My Writing

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"The Fermata" by Nicholson Baker

I liked this book. I was interested in reading Nicholson Baker because of Zachary German's positive reviews of his books. The narrator in The Fermata is a man who can stop time at will and can then interact with the frozen people/things however he wants for as long as he wants. He has many names for this phenomenon, among them the Fold and the Fermata, which refers to the held note in musical notation. Mostly he uses the Fold to satisfy his sexual curiosity by taking women's clothes off. Sometimes he tries to seduce women, using the Fold as an unusual advantage. Some chapters in the book are the texts of erotica that he writes in hopes that one woman or any woman will read it and become aroused.

I like the idea of the Fermata. I like that Baker identifies it as coming from within the narrator and then does not explain or justify its existence any further. Baker's writing caused me to think about how one's desires for intimacy or freedom might manifest as sexual thoughts. Baker's prose style seemed carefully controlled but also conversational, which was appealing to me, and I enjoyed the narrator's personality.

The books with first-person narration that I have loved (The Catcher in the Rye, Beckett's trilogy, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, et al.) were particularly enjoyable for me because I felt drawn into the voice of the book and through that drawn into the character or perhaps the author. It feels like an interesting new friend is telling me a long story.

"But sometimes when I'm recording detailed notes as I remove a woman's clothes ('left bra strap fallen' or 'panties inside out and worked partway into asscrack') so that I will be sure to replace everything perfectly, just as it was, I feel a gurgle of Arlette's joyful who-gives-a-fuckness working in me, and I want to strip the entire city of Boston and mound all the clothes together in the middle of Washington Square and dance on top of them screaming, 'We're totally fucking naked, we're totally fucking naked!'---or failing that (since sudden widespread big-city nudity could lead to rapes and other unforeseen turbulence), I might want to strip everyone in an idyllic small town like Northampton and see how they would adjust to it."

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