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House of Holes by Nicholson Baker
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's review
Oct 01, 11

really liked it
Read from September 28 to October 01, 2011

Gleeful and hilarious -- deftly indulges in the absurdity of sex without undermining pleasure. Possibly the only writing about sex I've ever read that is more about pleasure than about desire, which makes it--while graphic--oddly wholesome. Elaine Blaire nailed it (ha ha) in her NYRB review:

The wish behind Baker’s idyll is to be rid of the notion of female sexual abjection. Not only does this allow women greater sexual abandon, the book implies, but it also liberates men: the male characters don’t have to worry about offending or abusing women, nor do they have to worry about calling them for a second date.

For you and me this utopia probably comes too late to improve us. But it has profound possibilities for the education of our offspring. In a recent New York Times Magazine profile of Baker, his seventeen-year-old son says that he has not read House of Holes and has no plans to read it, at least not while living with his parents. That seems sensible given his circumstances, but for the rest of us, the good news is that there is nothing in House of Holes that we wouldn’t want our youth to read. Indeed it is exactly the sort of filth that you would want them to read first (if you don’t mind exposing them to something so decidedly heterosexual).

In the traditional sex talk, parents don’t say much about pleasure—presumably neither party wants to get into details. But wouldn’t it be nice for parents to have a way to convey our highest ideals on the subject? House of Holes will introduce impressionable readers to many interesting sexual possibilities without a whisper of stereotype or slur. You can be sure that no matter what scene your children are masturbating to, they are not objectifying women. But you will have to make sure that they accidentally stumble on it soon, before they find the Internet, if they are to have a fighting chance at being wholesome and delightful fuckers instead of hopelessly depraved ones like yourself.

Read Blair's whole review at
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