Room Temperature
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Room Temperature

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  616 ratings  ·  61 reviews
A story in which the author examines the little details of home life. The action takes place in the moments before, during and after the feeding of Bug, the baby. Nicholson Baker is the author of Vox, The Mezzanine, The Fermata, U & I and Thoughts.
Paperback, 116 pages
Published January 12th 1998 by Granta Books (UK) (first published April 28th 1990)
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MJ Nicholls
The fact is a large cadre of klutzes (call them Baker-deniers) consider our man Nicholson to be a lightweight author. An inward bourgeois bore picking fluff from his well-gazed navel. Stephen King is to blame thanks to his ungenerous quote about thumbnail pickings (this coming from a man that publishes his thousand-page turds and seems to be morphing into some freakish wax cyborg creature). Baker’s books are unique and freeing because the man writes about whatever he pleases and has a sincere be...more
John
As a writer and a parent, it's hard not to appreciate Room Temperature, Baker's fictionalized essay revolving around a 20-minute episode of rocking his daughter to sleep. It's also not hard to a little put off by it.

Reading it as a parent is a bit like listening to Charles Dobson, in that both seem intent on convincing you how perfect their families are within the bounds of the ideologies they live by. The fact the Dobson comes at it from a fundamentalist Christian angle while Baker follows the...more
James
A gooier, far less interesting-in-form rehash of The Mezzanine's
minutiae-fest, though quite undeniably charming in all the expected ways. I can't imagine myself ever having a child, but there is much here relevant to the newly-relationship'd amongst us, notably for me the mini-treatise on TMI limits (I am something of a chronic oversharer). Is three weeks too soon to admit to a girlfriend that a steady stream of scalding-hot shower-water on a raw red patch of freshly-scratched hives feels bette...more
Jeff
Nov 19, 2011 Jeff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Holly
I almost romantically love Nicholson Baker. Is there anybody else who could describe what you see upon opening a peanut butter jar as "the lunar surface"?! It seems that there must be at least one other such person, but what if NB is literally the ONLY one?

I've complained of other books for using "too many modifiers." And NB slings them almost as much as Jackson Pollock does paint, yet i love his prose. So maybe, for precision's sake, my complaint should've been that in books where the modifiers...more
Nonakasparov
Jul 08, 2008 Nonakasparov rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents who enjoy Nicholson Baker
Shelves: novels
Nicholson Baker is known to lovingly detail anything crossing his scope. Here, the referents in the narrator's survey return him to his great loves; his love for his newborn daughter ("Bug") and his wife. All that is familiar is set out plainly, props supporting the overwhelming emotion and affection. From a description of an attempt to appreciate a color, "Celadon," the narrator outlines a device often brought to a relationship -- to get to know the other better and become more dear, we seek to...more
Ed
Of NB's first three books, this always seemed to me the second runner-up — but a recent re-read makes me wonder if it's his best, subtlest, (quietly) brilliant performance to date. An update of Burton's "Digression of the Air"?
Rick Seery
Warning: Virtuoso alert! Baker's sophomore novel continues on his densely digressive yet direct style. Later novels like 'A Box of Matches' and 'The Anthologist' share the same homely narration and essayistic ease, yet are much less bilious and complex in prose. Baker utilizes memory in much the same rambling fashion as Proust. Thus, time becomes stretched and renewed. He also has the same feeling for Proust's monolithic sentence structure. With this ambitious foundation, Baker bobs and weaves m...more
Laura
Super amazing. Very similar in style to The Mezzanine, but centred around love and childhood memories and composing music and the sound of writing and commas -- compassionate and full of wonder for what love can be compared to the more technical, everydayness of The Mezzanine (or am I misremembering it?). Baker circles between past and present across themes and connects memories and thoughts and moments in beautiful ways.

