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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

A Box of Matches


A Box of Matches Cover

ISBN13: 9780375502873
ISBN10: 0375502874
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

Only 1 left in stock at $5.95!




Chapter 1

Good morning, it’s January and it’s 4:17 a.m., and I’m going to sit here

in the dark. I’m in the living room in my blue bathrobe, with an

armchair pulled up to the fireplace. There isn’t much in the way of open

flame at the moment because the underlayer of balled-up newspaper and

paper-towel tubes has burned down and the wood hasn’t fully caught yet.

So what I’m looking at is an orangey ember-cavern that resembles a

monster’s sloppy mouth, filled with half-chewed, glowing bits of

fire-meat. When it’s very dark like this you lose your sense of scale.

Sometimes I think I’m steering a space-plane into a gigantic fissure in

a dark and remote planet. The planet’s crust is beginning to break up,

allowing an underground sea of lava to ooze out. Continents are tipping

and foundering like melting icebergs, and I must fly in on my highly

maneuverable rocket and save the colonists who are trapped there.

Last night my sleep was threatened by a toe-hole in my sock. I had known

of the hole when I put the sock on in the morning–it was a white tube

sock–but a hole seldom bothers me during the daytime. I can and do wear

socks all day that have a monstrous rear-tear through which the entire

heel projects like a dinner roll. But at night the edges of the hole

come alive. I was reading my book of Robert Service poems last night

around nine-thirty, when the hole’s edge began tickling and pestering

the skin of the two toes that projected through. I tried to retract the

toes and use them to catch some of the edge of the sock’s fabric,

pulling it over the opening like a too-small blanket that has slid off

the bed, but that didn’t work–it seldom does. I knew that later on,

after midnight, I would wake up and feel the coolness of the sheet on

those two exposed toes, which would trouble me, even though that same

coolness wouldn’t trouble me if the entire foot was exposed. I would

become wakeful as a result of the toe-hole, and I didn’t want that,

because I was starting a new regime of getting up at four in the


Fortunately last night I had an alternative. I’d brought a clean white

tube sock to bed with me to use as a mask over my eyes, in case Claire

was going to read late. I have to have darkness to go to sleep. I have

one of my grandfather’s eye masks, made of thick black silk probably in

the thirties, but it smells like my grandfather, or at least it smells

like the inside of his bedside table. The good thing about draping a

sock over your eyes is that it is temporary. The sock slips off your

head when you move, but by then you’ve gone to sleep and it has served

its purpose.

So when the hole in the sock on my foot became intolerable, I reached

down and pulled it off in a clean, strong motion and flipped it across

the room in the direction of the trash can–although I have to say there

is something almost painfully incongruous in the sight of an article of

underclothing that one has worn and warmed with one’s own body for many

days and years, lying bunched in the trash. And then onto my naked foot

I pulled the fresh sock that I’d had on my face. It felt so good: oh,

man, it felt good, really good. I moved my newly sheathed foot back into

the far region of the sheets and pulled the heavy blankets around me and

I took my hand and curved it and draped it over my eyes where the sock

had been, the way a cat does with its paw. Eventually Claire got into

bed. I heard her bedside light click on and I heard the pages of her

book shuffle, and then she twisted around so we could kiss good-night.

“You’ve got your hand over your eyes,” she said. I murmured. Then she

turned and shifted her warmly pajamaed bottom towards me and I steered

through the night with my hand on her hip, and the next thing I knew it

was four a.m. and time to get up and make a fire.Copyright© 2003 by Nicholson Baker

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

emmejo, June 25, 2010 (view all comments by emmejo)
Every morning, very early, Emmett gets up and lights a fire. He makes coffee and uses this quiet morning ritual as a time to think about everything and anything. His family, people he has met, past events, future hopes, his pets, work; all of these are things that he thinks about and the subject of this book.

For a book with almost no plot this is remarkably engrossing! I spent most of a day on a camping trip being "anti-social" and reading in the tent because I couldn't seem to put it down for long. The characters feel so real and the chance to delve into this person's mind was fascinating. Reading this celebration and embracement of the ordinary and less than ordinary parts of life makes you realize just how special these little things can be!
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Product Details

Baker, Nicholson
Random House
New York
Middle aged men
New england
Psychological fiction
Domestic fiction
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
January 2003
8.34x5.52x.73 in. .64 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

A Box of Matches Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 192 pages PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE - English 9780375502873 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "He is such an excellent writer, a master of descriptive detail with an unusual perspective on the world, that he can almost be forgiven for his tendency to focus on the mundane — almost. Emmett's life may seem rich to him, but it isn't rich enough to propel an entire novel." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "[A] short and tightly controlled meander through the hyper-dailiness of domestic life....Skilled. Often charming."
"Review" by , "Baker specializes in quirky, small-scale novels that flout most of the accepted rules of fiction while at the same time retaining an old-fashioned, reader-friendly accessibility....Fans will love this book, but newcomers may find it too flimsy and insubstantial to take seriously."
"Review" by , "Splendid, comically melancholy....[Baker's] most affecting and satisfying novel yet."
"Review" by , "Tender, melancholy...As Virginia Woolf did, Baker has genuinely transformed the way fiction can render our experience on the page. There nothing else like A Box of Matches out there."
"Review" by , "Bravura writing....feels like a walk through Big Sky Country."
"Review" by , "Observation of such consistent intensity and minuteness rarely occurs in conventional fiction."
"Synopsis" by , Predawn thoughts of a living room fire form the basis of this wonderfully intelligent, poignant novel, and the first in five years by the bestselling author of "Vox" and "Double Fold."
"Synopsis" by , Emmett has a wife and two children, a cat, and a duck, and he wants to know what life is about. Every day he gets up before dawn, makes a cup of coffee in the dark, lights a fire with one wooden match, and thinks.

What Emmett thinks about is the subject of this wise and closely observed novel, which covers vast distances while moving no further than Emmett’s hearth and home. Nicholson Baker’s extraordinary ability to describe and celebrate life in all its rich ordinariness has never been so beautifully achieved.
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