VOX – Nicholson Baker – Book Review

Vox is the story of two voices, his and hers: two strangers who, having met on a telephone chat-line, switch to a private, one-on-one connection – and find it impossible to hang up. Literate, humorous, erotic, Vox is a classic of bedtime reading.

There are many things – many intimate things – to talk about. Not jobs or old lovers or favourite films (nothing that could be described as the normal stuff of a normal conversation) but only, exclusively, the stuff that a normal conversation never allows.


What people think about when they are alone in the dark confines of their bed (or, for that matter, in the brightly lit photocopy room of a deserted office). Or the moments – reading a book, watching a video, taking a shower – when the mind wanders and cannot be stopped…

These voices – his and hers, these strangers brought together by the anonymous workings of a transcontinental communications technology – are young and self-aware and relentless in their determination to discuss everything. And I mean everything.

There is this segment at the start of the book where he is talking about Tinker Bell (Disney’s Peter Pan). See excerpt below:

“And she’s tiny, she’s a tiny suburbanite, she’s about five inches tall.

This insubstantial, magical, cutely Walt Disneyish woman. But then this thing happens. She pauses in mid-air and she looks down at herself, and she’s got quite small breasts – ”

“I thought you didn’t like that word.”

“You’re right, but sometimes it seems right. Actually, most of the time it’s the right word. Anyway, she’s got quite small breasts but quite large little hips and large little thighs, ans she’s wearing this tiny little outfit that’s torn or jaggedly cut and barely covers her, and she looks down at herself, a lovely little pouty face, and she puts her hands on her hips as if to measure them, and she shakes her head sadly – too wide, too wide, Oh, that got me hot. This tiny sprite with big hips. And then a second later she gets caught in a dresser drawer among a lot of sewing things and she tries to fly out the keyhole but – nope, her hips are too wide, she gets stuck!”

“Sounds sizzling hot.”

This back-and-forward continues in a delightful crescendo and all I wish, as a reader, is for them to meet. They click so well, even if their only discussion matter is the physical and the erotic, fantasies of the most private kind.

But what are their fantasies really all that fantastic?

What kind of novel is Vox? Literate and contemporary and intensely erotic. It is the most dangerous book about safe sex you’ll find. And I must say, it outranked 50 Shades of Gray in my books for tantalizing scenes.


Nicholson Baker writes with the heart. I’ve had conversations like this. You’ve had conversations like this. Whether or not they tended to the erotic doesn’t matter, the point is: we’ve all spoken to another person that we’ve been interested in, and they’ve returned the interest, and we know the way we talk and what we talk about.

This novel perfectly captures this, and by the end of it, I felt utterly sad that these two, imperfect, beautiful, interesting and sexual characters were just that…characters. Never have I felt so cheated before, or so thankful that I had been, if only for a moment, able to glimpse into the minds of these two extraordinarily ordinary people, through one simple phone conversation.

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About the author

Nicholson Baker2 cr. Jerry BauerNicholson Baker was born in New York in 1957. He is the author of eight novels, including The Mezzanine, Vox and Room Temperature, all published by Granta Books, and five non-fiction works, including a book about John Updike, U & I, and Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, for which he won the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award.

The Sisters (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Look how the same possibilities
unfold in their opposite demeanors,
as though one saw different ages
passing through two identical rooms.


Each thinks that she props up the other,
while resting wearily on her support;
and they can’t make use of one another,
for they cause blood to rest on blood,


when as in the former times they softly touch
and try, along the tree-lined walks,
to feel themselves conducted and to lead;
ah, the ways they go are not the same.



50 Shades of Gray * E.L. James

I promised myself I would not read these books when they came out. They sparked a lot of media attention and with the exception of Johanna and a few Sydney Sheldon books, I have had no experience with written porn. (As I assumed they would be).

The characters are likable and easily identifiable with – a shy and mousy literature student and a rich and narcissistic billionaire. I’m kidding – just the student is likable. Anastasia Steele. Even from the name I keep thinking “porn”!

The surprise came when the book turned out to be more of a romance story with an overjealous kinky boyfriend than a BDSM book as it was advertised.

9aebf3013cacc86d2b23e958c70106ce The romance between Anastasia and Christian Grey is sweet, dazzling by her innocence and incandescent with desire / need.
She falls in love with him and he falls in lust with her. He needs to dominate her (as he puts it) but all I could see was just a guy showering his girlfriend with gifts while showing her how to please and be pleased in the bedroom. I would say that without the aspect of love from his side, this relationship was more of a luxury escort seeing her rich client.

Why? She did accept a car as a gift from him and even she knows that these gifts come with strings attached to them.

