counter create hit Traveling Sprinkler - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Traveling Sprinkler

Availability: Ready to download

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.


Compare
Ads Banner

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.

30 review for Traveling Sprinkler

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    cross-posted at: http://themocentricuniverse.blogspot.... i adore nicholson baker's writing voice and i really feel i can give no higher compliment than this: quite often it is how a writer's voice resonates with me that makes or breaks a novel for me; no matter what craft it might otherwise hold. my first encounter with it came when i read the dry observations of the mezzanine and then later i was alarmed, allured and amused by two of his smuttier works, the fermata and house of holes, and was p cross-posted at: http://themocentricuniverse.blogspot.... i adore nicholson baker's writing voice and i really feel i can give no higher compliment than this: quite often it is how a writer's voice resonates with me that makes or breaks a novel for me; no matter what craft it might otherwise hold. my first encounter with it came when i read the dry observations of the mezzanine and then later i was alarmed, allured and amused by two of his smuttier works, the fermata and house of holes, and was pleased but not awed by the paul chowder novel previous to this, the anthologist. still, each time i was simultaneously stimulated and comforted by that voice. and then came the travelling sprinkler, his latest and arguably best novel. karen alerted me to the fact that this was on net galley so i downloaded it. but then she kindly put a print arc in my hands (the hardcover doesn't come out until september) and i was really excited because it stood to reason that i would enjoy it too -- because of the whole voice thing. what i didn't realize was that i was about to read what has become my favourite nicholson baker book thus far. in true "i love this" fashion, i read it twice through. and while i know the book is about paul chowder, i couldn't help but feel when reading the travelling sprinkler, that i had really spent a few days visiting with him, but even more so with his author, in the same manner i would with an old and dear friend, who might ask "have you heard this one?" and pull up a video on youtube. there is, in fact, at least one url printed directly in the book, and i suspect that the enhanced ebook they're also publishing will have direct links to other content embedded within it, permissions clearance permitting. despite this being a sequel of sorts to the anthologist, i don't think you have to have read that book to love this one; aside from a passing references to his flying spoon poems a new reader wouldn't get but doesn't really need to, the novel stands perfectly on its own. so what happens here? paul chowder is a poet who decides he wants to write pop songs instead. or protest songs. or both. he's experimenting with tobacco and he's going to quaker meetings. he misses his old girlfriend roz and he tries to be a good neighbour. in the midst of this little slice of his life, he also writes a book about music: about the bassoon, and about debussy and his sunken cathedral; about victoria de los angeles and bachiana brasileira nº 5, and also about guitars, and electronic keyboards, and seven hundred dollar microphones ordered from the B&H catalogue. and you might somewhat impatiently wait, as i did, for him to finally finish explaining about the travelling sprinkler. i was tempted to look it up on the interweb to see what it looked like but i restrained myself. i actually considered pasting a photo of travelling sprinkler into this review as i read the book because i was so impatient, so flummoxed by the trail of hose on the cover, but in the end found i was happier that i waited for it, waited for him. paul digresses to us about the minute details of his thoughts and memories, of aspects of his life in that typical, tangential, signature nicholson baker way. but what's more, he reveals a gentle heart, an emotional depth that hasn't been apparent in the other baker novels that i have read, including its predecessor. and that's what really made the book surpass my expectations. and it felt like paul chowder had opened up to me, in a way he never had before, and that it was okay for him to try to take those rare moments of happiness for himself. and i could hear the smile in nicholson baker's writing voice and for a while, i smiled too. i guess i need to read it again. :) update one: it's also likely you'll want to check this out after reading the book: http://youtu.be/sPf5GZYzhJk update two: and now i'm crushing hard on nicholson baker. this is an amazing interview: http://www.theparisreview.org/intervi... and as it turns out, he wrote some protest songs and recorded them when he was working on this book. you can hear them at this new yorker link: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs... :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I love swimming with the mind of the narrator in this gentle story of a 55-year old bachelor, Paul Chowder, who shares his youthful approach to reshaping his life and regaining the love of his ex-girlfriend. He is a poet who is running out of juice and begins to forge himself as a musician. Not much a plot here, yet there is more of a trajectory in character development in this tale than in other books of his that I’ve enjoyed. Death and war spark Chowder’s political consciousness. He respects hi I love swimming with the mind of the narrator in this gentle story of a 55-year old bachelor, Paul Chowder, who shares his youthful approach to reshaping his life and regaining the love of his ex-girlfriend. He is a poet who is running out of juice and begins to forge himself as a musician. Not much a plot here, yet there is more of a trajectory in character development in this tale than in other books of his that I’ve enjoyed. Death and war spark Chowder’s political consciousness. He respects his friend’s activism and protest over America’s the use of drones to project power in the world. His outrage over the civilian collateral deaths finds no outlet in his writing, as trying to infuse his poetry with these complicated subjects only leads to frustration: I have so much in my head that’s screaming to get out. Politely requesting passage. Sometimes knowing things and knowing you’ll never unknow them, unless you say them, is really unbearable. I love how Paul's mind works, with one perception or memory linking in ferment to another. He appreciated a poem of Mary Oliver’s that pointed first to the idea that “all narrative is metaphor” and then to “all metaphor is narrative.” He is fascinated with the brilliance of the invention of the “traveling sprinkler”, a device which uses the water pressure to run a tractor device allowing the watering device to move along the path you set out with the hose. But when he wants to express the mental link he finds with Debussy’s music for “Sunken Cathedral”, the images evoked clash like a classic mixed metaphor: Now your poem is in trouble. You’ve got wasps in the hose reel, you’ve got the sprinkler twirling at the end of the hose, and you’ve got Debussy’s cathedral sunk under the waves. You’ve got fish, you’ve got tomatoes. You’re starting to get strange purple interference patterns, fringe moire patterns, at the edges of each metaphor, where it overlaps each neighbor. …This is the moment when your creative writing teacher may say: “You’ve got an awful lot going on here, Paul. Maybe you need to pare this poem down and pick a controlling image.” And you acknowledge that he has a point—too many colors make the rinse water muddy. We know that. On the other hand, the world is full of metaphors that are happily coexisting in our brains and we don’t go crazy. You have them all swarming and nesting and reeled up in there, but they don’t trouble one another. One moment you entertain one metaphor, and the next moment the next, no harm done. And this time you think, I don’t want to worry so much about this rhetorical non-problem. I want to pour them all in and let them go wild together. Let all the metaphors fuck each other like desperate spouse-swappers, I don’t care. After completing three books of poetry and an anthology (the latter work the subject of a 2008 Baker book on the same character), he is coming to this conclusion that “nobody wants to read more than three books of poems by anyone”, and he has an epiphany: I was sitting in Quaker meeting the other day and I realized I didn’t want to write sad complicated poems, I wanted to write simple songs. In other words, I want to write sad poems that are made happier by being singable. And so he gets a guitar, an electronic keyboard, and computer composition systems and begins to experiment. He is inspired by his background as a bassoon player in his youth, a teen aged friend exploring punk roots, and the purity of blues lyrics or songs like McCartney’s “Blackbird.” Baker’s capturing of the creative process in music was a real treat for me, as I love music but am an ignoramus. I’ve only gotten a comparable satisfaction from Robert Hellenga’s “Blues Lessons.” And as in that book, music is a medium for trying to find a pathway back to a lost love. Here his heart’s desire is Roz, who for Paul is the essence of “lovingkindness”. This is a short book and a delightful read to me. It has more of a sweep on life than rendered by the narrow focus of other books of his I experienced. This includes his wonderful set of reveries while feeding a baby, “Room Temperature”, a strange book of sexual fantasy, “Fermata”, and one I sampled of a phone-sex relationship, “Vox.” His mastery of stream-of-consciousness and the minutae of everyday life do not feel like “experimental” writing, but as a fresh natural take on the true ingredients of the generativity of life. This book was provided for review by Netgalley and is expected to be released in September 2013.

