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Room Temperature

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  808 Ratings  ·  81 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
Dec 07, 2013 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
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
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
Jim Elkins
Jun 24, 2016 Jim Elkins rated it liked it
Shelves: american
The Idea of Second Rank Artists, and a Connection Between Similes and Autism

In older art history, artists were ranked first, second, third... this common practice in connoisseurship, in art instruction (in the French Academy) and in earlier 20th century art history. The practice has fallen out of use for obvious reasons -- it has no articulated relation with historical meaning, and it is detached from politics, identity, and context -- but it is implicitly a strong presence in the teaching of ar
Nov 19, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  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
Ken Deshaies
Oct 05, 2013 Ken Deshaies rated it liked it
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
Nov 03, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Sep 02, 2012 Neryssa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parental Units
Shelves: shorts, read-in-2012
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
Jul 08, 2008 Nonakasparov rated it liked it
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
Benjamin Siegel
Jul 10, 2016 Benjamin Siegel rated it really liked it
Maybe I would have been irritated if it had been more than a hundred pages, but worth it for the scene with the suit pockets alone. Made me want to move to Quincy, procreate, and eat lots of peanut butter.
Jul 08, 2008 Ed rated it it was amazing
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"?
Dec 25, 2014 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Amounts to one big riff with a baby that maybe could've used a little more tying together but it's short so whatever
Oct 27, 2016 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I certainly believed, rocking my daughter on this Wednesday afternoon, that with a little concentration one's whole life could be reconstructed from any single twenty-minute period randomly or almost randomly selected; that is, that there was enough content in that single confined sequence of thoughts and events and the setting that gave rise to them to make connections that would proliferate backward until potentially every item on autobiographical interest – every pet theory, minor ob
Sarah Rohn
Nov 29, 2016 Sarah Rohn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely writing. It's almost like a meditation. Especially touching now that I have a little Bug, myself.
Dan Stapleton
Jan 01, 2017 Dan Stapleton rated it liked it
Charming in parts but a little dull in others.
Stephen Giroux
Dec 11, 2016 Stephen Giroux rated it really liked it
The novel reads like a blown-out cover of the 'madeleine moment' as it seems to me having never read Proust. The author/narrator makes me think i think too little or that my thoughts are not working hard enough while idle--maybe it's that i need to practice lucidity to achieve a better sense of recall. In the neural pathways etched into the narration Baker uncovers a personal history of punctuation, some breathing instructions from a former music teacher and meandering scattered moments his life ...more
Shonna Froebel
Oct 11, 2016 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Oct 03, 2016 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweet rambling thoughts that usually go unexplored while doing a routine task. I love the love expressed throughout for the parents' little bug. It seems just yesterday that my little guys were that age.
Cecil Paddywagon
Dec 24, 2014 Cecil Paddywagon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can I say about Nicholson Baker?
I think I'm in love.

Like his first "novel" (if the term is applicable), Room Temperature is a "train of thought" that plows through open fields of banality. But the ride itself is by no means boring: Baker's observations are so precise and so far removed from what we normally consider to be worthy of thought that one realizes not only how much thought we devote to unworthy things, but also, wonderfully, how nobody is alone in doing so. I have never felt less
Rick Seery
Jan 08, 2014 Rick Seery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
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
Darren C
Sep 19, 2012 Darren C rated it really liked it
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
Chance Lee
May 28, 2013 Chance Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  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
Benjamin Obler
Jun 21, 2015 Benjamin Obler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Initially I thought the narrator a lesser version of the hyper-observant and hyper-tangential narrator of The Mezzanine (which I love). But I being eight ninths through now, I find it equally enjoyable. The domestic setting of the man at rest with his wife, and all the touching reflections on his infant daughter perhaps suggest a more tranquil thought-journey. But, no. Though we don't venture into such caustically hilarious territory as the corporate men's room (as Baker does in Mezzanine), the ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Polly rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2013 Ann-Marie rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 30, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, music, postmodern
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
Colin N.
Jul 26, 2011 Colin N. rated it really liked it
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
gwen g
Sep 03, 2015 gwen g rated it did not like it
This little slip of a book spans only 20 minutes, during which Baker is rocking his infant daughter to sleep. It's really pretentious and really self-aggrandizing. And pedantic. And yucky. And did I mention pretentious.

I was hoping for a meditation on fatherhood from a male perspective, and I suppose I got that. This book certainly couldn't have been written by a woman; the time Baker spends writing about his wife's body vs. the time he spends writing about the actual baby we're supposed to bel
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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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