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The Fermata

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,420 Ratings  ·  322 Reviews
This is the story of Arno Strine, a modest temporary typist, who has perfected the knack of stopping time in its tracks and taking women's clothes off. He is hard at work on his autobiography, The Fermata, which proves in the telling to be a very provocative, very funny and altogether morally confused piece of work.

Hilarious and totally original, Nicholson Baker's new nove
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Published August 5th 2004 by Vintage (first published February 1st 1994)
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In One Person by John IrvingTales of Sex & Suburban Lunacy by Helen ArgiroThe Women's Room by Marilyn FrenchThe Garden of Eden by Ernest HemingwayThe Fermata by Nicholson Baker
Books On Sex That Don't Suck
4th out of 29 books — 26 voters
Orchard of Dust by Brian Edward BahrA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessHyperion by Dan SimmonsElla Minnow Pea by Mark DunnThe Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake
Literary Genre Fiction
36th out of 42 books — 31 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
Dec 15, 2010 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: verysleazyfun, novels
It came to me in a blinding flash how almost unbearably clever this novel is. It gets panned all the time for two things:

THE FIRST CHARGE

Nicholson Baker has godlike powers over the English language, particularly when it comes to Jamesian sentence structure and the maximum ramifying of vocabulary and the application of all this to most unlikely subjects, as for instance straws (the ones through which drinks are ingested not the ones in the wind) or shoelaces and here in The Fermata he squanders h
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j
Dec 10, 2010 j marked it as to-not-read-ever
Recommends it for: tucker max
Recommended to j by: loud-talking pretentious subway guy
The Douchiest Conversation I Have Ever Overheard, Or: An Over-Intellectual Hipster Talks About Sex in Such a Pretentious Way that You Suspect He Perhaps Does Not Have It All That Often - A Play in One Act

SETTING: STAIRS leading down to SUBWAY PLATFORM on Jackson Street, Chicago, Ill. It is WINTER, and everyone is dressed in HEAVY COATS and SCARVES.

THE PLAYERS: DOUCHEY HIPSTER and SILENT COMPANION

~

[We encounter DH and SC walking near the Jackson Street Blue Line subway stop. Their conversation i
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MJ Nicholls
Nov 11, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
The Fermata doesn’t simply posit the question what would you do if you could stop time? It assumes, quite rightly, that everyone would undress and violate their fellow citizens within about four seconds, so asks instead how would you use this erotic licence to engineer love in the moving world?

Such is the problem of our hapless obsessive narrator who, like the hero in The Mezzanine, observes a pathological attention-to-detail to the minutiae of his warped inventions. Since constructing his time
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Robyn
Jul 29, 2007 Robyn rated it it was amazing
This book is so sexy. My copy is well-thumbed, though currently on loan. Freezing time has never been so pervy or creative. Q: Is it a book about female sexuality or male sexuality? Or is it a book about male sexuality by way of female sexuality? The key is in the ending.
Sarah Smith
Aug 23, 2011 Sarah Smith rated it really liked it
This book is so smutty that I should have thought better of reading it at work on a slow day. Some passages – especially those in which Arno, the protagonist, freezes time so he can write a dirty story tailored to one momentary subject of his infatuation or another and hide it within reach so that she will find it when he unfreezes time – test the limits of what one could consider public reading material. The rest of the book considers Arno's unusual abilities from a charmed philosophical distan ...more
Nicole
Aug 17, 2007 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people not faint of heart
This is the super juiciest book I've ever read. It's still dripping down my leg. A total page turner, but you totally have to put all feminism aside. Perhaps I shouldn't have admitted this was possible for me. Anyway- the storyline centers around a man who can do the 2nd most awesome thing in the entire galaxy--2nd only to obtaining and using a tub of vanishing cream. He can make time stop at his will. It's like if Evie from Out of this World was a total perv.
Esmeralda Greene
Aug 28, 2011 Esmeralda Greene rated it it was amazing
Nicholson Baker has gotten a lot of attention with his latest book "House of Holes," with a host of highfalutin sources extolling its both its literary merit and its over-the-top eroticism. The New York Times, for example, calls it a “glorious filthfest,” and "as funny as it is filthy."