  3. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Chowder is perhaps the most amiable narrator in modern fiction. A liberal poet seeking to reclaim his poorly ex and pen modern protest songs, Chowder is a mine of poetic and musical trivia and loveable huggableness. Frankly, in the hands of another writer, the tweeness might provoke chunder over Chowder, but Baker is a superb stylist and entertainer, so keeps the reader smiling and chuckling throughout, and makes up for the truly disastrous cover art. Fun fact, Baker wrote and recorded protest s Chowder is perhaps the most amiable narrator in modern fiction. A liberal poet seeking to reclaim his poorly ex and pen modern protest songs, Chowder is a mine of poetic and musical trivia and loveable huggableness. Frankly, in the hands of another writer, the tweeness might provoke chunder over Chowder, but Baker is a superb stylist and entertainer, so keeps the reader smiling and chuckling throughout, and makes up for the truly disastrous cover art. Fun fact, Baker wrote and recorded protest songs in tandem with writing the novel, such as 'Whistleblower Song' for Bradley Manning.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    I liked Paul Chowder even more in this book than I did in The Anthologist. He's funny and quirky , sweet and smart. I just kept thinking that Roz his former live in girlfriend should give this guy another chance. At 55 he's a published poet , going through a mid life crisis of sorts , albeit a little later in life than you would expect . He has decided that he doesn't want to write poetry any more. Maybe he'll write songs instead . After all he has a music background as he played the bassoon in I liked Paul Chowder even more in this book than I did in The Anthologist. He's funny and quirky , sweet and smart. I just kept thinking that Roz his former live in girlfriend should give this guy another chance. At 55 he's a published poet , going through a mid life crisis of sorts , albeit a little later in life than you would expect . He has decided that he doesn't want to write poetry any more. Maybe he'll write songs instead . After all he has a music background as he played the bassoon in his earlier life , but now he wants to play the guitar . The thing is he really does know a lot about music . There is no real plot and not a lot of action and while this seems light , it's really not . Yes , there are some laugh out loud moments and the travelling sprinkler is one of his prized possessions. That in itself is pretty funny (and odd) but also touching. It was his father's . It's not light because Paul really is an intelligent , thinking man who knows poetry and poets and music and all sorts of things. He expounds his views about war , drones , creativity , the CIA . Did Archibald MacLeish really have something to do with the CIA? I learned a lot from Paul Chowder . Paul Chowder is an odd guy attending Quaker meetings even though he is not very religious , riding around in his car writing and speaking directly to the reader as if it were a radio show. Yet, I couldn't help but love this guy who is trying to find himself and win back his girlfriend . Some of the most endearing scenes are ones that we see how much he loves Roz . You can almost hear it in his voice . If I didn't have so many other books I want to read , I would reread The Anthologist . I gave it three stars and it probably deserves more . This one is definitely 4 stars and I recommend it. Thanks to Serpent's and Tail and NetGalley.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    I always love Nicholson Baker but this one is even better than usual-- not just funny and smart and always surprising, but heartbreakingly beautiful as well. It almost seems like he's morphing a little into Richard Brautigan as he goes. Sort of exactly what was missing, I think. In any case, I really loved this book. Now I'm off to listen to Debussy and "Blackbird." Thanks for the book, Mo!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    This book is a whiny guy with no life who places his arbitrary thoughts about nothing in particular on paper. That's it. Nothing happens, he just thinks to himself about himself. Think back to the most boring small talk you've ever heard from the most uninteresting person you've ever met, then make him a stoner who's been burning brain cells daily for 30 years. Give him a bassoon and listen to him discuss his poetry. If that sounds like a good time, you'll love this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    When I saw this available on NetGalley, I was surprised because I hadn't heard that Nicholson Baker had a new novel coming out. It took just a few pages before I realized what this is! A sequel to The Anthologist, a book I loved and got me into reading poetry again, with one of my favorite characters lately. I was happy to jump into his mind again. This is Paul Chowder, sitting in a plastic chair. I want-I want-I want to tell you something new. I feel that I have a new thing. Now I will put t When I saw this available on NetGalley, I was surprised because I hadn't heard that Nicholson Baker had a new novel coming out. It took just a few pages before I realized what this is! A sequel to The Anthologist, a book I loved and got me into reading poetry again, with one of my favorite characters lately. I was happy to jump into his mind again. This is Paul Chowder, sitting in a plastic chair. I want-I want-I want to tell you something new. I feel that I have a new thing. Now I will put the rest of the review behind spoiler tags because my friend who first recommended Baker to me will lose it if I give anything away before he gets to read it!