The Anthologist
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The Anthologist

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  2,640 ratings  ·  623 reviews
"The Anthologist" is narrated by Paul Chowder -- a once-in-a-while-published kind of poet who is writing the introduction to a new anthology of poetry. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is floundering, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, and he is thinking about the great poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and deserve to fee...more
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Simon & Schuster
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Paul
Apr 26, 2011 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Yes, hello! Take a seat - that one, please. No, just shove that stuff on the ground somewhere, it's just books and papers. Have some tea. Well, since you ask, not too bad - not too bad at all. This? Oh yes, it looks terrible doesn't it, I should have changed my shirt. It's all from this little scratch here, see? Doesn't look like much but there was a lot of blood. Well, I picked up this lovely little cat you see, and it just kind of reached out and took a chunk out of me. Just a pretty little ca...more
MJ Nicholls
How true it is a poem should rhyme! For who among us prefers lemon to lime? Baker defends the rhyming verse, in prose both chaste and terse. Paul Chowder discusses meter, rests and beats—but he’s no bleater, pest or Keats. For those au fait with his minimal writings, buy this today for liminal sightings. Who says poems should be lucid? Why, that’s all froems and booshid! So: let’s go. Erudite essays on Fenton, Teasdale and Millay, so good you should buy it to-day. Can I keep this up for the whol...more
Christine
This book is a plum. Nicholson Baker has written a totally amazing book that everyone should rush out and buy…immediately. I do not say these things lightly.

Let me start again, to give this book its just review. Is it possible for a book to be better than any graduate poetry seminar and still be hilarious? Yes, and the book that accomplished that is “The Anthologist.” It’s an unlikely combination, but when completed (to borrow a back-of-the-book blurb writer’s analogy) it’s like having witnesse...more
Nancy
Well, this may be the most delightful book I have read this year.

Paul Chowder's life isn't going particularly well. Sometime poet and current anthologist, he is struggling to write an intro to his anthology of poetry, Only Rhyme. But his chronic procrastinating has left him without a girlfriend, without cash, and, it sometimes seems, without hope. Paul longs to win Roz back by completing the intro, but instead he seems to spend a lot of time sitting on his driveway in a plastic chair.

But Paul i...more
Ruth
Take one measure of writer’s block, add an equal measure of a longtime lover lost, mix in the mind of an intelligent self-deprecating, funny, out-of-sorts and out-of-fashion poet and get one of the best books I’ve read this year. It helps if you like poetry. There are a lot of references to poets and poetry gossip. But it’s all written with such ease and grace that the nonpoetry reader can still just sail through. Sad, funny, and wonderful.
switterbug (Betsey)
Paul Chowder is a minor poet and a perennial procrastinator. Although recognized at one time for a few brilliant poems, he has waned from the public eye. He is given the opportunity to resurrect his name and his bank account by writing an introduction to an anthology of poems, but he dawdles and delays the project. Paul spends his days reflecting on his career; the recent departure of his girlfriend, Roz (who left him due to his dilatory ways); the need to organize his office; his neighbors; and...more
Courtney Johnston
A washed-up middle-aged poet who has recently lost his girlfriend through his chronic inability to finish the introduction to the poetry anthology he's meant to be assembling (which will - if he can get it out - rescue rhyming poetry from the clutches of free verse) should not be such good company.

But right from the opening line ("Hello, this is Paul Chowder, and I'm going to try to tell you everything I know.") I fell for Paul Chowder. Nicholson plays Chowder as both artful and artless. We are...more
Libbie Hawker
Okay, I admit it. I really didn't like this book at first. I found the narrative to be distracting and gimmicky with its forced "look how charming I am! Aren't I charming?" feel. (I am using charming because I hate the Q-word and avoid it at all costs.) I was fully prepared to hate this one, to rip into it when I finally finished it and got to write my review.

To my surprise, somewhere around the middle I realized the distracting gimmick was all part of a brilliant master plan, and I found myself...more
Lobstergirl
I approached The Anthologist warily, not exactly being a fan of Mr. Baker, or of the idea of fiction focused on poetry. And indeed I nearly ditched the book after 30 pages, unsure if I wanted to read an entire book about a, well, kind of loser - a guy whose girlfriend has just left him because he can't make himself write a 40 page introduction to a poetry anthology, who has no income, and who seems content having a mouse live behind the control panel of his stove. Truth be told I read the book b...more
Kerfe
I didn't just like this book, I enjoyed it. Start many things, never finish? Use distraction to keep from doing what I need to do? Hands working on one task, mind totally in another location? I identified; I sympathized. I laughed.

