The Anthologist

When I read a review of Nicholson Baker‘s latest novel, I knew it was my kind of book. The main character is a poet. With writer’s block.

That was enough to get me to buy the book, and wow did I have fun reading it. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I laughed so much with a book. I’ve never read Baker before, but he’s funny. And smart. And he gets so many things just right: about teaching, about writing, about poetry.

Not that his character is a font of wisdom. Exactly the opposite, really. The man is endearingly clueless about love and art. He bemoans the loss of rhyme in poetry; he can’t teach because it’s like telling lies for a living; he’s totally blocked about an intro to this anthology of rhymed poetry he’s putting together. And his girlfriend leaves him.

These are, as they say, high class problems. But the way Baker elucidates human struggles large and small is joyful and hilarious. I love that juxtaposition–clear unhappiness in a protagonist and mischievous glee on the part of the author. 

This is a fun, fun book. Especially if you’re a aging writer having issues with the idea of where poetry is supposed to fit into your life.