Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Anthologist

Earlier in the week I finished reading Nicholson Baker’s novel The Anthologist. To be honest, it struck me as an intriguing and always fascinating essay on poetry, rather pointlessly dressed up as a novel.

In brief, the anthologist of the title is Paul Chowder, a middle-aged US poet who is supposed to be writing an introduction to the anthology he has put together. He’s not getting far, though, as he keeps putting off actually starting to write it, and to make matters worse his girlfriend has left him.

And there, I suppose, was my problem. The story and characters just weren’t involving enough to make me really care – I found myself plodding grimly through those parts and waiting for the bits where he digresses into his own theories of poetry.

That part of the book is excellent. Even when I didn’t agree with him, Baker made a great case for his ideas, but some of his theories, especially on rhythm, seemed to make perfect sense.

Which is all a long way of saying that any poet will probably find something to enjoy in this book, but they might also find themselves wondering why Baker chose to frame his ideas in quite this way.

No comments: