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The Fermata Paperback – January 24, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
I was suprised he was able to squeeze so much into that many pages. Every paragraph was intriguing. Baker didn't waste one word. I applaud Baker's bravery in writing this book. The Science Fiction world is a better place because of it, and I hope he writes some more in this feild. This book is a breath of fresh air, and I hope it sets new standards.
As far as the adult content goes, it got pretty heavy in parts, in fact, he puts new meaning in the phrase: Hard Science Fiction. But it all makes perfect sense in this book. It is almost natural. Baker's really got a good bead on human behavior, and I think this book explores some of the truth in us, whether we like it or not.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm not sure at what point others grew tired of Arnos rambling, aimless retellings of his perversions. I recall being interested in this story a number of years ago. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Madeleine
A study of sex, eroticism, and invasion/assault, this story is original and well-told. It can also be really offensive - but since it's pure fantasy, it remains in the realm of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by LoveBooks
Boring. The possibilities and direction could have been magnificent.Published 17 months ago by Rob Carter
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 morePublished 18 months ago by David H. Copp
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 morePublished 19 months ago by Paul H. Davis