Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Anthologist | Nicholson Baker

Here's a book I wish I'd read when I was doing English at high school. Although it's a novel it is very much a book about poetry. Paul, the protagonist is putting together an anthology of rhyming poetry but is unable to write the preface for it and this fills his whole life with uncertainty. His partner leaves in frustration but Paul thinks she will be back so focuses a lot of his attention on how to lure her. Paul's life is stuck in between everything, his days static and full of poetry. He sees everything in the context of poems he's read. He is obsessive about it and talks to the reader about poetry and so it becomes quite a didactic novel.

In between the instruction we get the narrative of his days, a book reading he's dreading, a trip to Switzerland to a conference and the handyman work he does just to pay the bills. Also the mouse who visits him in his kitchen every night.

I'm a bit ambivalent about this novel. I liked learning about poetry but I found Paul a bit too obsessive and his passive attitude a bit tedious. It's worth reading quickly and maybe going on to read some of the poets he mentions.
The Anthologist
Buy at Fishpond.co.nz

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