Front cover, first edition
|Country||United States of America|
|Publisher||Weidenfeld and Nicholson|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 20|
|LC Classification||PS3552.A4325 M49 1990|
|Followed by||Room Temperature|
The Mezzanine (1988) is the first novel by Nicholson Baker, about what goes through a man's mind during a modern lunch break.
On the surface it deals with a man's lunch-time trip up an escalator in the mezzanine of the office building where he is employed, a building based on Baker's recollections of Rochester's Midtown Plaza. In reality, it deals with all the thoughts that run through a person's mind in any given few moments if he or she were given the time to think them through to their conclusions. The Mezzanine does that through extensive use of footnotes, some making up the bulk of the page, travelling inside a human mind, through the thinker's past. The footnotes occasionally are detailed and rambling to the point of Baker consciously digressing within the footnote, and towards the end of the book there is a multi-page footnote on the subject of footnotes themselves.
The novel is a plotless, stream-of-consciousness examination greatly detailing the lunch-hour activities of young office worker Howie. His simple lunch of popcorn, a hot dog, cookie, and milk, and buying a new pair of shoelaces are contrasted with his reading of a paperback edition of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. Baker's digressive novel is partly made up of extensive footnotes, some several pages long, while following Howie's contemplations of a variety of everyday objects and occurrences, including how paper milk cartons replaced glass milk bottles, the miracle of perforation, and the nature of plastic straws to float, vending machines, paper towel dispensers, and popcorn poppers.
The novel was praised for its originality and linguistic virtuosity, announcing Baker's trademark style of highly descriptive, focused prose, "fierce attention to detail", and delight in discrete slices of time within mundane existence. It created the genre for which Baker is best known, and is perhaps its boldest representative. Like Proust, he makes the personal significant.
- Chambers, Ross, '"Meditation and the Escalator Principle – on Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine", Modern Fiction Studies, 40, 4, Winter 1994, pp. 765–806.