(view spoiler)[ I think you could get the wrong impression about Baker if you only read his Paul Chowder books. Paul is an older, creative, kind, slightly bumbling man living in his own little world of poems, plastic chairs, and ex-girlfriends. There was a lot to love about his life a few years after The Anthologist. His commentary on music, his attempts to keep writing poetry and music, his Quaker meetings... all just brought a stupid silly grin to my face because I love him so much. This is not the same critical/judgey Baker from Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper or push-the-limits-of-erotic-language Baker of House of Holes (although he does waggle his Shropshire lad one night, a little shout out maybe). I like that he can be so many different things, and that his books aren't all the same. I never know what to expect, even when revisiting a character from a previous book. When I read The Anthologist, I was inspired to create an index for the poetry mentioned. I bet this book will drive me to make a playlist of the music mentioned, but I don't want to do so until it comes out officially (check back in September when the book officially releases, and I will be buying myself a copy!). His span of music from pop to classical had me looking songs up left and right, some I knew and wanted to hear through Paul Chowder's eyes, and some I had never heard of before. Here is where I throw the quotations I loved into a list until I figure out what to say about them. I marked a lot of this book and I already want to return to it. They are from the ARC and may be different in the final version. "Early this morning I had a literary dream." "My knees are laughing. Is that allowed?" "I drove back to Portsmouth, up Route 95, with my tires going around and around saying the same things to the road over and over again. The road never gets it, never learns." "I don't know anything useful about poetry anymore. I love it, sort of, but I also don't love it and don't understand it, and every day I live, it seems more mysterious and farther away from me." "I want to really be with a woman. By that I mean I want to be able to stay up late with her talking about everything. I want to show her all the things that I've found out, which aren't very interesting maybe, but they're what I have. And I want her to show me all the things that she's found out." "I want to confide....I could listen to her say things forever." "Sexual laughter." "My very own talker, my slipper and slapper of mysteries." "Sometimes you don't want to know about evil, you just want to know about love. You want to take off the misery hat and think only about the good things." [This comes from the Fearing song listed below! And not cited! But it comes out of Paul's head, his memory.] "Almost messages" <- Quaker term "Don't expect people to hate one another. Wait and see what happens." "She's a namer of unnameables... She was full of this quality that I've come to take seriously, which is lovingkindness." "Tracy Chapman puts me through a moral Simpactor, breaking me into tiny pieces of uniform diameter so that I can absorb my own inadequacy." "What the hell. Make some music in the wreckage." "That's what happens when you write down a sentence, or a stanza. When you think of it, you imagine it in all its fleshed-out, full-voiced spoken plenitude. It's a fat, healthy living thing that comes out of a throat, made up of movements of tongue and mouth and jaw. And tiny meetings of flesh. The little vagina in the throat clenches, and air comes pushing up through it, and oooh! There it goes, up into the mouth, where it's manipulated by the lips and tongue.. So it comes into being as an audible phrase, as a living heavy healthy plump fleshy thing." "You have to be careful not to overlisten to a piece of music you love, or you'll wear it out - it has to last your whole life. You know it's there - the weight of the piano is there - but sometimes it's backstage, covered in quilted padding, waiting for the tuner to arrive and tighten its screws." "The past washes over all of us. And when it washes over us, it comes and it goes. It's a palindrome of oceanic activity." Things to explore: Tony Hoagland's poetry Sodajerker podcast (about songwriting) Stephen Fearing Kate Earl - "Melody" Jonatha Brooke - "In the Gloaming" Tracy Chapman - "Change" Nublu Sound - "Striptease in Istanbul" Paul Oakenfold - "Amsterdam" Ben Taylor Write Place, Write Time blog (hide spoiler)]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    The title Traveling Sprinkler was what drew me to this book in the first place. I was intrigued. As it turns out, it seems to be some sort of metaphor for creativity. I think. I didn’t analyze this too closely, I was having too much fun. This was a pretty fast read, except where it slowed in spots with detailed descriptions of all kinds of modern technological gizmos that can now be used to make music—I’m not really a technology person -- and one part where Baker was apparently trying to teach m The title Traveling Sprinkler was what drew me to this book in the first place. I was intrigued. As it turns out, it seems to be some sort of metaphor for creativity. I think. I didn’t analyze this too closely, I was having too much fun. This was a pretty fast read, except where it slowed in spots with detailed descriptions of all kinds of modern technological gizmos that can now be used to make music—I’m not really a technology person -- and one part where Baker was apparently trying to teach me to read music, which was more musical education than I’ve had in decades. And it went no better, in fact, than when a high school boyfriend tried to teach me to play guitar, but the less said about that and him, the better. Other than those limited sections, this book was good for a light read and I laughed out loud in a few places. I was definitely entertained.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. I had not heard about Nicholson Baker until now. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's not the story -- because there is essentially no story -- it's the voice and musings of the narrator that make this book. Having hit 55, the narrator regrets a lost girlfriend, and feels he's done his time as a poet. So he works on reconnecting with the lost girlfriend and teaches himself to play music so he can write songs instead of I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. I had not heard about Nicholson Baker until now. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's not the story -- because there is essentially no story -- it's the voice and musings of the narrator that make this book. Having hit 55, the narrator regrets a lost girlfriend, and feels he's done his time as a poet. So he works on reconnecting with the lost girlfriend and teaches himself to play music so he can write songs instead of poetry. As I said it's not the story that makes this book good. It's the narrator's personality -- an oddly loveable curmudgeon who is generous with the small circle of people in his life -- and all of his random thoughts and observations about contemporary America. A great little book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Simon Robs

