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The Fermata (Vintage Contemporaries) [Kindle Edition]

Nicholson Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Having turned phone sex into the subject of an astonishing national bestseller in Vox, Baker now outdoes himself with an outrageously arousing, acrobatically stylish "X-rated sci-fi fantasy that leaves Vox seeming more like mere fiber-optic foreplay" (Seattle Times). "Sparkling."--San Francisco Chronicle.

Editorial Reviews Review

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."

From Publishers Weekly

Baker follows his surprise bestseller, Vox , with a novel once again filled with elaborate sexual fantasies. The "fermata" of the title refers to the fold in time that narrator Arno Strine can induce; this allows him to stop the flow of events around him and proceed in his own fashion to undress unsuspecting women. The 35-year-old Strine, appropriately enough, works as a "temp" in Boston, moving in and out of various office situations, completing his business and then disappearing. Despite his questionable ethics while "in the fold"--fondling women's breasts, going through their pocketbooks, writing erotic marginalia in the books they are browsing, stopping their cars and replacing their music cassettes with ones containing his own pornographic compositions--Strine is blithely confident that, since he means no ill will, he is innocent of any wrongdoing. Despite Baker's vaunted object fetishism, which in all his books registers as an unparalleled gift for description, he once again fails to find a novelistic context that would lend his art any lasting resonance. The sexual escapades here--a lonely woman's fascination with sexual toys strapped to a riding lawnmower; a laboratory investigation of the role masturbation might play in Strine's carpal tunnel problem--border on the ludicrous, however titillating. Still, many Vox readers will flock to this erudite smut even as Baker stalls in his campaign to eventually succeed Updike as America's most polished stylist.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1016 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00EX95R16
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 24, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005GFC0HU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,174 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing foray into sex and fantasy March 15, 2000
Nicholson Baker is a master at taking what seems unusal, bizarre, or even ordinary (as in "The Everlasting Story of Nory") and make it interesting, fascinating and exciting. What Arno does during his "Fold" time is at once creative, enticing, and sweet. And Arno has an amazingly convincing way of justifying what seems immoral, to the point where I can actually wish to be one of the women he undresses and plays around with during one of his "Drops." Not for the inhibited, but this book is a must read for anyone who has ever asked him or herself "if I could freeze time and do whatever I wanted..."
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stop, pause, wait March 12, 2004
This is probably my favorite book from Nicholson Baker, the modern master of minutiae. Mr. Baker has a gift for capturing the essence of habits, thoughts, reactions, and objects that are so small, so insignificant that most people don't ever notice them ... and yet when Mr. Baker puts them on the page, he gets it just right.
None of the half dozen of so books I've read from Mr. Baker sound like much when the plots are summarized, and that is certainly the case with The Fermata. The book's story line is based on the ability of the 35-year-old narrator Arno Strine to somehow stop time, and most of the pages are used up with explorations of how he decides what he can and can't do while time is stopped.
The unimpressive story line means that the value of the book depends almost entirely on Mr. Baker's ability to keep the prose engaging. Sometimes it doesn't work (as with his more recent effort Box of Matches) and sometimes it works well, as with The Fermata. As always, what holds it together when it works is Mr. Baker's memory for trivia, his intelligence, and his eye for detail: witness the title: "Fermata," the noun form of the word "stop" in Italian, is also a musical term that means holding a note longer than the time value -- a perfect name for a book with this kind of plot.
Ultimately, my criticism of The Fermata is one shared by all of Mr. Baker's books and all literature based on prose rather than memorable plots or characters. In my mind, they're like the old cliché about Chinese food, which tastes great but leaves you hungry a few hours later. In the case of this book, the prose keeps the pages turning, but when you're through, very little of it sticks with you.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still my guiltiest pleasure! August 1, 2002
After the brilliance of "Vox," I expected this book to be a pale follow-up to that instant classic. Eight years and countless re-reads later, I've changed my tune. "The Fermata" is, bar none, Baker's finest hour. Yes, it borders on pornography, but it's unusually good for that subgenre - and besides, it plays in depth on a fantasy nearly all men (and maybe women too?) have surely had at some point. If nothing else, Baker deserves kudos for taking his simple idea far beyond the middle-school titillation it could so easily have devolved into.
Stopping time in order to undress women - the very idea invites accusations of misogyny, but the genius of the book is that Baker keeps his protagonist, Arno, on the right side of that line at all times. While his hobby is undeniably invasive and lacking in respect for privacy, Arno leaves no doubt that he loves women and is in awe of them in any number of ways. His lengthy but enjoyable treatises on the minutiae of women's bodies in general, and those of his "victims" in particular, suggest a genuine and deep admiration that enables us to forgive him for having no use for personal boundaries. Rather than just treat us to egregiously detailed descriptions of female flesh, he takes time - often a lot of it - to explain just why it's all such a turn on. (For me, this is what keeps the book squarely in the realm of erotica rather than pornography.) Arno also displays a sense of ethics about his powers - never using them to humiliate or hurt anyone, still expressing regret decades later about stealing a few shrimp from a "frozen" chef as a child, always putting his subjects' clothes back exactly as he found them - that makes his one vice seem wholly forgivable by comparison to other things he is capable of.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Shocking August 15, 2006
By Seamus
You can read a hundred reviews where people mention "sexual" and I still don't think they'll ever prepare you for how blatantly graphic this novel is. And it's not graphic in an erotic way, it's just detailed to the point of being absurd and somewhat hilarious. If you watch movies or HBO in this day and age, it's hard to consider things shocking, but this novel becomes pretty close. You keep thinking that the author can't possibly top himself, then 20 pages later you find the narrator doing or thinking something even more outlandish or absurd.

