cover image The Mezzanine

The Mezzanine

Nicholson Baker. Grove/Atlantic, $15.95 (135pp) ISBN 978-1-55584-258-1

Baker's irresistibly readable short novel presents the quirkyand often hilariousinner life of a thoroughly modern office worker. With high wit and in precisely articulated prose, the unnamed narrator examines, in minute and comically digressive detail, the little things in life that illustrate how one addresses a problem or a new idea: the plastic straw (and its annoying tendency to float), the vacuous ci vilities of office chatter, doorknobs, neckties, escalators and the laughable evolution of milk deliveryfrom those old-fashioned hefty bottles to the folding carton. Using the keenly observed odds and ends of day-to-day consciousness, Baker allows his narrator to re-create the budding perceptions of a child facing a larger mysterious world, as each event in his day conjures up memories of previous incidents. Through the elegant manipulation of time, and sharp, defining memories of childhood, the narrator dissects each item of apparent cultural flotsam with the thoroughness of a prosaic, though wacky, technical manual. The rambling ``footnotes'' alone are worth the price of this cheerfully original novel. (October)