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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about nothing? No, a book about everything.
The undeniable appeal of "The Mezzanine" is almost impossible to explain to anyone who hasn't read it. Try it, sometime; tell someone "It's a 150 page book about what a guy thinks about as he goes up the escalator to his office." Not exactly an easy sell.
But it's a fantastic read. This is not just "some guy" who's sharing his...
Published on August 15, 2000 by J. T. Nite

versus
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best of the "eighties novels"
Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine (Vintage, 1988)
availability: in print, available through the usual suspects

Nicholson Baker's first novel gives us a day-- okay, half a day-- in the life of an ordinary office worker. It's pretty close to being the typical eighties novel. It's not really about anything. No one makes great personality changes anywhere in...
Published on June 19, 2000 by Robert Beveridge


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Obessed with all the little details, April 9, 2001
By 
T. Tom (SF Bay Area, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
First off, you should know that much of this book is footnotes. If you find this style annoying as I do, you may have a difficult time with the book.
While the book is an interesting read, I was a bit dissappointed and unfufilled. I was hoping for a nice message about life and how to live it, yet didn't even get hardly much of a conclusion at all. The book is full of tangents (perhaps that's the point) and seems to dwell on all of the tiny minutia of every single thought that might go on in one's mind while on their lunch break.
It's certainly a 'different' kind of novel, however it left me cold.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bravura performance for the first half of the ride . . ., April 26, 2010
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
. . . but after that it becomes bumpy and herky-jerky and threatens to stall out altogether, so that I was glad when I finally made it to the mezzanine and the end of the book.

THE MEZZANINE has no plot. Instead, the first person narrator, Howie, notices and meditates on all sorts of commonplace minutia of the life of an office-worker, circa 1985. His account is centered around an escalator ride in the lobby of an office building up to the mezzanine, where he works for a large company. This particular escalator ride took place as Howie returned to the office from his lunch break, during which, among other things, he bought new shoelaces to replace the pair whose second lace broke during the morning (the first lace having broken only two days earlier, the coincidence triggering all sorts of detailed and convoluted theories about shoelace wear and tear).

Howie is something of a doofus. Even as an adult, he occasionally entertains himself by trying to retie his shoes "without seeming rushed" as he rides up an escalator; he regularly brushes his tongue as well as his teeth; while standing at the urinal in a men's room, he often is so cowed by others standing next to him that he can't release his stream; and he is addicted to earplugs, wearing them most of the day and night, even when sleeping with his girlfriend.

Many of his observations and ruminations involve changes in the "technology" and design of everyday objects and apparatus - for example, straws (paper vs. plastic), interior lighting (incandescent vs. fluorescent), paper towel dispensers vs. hot-air blowers, door knobs, and vending machines. His other principal subjects are minor social conventions (such as the "two ideal ways to wind up a light conversation with a co-worker") and the microscopic deconstruction of everyday actions (such as tying shoelaces).

In truth, THE MEZZANINE is much more interesting than the above probably makes it sound. Also it frequently is funny, at times quite funny. Nicholson Baker is uncommonly percipient, he has a very fertile and creative mind, and he writes well. And there are footnotes! Lots of footnotes, some quite lengthy, including one extended footnote on footnotes. (Baker once said in an interview that THE MEZZANINE "was an attempt to stop time by expanding the length of the paragraph by using the footnote as a kind of fermata.")

