A Box of Matches

Genre: Fiction; Author: Nicholson Baker

Emmett, a thoroughly pleasant middle-aged textbook editor, starts rising from bed at 4 a.m. to sit by the fire, sip coffee, and calmly mull over the passing of time. At one point, he literally contemplates his navel: ”I rolled the lint into a tube….” In what passes for high drama, he comes down with the flu. The Mezzanine, Baker’s 1986 novel, is a masterpiece of the miniature, an absorbing comedy built from observations on doorknobs and shoelaces. Emmett’s musings in A Box of Matches – on pet food, train horns, windshield-wiper fluid – are similarly modest but lack any sustained connection with the world at large and offer only the tiniest of pleasures.

Originally posted January 17 2003 — 12:00 AM EST

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