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The Anthologist Paperback – 5 Aug 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847397824
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847397829
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

`As insightful a work of criticism as you could wish to read . . . brilliant flashes of perception' --Guardian

`The Anthologist is a perfect match of style, character and subject matter'
--The Herald

'Easygoing and effortlessly comic prose . . . the affable charm of Baker's narrator emanates from the very first line . . .wonderful' --Observer, Paperback of the week

`A beguiling love story about the mysteries of rhyme' --Daily Telegraph

'You will adore this wry, clever novel by the ever-ingenious Nicholson Baker' --Sunday Telegraph

`Excellent . . . surely the best novel about poetry ever written' --Metro

`Baker's gentle novel is well written, with much to admire'
--Financial Times

`Fluent & funny' --Nick Laird, Books of the Year, Telegraph

About the Author

Nicholson Baker was born in 1957 and attended the Eastman School of Music and Haverford College. He is the author of several novels, including The Mezzanine, Vox and The Fermata, and four works of non fiction, U and I, The Size of Thoughts, Double Fold (winner of the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award), and Human Smoke. He lives in Maine.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Paul Chowder is a published poet but not famous. He's putting together an anthology of poetry that rhymes - "Only Rhymes" - and he's having trouble writing the 40 page introduction. He's also coming to terms with the fact that he will be known as an anthologist rather than a poet, and his relationship with his girlfriend is breaking down. He might also be having a breakdown. But he's going to let us readers into his world of poetry where he will tell us about poetry and the lives of the poets while he tries to reach his goals.

This is not a dramatic book. It doesn't have a plot or strong characters, and nothing much really happens. It sounds academic and in a way it is - you will learn things about poetry as you read - but it's written in a very chatty way so it's easy to read. That said, the only thing the book really hooked me on was the way the narrator spoke about the famous poets. We get insights into the lives of Poe, Longfellow, and a whole host of poets, as the well-read Chowder pontificates on their lives and work.

What's not so great to read is everything else. Chowder's home life is very ordinary and his "crisis" with his relationship is very ordinary - she's asking for a break, some time away, but in the end they get back together. His "crisis" over the poetry introduction is ongoing until the end when he writes it. So in effect, there are a lot of mountainous molehills that make up the bulk of the book.

I like Nicholson Baker's attempts at poetry - "Today the clouds have been sprayed on the sky with a number 63 narrow-gauge titanium sprayer tip" (p.138) - and overall Chowder is a genial, amiable narrator whom you want to succeed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Shamma on 21 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
Before I begin reviewing this book I will say this, there is no doubt about it, Nicholson Baker is a brilliant writer.

The book pulled me in from the very first line, I was hooked. I even got my pencil out and started underlining parts that I enjoyed reading or lines that I found memorable. I am not usually a huge fan of poetry, and to be completely honest, the last time I engaged myself this deeply in the study of poetry was back when I was doing my IGCSE's.

As far as the plot and story goes, it's quite ordinary. Paul Chowder is a published poet, but he is not famous. He has been asked to compile an anthology of poetry that rhymes, and to write a 40 page introduction. But Paul has a problem, he can't seem to write this introduction. Paul has writer's block. Scratch that, Paul has two problems. Paul's girlfriend Roz left him, mainly due to his inadequacy in writing this introduction.

So we spend this time intimately getting to know Paul and his many eccentricities, while he educates us on poets and the art of poetry.

There is absolutely nothing exciting happening, in fact, it comes off as very academic but written in a very personable way. I enjoyed reading this book until about three-quarters of the way through, where I felt it began to drag. My favourite parts however were when he would go on about a certain poet, and when he would create scenarios that involved him and several dead poets - such as Poe.

Overall, what this book is, is a really good, well-written study in poetry.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Paul Grainger on 18 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a mischievous piece of work: a non-fictional discourse that is posing as a novel. To have it described as such would perhaps please its author, because Nicholson Baker is known to be a whimsical, self-indulgent person. The Anthologist has a story line, of sorts. It is about Paul Chowder, a minor American poet, who has been contracted by a publisher to compile an anthology of rhymed verse. But Paul has a couple of problems: One, he is also required to write an introduction of some forty pages and finds he has writer's block; two, his long term girl friend Roz, frustrated with his lack of progress with the assignment, decides to leave him. He believes that only when he completes the job will she return to him. What follows is a poetry workshop in fictional form, in which Baker ruminates on what makes a poem, and a narrative comprised of vignettes of characters around him. These include his editor, a couple of fellow-writers (who may be merely a figment of his imagination) and a neighbour for whom he does odd jobs. The combination of these aspects makes for a fascinating read. Baker's views on the English Romantics and American modernist poets are both informative and entertaining. As the novel draws to its end the reader will realise that Paul Chowder has delivered his introduction, though rather being the intended forty pages it is virtually the length of the novel being read.
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Format: Hardcover
"I was good at what I did. And what I did was drive to poetry readings." Can you beat that for the ironic curve of a voice, flat-out convincing, accurate and yet a ringing subversion of one sentence by the following sentence. The narrator, Mr Chowder, has a fear of teaching similar to Elizabeth Bishop's: "No, no, no, no, no. I can't teach. It killeth me. Those nice kids stunned my brain. I'll never recover from that year... My own dear students were destroying 'I' for me."

And then, the taste, so many fine critiques, say, "Walt Whitman's preacherly ampersands.." or of Mark Strand, "exceedingly good-looking. A real Charlton Hestonian face, one of those hellishly handsome poets. James Merrill was another...J. Crew models before there were J. Crew models." Of Ashberry's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," award studded: "I'd tried to read it a few times and failed. It's arbitrary. It reads as if it's written by a cleverly programmed random-phrase generator." Or as Alan Powers puts it in his forthcoming "Parodies Lost,"

something jaunty, uncapitalized,
asyntactic at the least, the best.
For this, he knew just the voice, urbane
With insouciance, juicy and wasted,
not to be believed, a street-wise guy,
the Voice of the Village. He tried this,

“Had you noticed the primavera
as you came through the loggia? Go
back and look I say, seated. Many
have missed the cotillion. But I wish
them well from the alley or first floor.
It is never too late for the opera.
It is always too late for the Big Bang.”

His verse grew vast, urban, Ash-buried,
soot-footed, exhaustive and converted,
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