House of Holes: A Book of Raunch

Nicholson Baker

House of Holes: A Book of Raunch by Nicholson Baker is crude, rude, erotic, and utterly hilarious!

In this joyful and irreverent novel, Baker offers a pleasure resort where guests can experience every manner of sexual titillation and fulfillment, including many that they (and we) never could have imagined.

Entry is by gazing into some hole – it might be looking through a straw, a dryer door, or a male urethra. If you’re lucky, you’re sucked through to the House of Holes, where any orifice or penetrator that you could desire is awaiting your delight.

If you’ve got a fantasy, describe it and it’s yours. If you don’t, or you stammer trying to communicate it, the House of Holes opens up to show you sex acts, partners (including a tree and a lake), and an overflow of erotic possibilities.

It’s not free! Guests pay dearly, and sometimes sacrifice limbs and clitorises in the pursuit of pleasure. But everything gets reattached in the end.

The plot is outrageous, and almost every page leads to an orgasm or more for someone or many. The characters and plot twists had me laughing out loud. Dave lets HoH detach his arm for a week in return for a bigger penis, and that arm – which fortunately has a working hand and fingers – provides many orgasms to the woman who adopts it.

I loved this book, especially Baker’s inventive language. How many ways can he say penis, vulva, testicles, or clitoris, or describe a sex act? Try these:

  • “Chuck’s thundertube of dickmeat started sliding in. It pushed her frilly doilies of labia flesh aside….”
  • “Do you want this ham steak of a Dr. Dick that’s so stuffed with spunk that I’m ready to blow this swollen sackload all over you?”
  • “Cold drops [from a Magic Kentucky Lime] fell on Marcele’s little thumper bean.”
  • [Man describing his enjoyment of his “proud, nasty cock”:] “Hard as a ship’s biscuit, but fresher.”

Baker is brilliant writer and a master of invention. Sometimes his novel becomes a parody of itself. I can sense the wink-wink when he seems to deliberately insert a phrase that is so god-awful that I’m convinced he wants it entered in the Worst Sex Writing of the Year contest. For example:

  • “She threw her legs open and he slowly socketed himself deep in her famished slutslot.”
  • “I wish I was a man who had a store where he made custom sequin pasties for exotic dancers and you were an exotic dancer and came into the store and ordered a set of spiral pasties and so I had to measure your aureoles for fit.”
  • “She held his head and moved her cuntal hand in slow connoisseurial ovals, and then, making her fingers rigid, she DJ’d herself, as if her clit was a scratch record.”
  • “I want your bosoms naked as jaybirds. Big, honking jaybirds.”
  • “Betsy, no, I can’t come on your coffee table! Those are your husband’s hiking magazines.”

Can you tell this book is fabulous fun? Amid the frivolity, Baker drives home some light-hearted commentary about sex, relationships, and porn. (Oh, and crocheting.) For example:

  • The House of Holes sends out “pornsucker ships”: “It’s an airplane that flies around sucking up bad porn from cities… because bad porn is depressing and drowns out good porn.” 
  • We learn that when a woman wears a dress at a coffee shop on Saturday afternoon, it means she wants to meet somebody. 
  • Pubic hairlessness “is a way of hiding… Hair is your true nakedness.” 
  •  In the Hall of Penises, “toadlike things hanging out from holes in the wall” respond sexually to visitors, but “those penises had no clue what Polly, Donna, and Saucie were all about as women – what they believed in, what their plans were.” 
  • “It was, in fact, quite a nice-looking penis. Not intelligent looking – few penises were – but the testicles did somehow have the air of being attached to a man of substance.”
  • “A soul mate is when you really think someone is great. You really like her a lot. You like when she explains things to you. You love her. That’s a soul mate.”

Although Baker is 54, only one of his characters – Lila, the director of House of Holes, “large and pretty in bifocals” – is over 50. When I asked Baker in an email about why he only had one older character, given his own age, and whether there’s a place for senior erotica, he replied,

The characters just popped out of my head–I made Lila, the director, middle aged because I’m middle aged, and aside from that I probably didn’t give it nearly as much thought as I should have. Yes of course there’s a place for senior erotica–heck, maybe I’ll give it a go in time.  I hope you write some. 

In fact, I am planning an anthology of senior sex erotica by writers over 50 and featuring characters who are sexy seniors and elders.If you’re a writer who’d like to contribute (and I hope Nicholson Baker will!), or a reader who wants to be notified when this book happens, please email me.

I’m often asked how to spice up a long-term relationship where the sex has become ho-hum. Here’s an idea: Read excerpts from House of Holes to each other!

I can’t wait to read more of Nicholson Baker’s books, especially Vox and The Fermata, his other erotic novels! Thank you, Mr. Baker, for such fine fun. And do consider writing senior erotica!


  1. Catherine on August 24, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    The reason I adore British television is that the actors look like people you'd meet in everyday life. Sexuality is shown between people of all ages.

    This is the 2nd review I've read abut this book. Now I am going to have to add it to my wish list.


  2. Nicholson Baker on August 21, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Joan, what a delightfully friendly review–I'm so pleased that you got a kick out of the book. I like your Youtube video! -Nick

  3. oatmeal girl on August 21, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Thanks so much for this review! I read the NY Times review while I was away and was quite intrigued. I love the quotes you chose. "Thundertube of dickmeat", indeed. Not to mention the bit about her husband' hiking club magazines.

    That's a good point, Joan, about about erotica specifically featuring older people. Thinking about it, I realize that my stories and vignettes don't specify. But you make me realize that sometimes it IS important to specify, to help change the automatic images in our minds.

    Thanks for the writing challenge!


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