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Traveling Sprinkler

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  580 ratings  ·  159 reviews
A new novel by bestselling author Nicholson Baker reintroduces feckless but hopeful hero Paul Chowder, whose struggle to get his life together is reflected in his steadfast desire to write a pop song, or a protest song, or both at once.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Blue Rider Press
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cross-posted at: http://themocentricuniverse.blogspot....

i adore nicholson baker's writing voice and i really feel i can give no higher compliment than this: quite often it is how a writer's voice resonates with me that makes or breaks a novel for me; no matter what craft it might otherwise hold. my first encounter with it came when i read the dry observations of the mezzanine and then later i was alarmed, allured and amused by two of his smuttier works, the fermata and house of holes, and was p
I love swimming with the mind of the narrator in this gentle story of a 55-year old bachelor, Paul Chowder, who shares his youthful approach to reshaping his life and regaining the love of his ex-girlfriend. He is a poet who is running out of juice and begins to forge himself as a musician. Not much a plot here, yet there is more of a trajectory in character development in this tale than in other books of his that I’ve enjoyed.

Death and war spark Chowder’s political consciousness. He respects hi
I've started calling Nicholson Baker the Seinfeld of contemporary literature, because what does he write about? Nothing. And everything. Via the routine happenings and daily detours of life (that should at best be mildly interesting) he somehow engages and endears. The main difference between Baker and Seinfeld being that Seinfeld is funnier and Baker's lead characters -- Paul Chowder, in this case -- are much more likeable, loveable even.

I admit yawning through the first chapter or so of this
Angela M
I liked Paul Chowder even more in this book than I did in The Anthologist. He's funny and quirky , sweet and smart. I just kept thinking that Roz his former live in girlfriend should give this guy another chance.

At 55 he's a published poet , going through a mid life crisis of sorts , albeit a little later in life than you would expect . He has decided that he doesn't want to write poetry any more. Maybe he'll write songs instead . After all he has a music background as he played the bassoon in
Ben Loory
I always love Nicholson Baker but this one is even better than usual-- not just funny and smart and always surprising, but heartbreakingly beautiful as well. It almost seems like he's morphing a little into Richard Brautigan as he goes. Sort of exactly what was missing, I think. In any case, I really loved this book.

Now I'm off to listen to Debussy and "Blackbird."

Thanks for the book, Mo!
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When I saw this available on NetGalley, I was surprised because I hadn't heard that Nicholson Baker had a new novel coming out. It took just a few pages before I realized what this is! A sequel to The Anthologist, a book I loved and got me into reading poetry again, with one of my favorite characters lately. I was happy to jump into his mind again.

This is Paul Chowder, sitting in a plastic chair. I want-I want-I want to tell you something new. I feel that I have a new thing.

Now I will put the
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. I had not heard about Nicholson Baker until now. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's not the story -- because there is essentially no story -- it's the voice and musings of the narrator that make this book. Having hit 55, the narrator regrets a lost girlfriend, and feels he's done his time as a poet. So he works on reconnecting with the lost girlfriend and teaches himself to play music so he can write songs instead of ...more
Jun 15, 2013 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Julie by: BEA
Poet Paul Chowder is in between--middle aged, living off a briskly selling poetry anthology, not working on a book, and pining a bit for his ex-girlfriend, Roz. Frankly, he just wants to write a good old-fashioned anti-drone strike protest song. He sits in his car and fiddles with lyrics. He attends an occasional Quaker meetings. He smokes cigars and waters his neighbor's tomatoes. His barn floor collapses, he fiddles with words some more. He muses about Debussy, Stravinsky, John Mayer and how m ...more
Rebecca H.
Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and Traveling Sprinkler is a sequel to one of my favorite Baker books, The Anthologist. It continues the story of his main character, Paul Chowder, a poet and, in the case of this novel, aspiring song-writer. The Anthologist was about Chowder’s attempts to write an introduction to his forthcoming poetry anthology, and in this new book, the anthology has come out, and Chowder is supposed to be writing new poetry. Instead, he spends his t ...more
This book is a whiny guy with no life who places his arbitrary thoughts about nothing in particular on paper. That's it. Nothing happens, nothings going on, he's just thinking to himself in writing. I made it about half way through and suffered through all of it.

