Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vox by Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker has a reputation for peculiar novels. The Mezzanine, for example, chronicles a single ride on an escalator between an office and the lobby of an office building. The narrator muses on life, lunch, and the shoe laces he intends to buy on his lunch hour. Room Temperature, chronicles the musings of a new father as he rocks the baby one afternoon. Box of Matches relates thirty days in the life of a text book editor who wakes early every morning, makes a cup of coffee, and lights a fire with a single match. He then reflects on his life. All these slim novels grab hold of the reader. I found it difficult to put any of them down – even for a minute. Fortunately, all are 200 pages or less. Vox, the record of a single phone call between a man in California and a woman in Massachusetts, does not deviate from the rest of Baker’s work.

Sometimes chatty, sometimes serious, and occasionally erotic, the conversation ranges over the lives of two strangers brought together by an ad in a personals column. They share tidbits of their lives then the other will riff on the facts into a fantasy world.

Quoting any of the novel will give some elements away, so I won’t do that. Baker cannot be reproduced; he must be experienced right off the page. Some parts of the conversation are decidedly NC-17, but not too many. Those passages are easy to spot and avoid. For an interesting and quirky detour into the minds of two strangers, Vox fills the bill. (5 stars).

--Chiron, 9/20/11

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