The book describes itself in the following passage from chapter 5:

"The arti...more
Ken Deshaies
Not for the faint of heart. Many people have lauded this book for it's rather deep study of the mental meanderings of a father feeding his infant daughter. And, while I found many of the passages very interesting, funny, and clever, and also found much of this pedantic and a sort of pretentious super-intellectual discourse. From musings over several pages about whether his breath could actually affect the movement of a mobile across the room to recollections of incidents in his marriage and in h...more
Darren C
nice thing about the comma:

"How had we come up with this civilized shape? I wondered. Timidly and respectfully it cupped the sense of a preceding phrase and held it out to us. It recalled the pedals of grand pianos, mosquito larvae, paisleys, adult nostril openings, the spiraling decays of fundamental particles, the prows of gondolas,half-spent tubes of antifungal ointment, falcon or airplane wings in cross section: there was an implied high culture in its asymmetrical tapering swerve that gave...more
Chance Lee
Room Temperature is a 98% stream-of-consciousness novel, a la The Mezzanine. The plot of Room Temperature: The narrator holds a baby in his lap. The end.

But Baker books are never about plot. They're about the way the brain hops from one topic to another. The ability to effortlessly transition from the esoteric to the mundane. Highlights include: the choppy elegance of the writing on frozen vegetable packages, airplane air nozzles and tray tables, squirt guns, the private sex lives of voice-over...more
lara
I didn't really like this novel. It's set on an autumn afternoon and revolves around the questions and reflections the narrator has on this afternoon. They vary from events in his childhood, feelings he had when he was dating his wife and of course his present concerns. I found the narrator a bit irritating in his happy complacency, and the way he smoothly switched from low to high culture musing a bit pretentious. The style of 'Oh and this random thought reminds me of this time at college when....more
Neryssa
Sep 02, 2012 Neryssa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parental Units
Shelves: read-in-2012, shorts
I would give this book 3.5 stars if I could.

I cannot believe this is the same author who wrote House of Holes. I'm both shocked and delighted about that. While I think I loathed House of Holes (maybe it was me, not the book?), Room Temperature was almost completely softer and...(looking for the right word)...lovelier than HOH. I say "almost" because Baker still did use some stark flashbacks and relatively "colorful" metaphors but they were ding-dang BRILLIANT in use.

It's 3 stars instead of 4 bec...more
Alan
Jul 11, 2012 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fathers and mothers and lovers of a pregnant pause
Recommended to Alan by: Luminous prose
My very first exposure to Nicholson Baker's work was his first, The Mezzanine, and Room Temperature, his second, is cut from the same rich cloth. Although its physical setting is unwavering and mundane—a Boston living room in early fall, a father in a rocking chair feeding his newborn daughter and rocking her to sleep—that setting is lavishly described in jewel-sharp detail, and Baker uses it as a springboard for a fractal efflorescence of prose that still amazes me. This slim book is to streams...more
John
i love the mezzanine so much that i haven't dared to read another baker book since i fell for the mezz about 10 years ago. i stumbled across a cheap used copy of this, his second novel, on a recent work trip to kuala lumpur and decided that it was time for me to delve into other baker (i do very much want to read the anthologist, among other titles), and was rewarded.

following in the verbose, minutiae-focused style of the mezzanine, room temp is a series of short meditations and paranoid musings...more
S.B.
Mar 21, 2012 S.B. rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bacon frying
I will never again open a new jar of peanut butter without thinking of Nicholson Baker. In fact, time arranged itself in such a meaningful way that today (the day I finished reading this book) was the day I had to open a fresh jar of Peter Pan brand peanut butter. It was an utterly perfect moment that reaffirmed my faith in literature.

