Thursday, September 17, 2009


Baker, again

My review of Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist has just been posted over at the B&N Review. While I was writing it, I felt like I was wrestling with a long, complicated piece. Now that it's been posted, it looks compact and straightforward, with nary an ace up its sleeve. Perhaps what I was wrestling with was sleep deprivation. In any case, here's a sample bit:
This brings us to the crux of the matter. For Paul, like all of Baker's narrators, is a man with an idée fixe -- a man firmly mounted atop his hobby horse. (The same might said of Baker himself, whose fascination with, say, old newspapers led him to accumulate an entire warehouse of them. But his fixations keep changing, as per his smorgasbord metaphor above.) And what Paul really hates is blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter, the sort of thing Shakespeare found perfectly serviceable for 18,000 lines of dramatic poetry. The modern, footless, freewheeling stuff favored by so many American poets is bad enough, "merely a heartfelt arrangement of plummy words requesting to be read slowly." But blank verse (and even rhyming iambic pentameter) is worse: another kinky French import, like structuralism or Béarnaise sauce. In Paul's view it has warped the progress of English poetry, by drawing it out of its natural four-beat orbit.
You can read the whole thing here.

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