This is the fourth of Baker's books that I have read, but it was his first published novel. For perhaps the first half of the book, I was entranced. It was a bravura performance, and I was gravitating towards the opinion that Baker's first published work surely had to be (like the first album of some singer/songwriters) his very best. But my enthusiasm did not last for the entire escalator ride. The conceit begins to wear; Baker begins to indulge himself in showing off; he occasionally becomes catty and irksome; and he also has his overly gross moments (for example, imaginary urination in the faces of men standing near him at men's room urinals and real-life boyhood urination into sanitary napkins swiped from his mother's closet). The novel is novel and accomplished (especially for a first novel), but it also is moderately flawed.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much navel-gazing, May 27, 2001
By 
Gordon Neill (Cranleigh, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
Mercifully the novel improves as it reaches its conclusion but, for the most part, this struck me as an exercise in self-indulgence. The overall impression is of a man desperate to impress upon his reader the extent to which he contemplates the minutiae of everyday life. There are some enjoyable interludes in which he entertainingly digresses on the importance of footnotes and ponders the possibility of urinating on someone's head but, sadly, much of this novel is simply stultifyingly tedious.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile or Worthless? That is the Question., June 1, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mezzanine: A Novel (Hardcover)
This humorous novel takes place entirely in the mind of an obsessive man as he is riding up the escalator to the mezzanine. During his ride he ponders many questions of technological advancement including the shift from paper to plastic straws, the transition from glass to cardboard milk containers, advances in earplugs, vending machines, paper-towel dispensers, escalators, and the use of footnotes (which the author uses in a rather humorous way).
Upon finishing the book you wonder what the point was and why you read it, but still you're happy to have read it just the same.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unparalleled observations of every-day details, August 2, 2000
By 
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
What's so phenomenal about Baker's debut is the combination of his outside awareness (allowing him to witness his nearly subliminal every day thoughts), and the infinitely fine detail with which he is able to describe them in writing. The result is a terrifically engrossing exploration of life's smallest and most self-intimate moments: the breaking of a shoelace (why one and not the other?), the drifting float of a plastic straw in a can of soda (why do plastic and paper straws act differently?), and so on.
Baker not only observes these every day thoughts running through his head, but provides fully fleshed musings on the pathways they ride through one's brain. It's an amazing technical feat that provides page after page of laughs and knowing nods. This isn't just a book of fiction with footnotes, it's a book of fiction with footnotes that essentially supplant the mainline text. In doing so, they make conscious some of the ideas that we usually consider only in the privacy of our own heads.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acutely observant with pinpoint reliability, December 6, 2014
By 
2theD "2theD" (The Big Mango, Thailand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
Too often--and with good reason--, the plots of novels and stories are carried by an archetypical hero or a flawed antihero, both of whom are relatable in some form. A smattering of stories have an unnamed narrator who adds a mysterious yet biased element to the narrative; some feature an anonymous and omniscient third-person perspective on the events; and then there are the novels and stories fall outside the bizarre for perspective and plot (i.e., Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain [2009] from the perspective of a dog). Then there are the ruminations of the common man, observations of the every day by the average joe, details of life's ever so minor tasks which morph into a importance. This is Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine.

By details, I don't mean an endless string of perfectly arranged adjective order to describe every nuance of a broomstick or TV remote. By details, I mean reflections and stories built into the common occurrences that we all put ourselves through on an everyday basis: i.e., the unfortunate history of straw packaging, the addictiveness of bathroom whistling, the crushing expectation of crossing paths with that guy in the office, the curious choice of how to swallow liquid and solids at the dining table. And through the eyes of Howie, the narrative detailer and observant aficionado, these little things are an inane yet fascinating blend of infortune, addictiveness, expectation, and curiosity. Some nuances don't even escape Baker's attention; if a morsel of interest is passed over through the narrative, Baker makes a footnote for the fallen crumb of piqued curiosity, footnotes which sometimes span three pages.

Like the Washington Post Book World column has said, the book is "wonderfully readable, in fact gripping, with surprise bursts of recognition, humor and wonder". Not only is so much of the book filed up with daily events protracted to a devastatingly accurate and insightful presentation, it's also done so in a way which is witty, flavorsome, and relatable. I chortled aloud a few times when I read a habit or observance that I thought was once exclusive to my own life. Further, the same Washington Post column also said that Baker's writing was "witty and hypnotic"; this is definitely true as I devoured this novel during a few hours of time on a trans-Pacific flight. I was snared from page one!

No details are left behind the wake of Baker's narrative speedboat of observation. Everything is acutely observed with a pinpoint precision that is very, very relatable. Nothing is left to obtuse vagueness, except for the intention of penning the narrative of Howie: Why is Howie meticulously detailing his life around a shoelace, an escalator and a bag of popcorn? If you ask yourself this question while reading, you're barking up the wrong tree--there is no impetus for the story, no start line drawn on the story's pavement, no egg to the chicken of insight; it's self-contained universe of wonder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler Alert: Nothing Happens, May 25, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Mezzanine (Kindle Edition)
And while we are at it:
Bloom will complete his peripatetic roaming around Dublin
Tristram will be born.
And here our unnamed, (Sir Edmond Hillary perhaps?) will complete his lunch and make it to the top of the escalator.
And while we are ruining "it" for everybody, Andre's Restaurant table, will at some point be cleared for some other party.

To help you regain your breath, I will digress into a few niggling technical issues. I am a total fan of my Kindle. This book rather forces me to speak of its shortcomings. This review should include some specific example of Baker's use of vocabulary. Because Kindles are awkward to page through when relocating passages, this is not going to happen. Yes, you can go through a clunky process of underlining and storing, but the fact is that navigation on a kindle is well - clunky.
Usually I do need page numbers and the strange little percent system is sufficient. In this book it would be helpful to have page numbers. As if to force this issue, my electronic copy had a tendency to not page properly, such that on more than one occasion I went from some page in the text to some random foot note. - For the record, some fumbling about and I think I always got back to my proper place.

Back to the book:
Do not come here if you are looking for:
plot,
character development,
spiritual reawakening, or
Baker's more famous (infamous) highly literate porn.
Not here, not what this is about.

This is about a minute, frequently pointless, occasionally droll and always literate musings about nothing, about everything and filling the time the narrator spends away from his office during lunch.
.
Some people will hate that this book was written, never mind published. Hate fill reader, you are likely a normal person and an admired member of your community.

The rest of us got to read a fascinating, frustrating, strange, incredibly detailed account of a fastidious, nerdy, average, entirely too complicated, strange non-story about one man's interior life - across part of one particular day.

Speaking of footnotes awkward Kindle navigation aside, don't skip them. I had planned to point out that the book contains nothing but foot note 1- feet notes 1<?>; however I think there are precisely two footnotes two. So much of the book is precise, that I cannot think this is by accident. But I digress - this book tends to make you think in digressions.

Oh, right the footnotes. Read them. They are more of the same useless, well written trivia of the text and part of what you paid to be on this literary ride.

If you have read the reviews, and believe you are not in need of any action, I recommend that you read this book. And read it in short burst. Perhaps during your lunch break.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, April 21, 2000
By 
Michael (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
If you're the kind of person who notices what other miss and/or take for granted but is bursting to discuss it all, you'll love this. If you work in an office, even better. Like the best-developed characters in great novels, some of his descriptive passages are so densely accurate you'll never do that thing again without thinking of his take on it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look into the Mind of the Typical Office Worker, September 20, 2013
This review is from: Mezzanine (Kindle Edition)
Length:: 6:35 Mins

"The Mezzanine" is a short novel by Nicholson Baker published in 1988. It was the author's first published book, and it follows the character of Howie, who is your average American office employee. The story begins by following Howie as he makes his way up the escalator to the mezzanine where his office cubical is, and ends with him stepping off the escalator onto his office's floor.

Basically, the story is about the wearied human mind and the thought process that goes through Howie's head on a typical Monday. There is this little place in the normal human mind that then takes a tangent here and there and never seems to fully focus on one thought all the way through to the end. This book is full of those tangents and seems to live off of all of the tiny details of every single thought that could possibly go through one's mind while at the office.

All in all, I give the book 4 stars because it's a good one and I do recommend reading it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mezzanine, May 31, 2003
This review is from: The Mezzanine (Paperback)
Many-a-times cliches are just what we want to hear. For in love, war, and banal & mundane but not always/often inconsequential small talk banter, a well turned cliche can be just the right phrase, whereas some highly evolved, original quasi-obscure Samuel Johnson or Oscar Wilde'esque proverb is more likely to furrow eyebrows and possibly evoke scorn. 'The Mezzanine' is Baker's first, a brief gimmick novel as the NYT Book Review puts it; captures the essence of everyday corporate life with stylistic flair.{Footnote: they consider 'Ulysses' the ultimate gimmick novel. Also: One of his other novels, 'Vox' became famous because Monica Lewinsky gave a copy to Bill Clinton. She received 'Leaves of Grass' by Walt Whitman in return.}

The narrator, Howie, leads a tour of his world through the course of an afternoon. Through his eyes the trivial has seldom been so interesting and captivating. His piercing skills of observation are to be admired, testament to Baker himself. Howie playfully combines tidbits of wisdom and wit, the sums of which build and grow so by the conclusion of Chapter Fifteen it is difficult not to be subtly impressed. Baker teaches the reader to think like he does.
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The Mezzanine
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker (Paperback - July 13, 2010)
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