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An apologist on Baker’s The Anthologist.

November 4, 2010 \am\30 1:26 am

First, the apology…

I rhyme and I love it. /  I think in the links and stinks of them / ’cause sometimes  they’re shit. / But oh when they work, oh how exquisite / they can be / whether or not you can see / as long as you can feel the rhythm like the sea, / and oh yeah, I’m sorry / for you who doesn’t appreciate, / whoa are you and on your way / to a dullard’s blank stare and craggly fate.

Quick tangent, “craggly” yes? How soon I digress…

On with the review!

In furthering my year of reading more fiction than I have since I was 12, I recently completed Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist. I picked it up from, of all places, the mini-mart-esque store in Philadelphia’s 30th St Train Station. I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised by their selection of word-filled artifacts.

Over consecutive days of riding the SEPTA regional rail between Philly and Newtown, PA, I was able to travel pages and chapters as well as minutes and miles. I spent my commute with Paul Chowder, the anthologist. Not only is he a sympathetic sort, a likable if not entirely relatable fellow, a serious though minor poet, procrastinator and jack-of-all-trades, at times a bumbler and seemingly self-saboteur, but he is also a teacher. And not the dry stuffy sort. But the type with real passion for the topic at hand.

And throughout these nigh 250 pages, that topic is rhymes. And while not referenced, not wholly unlike Busta’s either. Yes, I did that for the picture.

So, now you know my personal bias.

It is more than likely a writer’s book. Definitely a rhymer’s book. Though staunch meterists might take up their pitchforks in iambic rants, but to hell with ’em. I couldn’t help but think that if I ever taught a class on any poetry-related topic I might place this on the syllabus.

It is a portrait of a type of writing life.

One of my favorite passages compares rhyming to babies learning speech. Another about the view from inside a blueberry bush. Whether tangential thoughts about Adrienne Rich’s “The Fish” nestled in-between tangible thumb-slicing moments or professional failures garlanded by a minor personal triumph, The Anthologist feels familiar. I suppose I might venture to say, that more than a book for writers, this is most certainly a book for readers…not ree-duhs. [cymbal crash]

If you pick it up, enjoy / it’s a savory morsel like vegetarian stir-fry with soy. 

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One Comment
  1. November 4, 2010 \pm\30 12:25 pm 12:25 pm

    this made me want to read the book, thank you.

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