As someone with an interest both in erotica/pornography (I write the stuff) and works of high literary aspiration (um, I read the stuff), I naturally felt I had to check this dude out.

I tried the Kindle sample-sni
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Bob Milne
Nicholson Baker's The Fermata is a strange read . . . awkward and hard-to-categorize, much less review. It's comprised of equal parts literature, science-fiction, romance, comedy, erotica, and memoir.

On the one hand, it absolutely deserves an five-star review for its sheer audacity, innovation, and mastery of language. This is a very clever, beautifully written novel that manages to deliberately meander without boring the reader. It's also a very humorous novel, not so much in a laugh-out-loud s
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Jason Pettus
Jun 22, 2007 Jason Pettus rated it liked it
one of two books from the early 1990s to make nicholson baker a household name (the other being the even bigger-selling vox), this novel tells the tale of a dysfunctional intellectual who figures out how to stop time...then uses the ability to keep his life in a perpetual stage of suspended adolescence, as well as commenting a lot about the world at large. like the rest of his work, the fermata is a polarizing piece of fiction, one you're guaranteed to either love or hate.
Howard Vu
Jan 24, 2008 Howard Vu rated it really liked it
An entertaining, unexpectedly moving read. I recommend this to all women who want to know how the male mind thinks, especially in regard to sex. Really, I can think of no better novel about this subject. The premise, about a guy who can stop time and do whatever he pleases while the world is frozen, may seem tired at this point, but Baker uses it to often surprising ends. The protagonist at first thinks about using his gift for noble deeds, but doesn't really. That's pretty honest.
Pierce
Mar 03, 2008 Pierce rated it did not like it
Mr. Morrison recommended I check this out after reading that "Killing Time" thing I wrote. And yeah, it's kind of exactly the same idea stretched to the length of a novel. Namely, what would you do if you could actually stop time (answer: take people's clothes off).

Except whereas I thought it would be funnier to just hint at the idea, Baker seemed to think it was funnier to go into pages and pages of graphic detail about the whole process. Maybe that is funnier, I dunno.

So it was interesting fo
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Chelsea
May 01, 2007 Chelsea rated it liked it
This was the last Nicholson Baker book I read. The fact that it is his longest and the pornographic one can't be a coincidence, right? I guess I think of NB as fatherly because he has a beard, so reading this book makes me feel only slightly less grossed out than finding my father's Playboy stash. What I learned from this book is simply a reinforcement of a notion which is pretty common sense, which is that nerds and bookworms are just as capable of being perved out as people who can't hammer an ...more
Allycks
Jan 05, 2009 Allycks rated it really liked it
The basic idea here is awesome. Protagonist finds a way to stop time, and is able, during the time-stops, to move around and do as he pleases as the rest of the world remains 'frozen.' Kind of an infantile idea gone literary, like the 'everybody but me is a robot' thing which I think Vonnegut took up. Here the protagonist doesn't want to change the world, get rich, or screw with peoples' minds-- he just wants to see women naked. It sounds pretty damn childish when it's stated as bluntly as that, ...more
PMP
Apr 10, 2007 PMP rated it really liked it
Arno Strine is able to stop time, and what he chooses to do with that power is take off women's clothes and get himself off. I'd be lying if I didn't call this one of the best-executed literoti I've come across. And if I didn't agree that the overall premise is cleverly pornographic and a peep at the writer's condition at the same time. And damned if it isn't finally an observant meditation on loneliness. That said, the overall effect of all that outre sex is like the feeling you get after consu ...more
Kara
Sep 23, 2007 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Fermata is to books what True Romance is to movies...one of my all time favorite love stories.
Jason
Jul 23, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Fermata is a book of divine dirtiness. Baker's protagonist Arno Strine is a 30-ish office temp in Boston purportedly writing his autobiography. His autobiography, however, is the tale of a devilish peeping Tom, who uses a gift to stop time to make manifest his voyeuristic fantasies about the female sex. Occasionally innocent (a peek at the items in a woman's purse). Occasionally risque (a ... "full finger tracing" of the body of a woman sitting still in time naked in her bathtub). If it soun ...more
Cathy
Apr 09, 2009 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I skimmed through the other reviews for this book and was a bit amused at the basic question of "What would feminists think of this?" or to paraphrase another way, "Not sure women would like this book!" As a woman, I had no problem with it.

