Paul Chowder, the poet protagonist of Nicholson Baker's widely acclaimed novel The Anthologist , is turning fifty-five and missing his ex-girlfriend, Roz, rather desperately.
As he approaches the dreaded birthday, Paul is uninspired by his usual artistic outlet (although he's pleased that his poetry anthology, Only Rhyme , is selling "steadily"). Putting aside poetry in favor of music, and drawing on his classical bassoon training, Paul turns instead to his new acoustic guitar with one goal in mind: to learn songwriting. As he struggles to come to terms with the horror of America's drone wars and Roz's recent relationship with a local NPR radio host, Paul fills his days with Quaker meetings, Planet Fitness workouts, and some experiments with tobacco. Written in Baker's beautifully unconventional prose, and scored with musical influences from Debussy to Tracy Chapman to Paul himself, Traveling Sprinkler is an enchanting, hilarious--and very necessary--novel by one of the most beloved and influential writers today.
"Adventurous novelist and essayist Baker (The Way the World Works, 2012) rejoins the eccentric, romantic, and hapless New Hampshire poet Paul Chowder, first met in The Anthologist (2009). Paul finally finished his anthology, but he still pines for his lover, Roz, who is now involved with a doctor. Paul is supposed to be writing a new book of poems, but instead he's taking care of his neighbor's chickens, smoking cigars, attending Quaker meetings, pondering killer drones, and attempting to write songs goofy love songs, feeble protest songs. A bassoonist in his youth, Paul returns to music with quirky intent, trailing off into hilariously opinionated disquisitions and buying recording equipment he can ill afford and with which he becomes obsessed, just as he cherishes his vintage traveling sprinklers. Paul himself is such a gadget, showering us with a whirling cascade of consciousness as he traces his circling days, his meandering thoughts, always coming back to Roz, and to hope. Baker's endearingly comedic, covertly philosophical love story, spiked with intriguing even alarming little-known facts, mischievously celebrates song and silence, steadfastness and loving-kindness.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Paul Chowder, the rambling protagonist of The Anthologist, returns in Baker's less successful latest. Between trips to Planet Fitness and disquisitions on subjects such as dance music and automobile maintenance, Chowder dwells on drones and other topics of a geopolitical nature. From lamenting his own inability to find (or keep) a girlfriend to decrying the "truly evil" nature of global agriculture industry giant Monsanto, Chowder hurls out his grievances in a gushing, sorrowful soliloquy while striving to reinvent himself by rekindling his old musical aspirations and buying himself a cheap guitar at Best Buy for his birthday. Though the stream-of-consciousness narrative wears thin, the character of Chowder-epic loser and literary striver-feels very real and is almost endearing. He is a study in contemporary dislocation, unable though he is to make any sense of his own condition. But that's fine; for all Chowder really craves, like the homeless guy on the corner, is an audience he can chirp at for the duration: "Hey, Junior Birdmen. I'm Paul Chowder and I'm here in the blindingness of noon near the chicken hut talking to you about the things that need to be talked about. You know what they are." Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved