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Nicholson Baker Biography

(1957– ), The Mezzanine, Room Temperature, U and I, tour de force. Vox, The Fermata

American novelist, born in New York, educated at Haverford College, Pennsylvania. His first novel, The Mezzanine (1989), is a comic odyssey compressing a wide variety of reflections on life, death, consumer society, and literature into the space of a single lunch-hour as described by Howie, its eccentrichero. In Room Temperature (1990) the narrator, Mike, muses about his marriage and other related topics, while giving a bottle to his baby daughter. These two short works display a playful erudition and love of digression which is reminiscent of Flann O'Brien and James Joyce. U and I (1991), an idiosyncratic essay on the author's obsession with the life and works of J. Updike, was widely regarded as a comic tour de force. Vox (1992) simply consists of a conversation between a man and a woman, strangers to one another, who have called a telephone sex line in search of salacious conversation, and end up with more than either has bargained for. The Fermata (1994) extended this preoccupation with bizarre sexual encounters in its depiction of Arno Strine, a middle-aged man with the power to arrest time, who uses this unusual skill to further his own onanistic desires. These latter two novels show sex as essentially comic, and contain passages which parody the excesses of pornographic writing without conveying the slightest eroticism. The Size of Thoughts (1996) is a collection of essays.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Houston A. Baker (Houston Alfred to Sally Beauman Biography