House of Holes: A Book of Raunch

House of Holes: A Book of Raunch

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by Nicholson Baker
     
 

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Shandee finds a friendly arm at a granite quarry. Ned drops down a hole in a golf course. Luna meets a man made of light bulbs at a tanning parlor. So begins Nicholson Baker’s fuse-blowing, sex-positive escapade, House of Holes. Baker, the bestselling author of The Mezzanine, Vox, and The Fermata, who “writes like no one else

Overview

Shandee finds a friendly arm at a granite quarry. Ned drops down a hole in a golf course. Luna meets a man made of light bulbs at a tanning parlor. So begins Nicholson Baker’s fuse-blowing, sex-positive escapade, House of Holes. Baker, the bestselling author of The Mezzanine, Vox, and The Fermata, who “writes like no one else in America” (Newsweek), returns to erotic territory with a gleefully over-the-top novel set in a pleasure resort, where normal rules don’t apply. Visitors, pulled in via their drinking straws or the dryers in laundromats, can undergo crotchal transfers . . . make love to trees . . . visit the Groanrooms and the twelve-screen Porndecahedron . . . or pussy-surf the White Lake. It’s very expensive, of course, but there are work-study programs. In charge of day-to-day operations is Lila, a former hospital administrator whose breast milk has unusual regenerative properties.

Brimful of good-nature, wit, and surreal sexual vocabulary, House of Holes is a modern-day Hieronymous Boschian bacchanal that is sure to surprise, amuse, and arouse.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The thing about fantasies is that everyone has his own. So while Baker (Vox) attempts to be all inclusive in this collection of short vignettes that describe the adventures of randy characters sent to the hedonistic titular resort, in the end what's left is Baker's take on erotica but not much else. While some of Baker's characters, like Shandee, who's on a journey to return a dismembered arm to a man who willingly lost it at the House of Holes in exchange for the enlargement of another body part (guess which one), appear throughout the book, most of the others are only around until they find some form of satisfaction. The result is a wearisome stream of concupiscent characters spouting off filthy words with little promise of any sort of, well, climax. Prurient subject matter aside, Baker's writing is strong and, at times, comical. His characters poke fun at the awkward nature of their situations and dirty dialogue, and in a sea of middle-school style terminology, some lines—like when "Dave angled out his Malcolm Gladwell" at the 12-screen adult theater—are clever enough to warrant a smile. Still, living in the Internet age, where indulging wacky desires is a given, reading a ramble about other people's is more of a turn off than a turn on. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Truly uproarious . . . Baker is one of the most consistently enticing writers of our time . . . Readers with a fondness for richly ridiculous diction, witty provocation and graphic sexual prose that celebrates desire, frailty and the comedy of life will not be disappointed.” —Sam Lipsyte, front cover of the New York Times Book Review

“Wild and hallucinatory . . . Every page offers something smart and amusing . . . Full of fearlessness, cheerfulness, wit and brio.” —Meg Wolitzer, The Washington Post

“A joyful, almost Chaucerian book . . . Had Dr. Seuss been a slightly insane pornographer, he might have written a book like this.” —Tom Bissell, GQ

“A sexy, disturbing, funny book . . . It may also challenge the usual reader of literary novels with its sheer dazzling excess of imagination.” —Katie Roiphe, Slate

House of Holes is as funny as it is filthy and breathes new life into the tired, fossilized conventions of pornography in a way that suggests a deep, almost scholarly familiarity with the ancient tropes.” —Charles McGrath, The New York Times Magazine

“[Baker] escorts us through a surprisingly delightful session of all things benevolently sexual—everything’s consensual, of age and legal, even if, in most cases, physically impossible. . . . We’d recommend it to nearly everyone we know, and no one we don’t.” —Tim Grobaty, Contra-Costa Times

“About as fun and thoroughly unpretentious as literature gets.” Michael Pucci, New York Journal of Books

“A permanent tribute to both the idiocy and surreal inventiveness of sexual desire. . . . Attention must be paid. And laughter must ensue—and rather a lot of it, too.” —Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

“This is a funny, frisky novel that brings sexy back in a way that Justin Timberlake never dreamed.” —Mark Haskell Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books

