In Baker’s novel The Anthologist, Paul Chowder believes all poems should rhyme. Also, he’s having some trouble with his girlfriend, smaller troubles with his dog and a mouse, and he has an intro to an anthology he needs to finish. This isn’t “save the earth from a falling satellite” kind of trouble, but enough to keep me reading. I think it was Vonnegut who advised writers to do at least something to keep a reader interested even if it was only jamming a piece of food between the protagonist’s teeth and causing him or her to want to get it out. The good stuff in The Anthologist for me was in the clever and/or funny lines. Here’s a couple of them:
On Tetris, “that computer game where the squares come down relentlessly and overwhelm your mind with their crude geometry and make you peck at the arrow keys like some mindless experimental chicken and hurry and panic and finally you turn your computer off. And you sit there thinking, Why have I just spend an hour watching squares drop down a computer screen?”
On “poems” that don’t rhyme: “That’s what I call a poem that doesn’t rhyme–it’s a plum. We who write and publish our nonrhyming plums aren’t poets, we’re plummets. Or plummers.”
The laws governing romantic breaking up: Paul notes when he sees his ex girlfriend, “If you break up with someone, you get to go out with someone else.”
Except for when my eyes glazed over during the longish explanations about iambic pentameter, I liked this book enough to recommend it. It served as a kind of argument for me that I ought to think about giving up all the Goodreads, WordPress, and tenure track paperwork stuff and maybe move up to Maine or down to North Carolina and stick a lawn chair out in a shallow creek bed. I could send my books out from there via email, except for there’s that thing about needing a paycheck. Paul Chowder, the protagonist, is in sore need of one of those too.
This book had a lot of writing advice in it. I might bother to type it all up and share it if anyone seems to be interested to ask for it via comment. If any of you out there are poets or plummers, I’d like to hear what you think of this book.