Bludgeoned with romance
Nicholson Baker’s quirky latest novel, The Anthologist, is comprised of failed poet Paul Chowder’s ruminations on poetry and how unrequited love for it has essentially ruined his life. Through it all, though—the rejections from Paul Muldoon, Chowder’s lady friend leaving him, the failure of his floundering flying spoon poems—he clings to the words and lives of Roethke, Bogan, Swinburn, Keats and the rest with a tenacity not seen since Bob Backlund’s crossface chickenwing rampage. It has actually inspired me to start reading poetry again, which I haven’t done regularly in some time (any recommendations?). All his talk of olde timey poets has also pushed me to check out Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder, a lovely book exploring the connection between gentlemen scientists of the day and iconic poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Dudes were making enduring discoveries and creating timeless art long before they could even grow a proper pre-Victorian mustache! All very impressive. I suspect the era’s precociousness had something to do with all the frock coats, shoe buckles, pantaloons and widespread leeching. God save the Queen.