Traveling Sprinkler

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Overview

A new novel by bestselling author Nicholson Baker reintroduces feckless but hopeful hero Paul Chowder, whose struggle to get his life together is reflected in his steadfast desire to write a pop song, or a protest song, or both at once.

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Traveling Sprinkler: A Novel

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Overview

A new novel by bestselling author Nicholson Baker reintroduces feckless but hopeful hero Paul Chowder, whose struggle to get his life together is reflected in his steadfast desire to write a pop song, or a protest song, or both at once.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred review. "In sparkling and witty prose, Baker reminds readers why he's one of the masters of the contemporary novel." - Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal - Audio
02/15/2014
Paul Chowder is a middle-aged poet who's looking for a new medium, and his background in music makes songwriting seem like a viable option. Chowder wants to write a protest song but keeps circling back to love songs, perhaps because he is still in love with his ex-girlfriend. He struggles with life's daily distractions while searching for his future, and his constancy pays off at last. Baker's sequel to The Anthologist is presented as a stream of consciousness monolog. Random thoughts and associations intermingle as the story slowly unfolds, allowing Baker to interject a wealth of information about music, composers, poets, and traveling sprinklers. The author narrates the story beautifully. VERDICT Recommended. ["Baker, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, is always daring, and what results here is a witty and enticingly coherent blend of the everyday and the profound," read the starred review of the Blue Rider hc, LJ 9/15/13.]—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Library Journal
In Baker's The Anthologist, Paul Chowder tried to launch a collection of formal verse. Here he's eager to write a pop song or a protest song or, ideally, both. Baker will get the music right, as he played bassoonist (briefly) with the Rochester Philharmonic.
Kirkus Reviews
Baker foregoes the kinky eroticism of Vox and House of Holes this time and gives readers a sweet and idiosyncratic novel about the protagonist of The Anthologist (2009), a poet and pop songwriter manqué. Although Paul Chowder's life is not exactly coming apart, it's also not what it could be. His girlfriend, Roz, has taken up with someone else, he's become less committed to writing poetry, and to make a little extra money, he shrink-wraps boats. (You've seen them, with the tight, white plastic....) On the other hand, he enjoys going to Quaker meetings, and he's really getting into music. We learn he used to be a serious student of the bassoon, but in college, he switched to the study of poetry and now has some regrets. What Chowder would like is a hit song, and he looks for inspiration everywhere. While driving, for example, he sees a truck with an "Oversize Load" banner and begins to improvise: "It was big/It was bad/It was round/It could explode//Yeah, he was driving down the road/with an oversize load." He's also recently taken up the guitar and hopes to impress his neighbors as well as Roz with his musical prowess. Most of all, Chowder is an observer of things and people, and he still has a poet's fascination with words, "garbanzo" being one of his new favorites. His musical erudition is impressive, and the attentive reader will receive quite an education, ranging from the reason for the bassoon solo at the beginning of The Rite of Spring to the brilliance of Victoria de los Angeles' version of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 to the poignancy of Jonatha Brooke's rendition of "In the Gloaming." In sparkling and witty prose, Baker reminds readers why he's one of the masters of the contemporary novel.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781629230955
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media
  • Publication date: 10/15/2013
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 5.04 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels, including The Anthologist, Vox, and The Fermata, and five works of nonfiction, including Human Smoke and Double Fold (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award). He lives in Maine with his family.

Biography

An elegant writer who has taken stream of consciousness to dizzying postmodern heights, Nicholson Baker has produced a body of work that is eccentric, inventive, and extremely difficult to categorize. In his virtually plotless novels, characters ruminate on the minutest details of everyday life and lose themselves in memories of Proustian intensity. His nonfiction is equally unconventional, filled with meticulously researched minutiae and passionate polemics on topics of great personal interest -- perhaps only to himself.

Baker's quirky brilliance was evident early on in several convoluted short stories that appeared in The New Yorker and Atlantic. But he hit his own idiosyncratic stride with his 1998 debut novel. Essentially one long, loopy digression riddled with footnotes nearly as long as the narrative, The Mezzanine traces a young man's meandering thoughts during a brief escalator ride from the ground floor to the mezzanine of the office building where he works. The "action," such as it is, takes scant minutes, but it's time enough to lay bare the protagonist's entire inner life. In his review for The New York Times, Robert Plunket singled out for commendation "...the razor-sharp insight and droll humor with which Mr. Baker illuminates the unseen world."

In other novels, Baker has taken us inside the heads of many characters: a young father bottle-feeding his infant daughter (Room Temperature); a middle-aged man whose early-morning ritual begins with lighting a fire (A Box of Matches); a man who stops time in order to fondle and exploit unsuspecting women (Fermata); two people a continent apart who indulge in graphic sexual fantasies over the telephone (Vox). (Fermata and Vox were widely criticized as "literary pornography." Vox created additional buzz, when it was revealed that Monica Lewinsky had given a copy to President Bill Clinton.)

Although Baker can never be accused of dispassion, the peculiarity of his nonfiction has led to mixed reviews. In lengthy essays and articles and wildly discursive books, he has paid extravagant tribute to his literary hero John Updike (U and I: A True Story), decried the destruction of library card catalogs (an essay in The Size of Thoughts), led a crusade to preserve and archive entire collections of American newspapers (Double Fold), and challenged the traditional view of World War II as "inevitable" (Human Smoke).

Baker's brand of erudite obsession may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is easy for literate readers to fall in love with his glittering prose. He is, above all else, a lover of language; and in his deft and capable hands, even the most mundane objects and events spring to glorious, full-bodied life. Summing up the singular, seductive charms of Baker's writing, Salon critic Laura Miller may have said it best: "...dazzling descriptive powers married to a passionate enthusiasm for the neglected flotsam and jetsam of everyday life."

Good To Know

A two-week writing seminar with Donald Barthelme at the University of California jump-started Baker's writing career.

His great-grandfather Ray Stannard Baker served as press secretary to president Woodrow Wilson and won a Pulitzer prize for his biography of Wilson.

Baker's first area of interest was music, rather than literature. A talented bassoonist, he attended Eastman School of Music with an eye to becoming a classical composer. Midway through his first year, he changed his major to English. He transferred to Haverfod College in Philadelphia, graduating in 1980.

One of Baker's most passionate concerns is preserving complete runs of newspapers as a valuable record of American history. To that end, he founded the American Newspaper Repository in 1999, when he learned the British Library was selling off or trashing its bound volumes of post-1870 newspapers.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Rochester, NY
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1980

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    What a gem!

    I am in utter thrall of this wonderful, funny, tender-hearted novel from a true master of the medium. Sprinkling his playful wit about in gorgeous prose, Nicholson Baker has created a mesmerizing world that lingers long after one puts down the book. And yes, be prepared to get lost in virtuosic writing on any number of strangely affecting subjects -- Debussy, poetry, bassoons, cigars -- Baker's range boggles my mind. Here is a work to take to heart, so sit back, read, and enjoy. I, for one, want to read it all over again.

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