Nicholson Baker's new novel, The Anthologist, is narrated by Paul Chowder, a poet of some little reknown who is sitting in his barn most of the time trying to write the introduction to a new anthology of poetry called Only Rhyme. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is falling apart, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, and he is thinking about the poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and actually deserve to feel sorry for themselves. He has also promised his readers that he will reveal many wonderful secrets and tips and tricks about poetry, and it looks like the introduction will be a little longer than he'd thought.
What unfolds is a wholly entertaining and beguiling love story about poetry, among other things; Paul tells us about all of the great poets, from Tennyson, Swinburne, and Yeats to the moderns (Roethke, Bogan, Merwin) to the contemporary scene as well as the editorial staff of The New Yorker's editorial department. And what he reveals about the rhythm and music of poetry itself is astonishing and makes you realize how incredibly important poetry is to our lives. At the same time, Paul manages just barely to realize all of this himself and what results is a tender, wonderfully romantic, often hilarious, and inspired novel.
The Anthologist bears all the beloved hallmarks of Baker's novels: it is witty, erudite, breathtakingly articulate and stylish, and full of the whimsical, compulsive elements that have made its author a worldwide success.
Nicholson Baker was born in 1957 and attended the Eastman School of Music and Haverford College. He is the author of several novels, including The Mezzanine, Vox and The Fermata, and House of Holes; and four works of non fiction, U and I, The Size of Thoughts, Double Fold (winner of the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award), and Human Smoke. He lives in Maine.