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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 August 2011
Imagine a cross between a hardcore porno and Alice in Wonderland, then throw in some excellent writing and some of the most imaginative descriptions of a man's penis you're ever going to read and you have Nicholson Baker's latest novel "House of Holes". Baker, if you're new to him, is a fantastically wide ranging writer who has written a novel about the hypothetical assassination of George W Bush, a non-fiction book about library cataloguing, two erotic novels, one of which was made famous by Monica Lewinsky after she handed a copy to Bill Clinton (the rest is history), a stream of consciousness non-fiction fan note to John Updike, and a history book highlighting the Allied leaders support of Hitler in the run up to WW2. In short, this writer's output is surprising to say the least.

The novel centres around an otherworldy luxury brothel called House of Holes which is located in some dreamscape where the visitors pay extortionate sums of money to have their wildest dreams fulfilled. How they get there is a variety of ways - through a straw in a drink, a washing machine, via the hole in the end of a penis, through someone's fingers when they make an "O" shape. Couple this with scenes such as the opening chapter where a disembodied arm seduces a young woman followed by a woman in a singles bar who lays a silver egg and you realise this is a novel where you don't know what's going to happen next.

Other examples are the ways in which customers are punished. Heads are taken off of bodies and then reattached later, meanwhile the headless bodies wander about as normal. Arms and legs are taken off, while genitalia is removed and replaced with the opposite sex's, and so on. All very trippy, I know.

Here's a sample paragraph to give you an idea of the kind of inspired writing you get throughout the book: "Chuck's thundertube of d*ckmeat started sliding in... then he slammed into her train station again. His c*ck train was commuting in and out of her p*ssyhole, filling and emptying it by turns, and she loved it...then he made... a sound like a monster in a Japanese monster movie, and she felt a flowering of deep warmth inside her, and the sense of hot sperm that surrounded the prow of his still thrusting peckerd*ckc*ck." (p.20)

Baker's said in recent interviews that he had a great time writing the book and it's really obvious to the reader that there is an exuberance in the writing of the strangest and most challenging scenes that really springs off the page at you. Dialogue like "Do you want this ham steak of a Dr D*ck that's so stuffed with sp*nk that I'm ready to blow this swollen sackload all over you?" "Yes Mr F*ckwizard, we want that fully sp*nkloaded meatloaf of a ham steak of a d*ck" (p.23)

I really laughed at several moments in this book. As bizarre as the book got, and if you're a plot driven reader then you'll be better off not picking this up as it's really a series of bizarre scenes merged with tons of sex rather than a story, I stuck with it just for the language. Some highlights include the various names given to penises - "hot w*nky stick" (p.27), "hunky sp*nk pipes" (p.248), "rogue jacquard" (p.206) and best of all "Dave angled out his Malcolm Gladwell" (p.184).

There are a number of characters in the book who go through strange adventures and scenarios, I won't go into them here as you'll want to discover them for yourselves, but I will say that apart from the Madam of the house, Lila, none of them were ever really memorably written. It's the situations they find themselves in that stick with you rather than the people involved. Similarly, because there is no plot, the book does become a bit tiresome by the end. I did finish and enjoyed it while it lasted but in the end I'm not sure I could have read it if it were longer than 262 pages.

If you've got a good sense of humour and are feeling adventurous, spend some time with this, possibly the most inventive novel of 2011. Read it for the language which is as spicy as the things the characters in the book get up to. You know every year in the UK they have a bad sex award for books? It's for sex scenes written embarrassingly in a work of fiction. I love that Baker saw that and "just a scene? Why not an entire book?" and that he went ahead and wrote it. Because while I did get tired of the endless sex and madness by the end, I'm thankful that somebody like Baker wrote it. 3 stars for the book and an extra star for the balls on this guy. God bless you sir, I hope your inspired work is read in the spirit in which it was offered - fun!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2011
I bought this book because I enjoyed The Fermata. If you are easily offended (or even not so easily offended...) by scenes of a sexual nature it is probably not a good idea to read HoH. However, it is extremely well written and takes the reader through some very strange dreamscapes. I was surprised rather than shocked and mesmerised more than titillated by House of Holes. There is something refreshing about a 'no holds barred' piece of writing where the protagonists act out their part without any hang ups whatsoever. It is essentially a text of lucid dreaming. If you can imagine Jorge Louis Borges writing for a men's magazine you'll get the gist of it. On the other hand, if you are feeling prudish, it is a litany of vulgarity. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2011
I bought this book after hearing it discussed on Front Row R4. Loved the way Mark Lawson chose his words carefully when interviewing the author. House of Holes is a satire on porn genres and is really very funny. Best not to read on public transport as you will laugh out loud.
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on 13 April 2013
I've read other Baker stuff before, and really enjoyed The Fermata a few years back when I read that one, so I thought I'd give this a go. I think reviewing it will be a lot harder than reading it!

The plot centres around a fantasy sex world called House of Holes. Though this is situated in the real world, with real-world neighbours, most people come to it via a hole of some kind: straws, washing machines, their own bodily orifices and the like. Once there they can visit any number of sexual attractions, swap body parts, have sexual adventures with the other guests, get rid of their inhibitions - or their tattoos. In short, there doesn't seem to be much you can't do at HoH that's related to sex or bodily functions in some way.

The language is explicit and evocative, with Baker often making up is own words (presumably because since almost every sentence is sexual in some way he would soon run out otherwise!) It's extremely easy to read, and strangely compelling. The sex scenes are technically laughable, but somehow he makes them work. They're not always erotic for the reader - sometimes they're funny, thought-provoking or just plain weird!

However, I have no idea what the point is. Somebody mentioned it is a riff on how we are desensitised to porn these days. Could be that's the case - I'll maybe see if I can find an interview with the author. My suspicion is that he wrote it because he could. Sex doesn't have to have a point, and maybe that's the reasoning behind it.

Either way, I really enjoyed it. I think The Fermata was better, hence the 4 stars here, but this is still well worth reading (assuming you're not prudish or easily offended by sexual language and imagery, in which case, move along ... nothing to see here ...)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2013
This is a funny, feelgood and highly erotic novel. It made me laugh, and Baker's use of imaginative vocabulary may well inspire me to pick up a pen and have a go myself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2014
This book offers the reader an enjoyable read. The author has adeptly written a humorous novel which is very readable and at times hilarious.
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on 11 December 2012
Nicholson Baker is great humourists of our time.

I wish more people found his highly erotic books like House of Holes, The Fermata and VOX.
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on 1 March 2015
I did not get very far with this book until I decided to recycle it! Not in the bin I hasten to add.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2011
A disappointing read after the excellent The Fermata. A collection of pornographic ideas that strangely lacks any real eroticsm. It's just rather cold, unengaging and "unsexy", albeit with a few interesting characters and ideas. Rather repetitive, and it was a struggle to get the end. The "hype" is overdone.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2011
The title for this book is pretty apt as the plot is full of holes just like the entrance to the brothel this "novel" is set around. The book attempts to high-light how desensitised society has become to sex and all its forms by spinning a tale filled with people who swap arms for bigger penises, artists obsessed with women's anus's and a beard filled with the passionate moans of women during orgasm. However, it is essentially disappointing. There seems to be no point or driving force behind the plot. There is a mix of interesting characters and watching relationships form in this sexually liberated environment could be fascinating at times, however I often felt this novel was essentially just badly written porn with some good ideas but no real exploration of them - especially the silver egg of love!

Such a shame after the anthologist was such a success, even though it was a bit uppity at times when strutting the author's "superior" knowledge on poetry.
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