Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Seven books about confinement and the need to escape

David Moloney worked in the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections, New Hampshire, from 2007 to 2011. He received a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he now teaches. He lives north of Boston with his family.

He is the author of the novel Barker House.

At Electric Lit, Moloney tagged seven "books that deal with confinement, but also the need to escape," including:
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

Some people have come to think of our social distancing (more like physical distancing, because we are still being social) as a timeout. Much has been put on pause and many of us have had our work suspended, furloughed into a holding pattern. This peculiar situation has caused me to muse about the inessentials in my life: cable, department meetings, paid-for haircuts. Baker’s meditative narrative, The Mezzanine, follows Howie as he spends his lunch break from his office work. Much of the novel is told through digressions, which don’t feel random, but are the meditations of a man who wants to see his digressions through to the end with linearity.

Howie is confined by his musings, which seem to clutter the narrative and also his life. Told through a plotless narrative and digressive footnotes (later in the book, there are a series of footnotes about footnotes), his attention to his daily experience allows him to think minutely about the things he interacts with: shoelaces, small bags, milk, CVS, straws, escalators. Take when his shoelace snaps, causing him to buy new ones at CVS, which makes him think of small bags, he wonders about his relationship to his memory of learning to tie his shoes: “But I supposed this is often true of moments of life that are remembered as major advances: the discovery is the crucial thing, not its repeated later applications.”

Howie escapes his office job’s physical confinement during his lunch break only to find himself mentally confined by his tangential thoughts. This plotless novel is the perfect book for when you feel like your days are becoming plotless.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Mezzanine is among Aaron Robertson's seven books in which very little happens and Alex Clark's eight best books set over twenty-hours.

--Marshal Zeringue