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A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker
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A Box of Matches (2003)

by Nicholson Baker

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6032116,217 (3.62)19

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
A rather enjoyable narrative of the minutiae of life. It both meant something and didnt all tat the same time. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
A middle-aged man with a wife, two kids, and pet duck Greta, decides to wake up a few hours earlier each morning, light a fire, and think about his life. Basically, this book is about nothing, and about everything, as he follows his meditations whither they take him. Here for example his thoughts on train horns:

I would like to visit the factory that makes
train horns, and ask them how they are able to
arrive at that chord of eternal mournfulness.
Is it deliberately sad? Are the horns saying,
Be careful, stay away from this train or it will
run you over, and then people will grieve, and
their grief will be the inconsolable wail of this
horn through the night?

This is a quiet, gentle and whimsical book ( )
  arubabookwoman | Feb 24, 2016 |
This is actually the slightest of Baker's triad of minimalist stream of consciousness novels, after the great The Mezzanine and good Room Temperature, but I'll give it an extra star because it contains a brilliant theory about bad dreams that I now take to be literally true, which makes returning to sleep (after emptying my tank) a piece of cake, no matter how alarming the dream.
Here's the theory in Baker's words:
"I have a theory of bad dreams which I think is revolutionary. My theory is that they are most often simply the result of the body's need to wake up the mind using only the tools it has available, most often in order to pee. The mind is unconscious, in a near coma, but the body has received reports of a substantial accumulation of hot urine belowdecks. The body is getting insistent calls and memos describing the gravity of the hot urine situation, and passing it up to the low-brain, but the high-brain's phone is unplugged because it is asleep. What is the low-brain to do? It has three options: laughter, arousal, or fear. All three will elevate the heart rate, but laughter and arousal are, especially if the high-brain really wants to keep sleeping for a last ten or fifteen minutes, less dependable. Fear it must be, then..."

( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
This short book really appealed to me, but I can see why others might hate it. There's no plot, it's really just a series of memoir-style reflections on a man's times alone in his house early in the morning (4 to 6 am). I suppose it's because I am an early morning person myself that I could relate so well to the narrator. Reading this book is a bit like looking at a photograph of some aspect of my life, The life is there for me to experience directly, but it's not until someone says "look at this picture of your life" that I see interesting things that I never noticed in real life because I was too busy living. It makes me think more about how to pay attention to the world that I inhabit. ( )
  oldblack | Sep 30, 2014 |
Nicholson Baker’s, A Box of Matches, is a small novel that reveals with detailed minutia one middle age man’s ruminations as he rises early to start his morning fire. Substantively, that’s it. No more, no less. The joy in reading Baker’s work is the precision with which he writes. In this particular case, the parts are better than the sum of the whole as some sentences are revelatory (“What you do first thing can influence your whole day”) while the book in its entirety doesn’t rise above the mundane. ( )
  lukespapa | Mar 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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For Margaret
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Good morning, it's January and it's 4:17a.m., and I'm going to sit here in the dark.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375706038, Paperback)

One man's simple, colloquial meditations on his past, his family, and his life's daily minutia are the substance of Nicholson Baker's A Box of Matches. Feeling that life is passing him by, Emmett, a middle-aged medical textbook editor, decides to wake up early each day to sit by a fire in his country house and record his thoughts in a diary. "Good morning," Emmett begins, "it's January and its 4:17 a.m., and I'm going to sit here in the dark." From this vantage point, Emmett reflects stream-of-consciousness style on whatever occurs to him, no matter how mundane: his recent trip to Home Depot, how he met his wife, the habits of the family duck. Routines, such as how he makes his morning coffee in the dark or picks up his underwear with his toes, are described with childlike reverence and directness. All told, nothing much happens in A Box of Matches, which seems to be the point. Baker is more interested in the idea that for many, life is made up of such apparent trivialities, and that only by pausing to appreciate them can anyone gain any lasting satisfaction. Baker emphasizes this through the moments of understated wisdom and joy that Emmett derives from ordinary occurrences, such as the daylight through the window: "a simple light that goes everywhere but with no heat, aware that it is taken for granted and content to be so." This is the philosophical equivalent of a one-joke premise, however, and there are moments when Emmett's naiveté and laundry list-like narrative wear thin. Likely understanding this, Baker has wisely kept things short. A curious, often charming novel, A Box of Matches will inspire some readers, while inspiring frustration in others. --Ross Doll

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:24 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A box of matches is the record of an untumultuous month in the life of Emmett, a forty-five-year-old editor of medical textbooks. Emmett has a wife and children, a cat, and a duck, and he wants to know what life is about. Every day he gets up before dawn, makes a cup of coffee in the dark, lights a fire with one wooden match, and thinks. What Emmett thinks about is the subject of this wise and closely observed novel, which covers vast distances while moving no farther than Emmett's hearth and home.… (more)

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