I know I haven’t been posting a lot this week, and part of that is because yesterday I visited the Worcester Public Library and talked with a bunch of the librarians there about the latest and greatest library happenings. Over the next week, I’ll be posting the details of those conversations, but it’s going to take me another day to recover from the awesomeness overload that was my trip to the library. Everyone there was so incredibly kind and helpful and I have never felt like such a celebrity (“Oh, you’re the blogger!”) So, I am even more passionate about the library and even more committed to letting people know about all the great things happen there.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I also have to apologize for being remiss in my reviews of the library books I read. I read a lot, but don’t always have the energy to write about what I read, but I’ll try to get more energy in the future…
So — The Anthologist. Nicholson Baker. I think I’ve mentioned how much I love Nicholson Baker. And, trust me, everyone around me knows too. My husband knows that I would totally leave him for Nicholson Baker, except for the fact that I could not deal with living in Maine. And he’s married and old enough to my father and his kids are probably adults. (And, really, how could I choose between Charlie Rose and Nicholson Baker?)
I used to be one of those people who said that the two best living American writers were John Updike and Philip Roth. And then I shortened the list to Philip Roth. (Let it be here known that I would never leave my husband for Philip Roth. I think it’s possible to think someone’s a great writer and a pretty sketch-tastic person.) And then I read Room Temperature and I haven’t ever laughed out loud reading a book like I did that one. (I was waiting to fight a traffic ticket at the courthouse and was reading R.T. and chuckling to myself so much I thought my fellow ticket-fighters were going to vote me off the bench.) So, as far as I’m concerned, Nicholson Baker tops Philip Roth and anyone else you could throw the “Best Living American Novelist” title at.
Over the holidays, my uncle asked me if I’d read The Anthologist, because he knows I love Nicholson Baker, because everyone knows I love Nicholson Baker. “Well, I’m trying to pace myself and read his work in order and not gorge myself on him,” I said. (In reality, I got stuck halfway through Vox because I am the most asexual prude who ever lived, and I haven’t wanted to go on to the next book because I’m trying to follow my plan of reading everything in order. But I justify not finishing Vox by reminding myself that sometimes I will leave a book half-read because I love it so much that I don’t want it to end.)
So — where was I? Oh, I was refusing to read The Anthologist because I hadn’t finished Vox. That lasted all of a month, and I was walking by the new fiction books on the way back from the children’s room and there it was, calling to me. I’ve heard that call before — “Read me!” — and I’ve answered that call before, despite the piles of books by my bed and in the bathroom and checked out of the library. “Read me!”
Of course I picked it up and read it and loved it. It’s narrated by a quirky, procrastinating, middle-aged poet named Paul Chowder who’s working (or, rather, doing anything but work) on the introduction to a poetry anthology. If you like rhyming poetry (= my husband), this book’s for you. If you like random anecdotes about Elizabeth Bishop and Charles Simic, this book is definitely for you. If you like Nicholson Baker’s attention to detail and funniness and streams of consciousness, you will love this book.
My problem, of course, is that the book came to an end and now I am so revved up to read rhyming poetry (well, any poetry) that I’ve taken a Swinburne anthology out of the library and then I’m going to read everything Sara Teasdale ever wrote. (I’m really only familiar with poetry in Old and Middle English, and I think Spenser’s a total genius, and I like Keats and Tennyson a lot as well, but beyond that I know bupkis about poetry. I’m telling you — this book should be required reading in an AP English class, because it makes you so aware of rhyme and rhythm and — again — it makes you want to take Swinburne out of the library.)
I just returned it to the library, so run right over there and take it out. (If you take it out, you can also experience the best pleasure of a library book. Someone who read it before me made a correction to a typo with a pencil. I love that — it’s like having an in joke with that previous reader.) Or else give me a reason why I should finish reading Vox.
If you’ve made it this far, The Great Books Discussion Group will be discussing The Fifth Child and its sequel, Ben, in the world, on Wednesday, February 3 at 7pm in the Banx Room of the WPL. Everyone is more than welcome to attend, and these are both pretty quick reads.