By Troy Patterson
Updated January 17, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Emmett, a thoroughly pleasant middle-aged textbook editor, starts rising from bed at 4 a.m. to sit by the fire, sip coffee, and calmly mull over the passing of time. At one point, he literally contemplates his navel: ”I rolled the lint into a tube….” In what passes for high drama, he comes down with the flu. The Mezzanine, Baker’s 1986 novel, is a masterpiece of the miniature, an absorbing comedy built from observations on doorknobs and shoelaces. Emmett’s musings in A Box of Matches — on pet food, train horns, windshield-wiper fluid — are similarly modest but lack any sustained connection with the world at large and offer only the tiniest of pleasures.