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am 24. Juli 1997
OK, so VCR's have given us Pause Buttons, and
the ability to watch soap operas at night. Great. Some folks call this "time-shifting", but the author has a better idea for this concept. If we could ever find the REAL "Universal Remote" under the couch, we could put the world on Pause. This book carries the idea of life as a VCR to the nth degree, and beyond. The author had a musical background too so there is a musical metaphor angle (Fermata=Pause). The first half is very funny, very clever, very "tongue in cheek"(!) and light. BUT the wheels come off in the second half, so you might want to fast-forward through the numerous, and extended (ouch!) dildo reveries. This flight of fancy comes crashing down in the second half, like Icarus, like the parabola symbol for the musical Fermata symbol that graces the cover and the chapter headings. Note bene, N.B. is a great talent, but is he wasting some of his time (maybe he has extra supply?) on the "creative rotting" (porno) sections of the book?
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am 27. Juli 2000
The main character, Arno, has a marvelous ability to stop time for everyone but himself. This ability enables him to get away with a lot, but he chooses to use it mainly to undress women, fondle them, rearrange their clothes, go back to where he was, and start time back up again. If he decides he's really interested in a woman, he follows her home, then stops time while she has her door open, slips into her home, hides, and watches her undress, bathe, etc.
Baker's writing is dazzling. The book is replete with literary, musical, scientific, and historical references, which are always aptly chosen and frequently striking. He delights in constructing amusing new words to deal with the context of Arno's fixations on time and sex. The problem is that his character's single-minded obsession with sex and pornography grows deadeningly tiresome after awhile. One of the things Arno likes to do is to write pornographic stories and then plant them in places where a woman he's interested in will see (or hear) them. Baker does us the great "favor" of including those stories verbatim in the book. Arno is a much less accomplished writer than Baker, so there is less to appreciate in his writing than in the novel itself. Just to make this review as accurate and informative as possible, I will acknowledge that I myself am a regular reader of hard-core pornography. However, even my own interest in the subject did not prevent me from screaming, "Enough already!" when one of Arno's stories goes on to its tenth tedious page.
The basic idea of the book is captivating, and Baker's writing is brilliant. Arno could have done so much more with his ability to stop time, especially with Baker's vivid imagination animating him. Sadly, the book turns out to be much less than it could have been.
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am 22. August 1996
It takes an unusual calibre of artistry to balance a storyline on a highwire over the pornographic, and not fall on the irrecoverable ground of smut. Not only does Baker pull this off, but it would take a cold heart and a real dearth of curiosity not to be pulled into the fun here... It is fun, and impossible not to fall into the fermata-cyclic rythym. The payoff is that Baker makes the absurd honest: you can't help but be seduced by the sexual "what if" game... That he is able to turn such a bizarre premise into a peculiarly satisfying, and strangely familiar allegory attests that Baker's VOX was just a sample..
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am 18. April 1998
Let's imagine what it would be like to read a full-bore pornographic novel written by any of the most famous American authors; John Updike's would be explicit but grimly unsexy -- late middle-agers having one last wheeze in the sack; Phillip Roth, who has certainly done his best to pornographify even his most respectable National Book Award-contending novels, has nothing new to offer except look-what-a-dirty-old-Jew-I-am! tee-heeing; Don De Lillo's would be pedantic, full of long-winded mid-stroke ruminations on how sex and love are cheapened by the evil Media Age; David Foster Wallace's would be thousands of pages long and no one would be able to read it.
So maybe it's a good thing someone like Nicholson Baker has taken on this task instead. I can't think of any one man or woman more well-suited to the art of smut than this anal retentive to end all anal retentives. Read The Mezzanine? Now imagine all that loving attention paid to shoelaces and escalators and library cards and the planar interstices of Chinese take-out cartons -- imagine all that masturbatory detail in service of REAL masturbatory detail, imagine that famous love for minutiae being lavished on something worth lavishing on, like, say, for instance... boobs! Well, that was the idea at any rate, and one which cranked up the temperature on my hot pants high enough for me to shell out the baksheesh ( even if four years after the fact -- hey, I was 16 when it was published; I didn't read literary pornography then, I sat in front of my T.V. watching the scrambled Playboy Channel ). But the end result turned out to be -- and there's no other word for it -- an anti-climax.
A lot of reviewers will tell you that the true pleasure of this book comes not from erotica, but from esoterica; that Baker's odes to the female mons pubis are all very well and good, but his tender-hearted digressions on stuff like transformer sets and nail clippers and rubber-band machines are well and gooder.
