The Way to Enlightenment: Production and Consumption in Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine
Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine suspends time for both the protagonist and the reader, with the escalator serving as a symbol of the productive and consumptive postmodern society. Because of the escalator, the story's narrator and other contemporary office workers have more time to devote to their work and are thus more productive. And while some critics deplore the rate of production and consumption in society and call for a return to the humanist days, Baker's novel posits that the post-modern world actually encourages contemplation; he turns the notion of a hyper-productive, dehumanized postmodern world on its head.
Like Proust's madeleine, the escalator ride opens Howie's mind to numerous involuntary memories. When he approaches the escalator, his recollections begin:
It would have been less cumbersome, in the account I am
giving here of a specific lunch hour several years ago, to have
pretended that the bag thought had come to me complete and
"all at once" at the foot of the up escalator, but the truth was that
it was only the latest in a fairly long sequence of partially forgotten,
inarticulable experiences, finally now reaching a point that I paid
attention to it for the first time.
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