While he procrastinates, Paul performs useful tasks (like cleaning his office, walking the dog, mowing the lawn) and holds an inner conversation on poetry and rhyme, with side meditations on the downward spiral and mundane rhythms of his daily life. Though not really w...more
Bennet
Paul Chowder is trying to write the introduction to a new anthology of rhyming verse, but he’s having a hard time getting started. The result of his fitful struggles is The Anthologist, a brilliantly funny and exquisite love story about poetry. (from the cover blurb)

It’s also a love story about his amiable but ambivalent and sad break-up with girlfriend Roz, which is prompted by Paul’s procrastinating.

Reading his meandering and rueful narrative is like listening to an old friend go on about som...more
Donna
4 stars for personal reasons. I don't really know how good the book is and why because It was the book I needed to read at this moment to get through my own art crisis. Damn that was some luck. It's about poetry. It's about art, but the small parts that make up the whole, the unseeable rules, the scut work, the importance of starting. Why it's called fishing and not catching. Delightful asides (the book is almost all asides) about poets great and small and how they got it done. I also enjoyed th...more
g
I have a bit of an attitude about this book. After reading several good reviews, I put my name on the library wait list for it. As often happens these days, the book came much sooner than I'd anticipated. So, "I'll read that someday" turned into "I have three weeks to read that."

But enough about me--for the moment. Paul Chowder is an aging poet, past his prime, whose girlfriend has just broken up with him, in part because he just. can't. seem. to manage to write the introduction to an anthology...more
M. D.  Hudson
I was apprehensive about Nicholson Baker’s “The Anthologist,” which consists mostly of the ruminations of a semi-failed middle-aged American poet, since I am an entirely-failed middle-aged American poet who, as can be expected, nurses a grudge or two and has, over time, become crusted over with a host of peeves and prejudices. Which is to say I’m a tough audience for this kind of book. Compounding my fear is the fact that Nicholson Baker is a wildly exuberant novelist whose fiction tends to driv...more
Janet
Slowly savoring this. The story of a poet putting off writing the introduction to a long-promised poetry anthology. Complete stream-of-consciousness, with all the delights of that form, the nimble, quick segues into horizontal details and parallel obsessions, allowing the reader to put the story together, challenging us to stay with him through the sizzling lighting-branches of his thoughts.

And between thoughts about his girlfriend, who recently dumped him, and his neighbor's trash collecting an...more
Mark
When he's at his best, as he is here, Baker can make a claim to being a sort of American Mini-Nabokov: smart, clever, witty, insightful, and eager to teach.

Paul Chowder, the book's narrator, is a hard-luck unemployed schlub of a poet and professor who's procrastinating writing the overdue introduction to an anthology of poetry he's edited. Instead of writing the introduction, which his publisher is waiting impatiently for, he narrates this book, which ends up being a fantastic (if occasionally...more
Adele Ward
Paul Chowder I Love You

Sadly Paul Chowder only exists in Nicholson Baker’s latest novel 'The Anthologist', which was more like finding a soul-mate to me than finding a good read. Baker’s main characters tend to have obsessions which he follows with the attention to detail their own compulsions drive them to focus on. But Chowder is a little different to the anti-heroes of previous controversial novels who gained Baker a massive following by displaying the power to freeze women and remove their c...more
Roberta
This book. Oh my God, this book. I'd like to say I have no words, but we all know that's a rare occasion, indeed.

I picked this up for something to read on the plane to Atlanta this weekend, kind of on the fly while replacing my copy of Vox. It was there, the cover was gorgeous, and it was Baker. Sold. I started reading it at work the day I bought it...

...and I'm pretty sure that Baker was speaking directly to me personally circa 2009 when he wrote this. (Never mind that it was already published...more
Sherry H
I thought it was going to be a book about a guy writing an introduction to an anthology of poetry.

But then it turned into a textbook (and I mean that in a good way) on poetry... rhythm, meter, rhyme, duplets and triplets and iambic pentameter. It's about reading it, writing it, speaking it, singing it.

Then it turned into a "Who's Who" of 800 years of English language poetry. That will be useful to me.

It covers a lovely little failing relationship.

