Nicholson Baker, author of The House of Holes, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |August 17, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nicholson Baker

author of The House of Holes, The Anthologist, Vox and more

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in New York City and I grew up in Rochester, a medium-sized city with long winters. I was a weedy kid with long hair and black-rimmed glasses. I liked speed skating, bicycling, and stories about rocket ships. In high school–an experimental public high school with very few requirements–I practiced the bassoon, wandered around the downtown, and watched afternoon TV.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve I hoped to be a scientist who studied “bionics,” the science of how dolphins are able to swim so fast and other prodigies. At eighteen I wanted to be a composer like Bartok or Stravinsky. At thirty I wanted to write down shiny truths.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At eighteen I didn’t like black and white movies–now I do.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Stravsinky’s Firebird, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Stanley Kunitz‘s poem “End of Summer.”

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Novels are big ripe mashups of life baked into banana bread. They can take sharp turns and skip past boring patches.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s about an expensive resort called the House of Holes where there’s lots of nudity and surreal goings-on.

(BBGuru: The Publisher’s synopsis –

Visit the House of Holes, where the motto is PLEASURE FIRST, and discover a solution to every sexual problem, insight into every sexual intrigue, or play out your greatest sexual fantasy. Men can begin with a ‘good, friendly penis scrub’, take the magic sperm sniff test, or visit the Porndecahedron.

Greedy women can visit the Hall of the Penises, shy women can order a partner with a ‘voluntary head detachment’, curious couples can investigate each other further with a ‘cross crotchal interplasmic transfer’. But ladies, watch out for the Pearloiner, who might just steal from you what you cherish most … )

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

That reading a weirdly dirty book is a nice way to pass the time.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

It changes all the time. I often go back to reading George Saintsbury, a fluent 19th century literary historian.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’d like to write a love story.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Picasso was wrong–theft is not the way to go. Look into thy heart, as Sir Philip Sidney said, and write.

Nicholson, thank you for playing.

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About the Contributor

John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at

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