Seinfeld was famously the tv show that was supposedly about nothing. I never understood this description because it was obviously about four friends in New York City who get themselves in various pickles, like, constantly. How is that nothing? When Jerry says to Delores “I’m really falling for you…Joseph Puglia” everything that leads up to it is a whole lotta something.
The book I just read, The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker, is similar in that it seems to be about nothing: the entire book takes place during an office worker’s lunch break. It describes every last thing about this lunch hour, starting with the office worker’s purchase of a pair of shoelaces at the local CVS. The whole first chapter covers the CVS visit, use of plastic bags, mild flirtation with the cashier, thoughts on paper straws versus plastic, in painstaking detail. This is the sort of book that will either draw you in or drive you up a flibbety flabbety wall. The deep dive into trivialities is impressive, and the picture it paints when you’re done and you’ve thought about the whole thing from above is surprisingly emotional. That said, if it had lasted more than its 133 pages, I would have proclaimed it a complete and total snoozefest. There’s only so much of that business that I can take, and I think 134 pages would have turned me batty. It’s seldom that I read things that have so little narrative page-turny-ness in them, and it’s a sort of reading that feels good because it’s flexing a muscle that I don’t usually flex. It’s like the Pilates of reading. 133 pages of Pilates reading is good by me. Any more and my reading butt muscle would strain. I feel like I took that metaphor, which was already pretty poor, and then made it weird.