And it's a how-to on skin grafting, badmitton,...more
Alan
Dec 31, 2009 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Would-be scriveners, versifiers and garret-dwellers of all stripes
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work by the author
Paul Chowder, the first-person protagonist of this breezy novel, has some significant things to say about the mechanics of poetry and its place in modern culture—you'll learn a lot here, most of it painlessly—but he is having desperate difficulty saying them in a coherent, linear fashion.

Consider this sequence, a paragraph-and-a-half, from early in the novel (p.55):

"Isn't crying a good thing? Why would we want to give pills to people so they don't weep? When you read a great line in a poem, wha
...more
Rick
Oct 14, 2009 Rick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Woah Nicholson Baker has a new book out? I found this randomly in the JFK Terminal 4 bookstore - I used to be such a huge Baker fan, but he had a long gap between novels, and then that novel came out about assassinating the president, and that sort of turned me off. But upon seeing this one, I gave it a chance.

It's vintage Baker - pedantic, meandering, plotless, academic... I love that about his books, so this one roped me in a bit as well. It's got no footnotes, and - gasp! - it has a semblanc...more
Gertie
There is so much that I enjoyed about this book The protaganist's name is Paul Chowder. That in itself is wonderful and it makes me happy. Paul Chowder himself would understand. Certain words just have that effect. Mr Chowder is supposed to be be working on an anthology of poetry but he seems to spend his time doing anything but, and very little of that. And yet this guy has so very much going on while almost nothing is happening. Delightful. Included in all this are loads of our buddy Mr Chowde...more
Stuart
OK, this was one of the most pleasurable reads I've experienced. Not to say it's one of the best books I've read. Sure was fun, though.

Paul Chowder is a poetry-obsessed guy whose wife recently left him and he's having a lot of trouble getting back on his feet. If he ever was on his feet to begin with. The first-person narrative leaps wonderfully disjunctively between his impassioned lectures on rhyme and things like the mouse that's living in his stove.

If you're not into poetry very deeply I can...more
Sarah Funke
"I always secretly want it to rhyme. Don't you, some of you? Admit it." A guy has compiled an anthology of rhyming poems. He needs to write the introduction. He can't. His girl friend leaves him. He's in metaphysical crisis. He cleans. He lays down a floor. He cuts his finger, by accident, in a variety of ways. He deals with a kitchen mouse. He makes his girlfriend a present. He eats a meals-on-wheels dinner. In amongst these small events he tells us a whole lot about rhyming poems. It's just gr...more
Jesse
2 1/2 stars

Baker's novel of a struggling middle-aged poet is often fascinating. Paul Chowder has hit creative and personal road-blocks in his life; he uses his love of poetry as a prism through which to better understand who he is and where he is-- and isn't-- going. Told in first-person narrative, many chapters of The Anthologist read like the best lectures of your favorite professor. Others meander and frustrate. There is a scene near the end of the novel that seems intended as its epiphanic m...more
Nicole Cleary
This book was an enjoyable invitation to hang out for awhile in the mind of a slightly depressed yet essentially optimistic poet struggling to write an introduction to the anthology of poems he is about to publish. I learned a ton about poetry and enjoyed listening to Paul ramble on good naturedly about poetry, love, and life.
Tom
An interesting meditation on poetry, rhythm and emotion in the guise of a story about a fussy and frustrated poet who must write an introduction to a poetry anthology and, in the process, struggle with his own emotional withdrawal from life. Funny detailing of the mundane makes this an enjoyable read.
kasia
I came to this book at just the right moment in my life to really appreciate it. The themes of procrastination, solitude, and literary appreciation came together perfectly for me, and I basically wanted to spend all my time reading it. I think I might have found the narrative voice more annoying if not for the fact that a friend had recommended this to me, so I kind of read it through the lens of his appreciation, which made me like it more. Also, I think he does get less annoying after a few ch...more
Tim
Sep 25, 2009 Tim is currently reading it
Like an unsheddable low-grade epiphanic fever.
Daryl
I read this book only after accidentally reading its sequel (The Traveling Sprinkler) first. I loved the sequel and loved this one even more. Paul Chowder is a wonderful character, innocent and sweet and earnest but with the occasional hint of darkness; his voice is a real delight. All the bits about poetic scansion and history appealed to me and almost made me want to start reading poetry again; I don't know how broad the appeal of these parts could possibly be. I'll read this one again.
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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 Fermata House of Holes A Box of Matches

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