Thursday, January 25, 2007

Book-A-Day #193 (1/25):A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker

Books do tend to sit around unread for long periods of time at La Casa Hornswoggler. One of the reasons I go on a book-a-day tear is to shake up those stacks, and pull things out and actually get them read. Sure, those tend to be very short things, but it's the thought that counts.

(Books tend to be vaguely triaged here: some things I read immediately, or at least as soon as I can get through work reading. Others, usually classics, are picked up because they're a nice edition, or back in print, or whatever -- and I don't seriously intend to read them anytime soon, though I always have hope. The vast middle category is made up of books I want to read "soon," but, as Toad once said, soon was over a long time ago, and now it is later.)

This is exactly one of those cases -- a book from the vast middle (I've had it since late 2002 sometime, since what I have is a bound galley, and it was published in January 2003), which is short enough (178 pages) to be read easily in one day. And now it's done.

I've only read Baker's work a bit before; I know I read Double Fold, the book about libraries getting rid of newspaper archives. (I was reading it on 9/11, so I remember that I read it.) I think I read Vox, but maybe I just remember that copies of that were on the discard piles around the office for about two years. Other than that, I don't think I've read him before.

This seems to be in the vein of his first two novels (The Mezzanine and Room Temperature) -- close looks at very small parts of life, with lots of introspection and a fair bit of close observation of (the narrator's) behavior and foibles. OK, let's be specific: this book has thirty-three short chapters, in each of which our narrator lights a fire, very early in the morning, and thinks about his life. (I know certain folks from rasfw are recoiling in horror, if they're reading Antick Musings to begin with.) There's no real plot, no larger story: it's just a series of views of one man's life, over just more than one winter month.

But I liked it; Baker is an engaging writer, and I read for character and ambiance as much as plot to begin with. And, most importantly, now it's off the to-be-read shelves.

(Side note: that's a perfect cover, and it has exactly thirty-three matches on it. The galley doesn't credit a designer, but, whoever it was: very nice, sir or madam. Very nice.)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

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