by Nicholson Baker
I’ve discovered over my years of reading that voice is incredibly important to me – whether the story is told in the voice of an omniscient narrator or in the first person, I simply need to be captivated by the way the story is told in order to get into it and keep reading. For that reason, among several others, Nicholson Baker’s new novel, The Anthologist (Simon & Schuster, 2009), was a delight to read. It’s the story of Paul Chowder, published (but not to such great acclaim) poet, hired to compile an anthology called Only Rhyme and write the introduction, justifying his belief that rhyme used to hold a primary place in poetry but is now sadly lacking in the work of most modern poets. The trouble is that he is totally blocked on writing the introduction. The collateral damage of being unable to write is that his girlfriend, Roz, has left him. What I loved about Paul is that he loves the poets I do, poets you hardly hear about anymore: Sara Teasdale and Howard Moss, to name two. And it was just fascinating to read about poetry, about meter and scansion, and the role of rhyme. My Facebook friend Harvey Freedenberg did a splendid job reviewing the novel for Shelf Awareness – you can read it here: http://news.shelf-awareness.com/ar/theshelf/2009-08-24/book_review_i_the_anthologist_i.html
But don’t stop with the review. Any poetry lover – whether writer or not – should pick up Baker’s book.