Vox by Nicholson Baker

So last night. What did you do?

I finished Vox. I couldn’t resist. COULDN’T put it down.

Of course. Vox. And?

And what?

Well, did you…? While you were reading it? Tell me how you were.

I was pretty much as I am now. Dressed. Sitting up. Left leg crossed other the other. I mean, I wasn’t at my computer. I was sitting at the kitchen table.

But you didn’t find it that sexy then. If you didn’t – ….?

Oh, it was incredibly sexy. Why do you think I couldn’t put it down? Actually, I have a confession to make…

Yes?

I want to use pretentious sounding expressions to describe it, ones that certainly wouldn’t fit into the style of the book.

Like what?

Well, like – it is a tour de force. An absolutely virtuoso demonstration that it is possible to write something sustained about sex that doesn’t make a false note, not once. It even manages to be hilariously funny without once losing its nature – erotic? Maybe. Certainly as sexy as sexy can be.

I see what you mean. A bit pretentious.

I’m thinking of reviewing it for goodreads, you know. That site I told you about. If you want to get votes, you need to be a bit pretentious. Show you are clever. You don’t get votes for being dumb.

You still haven’t told me why you didn’t make yourself….while you were….

Truth? It wouldn’t have fitted into my goodreads review. Actual sex doesn’t get you votes. You have to talk about it obliquely. The point of goodreads is that people think they can talk about sex all the time as long as they sound…ummmm…arty about it. It makes them feel superior. Better than if they just bought a copy of Ralph and tossed off to it. What’s that noise?

Oh. I was just. Well. Just putting my copy of Ralph under the cushion. We did agree we would be completely honest with each other, didn’t we? So do you prefer boys on goodreads to ones who read Ralph then?

No, no. It’s so much simpler to deal with boys who read Ralph. You don’t have to pretend to like difficult books. You can ask for sex and they won’t ever say sorry, Hon, just wait until I finish writing this review. You put that copy of Ralph right back where it was. I know we’ve only just started talking to each other but I like you just how you are.

Mmm. You are making me just a little turned on now. Thank you. So. Was there a part you liked best?

The whole thing was brilliant, right from the first page.

But still, something. Something must have stood out for you.

Do you have your copy there?

Yes, I do, actually. I thought we might read parts out to each other. I thought that might be how we – ….

Would you turn to p.85 then? Read me the paragraph about the duplicitous clitoris. I can scarcely even believe a man wrote it.

Ah, I see. This part. ‘Because if I do, I’ll crash, I’ll want to stop talking to you this way, and I like talking to you this way.’

He reads on. She listens. Perhaps she is – ….

Somebody who read this said:

I was just about to write a review of Vox, and then I read yours, thus making anything I could write about the book utterly superfluous. Your commentary is hand and glove with the spirit of the book. I think you should send it to Nicholson Baker. Perhaps you could get him to write a sequel suitable for the cyber-sex era.

I wonder about Baker. I’m not very good at writing those sorts of ‘homages’ (as I gather they are known), but I’ve read two of his now and he certainly makes it easy. Somehow that makes him suspect, I have it at the back of my mind. I also don’t understand those who think this needs to be modernised. Why? It’s a perfect little thing as it is.

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