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The Mezzanine

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  3,942 ratings  ·  477 reviews
Although most of the action of The Mezzanine occurs on the escalator of an office building, where its narrator is returning to work after buying shoelaces, this startlingly inventive and witty novel takes us farther than most fiction written today. It lends to milk cartons the associative richness of Marcel Proust's madeleines. It names the eight most significant advances ...more
Paperback, 135 pages
Published January 16th 1990 by Vintage Contemporaries (first published 1988)
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As I read/battled with/was exasperated by/yelled at/finally accepted/was tickled pink by/was strangely transformed by Nicholson Baker’s utterly brilliant not-really-a-novel various thoughts went off in my brain and made snapping cracking noises like ice breaking. It’s one of the world’s thoughtiest books, even though it’s really quite tiny, but they’re not thoughts like Einstein or Wittgenstein or Stephen Hawking, they're all eensy-weensy thoughts, it’s more like being attacked by a slow but rel ...more
MJ Nicholls
Whenever I get onto a train I look for the seat farthest from other passengers as possible. If I’m going to read, I need silence, or near silence—I need at least five or six seats distance. Finding the right seat is an exact science. This night, coming home from a concert, I enter the car and there are people spread at an infuriating equidistance apart, almost positioned on purpose at four-seat gaps to upset my four-to-six gap rule. I walk past a few shaggy night-people, including a man lurking ...more
This is the Seinfeld of novels. Yep. A book about nothing. Or really, a book about the mundane, the everyday. A book about milk cartons and plastic straws vs. paper. A book about tying one's shoelaces and the proper procedure for applying deodorant. A book about the objects we see every day, about our everyday experiences*. A book that is just plain tedious and boring. At first there is a certain humor in the tedium of what the narrator describes. Quickly, though,—for me, at least—the humor wore ...more

I feel bad about giving this book only two stars. Because Baker is a good writer. No, not just good, he is quite brilliant. It can't be easy to write a book about everyday life's nothingness. But Baker pulls it off. The novel is written in a stream-of-consciousness kind of manner, except the thoughts aren't incomplete or muddled up. The writing is perfectly articulate. Baker flows from one thought to another very smoothly. You know there are times when we find ourselves thinking of something, bu

Due to my vast intelegense * and uncanny ability to read minds, I believe I know what you're thinking. It's probably something like this:
"You fucking cockbag! I've been waiting for a review from you for a month and a half, eagerly visiting your page every two hours, hoping the number of reviews will have gone up from 42 to 43, hoping also that you will have finally uploaded a picture so I can see your handsome visage
O how wonderful, that anxious feeling of encroachment that accompanies a too-hasty reading of a footnote in a great novel—in which the functions of footnotes sharply diverge from that of their non-fictional counterparts—when you realize you haven’t yet reached the corresponding section of the main text and quickly clasp one hand over your mind’s gasping mouth and flick your eyes back up in a desperate search for that still-pulsing stoppage point. The key difference is not that Baker’s satire is ...more
It is three forty-three in the morning and I stand over a changing table. My naked newborn child lays on his back on the concave cushion and I hold his feet together above him so that he does not kick himself or drag his feet through his own feces. I slide a new, clean diaper underneath the dirty one, then grab and pull the dirty one out from under him. I wrap the dirty diaper around itself, making a tight little ball that contains and prevents any leakage with some unknown combination of soft, ...more
aidan w-m
just note that my original review used the phrase 'the ultimate aynti-randian novel' (in an obviously positive context), which i thought to be extremely clever. to be honest, though, i did not actually enjoy reading this.
It's hard to rate this book, because on many levels it is brilliant. Just brilliant. Yet, lets just say, there is not much narrative tension and that is an understatement of the century.

The writer is hilarious. And the character, a complete nerd who cannot stop thinking about the most mundane daily activities that we all don't bother thinking about, is amazingly well developed in merely 120 pages.

So, basically it's about a man who leaves his office to find new shoelaces. That is the book. Alon
Stephanie Sun
Published in 1986, The Mezzanine will have special resonance for anyone of my generation and above, with its deliciously accurate descriptions of Prell commercials, cigarette vending machines, and other recently gone extinct species of our culture. As a 27-year-old experimental novel, I was afraid the style might be dated, but quite the opposite: I think readers today might feel this book's reverence for the physical world, even a late 20th-century American physical world dominated by franchises ...more
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: who are the adwizards who came up with that one?
Recommended to Mariel by: Greg
I am a child, according to The Mezzanine wonderer, if the end of adulthood is the end of childhood nostalgia as basis of comparison. I am a child. It was a time (it felt like the kind of forever when your mind wanders and you can't remember what you were doing before when you snap out of it. This is not a long book) before I let go of my old childhood definitions. I had a name for the "personality type" of the narrator: "Protected dork". They were awkward as I was in a way that society didn't to ...more
Aug 22, 2007 Teague rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with OCD or who are prone to non-sequitors
Shelves: readrecently
I really loved this book. I've not read many novels since high school, and thus don't have a lot to compare it to, but I think it might now be my favorite book.

To give away the plot: Man rides up escalator, thinks about stuff. That's it -- no other characters, no "rising action," or whatever they called it in English class, but it's still dazzling and engaging. Nicholson Baker picks up little details and riffs on them, spending pages nesting digression within digression (with the aid of liberal
I, too, have wondered, based on the handrail of an escalator moving faster than the steps, how often the handrail laps the steps! And I had to read the perforation footnote aloud to my puzzled husband trying to explain how perfect this book is, and how seriously funny it is and at the same time how the evocation of a texture of our lives -- like the perfect description of that satisfaction in the two-stage resistance of a stapler -- creates something that feels like nostalgia, but more substanti ...more
This book is simply dull. Its gimmick is that it documents the random thoughts passing through its narrator's head during a completely uneventful lunch hour. I knew before starting that the book was essentially plotless, but I had hoped, rashly, that it wouldn't also be pointless. The narrator witters on about the patterns of wear on his shoelaces, the varieties of escalator experience, and how he puts on his socks. None of it is particularly interesting, none of it has any kind of unifying them ...more
This book is so good. It's about something I've wondered about and been fascinated by but have remained unable to articulate for almost my entire life: how the material culture and physical environment of our time and place shape human experience. I've been interested in that idea since I was a little kid but have never understood how to conceptualize it clearly.

At the moment I can't think of many things more exciting than discovering a novel that addresses a huge question you've had for so long
Aug 14, 2013 Mon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: corporate drones
Recommended to Mon by: LA Times 61 Essential Postmodern Reads
The Mezzanine's obsessive protagonist appeals to my post-grad, corporate working self who also spends most of my working hours 'meditating' over trivial shits (including writing this review). I particularly enjoyed the Aurelius references and self-aware footnote abuse. The elevator, possibly the most important motif, reminds me of Rem Koolhaas' The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping / Harvard Design School Project on the City 2 where he details the dictation of spatial/temporal experience t ...more
This is the first time I've read something that really reminded me of Wallace, without actually being something by Wallace. Baker's attention to detail is really impressive here, as it should be, since this novel is basically a celebration of attention to detail.

Ever wondered about the architectural similarities between locomotives, phonograph tonearms, and staplers? (I know nothing about phonograph tonearms, actually) How about the twilight age and slow death of bottled milk delivery? Or the i
Jack Waters
“I love the constancy of shine on the edges of moving objects” reads a footnote in Baker’s “The Mezzanine” and might as well describe the book in whole.

This is a novella-sized work that takes a reader far without length. Baker dives into observational consciousness and swims around just long enough to captivate without going overboard. I found myself at times laughing harder and yep-me-tooing over footnotes in a way that sometimes DF Wallace can’t even touch.

And but so that should tell you quite
Sabra Embury
The Mezzanine sent my head into over analytical floptwist; the relatable introspection, the crisp details, and oh geez god...the footnotes, from up to down to across and back up again.

Options explored with footnotes: 1) Stop mid sentence, read the footnotes, come back 2) finish the tangent, go back and read the footnotes 3) screw these footnotes.

But I never chose option 3 for fear that I might miss something crucial, regarding broken shoelaces, the buoyancy of paper straws, whistling in the me
Let's just say, this was the longest 135-page book I've ever read. I knew going in that it was a stream-of-consciousness, footnote-heavy, type of ramble. I'm okay with that style, and I even relate to it. If I were to write a book, I'd certainly want to go off on tangents and riff about random things. But, I just didn't connect with the mind that was being presented here. This could be misconstrued, but there was something so "male" about the author's thought process. Or, at least, that's how it ...more
Nicholson Baker's novels are examples of of trying to imbue the minute trivialities of modern life with unseen philosophical and personal significance. Exhibiting an affinity for minutiae and ponderous disquisition, he is noted for transforming otherwise banal human activities into finely wrought descriptions of thought and serious consideration. His technique of extreme magnification and loitering contemplation has been described as creating a “clogging” effect in his fiction, thus slowing narr ...more
J Preece
Mar 25, 2010 J Preece rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to J by: Susan
Shelves: over-and-over
about a year after i read this book, just before lunch one sunny afternoon at work, i untied and retied my shoelaces as the left shoe was feeling loose, a feeling that grated with me slightly;* not enough to have rectified it all morning, yet enough to think about it every few minutes. as i retied the right shoe the lace snapped and i sat back in my chair, holding two inches of black shoelace, grinning like a five year old, wanting to find S, who recommended the book to me, and wave it in front ...more
Sean Masterson

I have this way of annotating books where I write WOW next to page numbers with passages that blew me away. I'm doing that a lot with this one.

