Vox is a highly entertaining novel from the highly observant author Nicholson Baker. If you’re familiar on how his first novel The Mezzanine was just about an office employer’s lunch expedition to buy new shoe laces, you’ll have an idea how this brilliant author makes a premise that sounds a bit thin and boring and makes it highly entertaining and informative.
Vox is about a 165-page length conversation about Jim and Abby, who meets over the phone when they both dial one of those enticing advertisements in an adult magazine. Two lonely people late one night inspired to call for a sex phone line and hoping to find connection with someone. Of course they start to interest each other and starts to share erotic stories (some are fictional, some experienced) and after a time -although all of this happens in just a span of a night- begins to develop a sort of friendship.
Asking questions and marveling at what each other’s surroundings and clothing like “What hand are you holding the phone with?” “What are you doing with your right hand?” and the realization on the strangeness and wonders of technology, the telephone in particular and how it could bring two people together without seeing each other and possibly never going to meet in their lifetime. Of course it could be dated for we now have the internet, but that realization over the telephone I could consider as magical.
The whole story is entirely written in dialogues and has a few ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ to orient us on who the speaker is. As I read, I’ve come to ask on how these two individuals keep on talking without being tired and how are they much able to talk for hours since I am sure conversations like these has its higher rates compared to the much plain calls, but all of my questions are answered after a time it pops-up in my head. And the author’s observation about the things we usually don’t bother to observe are really clever. I can say that a dark room but those little stereo lights on stereo sets are pretty nostalgic.
And if the following questions I’m going to ask rings a bell, it is enough for me to convince you to read this particular title.
Have you ever imagine while talking to someone, wanted to travel through the phone to the place on other line? Yes?
Asking or asked to describe the picture on your window? Hmm?
What time it is there? The weather?
Although the first part of their conversation talks of nothing but erotic stories that has a tendency to tire some readers for the two to get into it, Baker writes form the heart. For as we near the climax of the novel –climax too for the characters- I felt somewhat sad because things like a long conversation have to end and the exchanging of their numbers makes it bearable and thus serves as a possibility for them to converse again.
Vox is a funny and highly entertaining novel that needs to be read in one sitting from one of the cleverest and observant writers I’m glad to come to.
Opening Sentence: “What are you wearing?” he asked.
Ending Sentence: They hang up.