The Anthologist

I need to listen to Alice more often. She is very good at recommending books to people, which is one of the reasons she is so invaluable to Blue Willow. We are probably  in agreement about books roughly 85% of the time, which I think is a very high percentage, and she definitely knows and understands my reading tastes. Like I said, I just need to listen to her more often. A few weeks ago she handed me The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker and practically commanded me to read it. And, as usual, she was right on. I loved it.

Baker writes very comfortably in the first person, with the narrator speaking directly to the reader. The anthologist is Paul Chowder, a  poet who has hit a bit of a snag in his career and his life. He has put together an anthology of poetry that is ready for publication except for the introduction that he does not seem able to write. While explaining to us how he can’t write this introduction and how his life is falling apart, Chowder proceeds to deliver a crash course on poetry, especially the history and use of rhyme and meter. It’s really all very well done.

Chowder, er..Baker, writes concisely and precisely. The book is by turns educational, witty, and thought provoking. The book is coming out this week in paperback and I think it would make an excellent book club pick, maybe even pairing it with a book of poetry.

Two favorite lines:

But spending your life concentrating on death is like watching a whole movie and thinking only about the credits that are going to roll at the end. It’s a mistake of empahsis.


The interesting thing is that you can start mowing anywhere, the lawn will get done no matter where you start mowing. And that seemed like an important discovery.

Not a lot of plot for you action-aholics, but I highly recommend it.

Just an aside, have a mentioned how much I love page points, or book nibs, or whatever you want to call them? The are very thin metal pointers that slip easily over a single page in a book and can mark your exact place, or some exact line that you might want to refer back to. I’ve never been a fan of highlighting of making notes in books. Not only might it impact another reader’s enjoyment of the book, but I find it distracting to stop long enough to mark (and decide exactly how much to highlight) and/or write the comments. With the page points, you just grab one, slide it on, and keep going. I even find it pleasing to take them out when I’m done because I am then revisiting my favorite parts. Ahh, my new reading companions.

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