    A light, fun, quirky, sometimes instructional and curling back around like its eponymous sprinkler system love story that you read in a day and go ha!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I don't like Nicholson Baker, I think, but after reading his books I always feel that I happen to love him, which is weird, because as far as I can tell from his author photo, he's a big hairy dude with a beard. I guess what I mean is he writes with compelling immediacy and intimacy. He's so situated in the mundane curiosities of driving around, going to the grocery store, taking a bath, calling his ex-girlfriend, and in the case of this book -- gossip about poets -- that reading him feels like I don't like Nicholson Baker, I think, but after reading his books I always feel that I happen to love him, which is weird, because as far as I can tell from his author photo, he's a big hairy dude with a beard. I guess what I mean is he writes with compelling immediacy and intimacy. He's so situated in the mundane curiosities of driving around, going to the grocery store, taking a bath, calling his ex-girlfriend, and in the case of this book -- gossip about poets -- that reading him feels like knowing someone very well, knowing someone so well that they can tell you stuff like that, stuff that itself doesn't take shape in the currency of 'interesting things', but happens to be so because of the relationship it is encased in. Here are some sentences from the first chapter of the book "The first time I read Keats's sonnet 'When I have Fears," I was eating a tuna sub. I was an applied music major, with a concentration in bassoon. I'd found the poem in the Norton Anthology of Poetry -- the shorter black edition with the Blake watercolor of a griffin on the cover. I propped the Norton open with my brown plastic food tray and I started reading and eating the tuna sub and drinking V8 juice occasionally from a little can" Keats says: 'When I have fears that I may cease to be." He doesn't say, "When I have fears that I may," you know, "drop dead," or "breathe my last" -- no, it's "cease to be." I stopped chewing. I was caught by the emptiness and ungraspability in that phrase. And then came the next line, and I made a little hum of amazement: "When I have fears that I may cease to be," Keats says, "Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain." I don't want to pretend that the cafeteria spun around. It stayed still. I heard the grinding sound of the cash register printing. But I was thinking very hard. I was thinking about a large tortoiseshell that somebody had given me when I was small. There was a sort of fused backbone on the inside of it that ran down the middle. This bony ridge smelled terrible when you sniffed it close-up, although it had no odor from a normal distance. I imagined the tortoiseshell as the top dome of a human skull, and I imagined Keats's pen gleaning bits of thought flesh from it. In this passage, Baker takes the extremely average experience of reading keats in the norton and turns it into a unique, specific, sensorial experience. There is the historical context -- "music major", "with a concentration in bassoon". There is sight -- "the shorter black edition with the Blake watercolor". There is the sound of the poem's iams, which Baker analyzes, and the surprising ending -- "cease to be". There is taste -- "tuna sub" and "v8". There is the work of the imagination -- "the tortoiseshell", and there is even smell -- "this bony ridge smelled terrible when you sniffed it close up". Later in the book, Paul Chowder (the narrator) mentions that he's begun a practice of meditation. each morning he takes an object, and ponders for ten minutes on all the sensations it evokes, in terms of each of the seven senses. In a way, this meditative practice also suggests the whole structure of the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Nowhere Man Paul Chowder is a distasteful little man drifting through life like the aforementioned sprinkler. Except that he contributes nothing to anyone or anywhere he happens to exist at the time, unlike the sprinkler, which has a purpose to water the grass. He just sucks down oxygen and waits to die. He has no passions, but gets some money out of thin air from his vapid poetry. The apex of his life was playing the buffoon in an orchestra before he became a poet. He is always thinking about the Nowhere Man Paul Chowder is a distasteful little man drifting through life like the aforementioned sprinkler. Except that he contributes nothing to anyone or anywhere he happens to exist at the time, unlike the sprinkler, which has a purpose to water the grass. He just sucks down oxygen and waits to die. He has no passions, but gets some money out of thin air from his vapid poetry. The apex of his life was playing the buffoon in an orchestra before he became a poet. He is always thinking about the buffoon and how it sounds, and dead composers, and the CIA and drones, while he spends all his money on equipment to make a pop song about street sweepers. When he isn’t bothering his ex-girlfriend because he needs a woman to take care of him and because of her “lady parts,” he can’t even bestir himself to watch porn online, but did go out on one online date. It, like everything else did not interest him much. He is afraid of deer, Quaker Meetings, and most of all the CIA and drones. He has no stress or worry at all except when he goes to Quaker Meetings and has to hold his car keys there to control himself. He can’t figure out how to flush a toilet or why his car is breaking, since he is a complete idiot about anything useful. But he does manage to “get high” smoking cigars. He was drinking too much teenager Yukon Jack and needed a new drug. He is the kind of person for whom Meth was invented. Unfortunately he did not discover it early in the book and off himself. Paulie want some heroin? The nowhere man is the toothless hillbilly rocking on the dilapidated porch in the woods, he does apparently live in the woods of Butthole Vermont of someplace like it—a completely worthless, disposable person who doesn’t try to do much of anything, waiting peacefully for it all to be over. “All” is an exaggeration in his case. The book only works, and I only read it past the first chapter, quit about half-way, because it is a stream of consciousness style of writing with no narrative text. The book would be a complete flop if told in narrative. It is an interesting structure for a writer to study. The East Coast literati called it, “funny.” Really? But then, they are amused by pointless New Yorker cartoons…

