Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 16 November 2009

"The Anthologist" by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

The main character is trying to write the introduction to a poetry anthology he's assembled called Only Rhyme, but has writers block. In the end he succeeds, but by then his partner's left him and we've been told loads about his theories and views on poetry, things like

  • "Poetry is a controlled refinement of sobbing ... The rhyming of rhymes is a powerful form of self-medication. .. Rhyming is the avoidance of mental pain by addicting yourself to what will happen next. It's like chain-smoking - you light one line with the glowing ember of the last" (p.55)
  • "In fact, Staying Alive may be the best poetry anthology ever" (p.187))
  • "So-called iambic pentameter is in its deepest essence a six-beat line. ... Actually no .. in its very deepest, darkest essence it's a three-beat line (p.214)

He also has 4-beats-per-line theory and a theory about unheard beats (like rests in music).

Lots of real people and poems are mentioned. He mentions the affair between Louise Bogan and Ted Roethke 3 times, with repetition. I'm unsure why it's so important to him. For me the poetry material doesn't bind well enough with the rest of the novel. When badminton was mentioned, I feared that Frost's netless tennis would appear, and it did. It's too much like light reading if you're familiar with poetry and novels. The poetry chat and/or life needed intensification

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