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The Mezzanine

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  6,944 ratings  ·  785 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 (first published October 15th 1988)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  6,944 ratings  ·  785 reviews

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Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

At almost 6:45pm, I approached my house, noticing with annoyance that the bin men had left the bins obstructing the driveway. I got out of the car, leaving the engine running ² , put the bins in their proper place, and drove the final few metres, parking in the shade of the laurel. I noticed it needed pruning, and worried that if we didn’t do it soon, our delightful neighbours might be put to the embarrassing inconvenience of having a quiet word.

As I walked to the front door, I spotted a
Glenn Russell
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing

A jaded, young wealthy aristocrat in French author Joris-Karl Huysmans’ slim novel À rebours (Against Nature) retreats to a country villa to construct a custom-made artificial world where he can live his entire solitary life on his own aesthetic, highly refined terms. In many ways, the main character in this slender Nicholson Baker book is the complete opposite of Huysmans’ - rather than being a jaded aristocrat, Baker’s narrator is an ordinary guy supremely attuned and energized by commonplace
Paul Bryant
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
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 ...more
MJ Nicholls
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins
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
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
"The mind is refrigerated by interruption; the thoughts are diverted from the principle subject; the reader is weary, he suspects not why; and at last throws away the book, which he has too diligently studied."
- Samuel Johnson


Too fat, fat you must cut lean.
You got to take the elevator escalator to the mezzanine,
Chump, change, and it's on, super bon bon
Super bon bon, Super bon bon.
Soul Coughing, Super Bon Bon Lyrics

This book is a literary scrimshaw of the mundane. It is basically a man breaking
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it

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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Tantric Yank

This novella almost felt like having tantric sex with Sting.

If it had lasted any longer, it would have become tedious. So, at 135 pages, it was just the right length. Nicholson Baker set out his goals and demonstrated his ability to achieve them, but he stopped just before either he or we lost interest in the whole project.

Semen and Shoelaces

What was he trying to achieve? As often happens, Baker gave us some insight in the book itself:

"Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is

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,
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whatever happened to predictability
The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV
How did I get delivered here
Somebody tell me, please
This old world's confusing me

The corporate environment has changed a lot since 1990. These days, memos are no longer circulated in hard copy, and the stapler is something of an arcane object. The world has moved on. We no longer lament the loss of the milkman or paper straws (who knew that straws used to be made from paper!) But many things remain the same: the implicit
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
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Debbie Ann
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Vit Babenco
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The head of the main hero is freighted with such outright trash and garbage that he keeps mentally digesting that he has no time to live his life.
“The pursuit of truth doesn't have clear outer boundaries: it doesn't end with the book; restatement and self-disagreement and the enveloping sea of referenced authorities all continue.”
One has enough time to consume but one hardly has enough time to start living.
Leo Robertson
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is awesome!!

There was an engineering gathering at my company's business centre today. I had an enjoyable chat with my manager about why one cup shape was appropriate for coffee and another for tea. A new employee held up a wine glass and explained to me how he would go about 3D modelling it--a favourite pastime of his. (So, how appropriate is this book's cover, honestly?!)

This short "novel's" protagonist is just like the people I work with, whose main source of joy is everyday innovation.
steph s
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
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sabra Embury
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Adam Dalva
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow did I love this - I think the concept, which is relatively easily understood (a man on an escalator has a series of thoughts about life's mundanities ), doesn't get across how funny this is, or how insightful. I laughed out loud at this book so often(the sharp analysis of the pleasures of vending machines, dispensers, footnotes, bathrooms, small-talk, cashiers) but I equally enjoyed the slow accumulation of facts about the protagonist's life and his constant dance across the surface of ...more
Jack Waters
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
“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
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...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.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this kooky, obsessive book. It was like Baker was inside my brain.
270119: 90s? you will never ride an escalator the same way, after. or tie your shoelaces the same way, either...
Marc Kozak
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a brilliant little book, but possibly only because the author seems to live inside his own head as much as I do. What happens here is 120 pages of one man going to get shoelaces on his lunch break and coming back to the office. That's it. That's all that happens. The rest is commentary on just about every mundane activity that could possibly happen on such an "adventure." If you're already saying to yourself, "oh, one of THOSE books," bail out now. This isn't for you. And I certainly can't ...more
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: postmodern
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 ...more
Jan 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, inane
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 ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
WHAT a refreshing read! Written from a unique point of view that rarely makes an appearance in literature. As much as I enjoyed the little idiosyncracies, sadly it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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Nicholson Baker is a contemporary American writer of fiction and non-fiction. He was born in Manhattan in 1957 and grew up in Rochester, New York. He has published sixteen books--including The Mezzanine (1988), U and I (1991), Human Smoke (2008), The Anthologist (2009), and Substitute (2016)--and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, the New York Review of Books, Best ...more
“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.” 23 likes
“That was the problem with reading: you always had to pick up again at the very thing that had made you stop reading the day before.” 20 likes
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