House of Holes by Nicholson Baker – review (adult content)

Most books have a little, fancy fonted script on them that says “a novel” or stories.” Nicholson Baker’s book has a book raunch on its cover. It lives up to it.

I’ve tried to come up with something more to say, to find a reason for its blatant sexuality beyond it wanting to be blatantly sexual and revel in all things lascivious. I can’t. Maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention, and just missed it. Maybe I got too distracted by the rows of meatsticks, the stacks of boob fat and the buckets of come (though not “cum”) that litter each story. This isn’t to say the entire novel isn’t without substance. There are people looking for love, looking for connection, and looking for themselves. the ubiquity itself of the sex may form a comment of its centrality of our lives. Either in its abundance or its absence, its joy or its perversity, it plays a key, if not central, role in defining who we are. What Baker is possibly doing is pushing that to the front and center, where it can’t be ignored, and letting loose with a bevy of language to make its unsettling presence slightly more palatable.

It is Baker’s vocabulary and verbal ingenuity that really carry the novel. He doesn’t hide behind it. Every term I used above, he uses in the text, and it never comes off as the author attempting to shirk the reality of his material. Instead, “boob fat” is partly humorous but also straightforwardly honest. Meat stick is exactly what it is. The term is ridiculous, flaunting its physical reality in a way a more clinical term like “breast” or “penis”  can’t embody.  In this way, House of Holes avoids being pornographic. While the visual material wouldn’t make it past an MPAA board without an X,  the language moves it beyond the bounds of a common smut novel. Baker’s playful inventiveness allows him to be straightforward in a way that allows Sex to be the focus but to also lose its taboo. Instead, its position in the makeup of our lives can be seen more directly, more clearly, and perhaps more honestly. Humor makes sex approachable, and Baker goes out of his way to make every meatstick and boob fat immeasurably approachable.

It should be noted that the House of Holes isn’t free. It’s definitely a for profit venture. However, it should also be noted that the for profit parts seems to largely rest on the male partakers. In payment for the services of the House of Holes, men literally lose arms, balls, and heads (and not just the south of the shoulders variety).  While the men losing body parts seems part for parcel at the House of Holes, the only criminal in the book is the Pearloiner, who steals women’s clitorises.  And I don’t recall any moment where a woman is forced to lose a body part, especially a sexual one, as a form of punishment or payment. There is a clear double standard at work, despite women getting just as much (if not more) sexual enjoyment from their stays at the House of Holes as the men. Is Baker saying that women need to be encouraged to embrace their sexuality more, so using it as a punishment (in any form) is verboten? At the same time, is he saying that men perhaps cater to their sexual cravings too readily, and need to be reigned in a bit?

I realize now that I’ve went on for a good while after saying that I wasn’t sure what the novel was about or where additional meaning could be culled from.Looking back on it, I’m not sure how much is real and how much is my invention,m  or perhaps all literature is the sum of what we pull out of it (and put into it).

 

Here’s the book at Barnes and Noble. As always, I’d encourage you to go to a real book store in your neighborhood and get it-and not just browse it so you feel more comfortable ordering it online later. With bookstores being a bit of a dying breed, I’d encourage the use of B&N.

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One Response to “House of Holes by Nicholson Baker – review (adult content)”

  1. A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker – a review « Loose Leaf Bound Says:

    […] read by Nicholson Baker. A little while back I reviewed Baker’s unapologetically raunchy House of Holes and found it fitting in with pretty much everything I have ever read of Baker’s. This was by […]

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