If you're going to write a titillating novel with a gimmicky concept, then write the damn thing and no bones about it. Nicholson's prose goes down as easy as you like, but this is a man seriously bereft of big ideas -- I know that's the point, he's someone who lives and breathes in the details, but I mean this idea of stopping time to undress women... I swear to God, I once heard Arnold make a joke to that effect on Diff'rent Strokes. It is not an original concept. Of course, Baker would say, yeah, but no one ever took it to the extreme I did. Got me there. Then again, when I was six or seven I had fantasies of aliens beaming down to earth, herding me and the world's choicest women into vast squares of ranch land in New Mexico, stripping us naked, and forcing me to breed with the tearful girls en masse while searing my buttocks with laser guns. But I never wrote a three-hundred page book about it. Uh-oh, I just heard a crackle. The coils in Nicholson Baker's brain are heating up! I'll be expecting ancillaries, you cretin.
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am 15. März 2000
Nicholson Baker is a master at taking what seems unusal, bizarre, or even ordinary (as in "The Everlasting Story of Nory") and make it interesting, fascinating and exciting. What Arno does during his "Fold" time is at once creative, enticing, and sweet. And Arno has an amazingly convincing way of justifying what seems immoral, to the point where I can actually wish to be one of the women he undresses and plays around with during one of his "Drops." Not for the inhibited, but this book is a must read for anyone who has ever asked him or herself "if I could freeze time and do whatever I wanted..."
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am 7. Dezember 1996
This book is unusual in its perspective of love and lust.
The reality of sexual acts are blurred by the concept of
stopping time. I found myself waiting for the next time he
would freeze time. The erotic content is only one avenue the
author chose to explore. It is a basic act that everyone can
relate with. Any other path, such as theft, would have been
lost in its uselessness. The sexual nature allowed a human
element to enter the story, no matter how one sided it may
seem to some people.
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am 30. Mai 2000
The best feature of Baker's writing is his rapier wit (not to mention his exquisite language). I died laughing during parts of this book. Baker is a terrific writer (and a daring one). This is the best time you'll ever have reading daring sexual material. I sought out all of Baker's books and it didn't surprise me that he has many witty and insightful critical essays as well. After this book and Vox, he's become one of my favorite all time writers.
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am 3. März 1999
First, I should begin by saying that my girlfriend gave me this book to read (ordered me to read it, in fact). "The answers to any questions you still have about what makes women 'tick' are right inside," she said, before remarking that she didn't know how a man could have written this on his own.
Now, Nicholson Baker is not only a writer, but an artist as well ("Vox," an earlier novel was also fabulous). His stellar command of the English language, so impressive in fact that I hope some of the words he cleverly 'created' for use in "Fermata" are accepted into modern speech and literature, allows Baker to write an entire novel about a subject that might otherwise get dull in a short Penthouse Forum "article." Having just finished "Fermata," I am still unsure as to how Baker managed to write it. Just when I felt that each phase of the book must surely be coming to a close, Baker managed to take it one, two, even three steps further. And in doing so, he proved that even the most taboo subjects can in fact be funny, exciting, erotic and just plain dirty all at the same time.
For those who accuse Fermata as being little more than stylized pornography, I would reply that you just didn't get it. While I must admit my astonishment that a mainstream publisher actually printed this daring book, I am very thankful they did. The censorship of even one word from this incredible novel would truly, truly have been a shame. Nicholson Baker successfully added a literary energy to even the most graphic chapters (i.e. part two of Marian the Librarian), making this a novel a MUST READ for anyone who thinks they have "read it all!"
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am 31. August 1999
If you're a fan of Hard Science Fiction, GET THIS BOOK. It'll blow you away. Bakers descriptions about stopped-time are breathtaking. Every question I had about the "Fermata" was answered in this book, as I was reading it. Baker doesn't miss a beat. I was worried that it might lean more on the Adult Content and less on the Science, but I was wrong. It was a good balance. His physics about the "Fold" couldn't have been handled any better, and the Author really took the time to explain in detail what everything was like, while his character "Dropped". Not to mention the very creative ways he would go about initializing the "Drop" itself.
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.
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am 4. August 1998
Baker has taken a popular adolescent fantasy and given it a first rate treatment. Even he admits, in interviews, that he found it embaressing to publish. I found myself skipping large bits.
But it is indeed well written, and the perfect thing to read in a waiting rood, a stck elevator or anywhere else time seems to have come to a halt.
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