Genius. ( )
  AshLaz | Dec 3, 2019 |
The 135 page escalator ride. Nicholson Baker puts us in the wandering mind of office-worker Howie as he reflects on past events, life changes such as learning to tie one's shoes and witnessing the end of milk home-delivery.

The plot is thin but the reminisces and vignettes and footnotes are interesting in and of themselves through Baker's use of language. I'm a little suspicious of the Proust comparisons, I haven't read him yet, but I hope Proust is more, uh, robust?, than 'The Mezzanine'* in more ways than number of pages, because I don't know if I could stand something longer without more than one character. Howie interacts superficially with others and there is L., his girlfriend, but they're never more than props for his memory.

So the book works more as a mindset time-capsule, it's a humorous post-modern book where the pop culture references are a cut above most, with orange-backed Penguin classics and paper drinking straws instead of a pop song or a hairstyle. All of those small thoughts and working-over of trivial happenings are justified with this book. It was a pleasure to read.

*I love the word 'mezzanine'. Thought you all should know that. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |



A jaded, young wealthy aristocrat in French author Joris-Karl Huysmans’ slim novel À rebours (Against Nature) retreats to a country villa to construct a custom-made artificial world where he can live his entire solitary life on his own aesthetic, highly refined terms. In many ways, the main character in this slender Nicholson Baker book is the complete opposite of Huysmans’ - rather than being a jaded aristocrat, Baker’s narrator is an ordinary guy supremely attuned and energized by commonplace things and events; instead of retreating to a country villa, he commutes to a routine office job in the city; rather than seeking the extraordinary in fine arts and exotic tastes, his experiences the extraordinary in the ordinary, so much so that I see him as the perfect instantiation of what nowadays is referred to as "everyday aesthetics."

So, with this in mind, here are my observations on Baker’s novel coupled with quotes on everyday aesthetics articulated by Thomas Leddy, a leading thinker in the discipline:

"We are thinking of everyday aesthetics in the context of the world-wide city-based culture within which most of us live."----------
First page to last page, this is exactly the subject for our pleasant, perceptive twenty-five-year-old officer worker as he encounters and recollects during the hours of his workday in the city, as when we read in the opening paragraph “On sunny days like this one, a temporary, steeper escalator of daylight, formed by intersections of the lobby’s towering volumes of marble and glass, meet the real escalators just above their middle point, spreading into a needly area of shine where it fell against their brushed-steel side-panels, and added long glossy highlights to each of the black rubber handrails which wavered slightly as the handrails slid on their tracks, like the radians of black luster that ride the undulating outer edge of an LP.”

As readers we are given a unique opportunity to concurrently experience with the narrator not only what he sees but the various feelings he derives from his seeing. Take my word for it here: Nicholson Baker’s novel is a jewel – a narrator particularly sensitive to life’s minute details, those objects and events usually overlooked and underappreciated by the rest of us.

"Everyday aesthetics emphasizes how objects can take on an “aura” when perceived aesthetically." ------------
The narrator reflects while walking down a city street: “It seems that I always liked to have one hand free when I was walking, even when I had several things to carry: I like to be able to slap my hand fondly down on the top of a green mailmen-only mailbox, or bounce my fist lightly against the steel support for the traffic lights, both because the pleasure of touching these cold, dusty surfaces with the springy muscle on the side of my palm was intrinsically good, and because I liked other people to see me as a guy in a tie yet carefree and casual enough to be doing what kids do when they drag a stick over the black uprights of a cast-iron fence.”

He derives pleasure on two levels: 1) the fact that his hand is free, and 2) the feel of his hand being free - free to slap against a mailbox, bounce off a steel pole, feel the cold, dusty surfaces, pleasures having no greater aim or purpose beyond the intrinsic goodness of the feeling itself. And it is the second level that is aesthetic – taking pleasure beyond the “fact” of things to taking pleasure in the “feel” of things. And by being open to the “feel” of things, in this case hand and mailbox and steel pole, these very things take on a certain “aura.”

