The Anthologist by Nicholas Baker
April is National Poetry Month!
Paul Chowder is trying unsuccessfully to write the introduction to his new anthology of rhyming poetry. The situation is not helped by the fact that his girlfriend has left him out of frustration with his inability to buckle down and get to work writing his introduction. So, that’s the basic plot of “The Anthologist,” but not what it really is. “The Anthologist” is basically a stream-of-consciousness (but with punctuation) love letter to poetry from someone without people skills.
Now, let me just say, I’m not totally in love with poetry, except for that written for grade schoolers. Give me Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, and Jack Prelutzky any day. 250 pages of talk about modern poetry, with discussion of rhyming versus free verse poems and iambic pentameter versus the four beat line? Wow, that sounds boring.
Except, it wasn’t.
Paul Chowder was a seriously bizarre character. I must have stopped and said, “huh?” 10 times in the first four pages. Not to mention the fact that he couldn’t seem to tell his story without going off on strange tangents. He was, however, very interesting and well-written and I ended up enjoying the book overall.
If you want to do something for National Poetry Month, but don’t really want to read a bunch of poetry to do it, I recommend “The Anthologist” for you to feel you’re appreciating poetry without actually doing it.