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Publisher's Summary

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.

Critic Reviews

"Sparkling." (San Francisco Chronicle)

What listeners say about The Fermata

Average Customer Ratings
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    1 out of 5 stars
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Penthouse Letters - Rejected

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.

5 people found this helpful

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Yes, it's that bad

I do want to read more by this author, because the best part of this book was its exposition of minutia in everyday settings and in the rituals and implications related to the protagonist's ability to stop time. I've heard that this is characteristic of Baker's writing, and I really enjoyed it. The unfolding story was also interesting enough to keep me engaged.

The erotic potential of the time-stop ability is front and center, and while its real-life correlates might be voyeurism or molesting someone who is unconscious, the fact that this is not only fantasy but also completely impossible in real life may give the reader leave to explore that aspect. The protagonist understands there are questions of morality but prefers not to face them square on. If nobody – including the object of his manipulations – ever knows anything happened, then there is no victim. He is a jerk (and not just for those reasons), but a novel about a jerk can still be worthwhile.

What sinks this book is the protagonist's own chapter-length attempts to write erotica (or describe a fantasy or an actual encounter). So tedious. He admits to us that he's not a very good writer (and even that is too generous), but the author must have disagreed with his character's self-assessment, because these awful stories must take up at least half the book. It's especially bad in an audio book where you can't skim through the dreck.

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  • 12-14-20

Stay away

500 book and 5 years into audio books on Audible and this book by far is the worst. Not dissing on the narrator, but the author....the book was just horrid. Forced myself through the book, constantly skipping ahead....blah. Not at all what you would expect from reading the summary.

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A what if you could story that is unique.....

While the story does provide a decent story, and the narrator does an excellent job, I believe this story was well written but very sexually masculine and the interest of a straight man taking advantage of the opportunity given by an ability. While some portions of the book were very pornographic and can be untasteful, the main character attempts to justify his actions and his process of returning things to the way they were original, it is unique and unlike anything I had read/listened to.
The author did seem to take into consideration the possible physics and motions of the universe.
Worth listening to once in my opinion, but not for all audiences, If you're looking for something different this might be for you,

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Taken on it's own, an enjoyable romp

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.

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Basically Just Pornography

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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The best book in my life

This a work of a Genius!!! Unbelieveable and awesome! I've absolutely loved it! A universal, although perverse live story.

1 person found this helpful

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I'm not offended it is just bad writing.

What disappointed you about The Fermata?

The story is weak and slow. I was hoping for a more imaginative book with better character development.

1 person found this helpful