Actually, in addition to 1) and 2) above, he values: 3) the social benefit of being seen by others as a man who has retained a kid’s aliveness and freshness when interacting with the world. For me, this is so charming- a simple happening providing our narrator with triple-decker pleasure as if savoring a slice of triple-decker strawberry cake.

"Everyday aesthetics is a category separate from the fine arts and the natural world." -----------
Although the narrator notes how there are Edward Hopper prints in the office hallways and observes the blue sky out his office window, his focus is not on the fine arts or the natural world but rather on things like the difference between working in an office with a linoleum floor and ones with carpets: “Linoleum was bearable back when incandescent light was there to counteract it with a softening glow, but the combination of fluorescence and linoleum, which must have been widespread for several years as the two trends overlapped, is not good.”

"Everyday aesthetics studies the whole field of human experience, not just the high points." -----------
There really isn’t any drama here in the conventional manner of storytelling, such thing as a runaway spouse or the loss of a parent or a psychological crack-up or artistic, spiritual or life-shattering epiphanies, not even close; on the contrary, we read about episodes in the narrator’s life leading to revelations about shoe-tying, brushing tongue as well as teeth, applying deodorant after being fully dressed, the virtues of sweeping with a broom made with straw rather than plastic and the time-saving benefits of owning your very own rubber stamp imprinted with your home address. Sounds like fun? Actually, these subjects make for great fun presented in Nicholson Baker’s breezy, frequently humorous, carefully crafted language.

"Everyday aesthetics appreciates how artists are close and constant observers of everyday life." ------------
Case in point – here is our young office worker/narrator entering the corporate men’s room: “I negotiated the quick right and left that brought me into the brightness and warmth of the bathroom. It was decorated in two tones of tile, hybrid colors I didn’t know the names for, and the sinks’ counter and the dividers between urinals and between stalls were of red lobby-marble.” This bathroom sequence, complete with observations about towels, hot-air blowers, toilet paper, the habits and sounds and sights of other company men goes on for several pages. I don’t think I have to include any more quotes as I am sure you get the idea.

"Everyday aesthetics is immensely important for our lives." -----------
Important in the sense you can use the realm of everyday aesthetics to gauge how awake you are to your everyday world. If you are like Howie (yes, we learn the narrator’s name in the closing chapters when his fellow-workers address him directly), then you will have the feel for what it is to be reading this review, a feel for not only the language and ideas contained herein but also the size and font of the letters and words on your screen. And what is the level of brightness of the white behind the words? What color is the border around your screen? Black? White? Silver? What is the texture of your keypad? Is your computer making a pleasant hum? If your desk is made of wood, does the grain have small groves? . . .


Nicholson Baker at age 31 in 1988, publication year of this, his first novel.

( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
I was a big fan of this book. The extensive tangential footnotes were micro-excursions into interesting ideas and topics, only to snap back to a moment of reality. Baker crafted compelling prose that streams directly into your brain, creating connections when roadblocks would usually derail an interesting path. It's certainly a different book, and worth the read. ( )
  svdodge | Aug 17, 2017 |
The main characters in this "stunt fiction" are objects, usually ones manufactured, that the narrator really loves or gets annoyed by. There are many observations that all of us have made at one time or another; Baker is very good at making these points with creative prose. His narrator expects a lot from the producers of consumer goods; as if he expects every good and service to be a peak experience, and thus a subject for an intensive critique. Sure, he makes good points, but so what? There's also the copious and lengthy footnotes, where the narrator really gets going on items related to personal hygiene, shoelaces, popcorn, and many other things. Other than his girlfriend ("L."), and brief appearances by fellow workers, there aren't any humans mentioned or subject to interaction. This is the second book I've read by Baker, and it feels like enough. Not bad, but nothing to get excited about.

By the way, is this where DFW got the idea about using insanely long footnotes? ( )
  nog | Jul 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
For Margaret
First words
At almost one o'clock I entered the lobby of the building where I worked and turned toward the escalators, carrying a black Penguin paperback and a small white CVS bag, its receipt stapled over the top.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.98)
0.5 2
1 8
1.5 1
2 23
2.5 3
3 51
3.5 23
4 115
4.5 23
5 129

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 140,347,569 books! | Top bar: Always visible