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chance Lee

    Good goddamn. What a book. This book is intensely personal and surprisingly political, but not in the "I have an agenda" self-serving bullshit way of politics. Most of my review would be redundant with my other reviews of Nicholson Baker's fiction. Brilliant. Genius. Blah blah blah. A few incomplete sentences I'm not sure if I've said, or if I have, not in these exact words: His subtle metaphors, so simple and so complex. The metaphor of the traveling sprinkler is genius, as well as Baker's refu Good goddamn. What a book. This book is intensely personal and surprisingly political, but not in the "I have an agenda" self-serving bullshit way of politics. Most of my review would be redundant with my other reviews of Nicholson Baker's fiction. Brilliant. Genius. Blah blah blah. A few incomplete sentences I'm not sure if I've said, or if I have, not in these exact words: His subtle metaphors, so simple and so complex. The metaphor of the traveling sprinkler is genius, as well as Baker's refusal to explain himself to you. His incredible talent with the English language, in deconstructing existing words and constructing new ones. His ability to make me laugh, cry, and think so deeply all at the same time. Ah! Writerly love. There's so much love in this book, but there's anger, too. And writing about how to deal with this anger. Anger at war and destruction. Anger at the people who perpetuate it. The underlying message through it all is this: the world fucking sucks right now. And it's so easy to think there's nothing we can do about it, but we can. We can try harder to love one another.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Poet Paul Chowder is in between--middle aged, living off a briskly selling poetry anthology, not working on a book, and pining a bit for his ex-girlfriend, Roz. Frankly, he just wants to write a good old-fashioned anti-drone strike protest song. He sits in his car and fiddles with lyrics. He attends an occasional Quaker meetings. He smokes cigars and waters his neighbor's tomatoes. His barn floor collapses, he fiddles with words some more. He muses about Debussy, Stravinsky, John Mayer and how m Poet Paul Chowder is in between--middle aged, living off a briskly selling poetry anthology, not working on a book, and pining a bit for his ex-girlfriend, Roz. Frankly, he just wants to write a good old-fashioned anti-drone strike protest song. He sits in his car and fiddles with lyrics. He attends an occasional Quaker meetings. He smokes cigars and waters his neighbor's tomatoes. His barn floor collapses, he fiddles with words some more. He muses about Debussy, Stravinsky, John Mayer and how music works. He goes to Best Buy. Calls his agent. Roz has a hysterectomy. Paul finally decides what he needs to do. One of Nicholson Baker's best by far, this quiet, charming and intelligent novel is one of the many I picked up at the Book Expo this year and almost didn't. My life would have been so much different, if I hadn't. The second "middle-aged man as disgruntled writer" novel I've read this year, and the sweetest thing I've read in a long time. (Title released in September '13.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    B

    Nicholson Baker is a new author for me. I really enjoyed this book. I loved his voice throughout, his storytelling ability and the way he created himself. Definitely finding another one of his books to start immediately. This is one of those books I am sorry I finished.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marc Nash

    Fairly potty sequel to "The Anthologist". A jobbing poet is trying to move over into making music rather than poetry, though caught between the influences of classical and modern pop/dance music, what he (ironically) struggles with are the lyrics - they are terrible! The titular metaphor of the travelling sprinkler, the sprinkler that is not fixed but uses the water pressure to direct it's aim, constantly moving and changing trajectories, is I suppose a metaphor for Paul the poet's own life and Fairly potty sequel to "The Anthologist". A jobbing poet is trying to move over into making music rather than poetry, though caught between the influences of classical and modern pop/dance music, what he (ironically) struggles with are the lyrics - they are terrible! The titular metaphor of the travelling sprinkler, the sprinkler that is not fixed but uses the water pressure to direct it's aim, constantly moving and changing trajectories, is I suppose a metaphor for Paul the poet's own life and how he lives it fairly purposelessly and randomly. A stoner who smokes cigars rather than ganja. Like I say, fairly potty, but reasonably enjoyable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sian Lile-Pastore

