switterbug (Betsey)'s Reviews > House of Holes

House of Holes by Nicholson Baker
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Jul 08, 2011

it was ok
Read in July, 2011

Nicholson Baker has proven that he can make the familiar very strange. Consider his first novel, MEZZANINE, where a man is on a lunch hour hunt for shoelaces. All the odds and ends, the digressions and pop-up thoughts that can enter a desultory mind, are playfully and artfully presented in a readable and engaging manner. In VOX, a phone call between a lonely man and woman hook up on the phone. They are able to talk about everyday matters and lure the reader into their idle chatter, so that the sexual banter is fluid instead of gratuitous. In his last novel, THE ANTHOLOGIST, Baker uses stream-of-consciousness to wax poetic and edify the reader on verse. His non-fiction HUMAN SMOKE, my personal favorite, is an exquisite tome that shifts the kaleidoscope on history’s sacred cows.

Baker chose a small concept idea for his latest, HOUSE OF HOLES, a cheeky plunge into lust and vulgarity so steep and rank, so exhaustive and consummate, that it is recommended to be read in small doses. That’s easy, as each surreal chapter is its own short carnal experience. Although some characters appear in several chapters, they are not immersed into a tight, ongoing storyline, except for Shandee, who finds a male arm, which is detached from its owner (Dave), and seeks to find the rest of his body. The eponymous HOH is the main character, and everyone else is a fornicating subject. People come to the House of Holes to make their prurient dreams come true.

Somewhere or anywhere/everywhere are circles that are potential portals—the end of a straw, the putting tee of the seventh green, the fourth dryer from the left at the laundromat at the corner of 18th Street and Grover Avenue--that will suck up (or down) and send the willing concupiscent to the House of Holes. There are no limits to what you can do with your anatomy at HOH, and Baker will provide infinite LMAO and OMG moments as you read.

I don’t think any author has come up with so many creative terms for the most sexual parts of our body: meatstick, truncheon, peeny wanger, musclemeat, length of badness, bulldog, cockpoles, hamsteak, thundertube, peckerdickcock, beast, frilly doilies of labial flesh, slobbering kitty, bungee hole, purple cometwat, slippery salope—well, you get the point.

Highbrow and lowbrow blend together, and it is evident that Baker is a scholar with a wanton repertoire of ideas. Some chapters are more “fulfilling” than others, also. For example, a woman nose-dives into a portal and ends up inside her friend’s penis. Getting out was quite the liberating experience for both of them.

In another chapter, a woman, Zilka, gets her clitoris stolen at an airport security check, by someone known as the Purloiner.

“…we’ve determined that your clitoris is not a carry-on item…It’s swollen and oversized and over the weight limit, and I’m going to have to remove it now.”

Zilka sees it going into a clear plastic baggie with a numbered label on it. She seeks help from the HOH to get it back, as the Purloiner is known to loiter there.

Crotchal transfers, temporary scrotal removal, sex with headless men, Penis Washes, Hall of the Armless Men Who Still Want to Fuck Twat—this is just a fraction of the dizzying booty in this book, just an ampule of the sex blasts of comic and twisted derangement provided between these sticky pages. Rather than read it solo, this would make a humorously lewd parlor game between trusted friends at a dinner party (make that AFTER dinner). You could truth or dare it—read a chapter on a dare—but I wouldn’t advise trying any of these tricks yourself, or with each other!

Take a ride on the “Pornsucker” ship or gaze at the 12-screen Porndecahedron of licentious delights. This review comes with a warning, however, something that Erica Jong once said:

“My reaction to porno films is as follows; After the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw, after the first twenty minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live.”





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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Erica Jong is wise.


switterbug (Betsey) :--))) Yeah, and FEAR OF FLYING is a much better book than HOH. This is great for parlor games!


message 3: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I need to read Erica Jong. Should I start with Fear of Flying?


switterbug (Betsey) Absofuckinglutely. I don't know if it will seem dated, but if you realize when it was written, you will see how superb and iconic it is. The "zipless fuck" is worth every penny and page!


message 5: by Daniel (new)

Daniel switterbug (Betsey) wrote: "Absofuckinglutely. I don't know if it will seem dated, but if you realize when it was written, you will see how superb and iconic it is. The "zipless fuck" is worth every penny and page!"

I am there. Thanks for the insightful rec!


switterbug (Betsey) You're totally welcome. Let me know how you liked it when you're done!


Christine It's actually the "pearloiner" though. Get it? Small correction.


Christine I'm with Erica Jong, by the way. First few scenes were a turn on. 60 pages in I'm kinda getting revolted. However, I plan to read and finish this in small doses, when I'm "in the mood" so to speak.


message 9: by Alan (new)

Alan Baker is speaking next weekend (10/6/2013) at Portland's annual writers festival Wordstock, one of my favorite annual events here (www.wordstockfestival.com). I thought The Mezzanine was clever and well written. I'm anxious to hear him speak.


switterbug (Betsey) I am also looking forward to reading his latest book, which picks up as a sequel to ANTHOLOGIST. I really enjoyed that book, but HOH didn't much float my boat.


message 11: by Tim (new) - added it

Tim The new one has some of my favorite writing of his, Betsey. On music in particular, he reaches some new heights, in my opinion.


switterbug (Betsey) Oh, way cool! I may be reading it next, after I finish the 800 page tome I am reading now, THE LUMINARIES.


message 13: by Tim (new) - added it

Tim Ah, I knew that sounded familiar. I just read an excerpt of it online when the nominees were announced. Didn't realize it was quite so monumental!


switterbug (Betsey) I am already hooked! It is fabulous!


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