Sunday, November 27, 2011

On "Vox" by Nicholson Baker ****

Each of Nicholson Baker's books are a kind of experiment--a novel about a man riding the escalator up to work after lunch, a book about Baker's love of Updike's writings written entirely from his memory of Updike writings, and so on. Vox made the best-seller list when it came out, and in a way, that's not surprising given its topic: phone sex.

I didn't read it immediately, but about five years later, during a period when I had no access to a library, I came across it in a used bookstore for cheap, and it being Baker, I opted to read it. I must have liked it enough, because it stayed on my shelf afterward. Likely, I was probably impressed by the way in which Baker could structure an entire book around a single telephone conversation--just dialogue, these two people talking (about sex) for over one hundred pages. I'm still impressed by the technique; it's certain an original way to go about rendering a piece of erotica.

Perhaps I've grown a bit more conservative with age. Or perhaps my own unfulfilled desire is a bit too much to deal with. Either way, I did find the topic--and the relentless turn back in conversation to what gets us off--to be bit difficult to take this time around. I was kind of like, Look, I'd rather be hanging out with the girl I'm aiming to have as my girlfriend (or is she already my girlfriend? That's something I need to establish--yet another reason I'd rather have been with her), then reading this. I'd rather be moving toward something real than concentrating on this piece of fiction.

But fiction seems enough for these characters themselves. They "get off" in the imagination, as one would have to over a phone call. Hot stories are made up, or they're pulled from "real" life, and shared, and it is in that space between the words, in what those words do inside our heads, that we find ourselves being pulled along with the characters toward climax.

Now, can we talk about something else?


Anonymous said...

I thought it was okay. Perhaps a bit shallow and simple. I thought "The Fermata" was better.

Anonymous said...

Here! Here! The Fermata was great. There's a wonderful and comedic innocence to his writing.

Short Story Reader said...

I'll have to give that one a try sometime.