    Sweet and gentle - lots about music, poetry and books, kinda nicely dated now with discussions on the movie Garden State and older bands. Got a little dull tho at times.... But feel it could be just the thing for some readers!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Paul Chowder is back... the feckless (that word shows up a lot), rambling, self-obsessed poet-protagonist of Nicholson Baker's short work The Anthologist returns, in this longer and somehow even less-focused novel. Traveling Sprinkler picks up pretty much where its predecessor left off. Paul's girlfriend Roz has left him to start a radio show that regularly debunks myths of the medical establishment—a distinctly valuable public service, in contrast to the more ambiguous benefits society may recei Paul Chowder is back... the feckless (that word shows up a lot), rambling, self-obsessed poet-protagonist of Nicholson Baker's short work The Anthologist returns, in this longer and somehow even less-focused novel. Traveling Sprinkler picks up pretty much where its predecessor left off. Paul's girlfriend Roz has left him to start a radio show that regularly debunks myths of the medical establishment—a distinctly valuable public service, in contrast to the more ambiguous benefits society may receive from a modern-day poet (albeit one who gets taught in college courses). Chowder's into broadcasting too, kind of—at least, several chapters start with him introducing a notional podcast, of all things (although it's not clear whether he's actually producing said podcast or merely thinking about the forms one might take). The Anthologist benefited from having a clear central conflict: Chowder had a deadline, and was having trouble meeting it. But... in Traveling Sprinkler, all the pressure is off (heh). That anthology has been published, and is earning royalties. Paul's working on a new collection (which he wants to call Misery Hat, over his editor's objections), but he doesn't have a timetable for that. He's not a wealthy man (what poet is?), but the wolf doesn't seem to be anywhere near the door. Oh, sure, things happen that Paul has to deal with—Roz has health issues, and the decrepit New England farm to which Chowder has retreated has a few structural problems of its own... but most of this novel involves Chowder's series of personal enthusiasms and distractions. He goes to Best Buy and picks up a crappy guitar-in-a-box. He listens to a lot of music on his iPod—some of which is quite good (by which I mean: to my own taste), and spends a fair amount of time online (I believe this is the first Baker book to contain a YouTube URL—a valid one, at that, pointing to Stephen Fearing's rendition of "Don't Wanna Know about Evil" {p.107}). Chowder attends Quaker assemblies and sometimes even speaks, when the silence has gone on too long. He sits in his car and works on that poetry collection. He downloads a music-generation software package called Logic to his Mac (of course it'd be an Apple) out in the barn, and spends an inordinate amount of time thereafter explaining exactly what presets he's chosen for his various half-written songs about egg slicers, canoes and the eponymous traveling sprinkler. In short, the man rambles. But... this is Nicholson Baker we're talking about here—the guy who once expanded twenty minutes spent rocking an infant to sleep into an entire novel. Rambling is what Baker does—and like Garrison Keillor, at least these days, you just have to give Chowder a chance to circle around to the point. And although he (unlike that traveling sprinkler) has no predefined path to follow, an overall arc to Paul Chowder's story eventually does become apparent. I didn't like Traveling Sprinkler quite as much as I did The Anthologist, despite the newer novel's wealth of shared cultural touchstones. It just didn't seem to contain as much of an animating spark. But Baker on a bad day is better than most books' authors on their best, and sharing Paul Chowder's life is by no means the worst way to spend part of your own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca H.

    Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and Traveling Sprinkler is a sequel to one of my favorite Baker books, The Anthologist. It continues the story of his main character, Paul Chowder, a poet and, in the case of this novel, aspiring song-writer. The Anthologist was about Chowder’s attempts to write an introduction to his forthcoming poetry anthology, and in this new book, the anthology has come out, and Chowder is supposed to be writing new poetry. Instead, he spends his t Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and Traveling Sprinkler is a sequel to one of my favorite Baker books, The Anthologist. It continues the story of his main character, Paul Chowder, a poet and, in the case of this novel, aspiring song-writer. The Anthologist was about Chowder’s attempts to write an introduction to his forthcoming poetry anthology, and in this new book, the anthology has come out, and Chowder is supposed to be writing new poetry. Instead, he spends his time learning music software and trying to win back his ex-girlfriend Roz. The format is typical Baker: his main character thinks about the world around him, shares his thoughts on this and that, and not much happens. I don’t think this book is as good as The Anthologist, but the thing about Baker is that even while I’m thinking to myself, “this book isn’t as good as The Anthologist,” I’m still beguiled by the narrative voice. I don’t want the book to end, which for me doesn’t happen with very many books. I’m aware as I’m reading that the thoughts Chowder is having, random as they seem sometimes, do fit together and add up to something bigger. Baker weaves his themes carefully together, and in this case, he’s interested in what art can do in a world constantly at war. Chowder wants to write a political protest song, and he thinks throughout the book about drones and a friend who gets arrested protesting U.S. foreign policy, and he wonders what good one person can do, particularly a person who spends his time quietly, thinking about poetry. Here is where the traveling sprinkler fits in: "National Walking Sprinkler of Nebraska made Wilson’s machines, and they still do. They made them for Sears and that’s where my father bought his. Everything about it is immediately understandable. It’s what America did before it threw itself wholeheartedly into the making of weapons that kill everyone. I have been trying to write a poem about this sprinkler for years, because I like it so much, and I’ve never managed to do it. What a joy now to wind it around Nan’s tomatoes and watch it, in all its intuitive clumsy ungainly beauty, do some good." Chowder is trying to appreciate what good there is in the world, as a counterweight to all that is bad. This effort may not get him very far, but it’s a worthy way to spend his time, at least. So even with my doubts along the way, I was feeling warmly toward the book by the end. It has large things to say about the world, but it does it in an understated, charming manner that I find hard to resist.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    Traveling Sprinkler ended up being surprisingly touching for me. At first, I felt like the main character/narrator, Paul Chowder, rambled too much and went into too much detail about musical theory. I soon became aware of what a mild mannered charm and boyishness Paul had, and I grew to appreciate his enthusiasm for the subjects he was passionate about. Paul Chowder is a minor poet who is due to write a new book, but his heart just isn't in it anymore. Music is what captures his attention, and h Traveling Sprinkler ended up being surprisingly touching for me. At first, I felt like the main character/narrator, Paul Chowder, rambled too much and went into too much detail about musical theory. I soon became aware of what a mild mannered charm and boyishness Paul had, and I grew to appreciate his enthusiasm for the subjects he was passionate about. Paul Chowder is a minor poet who is due to write a new book, but his heart just isn't in it anymore. Music is what captures his attention, and he desires to write a song. He thinks about writing a pop song, or a protest song due to all of the worries he has about where our country is headed, and he'd really like to write a love song. Paul is still completely hung up on his ex-girlfriend Roz, and he worries when she has to undergo major surgery. The way their relationship ended is one of his biggest regrets, and he still hopes that they will have a future together. This book follows Paul as he meanders along, and tries to decide what direction to take next. As I read, I decided that Paul was an exceedingly nice and caring man, and I enjoyed his story. I also liked the character of Roz quite a bit. I was rooting for Paul throughout the story, and wishing good things in his life. Paul was an individual who liked to do what good things he could for others, and that made him even more endearing. I received this ARC from the publisher.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Will

