A box of matches
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Here is Nicholson Baker at his obsessive compulsive best, with humour and observation to die for, but with underlying truths and sadness about the ephemerality of life, the joy of small things, the darkness which is just the other side of everyday life - all human life in a box of matches. This book gets at the real meaning of 'the esamined life', and it's unmistakably serious, but also side-splittingly funny. It is 4.32am...most chapters start similarly...A man gets up earlier and earlier each day, dresses in the dark, makes his coffee and lights the fire with a box of matches, also in the dark, feeling his way around, through his silent house, where wife and children sleep, and then rummages through the thoughts which crowd his head and preoccupy him. Meanwhile outside, there's snow on the ground, Greta the duck is asleep in her dog kennel with a rug thrown over it, but that doesn't stop her bowl of water freezing each night. This is mid-life man, domesticated but still an alien creature, whose thoughts veer brilliantly from love to marriage, to firelighters and suicide, from peering in the dark to ant-farms in the twinkling of an eye.
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