Art & Design Magazine

I’m Very Sorry I Hurt Your Lamp

By Told By Design

Nicholson Baker - Room Temperature - Photo: Elinor Carucci for The New York Times

As it happened, later that afternoon I caught the cord of the new lamp with my food so that it lurched onto the radiator and was multiply chipped. Embarrassed by my clumsiness, I was crabby rather than apologetic; I said that she’d said it was a cheap lamp, and we could certainly get another the next day; and she said it was the last one of that color in the store and that it had been her first purchase for her first apartment and all she wanted from me was a simple “I’m very sorry I hurt your lamp” and not dismissive references to its price; and so I said I was sorry and bought some glue and spent an absorbing fifteen minutes reuniting the three chips with the base: in concentrating on fitting those pieces together, delighted by the gritty ease with which they found their settings, their crack lines disappearing even more completely than the seams between stacked checkers or between the wing-pieces on model airplanes, I filled my visual sense with that color and began to understand it. As she once told me years later, to comfort me as she glued together a Pier Chinese serving dish of hers that I had broken by too carelessly mounding pans in the drainer (that time I was apologetic!): in repairing the object you really ended up loving it more, because you knew its eagerness to be reassembled, and in running a fingertip over its surface you alone could feel its many cracks—a bond stronger than mere possession.

This is one of the thoughts and memories that Nicholson Baker writes about in Room Temperature—a novel that happens in the time span of a father feeding his baby—in his peculiar fiction-non-fiction style.


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