A Box of Matches Review
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Maybe you're not ready for another bullet-train mystery. Or maybe you don't have the energy for tackling a non-fiction book the same size and heft as a collegiate dictionary. Maybe what you need is what I needed, a book like this one. A diary, let's say, of an uneasy soul like Emmett who seems to have everything, yet chooses to get up in the early morning hours of winter to start a fire and write. Every day, he writes a few pages about such things as sweat-sock eye pillows and the care and feeding of the family duck.

Fans of James Bond -- look elsewhere, unless you're ready for a more thoughtful break. Then let the writing pull you in. Nicholson Baker describes what a burning fire looks like and what a sock hole feels like and how the smell of another sock reminds him of his grandfather. These are original observations yet familiar and amusing sometimes too. A little patience, a good ripping snowstorm, and curiosity are all you need to find yourself absorbed in this book.


"When I lit the fire this morning, a pompadour styling of flame came forward from underneath and swooped back around a half-detached piece of bark. Right now there is one flame near the front that has a purple underpainting but a strong opacity of yellows and oranges and whites: it is flapping like one of those pennants that used to be strung around used-car lots. You don't see those so much anymore: multicolored vinyl triangular flags on cords that hopeful sales managers hung from pole to pole to offer a sense of carnival."

There is a plot, if you agree with me to call it that, although it is completely internal. In the beginning, Emmett writes in a removed tone that sounds something like despair, but gradually, he moves away from that. He makes a change. There now, I hope I haven't given away the ending.

If you're in a reflective state of mind yourself, maybe warmly stationed under a blanket on a soft couch on a slow winter's day, then perhaps you'll enjoy it too.

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