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Novel of the week: The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

The poet-narrator of Nicholson Baker&rsquo;s new novel will divide readers, said David Kirby in <em>The Washington Post</em>.

(Simon & Schuster, $25)

The poet-narrator of Nicholson Baker’s new novel will divide readers, said David Kirby in The Washington Post. An epic procrastinator, 50-something Paul Chowder babbles on for so long about poetry—when he should be trying to win back his girlfriend—that “readers are likely to think either, ‘You know, I kind of like this guy’ or ‘What a chowderhead.’” But even if you generally couldn’t care less about verse, Baker’s “precise, funny descriptions” of everyday minutiae and the “quietly controversial” ideas that his protagonist advances may just captivate you, said Ken Tucker in Entertainment Weekly. You “become so engaged” by Chowder’s voice “that his loneliness and his valiant attempts to cope with his despair creep up on you.” Not since Nabokov’s Pale Fire has such an astonishingly entertaining novel been created from poetic obsession, said Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News. This one, arriving in the age of blogs, tweets, and general oversharing, marks Baker as “the great living literary master of our historical moment.”

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