Library Journal
If you are familiar with Baker's work (e.g., Vox), you understand that his prose ranges from the sexually provocative to the obscene, depending on the paragraph. At the same time, underneath the pornographic veneer of Baker's writing is an engaging commentary on society's distinction between sexual and aesthetic experience. Here, he uses an alternative reality, the house of holes, as a playground of latent desires in which characters experience their most erotic fantasies. The characters travel to this place, drawn with a touch of the magical, through portals such as washing machines and wooden sculptures. A world seemingly constructed from sexual energy, the house of holes encourages individuals to indulge rather than repress their sexual desire. Though roles and duties exist in this world, taboos are nonexistent. Purposefully explicit and outlandish, Baker playfully critiques the modern, mechanical portrayal of sex with unrestrained erotic experience. VERDICT The casual reader may find Baker's sexually charged diatribe overwhelming, while others will find this open expression of eroticism refreshing and honest. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/11.]—Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH
Kirkus Reviews

Baker returns to the eroticism of his earlierVox(1995) andThe Fermata(1994) but kicks it up about a dozen notches.

There's no plot to speak of here—just couplings in every conceivable (and many inconceivable) way. Some characters recur from chapter to chapter, yet they're fairly interchangeable, and Baker aims to disconcert readers with breezy surrealism. In the opening chapter, Shandee finds an arm on a field trip with her Geology 101 class, and this appendage quickly informs her (because it's able to write) that it's known as "Dave's arm." She discovers it can give considerable pleasure, the kind of sexual climax that all his characters seek. The title alludes to a kind of "portkey" that sucks characters through various holes (straws, the backs of dryers, putting greens) into a phantasmagorical alternative universe presided over by the formidable Lila. In this "house of holes," suffice it to say that weird things are the norm: Reversible crotch transfers, for example, result in gender-bendering; women have sex with headless men; men hump holes in a sex field; we hear rumors of the Cock Ness monster; a character named Rhumpa visits the "pornmonster," who grows bigger the more that porn is sucked out of the world...and these are just a few of the exploits coyly alluded to—others are even more graphic and bizarre. Even a put-together Dave makes an appearance toward the end.

Baker explores a fine line between eroticism and pornography here, and were it not for his wit and verbal play, the latter would win out.

Meg Wolitzer
…the book reads like good-natured, priapic, free-form performance art…sex is a valid, even profound topic for a novel, for it can show us who we are when we think almost no one else is watching. And humor is an essential ingredient for such a book, too, if only because without it, we'd be lost. House of Holes, though exhausting, is full of fearlessness, cheerfulness, wit and brio. Shame, refreshingly, gets little play.
—The Washington Post
Sam Lipsyte
…hilarious and extremely dirty…If this sounds like a world dreamed up by a man with smut and silliness foremost on his mind, whose lewdness often saunters right into the realms of pure pornography, well, bingo. But since Baker is also one of the most consistently enticing writers of our time, you take the ride. Readers with a fondness for richly ridiculous diction, witty provocation and graphic sexual prose that celebrates desire, frailty and the comedy of life will not be disappointed.
—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439189511
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
08/09/2011
Edition description:
Simon & Schuster
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels and four works of nonfiction, including Double Fold, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and House of Holes, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Maine with his family.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
1954
Place of Birth:
Rochester, NY
Education:
B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1980

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House of Holes 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As the title says, raunchy but at the same time hilarious. Each increasingly unlikely vignette is described in increasingly outrageous terms. A real page turner, I couldn't wait to find out how it all came together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awful!  There is no plot.  The only attempt at a plot is the use of "portals" which just seems to be thrown in haphazardly to make it seem like an actual book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Disjointed and uninteresting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People who buy this expecting to get a story will be very disappointed. There is no story here, just a bunch of random, incoherent, ridiculous chapters that never tie in together, and never make sense. What few recurring characters appear in this "book" do nothing to advance a plot, because there is NO plot. I am at a loss as to how this could be a New York Times Bestseller, or how it could garner so much praise. Before I am debunked as a conservative, or someone trying to censor literature, let me say that I have no problem with the "book's" content. I don't care about the language, or the gratuitous sex. My problem with it is that it's complete garbage. A boring, worthless waste of time and money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very light and pointless. The best that can be said for it is women are not treated as sexual objects.
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pencilpusher More than 1 year ago
Written for a precocious 14 year old on hormone overload, but a precocious 14 year old wouldn't bother. For anyone else, it is a tedious romp through...I don't know what. It never seems to get to a point. I conditionally enjoyed The Fermata which I bought at the same time. I think I have now fulfilled any obligation to know who Nicholson Baker is if there is every a literary reference to him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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