The second novel by Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature covers the ruminations and reflections of a father during his daughter's afternoon bottle. From that simple locus the narrator unravels his complex relationship with his wife, his connection to defunct practices and mores, and the way in which his life has culminated in the birth of his daughter. Baker's prose doesn't flow, it erupts, covering one man's existence with a patina of nostalgia.
The best element of the novel is the narrarator's unfolding of he and his wife's emotional histology. His description of both of their attempts to bridge the gap of interest to the other's intellectual fetishes vibrates the way only true things can. Upon reading about his fascination with the color celadon, I rushed to the library to discover it for myself. The writing literally moved me.
One valid criticism is that the novel is too short, that it never fully unfolds. After reading The Fermata and The Mezzanine, the reader is assured that Baker has more to say; why he doesn't is not clear. Also, the beauty of the writing makes it decidely unreadable in parts. It is difficult to glide over Baker's prose without stopping to marvel at a particularly well-polished passage. This is in addition to Baker's highly stylized vocabulary, sprinkled with Joycean syntactical oddities.
Room Temperature is a fine novel, full of depth, wit, and importance. It is one of the best I have read in quite some time. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys literature, and will probably spend the remainder of my life buying copies to give as gifts.