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A tour-de-force of writing, but tiresome
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 The book is replete with literary, musical, scientific, and historical references, which are always aptly chosen and frequently striking.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.