As a person, I loved this book! Whether I agree or disagree with everything the protagonist(s) does(do) is not an object in whether I like or dislike a book. Did I particularly like how they kill the piggy in Lord of the Flies? No. Did I love the book? Yes.

Bak
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Ben Loory
Feb 15, 2011 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it's kind of like if Douglas R. Hofstadter started writing for hustler magazine. only, beneath the pure and gleeful pornography and meditations on time and consciousness, there's a simple and affecting love story about two lonely people. it's actually a very sweet book.

some of my favorite parts (there are a million):

While Joyce was gone I stared at the flower in the bud vase and felt up the table under the tablecloth to discover what sort of surface it had. It had a rough surface. I didn't think
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Finally someone capable of wielding the English language writes some raunchy, dirty, smart, meta-porn. Well, no, certainly not *that* kind of meta-porn. Simply meta-fiction with some porn written in. It's good.
Amy
Jan 10, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book a couple times, and it is one of my favorites. I am not sure what that says about me as a person, but it is what it is.
Arun Divakar
Mar 09, 2012 Arun Divakar rated it it was ok
A version of the bullock-powered mill was prominently used in India as much as six-seven decades ago. Tied to a central hub that grinds grain or extracts oil, the bullock traverses a circular course. This path never varies nor does it move one inch away from the center. I took this example as it is very close to The Fermata in its execution. The center of this literary mill is sexuality of the voyeuristic kind and there is hardly anything else in the book !

A thirty year old man who is by natu
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Drew
Dec 04, 2011 Drew rated it really liked it
A lot of authors get compared to Nabokov, and it seems that the sole criterion for that comparison is a certain fairly high level of playful facility with the English language. But Nicholson Baker is probably the only author I know whose writing is actually sort of like Nabokov's. I'm not going to back up that assertion other than to say that there's a sub-story in The Fermata that contains the word "dildungsroman."

I sort of thought this book was going to be lame and/or repetitive, and certain
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Carmen Petaccio
Sep 28, 2010 Carmen Petaccio rated it it was amazing
"Getting engaged was thus an obscenity. 'If you fingerfuck this ring for me now, darling, I vow that I will fuck you regularly for the rest of my life.' That's basically the arrangement."

"...I wanted to tell Joyce my dream of a flying blue brassiere: that we would be stranded in a rowboat in the middle of a sulfur lake, and the only way we could escape is if she took off her shirt and removed her flying blue brassiere and kneeled in its cups and took strong hold of the straps and pulled up on th
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Marsha
The protagonist of this story has a fetish. He likes to fondle women beneath their clothes. Nature has given him a gift that allows him to indulge this perversion—the ability to stop time at unpredictable times and for uncertain lengths of time. Thus, he can peel apart a strange women’s clothing, fondle her and then push the clothing back into place. Time will click back on and the woman goes on, unaware that she’s been molested.

The novel gives him no feelings of remorse, guilt or shame. He can’
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Dave
Jun 17, 2014 Dave rated it did not like it
The Fermata is, simply put, a puerile fantasy disguised as a memoir, written by a man who uses his ability to stop time to become the most prolific rapist in the history of the universe.

Spoiler alert, he does eventually get his comeuppance when he finally falls in love with a woman and loses the time-stopping power to her. She punishes him by using it to sexually satisfy him in all new and unexpected ways.