I have to admit, mostly this book made me extremely impatient. There are more than a few good moments, but overall it's a slow slow read. Especially if you aren't...more
Polly
wow wow wow. what an absolutely lovely, calming, delightfully happy-making read! I find myself re-reading each chapter because i don't want to move on quite yet. Chapter 3, where he is sitting in bed next to his wife, who is writing in her diary, is the ultimate sexy description of a lover wanting to fully know his beloved. he takes the scratching of her pen against the paper out to a time on a plane when he was afraid to "pry" into her thoughts, did so, and was rewarded with a tidbit that becam...more
Chris
Mar 06, 2014 Chris added it
Not The Mezzanine but better than other books I've read by Baker, the master of tiny details.
Ann-Marie
Not for everyone but for those who love words and a writer's ability to frame the smallest of moments, I highly recommend Nicholson Baker. Having enjoyed Mezzanine I thought this might be similar but this quasi-memoir covers very different ground. While Mezzanine is at times satirical in an uncanny, fine tuned take of the work world and how we live today, Room Temperature turns the moments in feeding an infant into fresh insights into marriage, love and connection. Funny, sweet and sometimes rau...more
Liz
Room Temperature is written in stream-of-consciousness style: every thought that runs through the narrator’s mind as he gives his daughter a bottle and rocks her to sleep is the text, in long, meandering sentences. In the process, we get a great character study of the narrator. His childhood friendships, his relationship with his parents, his college years, his love for his wife and child are all fleshed out for us. But reading this made me realize how much I like plot. And reading reviews of th...more
Michael
The author shocked and disgusted me effectively with his "Fermata", and now he delights and transfixes me in this short book of reveries that link current events of daily life with memories and ideas. They comprise a wonderful mesh and stream-of-consciousness. As a stay-at-home dad, the character Mike spends some time rocking and feeding his infant daughter, who he lovingly calls the "Bug", and the fermented thinking it evokes becomes this book. The read was a fine demonstration of the writer's...more
Nils
Like his other book Mezzanine, this is a slice of seemingly mundane life explored down the myriad tangles of neurons and memories that connect to it. This one seemed a bit more slow moving than Mezzanine, but has a satisfying finish. Baker is such a master of noticing minutiae and bringing up those that resonate so strongly, such as the taste of chewing on a Bic pen or the pop of the seal of a metal lid on a glass jar.

This is definitely a "sipping" read. I charged through it a bit too much and l...more
John
amazingly annoying. no, annoyingly amazing.
Celeste
Less a novel and more of a meditation: the entire book is the narrator free-associating while he feeds his newborn daughter. Room Temperature requires patience and demands the reader's entire attention--I usually read quite fast, but it took me days to get through this thin book. Baker's attention to detail is incredible. So many times I read a description and thought, "yes! yes! that's exactly how it is!" While a few of the chapters felt a little over-exuberant in their specificity, the book is...more
Colin N.
A short and wonderful novella, filled with Baker's keen eye for detail and spot-on descriptions of the minutiae of daily life (and here life as a father). Peppered with interesting facts and spot-on observations that are just so exactly right, Baker reveals aspects of the world as it is exists that are astute and accurate. I kept wanting (and did) read bits and pieces of this book aloud to other people and wondered at his particular and peculiar writing talents. A good companion piece to Mezzani...more
Richard Thompson
The narrator is rocking his infant daughter in the rocking chair and feeding her her bottle. As he rocks and contemplates the Bug, his mind wanders off to explore a myriad of topics. Some of the same OCD tendencies that we saw in The Mezzanine but no footnotes. The toileting and nose-picking sections were a bit cringe inducing. But overall a pretty good read. With the focus on the Bug and the narrator’s wife, Patty, there was more warmth suffusing his musings.
Rachel
(written 8-05)

I liked this book - along the lines of The Mezzanine where things are described in such great detail, or the connections made by the human mind are explored so completely, that it feels minimalist. The thing that makes it interesting is that Baker's mind makes connections between seemingly distant objects or ideas based on one aspect - and it is so incredible, because that's really how our minds work, we just don't think about it.
Sean O'Neil
Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite writers, because he seems to understand the mind of an introspective, intellectual geek, and is able to write about it in a meaningful and empathetic way. This one's a man's meditation on new fatherhood, and I give it only 4 stars because I've yet to become a parent. I'm sure that if I'd experienced fatherhood already, the other star would be given -- Baker is just that kind of writer.
Ben
A self-indulgent little novel which would probably appeal more to parents or the pretentious intelligentia than it did to me. Having said that he does have quite the knack for tapping into certain evocative memories, such as the taste of sun-warmed water pistol water, and it can be quite nice to escape into someone elses musings for an afternoon, even if they are somewhat idyllic, personal, and self-important.
Jemiah Jefferson
I've read this, but remember nothing about it, like a dream. It's the way. I think it was a lovely dream.
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15882
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
More about Nicholson Baker...
The Mezzanine Vox The Anthologist The Fermata House of Holes

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