Friday, January 15, 2010
Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist
Finished the Anthologist this afternoon at work. I was really excited about this book after having read an enthusiastic review by one of my favorite authors, John Crowley (http://bostonreview.net/BR34.6/crowley.php). I have to say I was somewhat disappointed. The book, like Crowley's work, is rather mellow and moderate in tone, it's ecstasies are always moderated excstasies. But in Crowley this autumnal tone works, in Baker for me it didn't. The notion seems to be that his book, like his beloved poets, must go through much dross before poetic gold is found. The Anthologist too dwells over many elements of the mundane but these references for me rarely carried the air of potential meaning that often makes such breaks in the narrative appealing. His book is full of enjambments, which shouldn't be surprising since he tells us that he is the sort of poet he is no criticizing. His life is full of enjambments that he is attempting to put back together into some poetic order. I admire the drive towards lyricism (Shelley is my favorite poet, as it were) but neither the attempts at lyricism or the broken fragments of modernity seem to fully work here.