One piece of interesting news I came across today, was a review of Nicholson Baker’s new experimental novel, The Anthologist. Richard King, who reviewed the book for The Australian, describes it as, a brilliant riff on poetry, 200 pages of musings about the muse.
The book is narrated by (fictional) minor-American poet, Paul Chowder, who is in the process of writing the introduction for his new anthology, Only Rhyme. As King tells it, Chowder wants to be a rhymer, but the poetry he writes is little more than slow-motion prose. Chowder believes that the four-beat line is the soul of english language poetry. When asked why he likes things to rhyme so much, he says, it’s like chain smoking – you light one line with the glowing ember of the last.
The Anthologist uses actual poets, publishers and poems in the creation of its fictional narrator. Chowder hallucinates Swinburne, Longfellow, Poe and Whittier. He dislikes academia and despises Modernism and the modern world. In The Anthologist, Chowder announces that he has outlived the age of free verse, and that Only Rhyme, his new anthology, is the voice of a new age.
Paul Chowder sounds like a whole lot of fun to me… this is one novel, I am keen to check out.