- Fizzy Thoughts: A Box of Matches

A Box of Matches

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Box of Matches
Nicholson Baker
2003
178 pages

I found this book in a used bookstore in Savannah. The name of the shop was The Book Lady, and I couldn't resist going in and checking it out. It was a tiny little place, crammed full of shelves of books, with boxes of books crammed into the corners. I found this one out of place, propped up on a shelf that was not the fiction section, even though it is a fiction book. The cover caught my eye. Then I opened it up and the quirky first line of one of the chapters sucked me in:

"Good morning, it's 4:52 a.m., and I'm very glad to be conscious when no one else is conscious."

All of the chapters start this way...Good morning, it's 4 something a.m.. For some reason I never quite figured out, the narrator has decided to get up early every morning, make coffee and light the fire (all in the dark) and sit and contemplate things. This quirky little book is entirely comprised of his morning reflections on mundane things such as the family duck, the shape of his beard, how he met his wife, his briefcase, the kids, peeing at night while sitting down, his job, and whatever else happens to flit through his mind at 4 a.m. Each morning he lights the fire with a match from a box of matches. When the box is empty, the book ends. There's really no plot, no story to resolve...just a series of short recollections by an ordinary man.

I actually liked the book, probably because it was quirky and different from what I usually read. Although I wouldn't go quite so far as to say it is "virtuoso writing, idiosyncratic, brilliant, hilarious and touching," like the over the top quote on the cover claims. Idiosyncratic I'll agree with. Brilliant and virtuoso I won't.

3 comment(s):

Care said...

I love that you read a bunch of different stuff. AND that you let books find you! Sounds like one of those books that you think, 'huh, I really could be a writer?!' or am I the only maybe-someday-possibly-attempt-to-write-a-book kind of person?

softdrink said...

Hah, I had the same thought. But the author actually has published a few other books...not that I'll be seeking them out.

girasoli said...

This guy is definitely a morning guy! Maybe I should read it to find out what goes on at that ungodly hour of the morning each day :)

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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