Hey, wait a minute, that's not a comeuppance, that's the erotic fantasy of a damaged, lonel
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Jennifer Ochoa
Strong start, but got pretty gross with some of the "erotica" toward the latter half. A man can stop time and he uses this gift to undress women and masturbate. I enjoyed how the narrator tried to justify his actions (he doesn't "rape" them after all! He puts everything back, so that no one ever knows! and other deluded claims) and thought this novel was an interesting analysis of character and male sexuality, what constitutes sexual assault. Baker took it too far though. I can't handle reading ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 05, 2009 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it liked it
Shelves: read09
I'm beginning to sense that Baker is one of the more obsessive writers around. When he writes a book putting the obsessiveness to use about the destruction of print resources, it is interesting and somewhat tolerable. When it is about poetry, it is charming, and as a reader it pushed me towards a poetry reading binge that has yet to wane. I didn't care for it so much in this book, and I honestly don't want to go into much detail about why. I think in the world of Baker, this is one I would skip ...more
Lucie
Sep 14, 2014 Lucie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loss of one star for getting me grossed out at one point. I understand how the premise of the book is rapey and completely agree with the other reviewers viewpoints that the practice described in the book was questionable in the highest order. HOWEVER I think this was intentional and Baker meant to create a likeable (or unlikeable) character whose behaviour makes us question our relation with him as readers. Things are rarely black and white and I don't have to like and agree with something for ...more
M
Jan 06, 2014 M rated it did not like it
For lack of a better word, the premise of this book is really... rapey. This book was recommended to me as a sexy literary read and by the time I finished the first 20 pages or so (because that's as far as I got before returning the ebook to my library) I felt very uncomfortable. Even though the main character seemingly enjoys undressing women, his narration feels incredibly awkward and dispassionate. The book isn't bad per se; Baker is clearly talented, but The Fermata is utterly unappealing an ...more
Brendan
Apr 08, 2016 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John Ashcroft & Mitt Romney
A guy figures out he has the power to stop time. He doesn't use it to rob banks or even prevent banks from being robbed. No, he uses it to look up women's skirts. Sometimes he undresses them completely, but when he's done he very considerately puts them back together so they don't suspect a thing. He indulges himself in writing porn, and Nicholson Baker generously indulges his reader in the full transcript of his stories, which include vibrators and riding mowers.

The Fermata is dirrrrty and very
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Time Travel: The Fermata 3 32 Dec 20, 2012 05:44PM  
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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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“I don’t think that loneliness is necessarily a bad or unconstructive condition. My own skill at jamming time may actually be dependent on some fluid mixture of emotions, among them curiosity, sexual desire, and love, all suspended in a solvent medium of loneliness. I like the heroes or heroines of books I read to be living alone, and feeling lonely, because reading is itself a state of artificially enhanced loneliness. Loneliness makes you consider other people’s lives, makes you more polite to those you deal with in passing, dampens irony and cynicism. The interior of the Fold is, of course, the place of ultimate loneliness, and I like it there. But there are times when the wish for others’ voices, for friendliness returned, reaches unpleasant levels, and becomes a kind of immobilizing pain. That was how it felt as I finished packing up the box of sex machines.” 9 likes
“Gerard Manley Hopkins somewhere describes how he mesmerized a duck by drawing a line of chalk out in front of it. Think of me as the duck; the chalk, softly wearing itself away against the tiny pebbles embedded in the corporate concrete, is Joyce's forward-luring rough-smooth voice on the cassettes she gives me. Or, to substitute another image, since one is hardly sufficient in Joyce's case, when I let myself really enter her tape, when I let it surround me, it is as if I'm sunk into the pond of what she is saying, as if I'm some kind of patient, cruising amphibian, drifting in black water, entirely submerged except for my eyes, which blink every so often. Each word comes floating up to me like a thick, healthy lily pad and brushes past my head.” 2 likes
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