Think back to the most boring small talk you've ever heard from the most uninteresting person you've ever met, then make him a stoner who's been burning brain cells daily for 30 years and give him a bassoon and listen to him discuss his
I don't like Nicholson Baker, I think, but after reading his books I always feel that I happen to love him, which is weird, because as far as I can tell from his author photo, he's a big hairy dude with a beard. I guess what I mean is he writes with compelling immediacy and intimacy. He's so situated in the mundane curiosities of driving around, going to the grocery store, taking a bath, calling his ex-girlfriend, and in the case of this book -- gossip about poets -- that reading him feels like ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Chowder-heads
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
Paul Chowder is back... the feckless (that word shows up a lot), rambling, self-obsessed poet-protagonist of Nicholson Baker's short work The Anthologist returns, in this longer and somehow even less-focused novel.

Traveling Sprinkler picks up pretty much where its predecessor left off. Paul's girlfriend Roz has left him to start a radio show that regularly debunks myths of the medical establishment—a distinctly valuable public service, in contrast to the more ambiguous benefits society may recei
Nicholson Baker is a new author for me. I really enjoyed this book. I loved his voice throughout, his storytelling ability and the way he created himself. Definitely finding another one of his books to start immediately. This is one of those books I am sorry I finished.
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
While I enjoyed this return of Paul Chowder from "The Anthologist", unlike many reviewers here, I think "The Anthologist" is a better book (5 stars from me). Maybe that's because I prefer Paul to be obsessed with writing poems rather than pop songs as he is in this book. I know about poets and poems, so I really enjoyed all the references and funny comments about them in "The Anthologist". My knowledge of recent pop songs and their writers is, ummm, rather lacking, and so many of the pop song re ...more
Chance Lee
Good goddamn. What a book. This book is intensely personal and surprisingly political, but not in the "I have an agenda" self-serving bullshit way of politics.

Most of my review would be redundant with my other reviews of Nicholson Baker's fiction. Brilliant. Genius. Blah blah blah. A few incomplete sentences I'm not sure if I've said, or if I have, not in these exact words: His subtle metaphors, so simple and so complex. The metaphor of the traveling sprinkler is genius, as well as Baker's refu
Kevin Lawrence
There are few writers that I read that I really wish I could develop a friendship with; Nicholson Baker is an exception. He is thoughtful, funny, and deeply compassionate; of course, all those things don't necessarily make for a good writer, but he is talented to boot. Or maybe it's just Paul Chowder that I like so much, who seems to have all these qualities I'm attributing to Baker but maybe is a little less talented. Anyway, I the mixture of poetry and music that buoys the storyline of Chowder ...more
Traveling Sprinkler ended up being surprisingly touching for me. At first, I felt like the main character/narrator, Paul Chowder, rambled too much and went into too much detail about musical theory. I soon became aware of what a mild mannered charm and boyishness Paul had, and I grew to appreciate his enthusiasm for the subjects he was passionate about.

Paul Chowder is a minor poet who is due to write a new book, but his heart just isn't in it anymore. Music is what captures his attention, and h
Although this felt like a quite light, slight, but very funny read, Nicholson Baker's voice (the same protagonist that I thoroughly enjoyed in The Anthologist) is wry, engaging, sort of endearing ... distinctive. If you like its mix of self-aware and self-deprecating, whiny apathy and earnestness, it's really an enjoyable (and funny!) read. The emphasis on music here brought Nick Hornby to mind, and music junkies will probably chuckle at Paul Chowder's obsessive music research, conducted while t ...more
This is the perfect 1 1/2 star. Parts of this introspective are informative and enriching. Especially when talking about musicians and their works. Other parts are extremely annoying and repeated ad nauseam with a blah end. 3 of 10 stars
Dana Clinton
The South Berwick Public Library chose Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker for this month's book discussion which happens next Wednesday night. I find upon finishing the book that I really liked it, even though there are many passages that were a bit hard for me to follow because I have little background in music... but I also recognizie that I learned a lot about things musical which I have always been curious about, so he has taught the teacher! It's a love story on many levels... between h ...more
Fun, fun, and lots of music and other references I'll follow up on.

4..fears that I'll cease to be before my pen has gleaned my teaming mind...Keats
10..How can i keep from singing? (song) silk gown...s fearing car car has ever been this good to me. I will be faithful to this car forever.'s just endless
42..glenn greenwald's blog
49..she was pretty, though. I waggled my Shropshire lad that night.
55..beth orton
59..quarters into jukebox of emptiness...(vacuum cleaner)
Sam Hunter
What turned me on to Nicholson Baker were a pair of essays—"How to Make Chocolate Sauce" and "Ice Storm." Both short but nicely crafted and funny.

