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Reviews for The Anthologist

by Nicholson Baker

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Baker, an inventive and purposefully mischievous writer, knows well the ups and downs of quixotic bookish endeavors. In this marvelously droll tale, Paul Chowder, a poet and former academic, has created an anthology of rhyming poetry. All he has to do now is write the introduction, which is exactly what he cannot accomplish to save his life. His editor is freaking out, and his lover, Roz, has given up on him in disgust and moved out. Stymied by writer's block and self-loathing, Paul fritters away his days, and repeatedly injures himself. He sits and stares, walks his dog, ruminates on his previous failures, and schemes to win back Roz's heart, all the while musing over the significance of rhyme, postulating theories about rhyme's fall from grace among the literati, and weighing the possibility that TV sitcoms will be remembered as our era's greatest art form. As his charmingly befuddled hero meanders from the trivial to the exalted, Baker advocates ardently for poetry and reading in this archly funny, covertly illuminating tale of obsession and inertia, despair and triumph.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2009 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Baker has a gift for writing novels about the unlikeliest of subjects. In his first novel, The Mezzanine, he wrote about buying new shoelaces, while Vox concerned an intimate phone conversation. His newest work of fiction is about poetry. The narrator, Paul Chowder, is a poet who is struggling to write the introduction to an anthology of rhyming poems he's collected. He's also trying to win back Roz, the woman who has just left him. These dilemmas make for some enlightening, absorbing reflections on poetry, the creative process, and life itself. While Chowder admits that he despises teaching, the narrative offers a wonderful explanation of what poetry is and the relationship between form and meaning. In the process, Chowder comes to understand himself better and pulls out of a slump. The novel's subtle sense of humor comes through as Chowder deals with injured fingers, a misbehaving dog, and the perils of reading his poetry in public. Verdict Recommended especially for readers who appreciate-or would like better to appreciate-poetry.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.