    I woke up very early, before it was light, and by the glow of my phone I read a little of Pat Pattison's ebook on how to write better song lyrics. Pat Pattison teaches at Berklee. One of his students was John Mayer, he is at pains to let us know. At the beginning of his book he thanks Mayer and some of his fellow students 'for showing how well all this stuff can work.' Pattison is not a humble man. The mother-of-pearl shell-diving exercise in his first chapter, he says, has over the years 'prove I woke up very early, before it was light, and by the glow of my phone I read a little of Pat Pattison's ebook on how to write better song lyrics. Pat Pattison teaches at Berklee. One of his students was John Mayer, he is at pains to let us know. At the beginning of his book he thanks Mayer and some of his fellow students 'for showing how well all this stuff can work.' Pattison is not a humble man. The mother-of-pearl shell-diving exercise in his first chapter, he says, has over the years 'proved to be a mainstay for many successful songwriters, including Grammy winners John Mayer and Gillian Welch.' Here's how you do the diving exercise, according to Pat Pattison. You imagine a random object - anything at all, could be a back porch or a puddle - and you dive toward it. You try to understand how it affects all seven of your senses, including your organic sense and your kinesthetic sense. You set a timer and do this for ten minutes first thing in the morning. You take notes. By the sixth minute, things really get going, Pattison says. You're on your way down, 'diving, plunging, heading for the soft pink and blue glow.' Then, ding, time's up. That sounded pretty good. I tried it in bed. I started the iPhone timer and began typing notes. What was I diving for? I didn't want to think about a back porch or a puddle. I was diving down to reach the drain at the swimming pool at summer camp. The drain under the diving boards was twelve feet deep, I knew that. I had tried before and hadn't been able to do it, but now it was toward the end of camp, and my swimming had gotten stronger. It was a YMCA day camp, and there were swimming certificates. They gave you little cards when you'd progressed to a certain level. This was when I was eight or nine. I'd gotten a Guppy card, and a Minnow card - I was nowhere near a Flying Fish or a Shark - and I took a huge gulp of air and surface-dived toward the drain. I struggled down, kicking so hard my body twisted in the water, till the drain began to come into focus. It was round and black and had a number of large holes in it. I thought I wasn't going to be able to reach it. I saw - And then my alarm timer went off, playing its loud marimba tune, with a final plink of syncopation. I turned it off. I reset it for another ten minutes. What I saw on the drain was a pale pink piece of chewing gum, the very same piece of pink baby-Jesus gum I'd seen at the drinking fountain at school. I didn't touch it. I touched the terrifying drain itself. I looked up and saw somebody's legs hit the water a mile above me. I pushed off from the bottom and clawed to the surface. I didn't tell anyone I'd touched the drain that day, but I had. Four or five years later, my grandparents took us on a cruise. It was a Swan Hellenic Cruise, with a full complement of tanned, elderly, witty classicists from Oxford who gave lectures on-site at Paestum and Pompeii and at the rebuilt ruins of the palace at Knossos. I took a picture of a black cat near one of the columns of the Parthenon that had been reassembled after the Turks stored ammunition there and it blew up. One of the professors, J. V. Luce, had a theory that Plato's Atlantis was actually Minoan Crete, which had suffered a terrible tidal wave when a nearby island volcano blew and then sank into the sea, forming a caldera. Professor Luce said that there was a core of truth to the Atlantis story, that the sinking island and the tidal destruction of the center of Minoan civilization had merged, and that Plato had gotten the dimensions of Atlantis wrong by a simple factor of ten, which was an easy thing to do because of the cumbersome way in which numbers were notated at the time. I was tremendously excited by this theory. It was definitely true, no question. The timer's marimba went off again and I didn't bother to reset it. There was, I recall, a beautiful long empty beach on Crete with a rusty wrecked ship on its side a few hundred feet from shore. I swam out to it with my new facemask on and saw the ribs of the wreck through the bright blue water. It was entirely covered with pale yellow seaweeds about the size of Lay's potato chips that moved gently in the currents. I felt a fear of the empty blue water and the yellow weedy wreck and I swam back to shore. And then we went to a small island - I think it was Mykonos - with many white houses on steep streets that led down to the water. 'You need some fins,' my grandmother said. She went into a tourist shop and bought me a pair of black swim fins and a snorkel. The fins were difficult to walk in, but they propelled you through the water with remarkable speed. The beach was in a cove, with high rocks around, and I swam out to the deepest part, breathing through my gurgly new snorkel. It had little rubber flanges you could bite on to hold it in your mouth. I stared down at the green-black weeds and the lumpy rocks. I sucked in air and upended myself and dove, and I got about halfway down and then turned back. The water was deeper than the YMCA pool. It was darker, too. The light angled into it like light coming through venetian blinds. I thought I saw something moving down there, something oddly furry, like a hedgehog. Perhaps it was a sea cucumber. I took a breath and bit down on the now useless snorkel and began my descent, trying to swim like the scuba people in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with my arms at my sides. The fins helped me go deep fast. The facemask pushed hard against my upper lip and around my eyes. I kept going. And then the daylight dimmed and I felt currents of cold water touching me like arms. I reached out toward the mysterious woolly sea cucumber, if that's what it was, but there were black seaweeds all around it and my fear was growing. I saw a spiny sea urchin next to it. I thought, I'm in an element that doesn't want me here. Don't go this deep. I turned and kicked my fins and swam upward. I flailed through into air and light and breathed. So that is what Pat Pattison helped me remember. Is there a song in all that? I don't think so. Maybe if I were John Mayer there would be, or Gillian Welch. Who is Gillian Welch? I'll have to check her out."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    What a charmer! The narrator of Baker's The Anthologist, Paul Chowder, doesn’t want to be a poet anymore. He wants to write protest songs, or love songs, or protest-love songs. He's a bit unsettled in every sense. With songs on his mind, he’s forever talking about music and how music is made and the motivations to do so, the artifice of translating music onto paper (much like stories into text). There are asides about cigars, Obama’s drone war, Quakerism – a Blll Bryson-ful of accessible facts w What a charmer! The narrator of Baker's The Anthologist, Paul Chowder, doesn’t want to be a poet anymore. He wants to write protest songs, or love songs, or protest-love songs. He's a bit unsettled in every sense. With songs on his mind, he’s forever talking about music and how music is made and the motivations to do so, the artifice of translating music onto paper (much like stories into text). There are asides about cigars, Obama’s drone war, Quakerism – a Blll Bryson-ful of accessible facts wittily told. Baker constantly references songs and videos, even including a cumbersome YouTube address for a Stephen Fearing video that is well worth stopping what you're doing to peck out. And I kept doing so -- interrupting my reading to jot down titles or call up music, as if these were audio footnotes to the text. Then I remembered that Baker has employed extensive footnotes in the past, so, AHA!, I see what you’re up to, you scamp! Seemingly scattered, this is no collection of random facts. They are pieces of loveable, flawed Paul Chowder, a man trying to get back on track. Not a difficult book by any means but a playful pleasure.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Clarke Gunter

