Book Recommendation: The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

24 May

The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker - on GoodReads“Perforation! Shout it out! The deliberate punctuated weakening of paper and cardboard so that it will tear along an intended path, leaving a row of fine-haired pills or tuftlets on each new edge! It is a staggering conception, showing an age-transforming feel for the unique properties of pulped wood fiber.” – Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

This book is not about a man on a lunch break. It’s not about an escalator. It’s not about corporate restroom behavior or group get well cards. It’s not about paper towels, milk carton technology, or even the degradation patterns of shoelaces.  Through what some might call these plot-less pages, we come to see our world differently, and this, I believe, is what The Mezzanine is about. It calls us to see our world, as Proust famously said, with “new eyes.”

When I first read Proust, I started noticing the swirls milk made in tea and the specific memories that the smell of chemical-grape elicited. Baker’s writing has a similar effect on me. The thin volume (only 135 pages) moves slowly — not just because of footnotes but because we come to see in detail. Baker tunnels us into rabbit holes of consciousness, as our narrator looks closely at his world and examines his own “thought periodicity” (126). After reading Baker for a while, it feels like my mind, like a whiteboard, might not only be erased but cleaned with that special whiteboard solvent that takes away the ghost of all the writings that, until now, could never be fully eradicated. Afterward, my mind is left in the moment, noticing what’s right here — seeing how weird and amazing it all is.


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