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Nicholson Baker: Vox

Baker moves on in this novel into phone sex territory. Indeed, it is so dirty that it has been rumoured that Monica Lewinsky bought a copy for Bill Clinton. Of course, it isn’t dirty at all. Two people, strangers to one another, have both called a sex chat line and have somehow landed talking to one another, because of a computer problem. He saw the ad in a magazine called Juggs and she saw it in Forum. He is Jim and she is Abby. Apart from that we learn little about them (age, appearance, etc.) though, of course, we learn about their masturbatory fantasies. Abby has fantasies about having sex with three men painting her house. Jim and a woman colleague once masturbated separately while watching an Italian porn film. But, ultimately, they are just a man and a woman chatting – at premium rates – about this and that, though most of this and that is what turns them on sexually. It is all done in a very matter-of-fact style – they could just as easily be talking about plumbing or an ordinary day at work but they are actually asking one another to masturbate and then describe it or talking in some detail about their fantasies. Of course, as Baker is such a skilful writer it is often funny and done very well but I doubt very much whether Bill Clinton got too excited over it.

Publishing history

First published 1992 by Random House