The Fermata is the most risky of Nicholson Baker's emotional histories. His narrator, Arno Strine, is a 35-year-old office temp who is writing his autobiography. "It's harder than I thought!" he admits. His "Fold-powers" are easier; he can stop the world and use it as his own pleasure ground. Arno uses this gift not for evil or material gain (he would feel guilty about stealing), though he does undress a good number of women and momentarily place them in compromising positions - always, in his view, with respect and love. Anyone who can stop time and refer in self-delight to his "chronanisms" can't be all bad!
Like Baker's other books, The Fermata gains little from synopsis. The pleasure is literally in the text. What's memorable is less the sex and the sex toys (including the "Monasticon," in the shape of a monk holding a vibrating manuscript) than Arno's wistful recollections of intimacy: the noise, for instance, of his ex-girlfriend's nail clipper, "which I listened to in bed as some listen to real birdsong."
©1995 Nicholson Baker (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Sparkling." (San Francisco Chronicle)
Fairly hilarious, our man Arno's escapades, but the sex scenes got a little tedious. What was with the narrator's accent on the teen strumpet, Silvie? She sounded like Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog.
I know an action novel wasn't the author's intention, but the fold powers would surely have come to the attention of the government, Arno wasn't nearly as careful as he thought he was. All-in-all, a funny and weird book, a little heavily drenched in sex, though.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
If you've ever read the inventive Penthouse Letters magazine (written about procreative experiences as if anonymously by real people), you may have wondered, what happens to the letters (written by you or the hired writers) that didn't get printed in the mag because they were poorly written, boring, overly absurd or simply nauseating.
A thought: Perhaps, if the letters' writer had been previously published, his publisher would hawk these rejected tales as a novel.
I'm not offended. This book is just plain awful.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
The book is built around a clever idea and the author is certainly able to string words together. The book however is so heavily weighted with erotica that it tips into the porn category and fails to deliver much in the way of story.
I regret this book as my first experience with Nicholson Baker. His talent is obvious in that he does give some laugh out loud moments and as mentioned above, the premise is amusing. Baker skips over the difficulties of dealing with the idea of suspending time and that's just cheating in my book. He gets close to something interesting when he writes about what might happen if our "hero" stops time while driving on the freeway. Will his car stop? If so, what happens when he re-starts time for the rest of us? He fails to address this. Then the story again drops to the level of pornography. It's dull.
Can't blame the narrator. The book is well read.
Martin Amis handles adult situations far more maturely.
Not sure I'll try another Nicholson Baker book. Surely can't recommend this one.
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