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by John Q McDonald --- 17 February 1998

The Fermata

by Nicholson Baker

Arno Strine finds himself with the astonishing ability to halt the flow of time. Like the twists of many new media (like the Internet!), it soon occurs to him to use this power for sexual gratification, and he is taking off women's clothes in a sort of soft-core violation. Arno also enjoys the effect he can have on people by slipping explicit innuendo into their lives. He writes dirty stories and plants them where women will unknowingly discover them, then observes their reactions. Arno's fantasy life, and his writings are presented here in long explicit passages that can be rather dull (though I suppose some may find them more titillating). Nicholson Baker himself has stated that he set out to see if he could create believable pornographic fiction, and he pulled it off far better in Vox. Arno's character and his feeble attempts to justify his actions were more interesting. Arno's reaction to his power and its results are, indeed, well wrought. Baker's dirty stories, well, we could have done without them, but we were warned.

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