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Nicholson Baker: An Author With A Dirty Mind16:00
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Nicholson Baker reads from one of his books at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. (Hendrik Speck/Flickr)
Nicholson Baker reads from one of his books at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. (Hendrik Speck/Flickr)

This segment contains material of an adult nature, and may not be appropriate for all listeners.

Nicholson Baker has written about many things. John Updike, for one, but the list is long: Shoelaces. Escalators. Newspapers. Libraries. Poetry. Hand dryers. World War II.

Also: Sex. A lot. And never more so then in his latest book "A House of Holes."

"I wanted this book to be overflowing with sex," Nicholson Baker told Radio Boston's Meghna Chakrabarti.

“Shouldn’t a book, when you read it, give you a few reasons for why life is worth living?”

Nicholson Baker, author, 'House of Holes'

That it is. But it's also overflowing with a joy, exuberance, and humor that is unusual for a book preoccupied with the realm of the flesh.

"So much of stuff that's thought of as path-breakingly erotic, is actually disturbing," Nicholson said.
"It's anti-sexual. It's 'it must-be-art-because-it-is-unerotic.' And I thought that that was not true of life — that, actually, sex is a good thing."

The characters in the House of Holes are introduced to us in a familiar world. But then they are transported through portals — a drinking straw, a laundromat dryer, a purse — to a very, very different place.

"Somehow or other they are whooshed into this alternative reality — a place in our collective imaginations — where we go when we're aroused," Baker said. "It's just as if life has a different set of gravitational fields and physical forces when you're in a sexy mood. So the House of Holes is a sort of theme park... it's a fun house, I guess you could say."

Believe it or not, sex is not Baker's primary muse. For instance, his first book, "The Mezzanine", was filled with the labyrinthine, discursive thoughts of an office worker, told entirely over the course of a lunch break.

But Baker acknowledged his first work is not dissimilar from his latest in their exultation of spirit and relish for discovery.

"In general, my motive is to celebrate, and to sing to the unsung. Or sing the stuff that's so sung that we actually think it can't ever be sung again — try to make positive sense of the things around us," Baker said.

After all, time is precious and books are long.

Baker asked, "shouldn't a book, when you read it, give you a few reasons for why life is worth living?"

Guest:

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This segment aired on September 26, 2011.

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