The Mezzanine  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Mezzanine (1988) is a first novel by Nicholson Baker about what goes through a man's mind during a modern lunch break.


Plot introduction

On the surface it deals with a man's trip up an escalator in the mezzanine of his office building during a lunch-time sojourn from his building. In reality, it deals with all the thoughts that run through our minds in any given few moments – if we 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 novel is a plotless, stream-of-consciousness examination greatly detailing the lunch-hour activities of young office worker Howie. His simple lunch of 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.

Critical reception

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. Like Proust, he makes the personal significant.

Further reading

  • Chambers, Ross, '"Meditation and the Escalator Principle – on Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine", Modern Fiction Studies, 40, 4, Winter 1994, pp. 765-806.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Mezzanine" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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