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The Fermata by Nicholson Baker

The Fermata (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Nicholson Baker

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1,355228,633 (3.53)20
Title:The Fermata
Authors:Nicholson Baker
Info:Vintage (1995), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Fermata by Nicholson Baker (1994)

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
A complete joy. ( )
  triphopera | Apr 14, 2018 |
I got this book because I read Baker's non-fiction book, "Double Fold" in library school, and thought it was very interesting and well-written. 'The Fermata' is quite different! Basically, it's porn. But not porn that I found appealing. It's written in the form of a memoir of a seemingly ordinary man who works as a temp transcriptionist - who has the ability to stop time. Rather than using this power to do any of the obvious possibilities (heists, assassinations, blackmail(?)), he uses his time in 'the fermata' pretty much exclusively to molest women. Morally, he tries to justify himself by saying that he's not hurting anyone - the women are totally unaware about what's been done to their frozen, unresponsive bodies, so what's the problem? The character has an ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him because she was disturbed and repelled by what she believed were his fantasies regarding these actions - and I'm totally with her: the exciting thing about sex is the seduction, the interaction. Molesting mannequin-like, unmoving bodies is thoroughly unexciting. Later in the book, when the narrator decides to try his hand at writing erotica (and placing it for women to read), the stories presented as his writing aren't terribly my cup of tea, either. This is undeniably a well-done book, but it is just meant to appeal to people with different fantasies than mine. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Arno Strine can stop time. And when he does, he uses this talent to undress, and sometimes touch, women.

Arno is a complicated character, well drawn by Mr. Baker. He loves women and their imperfections. He doesn't want to harm people. He doesn't have the imagination or moral fortitude to do great things with his time-stopping power. In fact, he hardly thinks about such weighty matters. He's mostly pretty ordinary.

But the interesting character didn't make up for the lack of a plot. I know some have argued that the sex in this book is not pornographic -- some have even said it was funny. But I found the balance between writing about Arno and writing about (mostly imagined) sexual acts was skewed in favour of the latter. On balance, we have a book with very little plot, one basic idea (time stopping) and a interesting main character. ( )
  LynnB | Jul 5, 2012 |
Pornography has a proper place in culture, as does literature. This book is pornography masquerading as literature, and is a failure in both genres. ( )
  evergene | Jun 16, 2012 |
A novel like The Fermata asks some important questions, most important of which is of course: "Does writing literary prose mean your novel about a guy stopping time to perv about is anything other than porn?" And it's a very good question too, one I haven't yet been able to fully answer. On the one hand there's a lot more to Baker's novel than a simple sex story. His protagonist is complex, troubled and off-kilter although he feels himself a paragon of normality in a world that simply does not and would not understand him. And yet there seems to be a definite "let's see how much porn I can write before someone catches on." And when I say porn, I don't mean the sultry covert eroticism sometimes present in novels, but stories in stories about women bouncing to orgasm with dildoes in every hole in the back of UPS trucks. Anyway, this is a story about a dysfunctional human being and as such it fascinates, porn or no porn. I just wish it would decide which way to go: smut story or novel. ( )
  Crayne | Jan 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
The Fermata is not concerned with human dignity, or even the loss of it [...] this unsettling concoction of gentle observation and moral indifference is served, politely, over and over again to the reader.

By literally objectifying women, he courts contemporary disapproval, but he is also partaking of a centuries-long tradition of serious writers trying their hand at a stroker [...] The Fermata is not really about Arno Strine. It’s a long, dreary, dirty note scrawled in the margins of Nicholson Baker’s work.
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I am going to call my autobiography The Fermata, even though "fermata" is only one of the many names I have for the Fold.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679759336, Paperback)

The Fermata is the most risky of Nicholson Baker's emotional histories. His narrator, Arno Strine, is a 35-year-old office temp who is writing his autobiography. "It's harder than I thought!" he admits. His "Fold-powers" are easier; he can stop the world and use it as his own pleasure ground. Arno uses this gift not for evil or material gain (he would feel guilty about stealing), though he does undress a good number of women and momentarily place them in compromising positions--always, in his view, with respect and love. Anyone who can stop time and refer in self-delight to his "chronanisms" can't be all bad! Like Baker's other books, The Fermata gains little from synopsis. The pleasure is literally in the text. What's memorable is less the sex and the sex toys (including the "Monasticon," in the shape of a monk holding a vibrating manuscript) than Arno's wistful recollections of intimacy: the noise, for instance, of his ex-girlfriend's nail clipper, "which I listened to in bed as some listen to real birdsong."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Arno Strine explains, in his autobiography, about the fermata (or fold) and how he stops time and takes women's clothes off.

(summary from another edition)

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