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Struggling Poet Works in “The Anthologist”

October 18, 2009

the anthologistMeet Paul Chowder.  He needs to write an introduction to a poetry anthology, his girlfriend has left him and he’s having a series of minor accidents.  In short, he’s a mess.  But it makes a great story!

I love the way Nicholson Baker wrote this novel – most sentences are fairly short and direct and they almost mimic a poem.  The work is light, without being fluffy, a quick read, without being cheesy.

The novel revolves around Paul procrastinating writing his introduction and justifying his frequent attempts to reach out to his ex-girlfriend.  Paul is a funny, sad, lovable and annoying character who wins you over immediately.

Baker weaves in a ton of details on poetry, poets and writing, which really connects Paul-the-poet with Paul-the-sad-dumped-guy and creates a well-rounded character with whom we can truly relate.  Even if you don’t particularly like poetry, The Anthologist is a great read.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2009 9:16 pm

    I just finished this one and thought it was terrific and balanced much like you describe. I wish more people had read it, though: it would convince a lot of readers that poetry is more approachable and universal than they nowadays assume.

    What did you think of Paul’s opinions (e.g. yay, rhyme; boo, Modernists)?

  2. February 6, 2010 4:59 pm

    I read this book and loved all the poetry bits. It didn’t have the feel of a novel for me though. It seemed like more of a rant to me, a very informative rant, but not an entirely enjoyable one. I’m glad I read it though, it certainly is original.

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