    While I enjoyed this return of Paul Chowder from "The Anthologist", unlike many reviewers here, I think "The Anthologist" is a better book (5 stars from me). Maybe that's because I prefer Paul to be obsessed with writing poems rather than pop songs as he is in this book. I know about poets and poems, so I really enjoyed all the references and funny comments about them in "The Anthologist". My knowledge of recent pop songs and their writers is, ummm, rather lacking, and so many of the pop song re While I enjoyed this return of Paul Chowder from "The Anthologist", unlike many reviewers here, I think "The Anthologist" is a better book (5 stars from me). Maybe that's because I prefer Paul to be obsessed with writing poems rather than pop songs as he is in this book. I know about poets and poems, so I really enjoyed all the references and funny comments about them in "The Anthologist". My knowledge of recent pop songs and their writers is, ummm, rather lacking, and so many of the pop song references and comments fell flat for me in "Traveling Sprinkler". But at least Paul and Roz seem to have gotten their relationship back on track and so, hopefully, there will be no more of Paul pining away over Roz in any future Baker books, although that pining provides many funny and sweet moments in both books. And, hopefully, there will be future books about Paul and his creative quests because he is such a memorable and endearing character, and oh so funny. Nicholson Baker's prose is sparkling and witty as always. There are few writers who entertain me as much as Nicholson Baker.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Lawrence

    There are few writers that I read that I really wish I could develop a friendship with; Nicholson Baker is an exception. He is thoughtful, funny, and deeply compassionate; of course, all those things don't necessarily make for a good writer, but he is talented to boot. Or maybe it's just Paul Chowder that I like so much, who seems to have all these qualities I'm attributing to Baker but maybe is a little less talented. Anyway, I the mixture of poetry and music that buoys the storyline of Chowder There are few writers that I read that I really wish I could develop a friendship with; Nicholson Baker is an exception. He is thoughtful, funny, and deeply compassionate; of course, all those things don't necessarily make for a good writer, but he is talented to boot. Or maybe it's just Paul Chowder that I like so much, who seems to have all these qualities I'm attributing to Baker but maybe is a little less talented. Anyway, I the mixture of poetry and music that buoys the storyline of Chowder trying to win back the affections of his friend Roz simply works -- at no point does it feel like Baker has created a "sound-track" that could readily be tapped into with a movie option for the novel. I think "The Anthologist" was a stronger book, but this novel had a very relaxed and nice groove to it. For anyone interested, I made a fairly inclusive music list of practically every song Baker mentions in the novel housed at Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/user/12184334.... Enjoy the tunes and help yourself to a good read with this novel!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Although this felt like a quite light, slight, but very funny read, Nicholson Baker's voice (the same protagonist that I thoroughly enjoyed in The Anthologist) is wry, engaging, sort of endearing ... distinctive. If you like its mix of self-aware and self-deprecating, whiny apathy and earnestness, it's really an enjoyable (and funny!) read. The emphasis on music here brought Nick Hornby to mind, and music junkies will probably chuckle at Paul Chowder's obsessive music research, conducted while t Although this felt like a quite light, slight, but very funny read, Nicholson Baker's voice (the same protagonist that I thoroughly enjoyed in The Anthologist) is wry, engaging, sort of endearing ... distinctive. If you like its mix of self-aware and self-deprecating, whiny apathy and earnestness, it's really an enjoyable (and funny!) read. The emphasis on music here brought Nick Hornby to mind, and music junkies will probably chuckle at Paul Chowder's obsessive music research, conducted while trying to write a pop song, and while trying to win back his ex-girlfriend. I listened to it as an audio book, narrated by the author.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzette

    If you read The Anthologist and liked it, you will appreciate this follow-up on Paul Chowder. This one was a lighter, more fun read in many ways -- just a story about a middle-aged man who is still trying to find the love song (or maybe protest song) inside him. Meticulously researched and an ode to many kinds of music, it was definitely enjoyable.

  27. 4 out of 5

    NancyKay

    This sequel to "The Anthologist" is the kind of thing that might annoy the shit out of a lot of people, but I find it charming. It's MEANT to be charming. I'm just saying it might not work for everyone. But it works for me. A little pleasure-bomb.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This is the perfect 1 1/2 star. Parts of this introspective are informative and enriching. Especially when talking about musicians and their works. Other parts are extremely annoying and repeated ad nauseam with a blah end. 3 of 10 stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    MaryAdair

    LOVE me some Paul Chowder. This second installment focuses on Chowder's musical pursuits (amazing) and his attempts to get Roz back (super endearing).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Traveling Sprinkler isn't the usual type of book I like to read, but I really enjoyed the way it all came together and it's originality.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.