Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Anthologist Could Give Writer's Block a Bad Name

A friend recommended Nicholson Baker's latest book, the Anthologist , noting that it would be right up my alley. The book is 256 pages of fictional poet Paul Chowder's stream of consciousness angst about writing the forward to an anthology of poetry he has compiled. To call his condition 'writer's block' is an understatement. Paul procrastinates, ruminates, dithers, worries and babbles. I'm wondering why my friend thought I would be uniquely qualified to appreciate this book. That can't be a good testament to the incisive, decisive habit of mind we all try to cultivate. The only way to get a sense of the book would be to quote it, but it is currently checked out. So, just imagine being inside of the head of a person who thinks about everything and nothing, who jumps from one thing to another and meanders off on various topics, including, but not limited to poetry and this person is gentle and thoughtful and not very confident and mourning the fact that his girlfriend left him and anxious that he can't seem to write a single coherent thought and his thought patterns somewhat resemble a cross between Alexander McCall Smith's philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the Mad Hatter and if this sentence makes you dizzy then you get the feeling I had while reading the Anthologist.
What I liked about the book: the narrator is likeable, unless you hate people who dither and babble.
You can learn a little about poetry, but you don't need to know about poetry to appreciate the book.
It's short.
It's completely different.
What I didn't like about the book: I had to read it in small doses; a little dithering goes a long way.
Spoiler alert: it had a happy ending.

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