In Hollywood now, apparently, the talk is of ‘high-’ and ‘low-concepts’, a high-concept film consisting of a single, simple idea that can be summarised succinctly on the back of a cigarette packet. Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger as twins! Tom Hanks as an eleven-year-old!
Nicholson Baker’s extraordinary, hilarious novel is a high-concept book, and this is no bad thing. Admittedly, it is a little thin on plot (narrator Howie breaks shoelace, goes to buy replacement), but the story of one man’s lunch hour seems somehow very appealing even before one opens the covers. (By contrast, Margaret Drabble’s new novel deals with three friends who met at Cambridge in the fifties attempting to come to terms with Thatcher’s Britain. It is difficult to imagine a lower concept than that.)
The Mezzanine is, inevitably, a scrupulously detailed account of la vie quotidienne, but whereas countless writers, from Austen to Carver, have elevated the minutiae of our lives towards literature, their microscopes were incomparably less powerful. Shoelaces run up and down through the eyes of this book, and tie it up