Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Books: Vox by Nicholson Baker

Vox is an extended flirtation. A sexy telephone call that lasts a whole book. As a flirtation, there is an exploration of how people relate, a sussing out of what one or the other of the characters finds sexy. This is sometimes surprising, but our protagonists are careful to respect and run with each other's fantasies. There is a particularly sexy scene in the book where we hear a scene where a couple watch a porno together. They hide their genitals under a shared blanket and the man becomes increasingly aroused by the small movements of the blanket and the slight changes to the woman's breath and the flush of her skin. This is perhaps one of the sexiest passages I have ever encountered and the lessons it teaches us are about hiding instead of revealing. It also does not fulfill our expectations. Neither of the characters leaps over modesty to ravage the other. After a moment of orgasmic abandon the couple return to being relative workplace strangers. This book is worth reading even if it is just for that passage, but it also shows us how we can cleverly use dialogue. There is almost nothing in this book that isn't dialogue. An amazing feat from a very clever author.

The Books: The House of Holes by Nicholson Baker

Rarely have we been treated to such a romp. This book is a gaffaw. Baker is taking he piss out of the porn industry whilst celebrating all the trapping of this genre in a book about good clean pornographic fun. Everyone is ready for sex all of the time, just the mere suggestion of anal and the girl is kneeling and spreading her cheeks wide before we can grab a hold of our pecker. Pecker, Peeny Wanger, Blood Pumping Truncheon - Baker grabs every euphemism he can find and then rolls around in the lot of them. Even when transgressing, a married woman calls her husband on the phone to find out if it is ok for this strange man to stuff her full of dick meat given that he has such an awfully pretty penis. There is just no malice in this book. It is terribly inventive and celebrates sex in all it's good honest heterosexuality.

My only slight issue with Holes is how terribly Hetero it is. Girl on girl is fine, but the girls only begin to touch each other when a man is watching. If there are two girls alone (and naked) in a room together they will be lamenting the lack of good hard dick. Holes is a heterosexul man's fantasy. In reality, if the girls and guys were this horny all the time they wouldn't be waiting for a person of the opposite sex to enter the room, they would be falling wildly into a tangle of her 'frilly doilies' rubbing against her 'carry on luggage' and he would certainly be putting his 'Malcolm Gladwell' into the other fellow's house of holes.

What Baker does for my own work is to encourage me to invent a new language for sex. I share his belief that sex is indeed funny and I, like Baker allow my characters to indulge without a sense of shame, but I tend to hide behind niceties when I come to naming things. With a nudge and a wink Baker has encouraged me to be a little more playful in the expression of sex itself.