From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In Baker's lovely 10th novel, readers are introduced to Paul Chowder, a study in failure, at a very dark time in his life. He has lost the two things that he values most: his girlfriend, Roz, and his ability to write. The looming introduction to an anthology of poems he owes a friend, credit card debt and frequent finger injuries aren't helping either. Chowder narrates in a professorial and often very funny stream of consciousness as he relates his woes and shares his knowledge of poetry, and though a desire to learn about verse will certainly make the novel more accessible and interesting, it isn't a prerequisite to enjoying it. Chowder's interest in poetry extends beyond meter and enjambment; alongside discussions of craft, he explores the often sordid lives of poets (Poe, Tennyson and Rothke are just some of the poets who figuratively and literally haunt Chowder). And when he isn't missing Roz or waxing on poetics, he busies himself with a slow and strangely compelling attempt at cleaning up his office. Baker pulls off an original and touching story, demonstrating his remarkable writing ability while putting it under a microscope. (Sept.)
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Paul Chowder is a free-verse poet of some repute who has compiled an anthology titled “Only Rhyme” but can’t manage to bang out the introduction. His struggle has sent his girlfriend, Roz, packing, and we can see why he’s no fun to live with. On the page, though, he’s an erudite, unpretentious, and often hilarious companion who mentions Ludacris in the same line as Kipling, and who compares anthologists to “that blond bitch-goddess on ‘Project Runway.’ ” While Paul’s peregrinations, which recall Baker’s “U and I” but with poetry on the pedestal instead of Updike, are a textbook case of avoidance, they are also an earnest exploration of poetic rhythm and what it has to do with baby talk, music, crossword puzzles—and his longing for Roz. “Only Rhyme” began with Paul’s impulse to collect, but it ends up meaning “Only connect.”