Book Review: The Mezzanine – Nicholson Baker

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Five stars.

I’m re-reading this book, out loud, with my family as we travel on vacation at the end of a hard working summer by both teens and both parents (delayed post from August).

On our travel across the expansive Colorado landscape, it is fun to break open and read (in chapter-sized chunks) a book about the tiniest details of life, a book that takes place entirely between the beginning and the end of an escalator ride.

Mr. Baker is an astute observer and a polymath. His mind ranges from patterns of carpet after a vacuum cleaner has passed over it, to shoelace fragility, to the design of ice cube trays. Furthermore his style of writing is circuitous, precise, and surprisingly delightful; he always returns and closes the loops on his sometimes lengthy flights of fancy.

Reading out loud in the car or at the campsite to the family is a rare joy, and it is the rare book that will hold the interest of 2 parents and 2 teenagers. Even better, when each teen will take turns reading aloud to the family. What a surprise and joy that is.

Indeed, taking more than one chapter of this book at a time seems a bit of an overdose. But, reading a chapter a day out loud has been a terrific pastime for us.

Sample quote: ‘…the almost sonic whoosh of receptionists’ staggering and misguided perfumes, and the covert chokings and showings of tongues and placing of braceleted hands over windpipes that more tastefully scented secretaries exchange in their wake.’

CMIO’s take? Appreciate art in all its forms. Sometimes the tiniest details delight. It is wonderful to discover that great writing can make a difference in communicating ideas. And that even teenagers will listen to a well-told story.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, University of Colorado Health; Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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