I went looking online for the chocolate sauce essay and eventually found it, but not before coming across a dozen or more poorly-written responses.

Here's the original:
"Take one ingot of unsweetened chocolate, remove the paper, and drop it into a tiny saucepan settled over an adjustable heat source. Then unfold one end of a brand-new silver bar of unsal
Jacqueline Masumian
I was eager to read Traveling Sprinkler, because I had enjoyed Baker's A Box of Matches so much. I dove right in but then found myself getting bogged down by the protagonist's passiveness and unwillingness to get his life in order. Paul Chowder, a poet who has enjoyed publication, has broken up with his long-time girlfriend Roz. He finds himself in a mental haze, wandering with no direction, taking switchbacks in his narration, and going nowhere.

For me the book sags in the middle as Chowder beco
What a charmer! The narrator of Baker's The Anthologist, Paul Chowder, doesn’t want to be a poet anymore. He wants to write protest songs, or love songs, or protest-love songs. He's a bit unsettled in every sense. With songs on his mind, he’s forever talking about music and how music is made and the motivations to do so, the artifice of translating music onto paper (much like stories into text). There are asides about cigars, Obama’s drone war, Quakerism – a Blll Bryson-ful of accessible facts w ...more
I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Having read The Mezzanine is both a blessing and a curse. It's such a fantastic book, but nothing else Baker writes will ever come close. Years after reading The Mezzanine, I stumbled across The Anthologist, making The Traveling Sprinkler my third of Baker's books I have read, and probably my least favorite. All of Baker's books are obsessive missives, going round and round, tunneling down, but spiraling in corkscrews around the ma
Lovely, lovely prose. Mr. Baker does a great job of being delightful and interesting; however, where he fails is at being exciting. There's really no plot to this story, or I suppose you could say there is, but it's so quiet as to barely be worth mentioning. The thing is, I didn't mind this book a single moment that I was reading it: it's like sitting down with a dedicated, old friend. But what I really wanted was escapism, so the whole way through I was slightly obsessing over the page count, d ...more
If you read The Anthologist and liked it, you will appreciate this follow-up on Paul Chowder. This one was a lighter, more fun read in many ways -- just a story about a middle-aged man who is still trying to find the love song (or maybe protest song) inside him. Meticulously researched and an ode to many kinds of music, it was definitely enjoyable.
John Frazier
Without having read Nicholson Baker's other efforts in the guise of narrator Paul Chowder, I can only assume that they are largely one and the same person, with minor substitutions made here and there in the name of creative license.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway I entered largely based on the joy of reading a couple of Baker's earlier efforts, Fermata and the classic Vox, an entire tome dedicated to a single phone sex conversation in which, thankfully, no detail is spared, omitted or
This sequel to "The Anthologist" is the kind of thing that might annoy the shit out of a lot of people, but I find it charming. It's MEANT to be charming. I'm just saying it might not work for everyone. But it works for me. A little pleasure-bomb.
I liked this one a lot, and more so as I got further in. The protagonist is likable, and the prose is nice. I learned a lot from the book, from different things about classical music to what the really neat traveling sprinkler is. It's an effortless read with plenty to delight. The jacket cover calls it enchanting, and I guess that's about right. I probably should have read The Anthologist first, since Baker first introduces our protagonist in that book. I think I probably picked this one as my ...more
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Music in Books: Songs in Traveling Sprinkler 2 3 May 15, 2014 08:45PM  
  • New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012
  • I'm Trying to Reach You
  • The Morels
  • Necessary Errors
  • Kind One
  • Damage Control: Stories
  • Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence
  • Courting Greta
  • The Dark Path: A Memoir
  • The Two Hotel Francforts
  • The Engagement
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World
  • The Guts
  • Dissident Gardens
  • Orkney
  • Leaving Brooklyn
  • Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.
  • The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance
Nicholson Baker is a contemporary American writer of fiction and non-fiction. As a novelist, his writings focus on minute inspection of his characters' and narrators' stream of consciousness. His unconventional novels deal with topics such as voyeurism and planned assassination, and they generally de-emphasize narrative in favor of intense character work. Baker's enthusiasts appreciate his ability ...more
More about Nicholson Baker...
The Mezzanine Vox The Anthologist The Fermata House of Holes

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“Anyway, she sings like a mad tropical bird, and it's just a fondue of molten wanting and grieving and the sadness of the large naked swinging breasts and soft olive skin and everything that you wish you could remember and feel and know.” 3 likes
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