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Fermata [Hardcover]

Nicholson Baker
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb 1994
Having turned phone sex into the subject of an astonishing national bestseller in Vox, Baker now outdoes himself with an outrageously arousing, acrobatically stylish "X-rated sci-fi fantasy that leaves Vox seeming more like mere fiber-optic foreplay" (Seattle Times). "Sparkling."--San Francisco Chronicle.

"From the Trade Paperback edition."

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Fodor's Travel Publications Inc.,U.S.; First edition edition (Feb 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679415866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679415862
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 939,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Lots of nakedness, quite a few surprises. His novels have the brazen, daring timidity of love letters you know you'll never post" (Sunday Times)

"The book is bursting with sex and beauty, wound together profoundly and pornographically. It is bountifully Rabelasisan and intensely refined. I have never read anything quite like it. Misogynists will definitely not like The Fermata; there is not one iota of violence towards or contempt for women in this book. Wildly exhilarating and confirming. The Fermata should be celebrated" (Mary Gaitskill)

"Witty, dry and thought-provoking, a great addition to Baker's unique observatory of contemporary life" (Vogue) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'The funniest book about sex ever written' Literary Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you're not easily shocked... 3 July 2001
By A Customer
It's true that this book contains extremely descriptive sexual passages and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But call me smutty; I enjoyed it enormously - the dirty bits and the rest. I find it intruiging that on the one hand, Baker, a big, red-faced, blustery middle-aged bear of a man turns out books like this (and Vox, the book Monica Lewinsky gave Bill Clinton to excite his intrest), and then puts out scholarly items like his defence of paper-based library systems - and they're all equally readable. A remarkable book, based on a daring, schoolboy fantasy. Read it when you're alone though, or you'll go scarlet-faced.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orifice-boggling pornathon from the geek's geek 14 April 1999
By A Customer
Baker's earlier outings, The Mezzanine and Vox, just hinted at the porn-script writer scrambling to escape the bounds of the popular fiction imagination. Flick to the dirty bits in The Fermata and you'll be left with little. But what a little it is - I mean, what would you do if you could switch time on and off at will? Save babies from the path of oncoming trucks? Avert international crises? Maybe for a couple of days. Then you'd be peeping down people's pants just like Baker's anti-hero. You might not like all of what you read (note: I suspect the chances of this are higher if you're female) but if you've ever fantasised about anything, you'll love most of it.
Whatever you feel about The Fermata (and let's face it, double-ended dildos aren't the subject of much contemporary fiction outside of 'specialist' booksellers) don't let it cloud your opinion of Bakers back catalogue - U and I, for example is an erudite examination of Baker's personal and literary relationship with John Updike, whilst the Mezzanine is a thoughtful, hilarious and heavily annotated trawl through the minutae of a pen pusher's day.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Show me that big fat Georgia O'Keefe 6 Aug 2011
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A fermata (also known as a hold, pause or as a grand pause when placed on a note or a rest) is an element of musical notation indicating that the note should be sustained for longer than its note value would indicate. Exactly how much longer it is held is up to the discretion of the performer or conductor. What it refers to in Baker's novel is a period of time which his protagonist, Arno Strine, can induce during which the world stops, and only he can move around in it freely. He uses this time to undress women and otherwise indulge his sexual desires. The women concerned have no knowledge of what he does and no idea that a period of time has elapsed during which they have been in suspended animation. It isn't as rollickingly funny as it would like to be, but having said that, it isn't as offensive or creepy as you might imagine either. It is, in part, gratuitously pornographic, depicting several scenarios that he either writes about or imagines happening, or that actually do happen (in the novel that is). As those who have read this writer before will expect, he employs his linguistic gifts with great wit at times and to great effect as he writes of, for instance, "fully realised frigments of my invagination".

Obviously, this is not a book for everybody, and if you are at all nervous of sexual frankness, don't start reading - it will offend you. This is a man who is mightily respected for his detailed and dexterously knowledgeable prose. He is, perhaps testing how far he can go without upsetting his literary readership? That, or sheer exhibitionism has got the better of any natural good taste he might have once cultivated. Whether you view this as acceptable in today's climate, or still beyond the pale, will depend entirely on you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Fermata 20 Jun 2013
Like Nabokov's Lolita this book draws deliberately uneasy comedy from moral ambiguity. Arno Strine can pause time yet move freely while all around him is frozen. He uses this 'gift' to peek beneath clothing and explore other obsessive thoughts about women. It's very rude in places. Told with wit and great intelligence, the novel both charms and disturbs. Baker isn't afraid to offend, and doesn't try to 'justify' the ethical minefield of Arno Strine's actions, although he does explore the issues they raise. He is smart enough to let readers make up their own minds and urges them to consider how they would behave if they had the same ability to stop time. Hugely thought-provoking novel, but possibly an acquired taste.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weird 2 Mar 2009
By Huge
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was ranked as one of the funniest sex books written but for me I foun d it difficult to get into and not the slightest bit funny
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compellingly good read. 14 Dec 2001
I just love this book. It is clever, funny, erotic, thought-provoking and well thought-out. Those who carp about the 'hero' not becoming a better person or the author breaking his own rules are trying to dig too deep. They miss the point - it is fiction and a compellingly good read. I have had it on my bookshelves for years and return to it again and agin when I want something light-hearted.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and disturbing novel. 16 April 2000
By A Customer
Nicholson Bakers' novel is an impressive investigation of sexual politics. Despite extremely graphic sexual content, the book is intensely literary. Thought-provoking and intelligent.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars My goodness...!
I wasn't sure what to expect - just as well, as Nicholson's imagination is more 'out there' than most. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Cassamdra Suddes
2.0 out of 5 stars A waste of a good idea
Baker takes an interesting and amusing concept - the ability to stop time - and squanders it. Whilst one doesn't necessarily expect high minded intellectual moral quests, the lead... Read more
Published on 1 Aug 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The rudest book my wife has read.
If you're not aroused by this, you're unarousable. Clever, pacey, and very horny.
I bet no one who read it didn't try at least once to see if they could stop time! Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2002 by Owen Boyd(owen@merrill.demon.co.uk)
2.0 out of 5 stars Stop the world, I want to get off.
Baker's book introduces us to Arno Strine, a morally ambiguous hero who is blessed with the ability to stop time in it's tracks and go about his business without interruption from... Read more
Published on 10 Oct 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time
Not a very good or enjoyable book. The idea of being able to stop time so that you are free to act as you please whilst everybody and everything around is frozen has been... Read more
Published on 15 Aug 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea, creepy story
Unlike his earlier book, Vox, in which the characters are human and likeable, Nicholson Baker has created a self-centred and vaguely sinister character in Arno Strine. Read more
Published on 17 Oct 1999
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