The worldwide phenomenon continues as Eva and Gideon face the demons of their pasts, and accept the consequences of their obsessive desires…
In the traditional folktale of “Sleeping Beauty,” the spell cast upon the lovely young princess and everyone in her castle can only be broken by the kiss of a Prince.
Vox is the story of two voices, his and hers: two strangers who, having met on a telephone chat-line, switch to a private, one-on-one connection – and find it impossible to hang up. Literate, humorous, erotic, Vox is a classic of bedtime reading.
There are many things – many intimate things – to talk about. Not jobs or old lovers or favourite films (nothing that could be described as the normal stuff of a normal conversation) but only, exclusively, the stuff that a normal conversation never allows.
What people think about when they are alone in the dark confines of their bed (or, for that matter, in the brightly lit photocopy room of a deserted office). Or the moments – reading a book, watching a video, taking a shower – when the mind wanders and cannot be stopped…
These voices – his and hers, these strangers brought together by the anonymous workings of a transcontinental communications technology – are young and self-aware and relentless in their determination to discuss everything. And I mean everything.
There is this segment at the start of the book where he is talking about Tinker Bell (Disney’s Peter Pan). See excerpt below:
“And she’s tiny, she’s a tiny suburbanite, she’s about five inches tall.
This insubstantial, magical, cutely Walt Disneyish woman. But then this thing happens. She pauses in mid-air and she looks down at herself, and she’s got quite small breasts – ”
“I thought you didn’t like that word.”
“You’re right, but sometimes it seems right. Actually, most of the time it’s the right word. Anyway, she’s got quite small breasts but quite large little hips and large little thighs, ans she’s wearing this tiny little outfit that’s torn or jaggedly cut and barely covers her, and she looks down at herself, a lovely little pouty face, and she puts her hands on her hips as if to measure them, and she shakes her head sadly – too wide, too wide, Oh, that got me hot. This tiny sprite with big hips. And then a second later she gets caught in a dresser drawer among a lot of sewing things and she tries to fly out the keyhole but – nope, her hips are too wide, she gets stuck!”
“Sounds sizzling hot.”
This back-and-forward continues in a delightful crescendo and all I wish, as a reader, is for them to meet. They click so well, even if their only discussion matter is the physical and the erotic, fantasies of the most private kind.
But what are their fantasies really all that fantastic?
What kind of novel is Vox? Literate and contemporary and intensely erotic. It is the most dangerous book about safe sex you’ll find. And I must say, it outranked 50 Shades of Gray in my books for tantalizing scenes.
Nicholson Baker writes with the heart. I’ve had conversations like this. You’ve had conversations like this. Whether or not they tended to the erotic doesn’t matter, the point is: we’ve all spoken to another person that we’ve been interested in, and they’ve returned the interest, and we know the way we talk and what we talk about.
This novel perfectly captures this, and by the end of it, I felt utterly sad that these two, imperfect, beautiful, interesting and sexual characters were just that…characters. Never have I felt so cheated before, or so thankful that I had been, if only for a moment, able to glimpse into the minds of these two extraordinarily ordinary people, through one simple phone conversation.
About the author
Nicholson Baker was born in New York in 1957. He is the author of eight novels, including The Mezzanine, Vox and Room Temperature, all published by Granta Books, and five non-fiction works, including a book about John Updike, U & I, and Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, for which he won the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award.
I promised myself I would not read these books when they came out. They sparked a lot of media attention and with the exception of Johanna and a few Sydney Sheldon books, I have had no experience with written porn. (As I assumed they would be).
The characters are likable and easily identifiable with – a shy and mousy literature student and a rich and narcissistic billionaire. I’m kidding – just the student is likable. Anastasia Steele. Even from the name I keep thinking “porn”!
The surprise came when the book turned out to be more of a romance story with an overjealous kinky boyfriend than a BDSM book as it was advertised.
The romance between Anastasia and Christian Grey is sweet, dazzling by her innocence and incandescent with desire / need.
She falls in love with him and he falls in lust with her. He needs to dominate her (as he puts it) but all I could see was just a guy showering his girlfriend with gifts while showing her how to please and be pleased in the bedroom. I would say that without the aspect of love from his side, this relationship was more of a luxury escort seeing her rich client.
Why? She did accept a car as a gift from him and even she knows that these gifts come with strings attached to them.
I stopped reading mid-way through and I was startled to discover I knew why the fuss was all about. It’s about meeting expectations of the reader. And E.L. James knew exactly what the target audience was: bored wives, women over 40, housewives with plenty of time on their hands and a tired husband who does not pay attention to them as they needed him to.
50 Shades of Gray offers a great escape from the mundane life (much as any good book would do) while presenting the avid reader with:
- a handsome (super sexy) millionaire
- a horny boyfriend that never seems to get enough
- a lip-biting innocent girlfriend ready to be ravaged by the big bad wolf
- the girlfriend’s origins must be common (see Bella in Twilight)
- the girlfriend must be smart – no-one likes a blonde bimbo as the main character
- the girlfriend’s thoughts must be visible throughout the book (so that the reader can assume them to be their own and let them be pulled in)
- a weak love triangle (Jose, her friend – poses temporarily a threat to the possible relationship between Anastasia and Christian)
- an unforgettable ex (Mrs. Robinson for Christian) that would make the main heroine jealous over an invisible person she cannot fight (see Rebecca)
- a jealous and possessive boyfriend that keeps a woman’s heart fluttering.
- the boyfriend must be classy – with a knowledge of wines, foods, cars and helicopters. He must be well traveled and bedazzle the young maiden with his experience / wealth.
- the boyfriend must have a dark secret that the girlfriend will try to fix (as it is in all human nature) and then she will fail miserably as some people cannot be changed.
- the breakup
As you see, this recipe for romance has been used in many books so far and the only difference between 50 shades and the rest is the descriptive sex scenes. Very descriptive. I would rate them a 10/10 but not being an erotica reader, my vote might be changed in the future when something better comes along.
“Turning to face him, I’m shocked to find he has his erection firmly in his grasp. My mouth drops open. ‘I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body.'”
Overall Rating: 4/5
Favorite parts: The seduction, the cat and mouse game, the hot sex scenes
Least favorite parts: Christian Gray is too much of a deranged psycho for my liking. Any decent girl would have had a million red alarm signs go out in their minds at the mention of a non-disclosure agreement and signing a contract for sex.