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The FERMATA by Nicholson Baker April 25, 2007

Posted by a Wristfister in Books, Erotica, Fiction.
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Published by Random House [1994], hardcover, 303 pages.

Reviewed by Bowie.

Synopsis: Arnold (he prefers Arno) is a 35-year-old career temp, living in Boston. He has the apparently unique ability to stop time. The universe freezes and Arno continues existing in life as everything around him is stopped. He chooses to indulge his more prurient nature by removing the clothes of women frozen in time. The Fermata is his autobiography. Wonderfully detailed meta-chronistic adventures ensue.

Review: Ludicrously lewd and daringly truthful, this book again shows off Baker’s unparalleled gift for description. The premise, while seemingly off-putting, could be seen as just another contrived vehicle to write erotic fiction (as nearly one-third of the book is devoted to Arno’s own erotic writing; stories within a story). But knowing that Baker is an unapologetic admirer of John Updike, I see it as an attempt to follow in the literary trend of (questionably) great male narcissistic writers before him. Baker’s redeeming quality is that he is funnier and imbues his characters with such good intentions that the reader will find it hard not to sympathize with such erudite smut. I recommend this book if you are ever in the mood for smart and fascinating erotica.

Below is the first paragraph of The Fermata:

I am going to call my autobiography THE FERMATA, even though “fermata” is only one of may names I have for the Fold. “Fold” is, obviously, another. Every so often, usually in the fall (perhaps mundanely because my hormone-flows are at their highest then), I discover that I have the power to drop into the Fold. A Fold-drop is a period of time of variable length during which I am alive and ambulatory and thinking and looking, while the rest of the world is stopped, or paused. Over the years, I have had to come up with various techniques to trigger the pause, some of which have made use of rocker-switches, rubber bands, sewing needles, fingernail clippers, and other hardware, some of which have not. The power seems ultimately to come from within me, grandiose as that sounds, but as I invoke it I have to believe that it is external for it to work properly. I don’t inquire into origins very often, fearing that too close a scrunity will damage whatever interior states have given rise to it, since it is the most important ongoing adventure of my life.

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