Amazing that it was his first and that he cranked it out in 6 months. Though I guess you spend every moment of your life prior to that first sentence writing the first book.

I haven't read anything where he says so, but I gotta think DFW was a big fan of this novel. Not just because of the footnotes. There is that sad optimism and, dare I say, sweetness
Dec 21, 2014 Reid rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Reid by: 50 cent shelf
This is a little gem, with a few laughs, and the character's attention to the seemingly insignificant details during a work day are rendered significant, making your own feel not only worthy of contemplating and savoring, but necessary. "Manifestly, no condition of life could be so well adapted for the practice of philosophy as this in which chance finds you today!" As he says, upon leaving a job, your focus is upended, such that where mostly you felt the importance was the work and job itself, ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
This is the book for those readers who like a protagonist they can identify with. Ever break a shoelace? And for gods' sake don't skip the footnotes.
Nicholson Baker’s microscopic approach to the banal is unmatched. His eye, his mind—they rove like no other, revealing those magical truths of office life that otherwise remain marginalized by their own ubiquity. But is his observational style enough to empower a plotless plot? Can a book spanning a lunch-break satisfy?

Like the slight pleasures that sustain our daily drudges through the corporate swamp, Baker’s style sustains us, but only marginally more than is necessary. Yes, his observations
This is Baker's first book? Really? Huh. Well, it was very good for a first novel (a short one). I had read Box of Matches a few months back and enjoyed it. The Mezzanine is similar in that Baker re-evaluates the physical world around us with a precision that is border-line annoying. A few topics worthy of this attention are straws/straw wrappers, shoeslaces/breaking of said shoe laces, Papa Gino's (I think this is the first and probably last time I will see Papa Gino's mentioned within a story) ...more
A good primer on form fitting function? The medium is the massage? A love letter to corporate culture? A tightrope walk on the line of irony?
I feel lucky that I read Baker's later work before I read this one, because his narrative voice - hyper-aware, stylistically playful, over-the-top - seems more human when he's writing about sex. Considering that the reveries in the Mezzanine are about such civilization-defining ephemera as a paper coffee cups and plastic soda straws, there's considerably le
Feb 25, 2010 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who can indulge their streaming consciousness
Shelves: re-read
there is so much to love about the tremendously micromanaged everyday minutiae that baker appreciates.

i came to this book via my experimental film and video class as a freshman at uni and it and my t.a. for the course (and now personal friend), renato umali, really changed the way i think about what literature is and can be and also consoled my fears that i was alone in the tacit consideration and appreciation of things like the smell of permanent markers, making faces at myself when alone in fr

"This was the kind of important and secretive product that CVS stores sold--they were a whole chain dedicated to making available the small, expensive, highly specialized items that readied human bodies for human civilization. Men and women eyed each other strangely here--unusual forces of attraction and furtiveness were at work. Things were for sale whose use demanded nudity and privacy. It was more a woman's store than a man's store, but men were allowed to roam with complete freedom past shel
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I love the Mezzanine 6 70 Mar 15, 2012 10:26AM  
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Nicholson Baker is a contemporary American writer of fiction and non-fiction. As a novelist, his writings focus on minute inspection of his characters' and narrators' stream of consciousness. His unconventional novels deal with topics such as voyeurism and planned assassination, and they generally de-emphasize narrative in favor of intense character work. Baker's enthusiasts appreciate his ability ...more
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“The neurons that do expire are the ones that made imitation possible. When you are capable of skillful imitation, the sweep of choices before you is too large; but when your brain loses its spare capacity, and along with it some agility, some joy in winging it, and the ambition to do things that don't suit it, then you finally have to settle down to do well the few things that your brain really can do well--the rest no longer seems pressing and distracting, because it is now permanently out of reach. The feeling that you are stupider than you were is what finally interests you in the really complex subjects of life: in change, in experience, in the ways other people have adjusted to disappointment and narrowed ability. You realize that you are no prodigy, your shoulders relax, and you begin to look around you, seeing local color unrivaled by blue glows of algebra and abstraction.” 14 likes
“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.” 10 likes
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