Saturday, 19 May 2007

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

A man gets up from his desk, chats to friend, has a pee, goes out for a lunch break and buys some shoelaces. And that's the plot and story.

John Whale in put it in writing argues that a good writer follows three basic principles: think in pictures, write as you speak and keep the reader happy. This book follows this to the final dot by having obsessive attention to details so things are seen as if for the first time. The narrative is interrupted by page long footnotes of digressions. He describes and discuses the exact pattern underlying on office conversation and when you wait or leave if it is interrupted by a phone call. Or we ponder on why and when plastic replaced paper straws and the affects this has on drinking Soda from cans(think when was the last time you drank coke from a can or bottle with a straw).

We puzzle over the order to wear what shirt and how long it will stay fresh. Or explore the excitement of toilet technology and the complexity of social etiquette for men while peeing or meeting and greeting in toilets. My personal favourite are the long detours on why shoelaces break.

It's not just obsessive attention to detail that makes the story work. As you read you move backwards and forwards over time to the narrators childhood and to a future when the lunch hour and its world is long in the past. This makes for droll humour but also for a subtle underling nostalgia or even sadness at lost innocence.

So this reader was kept happy and would strongly recommend this little 130 page book to read in your lunch-hour. My god what ever happened to them?


  1. I loved this book! It totally catches the consumer driven/materialistic/ capitalist culture we have today! And it's little bits of interextuality were brilliant :)

  2. Nice summary of one of my favorite books.


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