Nicholson Baker's new novel, The Anthologist, is narrated by Paul Chowder, a poet of some little reknown who is sitting in his barn most of the time trying to write the introduction to a new anthology of poetry called Only Rhyme. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is falling apart, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, ...
Nicholson Baker's new novel, The Anthologist, is narrated by Paul Chowder, a poet of some little reknown who is sitting in his barn most of the time trying to write the introduction to a new anthology of poetry called Only Rhyme. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is falling apart, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, and he is thinking about the poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and actually deserve to feel sorry for themselves. He has also promised his readers that he will reveal many wonderful secrets and tips and tricks about poetry, and it looks like the introduction will be a little longer than he'd thought. What unfolds is a wholly entertaining and beguiling love story about poetry, among other things; Paul tells us about all of the great poets, from Tennyson, Swinburne, and Yeats to the moderns (Roethke, Bogan, Merwin) to the contemporary scene as well as the editorial staff of The New Yorker's editorial department. And what he reveals about the rhythm and music of poetry itself is astonishing and makes you realize how incredibly important poetry is to our lives. At the same time, Paul manages just barely to realize all of this himself and what results is a tender, wonderfully romantic, often hilarious, and inspired novel. The Anthologist bears all the beloved hallmarks of Baker's novels: it is witty, erudite, breathtakingly articulate and stylish, and full of the whimsical, compulsive elements that have made its author a worldwide success.
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This is a cerebral novel for lovers of poetry -- filled with fascinating insights into how a fallible man, whose sensibility is schooled by poetry, manages to struggle through a rough patch in his life, thinking and asking great questions all the way.
The poems mentioned in the book would make a fine anthology.
Not a thriller -- but superbly written and often very funny.
Publishers Weekly, 2009-05-25 In Baker's lovely 10th novel, readers are introduced to Paul Chowder, a "study in failure," at a very dark time in his life. He has lost the two things that he values most: his girlfriend, Roz, and his ability to write. The looming introduction to an anthology of poems he owes a friend, credit card debt and frequent finger injuries aren't helping either. Chowder narrates in a professorial and often very funny stream of consciousness as he relates his woes and shares his knowledge of poetry, and though a desire to learn about verse will certainly make the novel more accessible and interesting, it isn't a prerequisite to enjoying it. Chowder's interest in poetry extends beyond meter and enjambment; alongside discussions of craft, he explores the often sordid lives of poets (Poe, Tennyson and Rothke are just some of the poets who figuratively and literally haunt Chowder). And when he isn't missing Roz or waxing on poetics, he busies himself with a slow and strangely compelling attempt at cleaning up his office. Baker pulls off an original and touching story, demonstrating his remarkable writing ability while putting it under a microscope. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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