Breaking bread with Nicholson Baker

America’s foremost writer of literary sex novels.

Katie Roiphe

Nicholson Baker. Click image to expand.Nicholson Baker

Baker is probably best known for his highbrow dirty books, for books like Vox and The Fermata, as well as his innovative first novel, The Mezzanine, with its artfully and obsessively spun analysis of daily life. The book was based on the years he spent temping, specifically one year as an oil analyst on Wall Street, riding the escalator to go out to lunch and the sublime daydreams that ensued.

All of his novels interest themselves with reproducing the minutiae of inner life, with what Baker calls "the white noise" in our heads, and many of them involve showy technical feats and fireworks. Altogether, he occupies a strange place in the American literary scene: respected but offbeat, a great stylist with controversial or eccentric obsessions.

His new book, House of Holes , is an outrageous, surrealist sex fantasy. It’s "out there" as he puts it, even for someone who once wrote an entire literary novel about phone sex. The premise of the novel is that people disappear through portals – a straw, a dryer, a tunnel – into a sexual spa where even the weirdest fantasies are fulfilled, and you can have sex with trees and lakes and headless men, among other things.

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