The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

This is one of the strangest novels I’ve ever read. It concerns an office worker named Howie who goes out at lunchtime to buy new shoelaces. The novel begins as the man enters the lobby of the building in which he works and approaches the escalator that will take him back to his office. The novel ends as the man steps off the escalator and looks back toward the lobby. 

Between these two simple events, Howie ponders in extraordinary detail a wide variety of relatively mundane topics: the design of milk cartons, etiquette in the men’s room, what can be purchased in a modern drugstore, thoughts that occur more than once per year, the virtues of the Jiffy Pop brand of popcorn, and the best way to count sheep when trying to fall asleep. 

It’s a short novel, but many readers must still find it incredibly slow and boring, even if they skip the lengthy footnotes. I hurried through a few passages that didn’t seem worth dwelling on. But I thought the book was interesting throughout, sometimes funny, always thoughtful, reminiscent of Tristram Shandy (which I’ve read) or Remembrance of Things Past (which I haven’t) in its tangents and attention to detail.  (3/18/11)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s