I stopped reading mid-way through and I was startled to discover I knew why the fuss was all about. It’s about meeting expectations of the reader. And E.L. James knew exactly what the target audience was: bored wives, women over 40, housewives with plenty of time on their hands and a tired husband who does not pay attention to them as they needed him to.
50 Shades of Gray offers a great escape from the mundane life (much as any good book would do) while presenting the avid reader with:

  • a handsome (super sexy) millionaire
  • a horny boyfriend that never seems to get enough
  • a lip-biting innocent girlfriend ready to be ravaged by the big bad wolf
  • the girlfriend’s origins must be common (see Bella in Twilight)
  • the girlfriend must be smart – no-one likes a blonde bimbo as the main character
  • the girlfriend’s thoughts must be visible throughout the book (so that the reader can assume them to be their own and let them be pulled in)
  • a weak love triangle (Jose, her friend – poses temporarily a threat to the possible relationship between Anastasia and Christian)
  • an unforgettable ex (Mrs. Robinson for Christian) that would make the main heroine jealous over an invisible person she cannot fight (see Rebecca)
  • a jealous and possessive boyfriend that keeps a woman’s heart fluttering.76a443e4c7104a5cd380c50330974b79
  • the boyfriend must be classy – with a knowledge of wines, foods, cars and helicopters. He must be well traveled and bedazzle the young maiden with his experience / wealth.
  • the boyfriend must have a dark secret that the girlfriend will try to fix (as it is in all human nature) and then she will fail miserably as some people cannot be changed.
  • the breakup

As you see, this recipe for romance has been used in many books so far and the only difference between 50 shades and the rest is the descriptive sex scenes. Very descriptive. I would rate them a 10/10 but not being an erotica reader, my vote might be changed in the future when something better comes along.

“Turning to face him, I’m shocked to find he has his erection firmly in his grasp. My mouth drops open. ‘I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body.'”


Overall Rating: 4/5

Favorite parts: The seduction, the cat and mouse game, the hot sex scenes
Least favorite parts: Christian Gray is too much of a deranged psycho for my liking. Any decent girl would have had a million red alarm signs go out in their minds at the mention of a non-disclosure agreement and signing a contract for sex.

Any thoughts?

The Hunger Games * Suzanne Collins

In a future world where the population has been divided in districts and are ruled in a totalitarian regime by the Capitol, a girl from District 12 named Katniss volunteers as a tribute in the 74th annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a fight to the death with only one victor to be chosen from 24 tributes, 2 from each District. The Hunger Games were created after District 13 rebelled 74 years ago and was destroyed and serves the purpose of reminding everyone what would happen if they opposed the Government
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All The World’s A Stage

a86dae3bb149383b2f0b20f2a603ffcf-d76ldrzAll the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Author Notes

From: As you Like It
Act II
Scene VII

Mirror (poetry)


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

by Sylvia Plath


Happy New Lunar Year

The 2015 Chinese Year is the 32 number in the sixty-year cycle called YI WEI and described in Chinese tradition like “Sheep respected by Others”. 2015 is the year of Green Wooden Sheep (Ram, Goat).

The upcoming 2015 year of the Sheep is the inspiring period; it will try to leave behind any unstable affair and connections with the aim to carve a new more honest pattern of relations.
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Telling you all (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Telling you all would take too long.
Besides, we read in the Bible
how the good is harmful
and how misfortune is good.

Let’s invite something new
by unifying our silences;
if, then and there, we advance,
we’ll know it soon enough.

And yet towards evening,
when his memory is persistent,
one belated curiousity
stops him before the mirror.

man_looking_in_mirror_inspirationWe don’t know if he is frightened.
But he stays, he is engrossed,
and, facing his reflection,
transports himself somewhere else.

It is you (I have loved all along) (Dana Glover)

red_wedding_by_mariannainsomnia-d71xff9There is something that I see
In the way you look at me
There’s a smile, there’s a truth in your eyes

But an unexpected way
On this unexpected day
Could it mean this is where I belong
It is you I have loved all along

It’s no more mystery
It is finally clear to me
You’re the home my heart searched for so long
And it is you I have loved all along

There were times I ran to hide
Afraid to show the other side
Alone in the night without you

Hug-Day-Pics-2014But now I know just who you are
And I know you hold my heart
Finally this is where I belong
It is you I have loved all along

It’s no more mystery
It is finally clear to me
You’re the home my heart searched for so long
And it is you I have loved all along

hug-day1Over and over
I’m filled with emotion
Your love, it rushes through my veins

And I am filled
With the sweetest devotion
As I, I look into your perfect face
It’s no more mystery
It is finally clear to me
You’re the home my heart searched for so long
And it is you I have loved
It is you I have loved
It is you I have loved all along

He put the belt around my life (50 shades of Grey)

Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.

Part Three: Love

Romanti-scene-of-50-Shades-of-Grey-MovieHE put the belt around my life,—
I heard the buckle snap,
And turned away, imperial,
My lifetime folding up
Deliberate, as a duke would do
A kingdom’s title-deed,—
Henceforth a dedicated sort,
A member of the cloud.

Yet not too far to come at call,
And do the little toils
That make the circuit of the rest,
And deal occasional smiles
To lives that stoop to notice mine
And kindly ask it in,—
Whose invitation, knew you not
For whom I must decline?