The plot is pretty simple: Arno is a guy with a special power. He can stop time. But, like Faustus, he doesn't use his power to achieve greatness. He doesn't do magnificent good or evil. He simply uses the power to freeze time and undress women. Sometimes he leaves them a gift or some self-penned erotica.

I don't know that I really liked this novel, but I enjoyed reading it and I would tell any person to give it a shot, even though they may end up offended by all the graphic content. Baker is an extremely gifted writer and has a firm grasp of language, but it's impossible to figure out if the character he's writing is the weirdo, or if Baker himself is the weirdo for dreaming him up.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Boring. The possibilities and direction could have been magnificent.
Published 1 month ago by Rob Carter
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, good dealer.
The book arrived on-time and in perfect condition; that is the basis of the five-star rating. I have only started to read the book; so far I like it. Imaginative. Read more
Published 2 months ago by David H. Copp
5.0 out of 5 stars A Master of Digression
I don't know how I managed to get this far through life without ever having come across Nicholson Baker before. A friend recommended him, saying my work reminded her of his style. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul H. Davis
3.0 out of 5 stars Fermata non grata
It was a fun para-erotic read but I couldn't ultimately find an overgirding plot. It's kind of like a fictional autobiography of a guy who can stop time. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny!
One of the funniest (and raunchiest) books I've read in a long, long time. This is also the only work of fiction I've read by Baker. The pacing is good. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Emmett Strode
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book Is A Time-Stopping Device
A friend of mine told me about this book in high school. "It's about a guy who stops time and takes women's clothes off," he said. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Todd Croak-Falen
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written strange rot
This is a unique view of the male psyche and sexuality. It is a strange book and will likely disgust many readers but Baker is such a great writer that I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Seth Rivera
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and Hilarious
Witty and hilariously sexual. I found it insightful and revealing of male sexuality and the disconnect evident between raw voyeurism and emotional intimacy. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Spencer Richards
1.0 out of 5 stars Adolescent boy navel gazing
I am really quite amazed at the number of reviewers who seem to not be skeeved out at the premise of this book. Read more
Published on April 12, 2012 by Wendy
3.0 out of 5 stars A strange read . . . awkward and hard-to-categorize
Nicholson Baker's The Fermata is a strange read . . . awkward and hard-to-categorize, much less review. Read more
Published on March 19, 2012 by Bob Milne
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More About the Author

I've written thirteen books, plus an art book that I published with my wife, Margaret Brentano. The most recent one is a comic sex novel called House of Holes, which came out in August 2011. Before that, in 2009, there was The Anthologist, about a poet trying to write an introduction to an anthology of rhyming verse, and before that was Human Smoke, a book of nonfiction about the beginning of World War II. My first novel, The Mezzanine, about a man riding an escalator at the end of his lunch hour, came out in 1988. I'm a pacifist. Occasionally I write for magazines. I grew up in Rochester, New York and went to Haverford College, where I majored in English. I live in Maine with my family.

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