The Anthologist, a Plummy Read

I can’t remember the last time I wrote about a novel, but then again I can’t remember that last time I picked up such a good novel. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker is a simple story told in a great voice that is incredibly appealing.

Told from the point of view of Paul Chowder, a sometime poet writing an introduction to an anthology of rhyming poetry, the story unfolds into one of intimate, blind self-destruction. Paul narrates his lawnmowing, his girlfriend leaving him, cleaning up the office, and about the difficulty of writing the introduction. He is overwhelmed by the task and can’t write the introduction. Even when his girlfriend leaves him because of it, he can’t write the introduction. Yet in the process the reader hears him narrate about English poetry: about rhyme schemes and past poets and why it all matters. This becomes maddening because it’s the very stuff of an introduction.

It’s both about the history of poetry and the creative process; It has a great narrative voice; Of course I loved it in the first five pages. I love poetry, and this might be as close as fiction as meta-poetry comes. The author (lucky me!) has a backlist, so I think I know what I’ll be reading after Lolita. Next time you’re searching about for a good read, check it out.

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