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Traveling Sprinkler: A Novel Hardcover – September 17, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press; First Edition edition (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399160965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399160967
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)

From Booklist

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. --Donna Seaman

More About the Author

I've written thirteen books, plus an art book that I published with my wife, Margaret Brentano. The most recent one is a comic sex novel called House of Holes, which came out in August 2011. Before that, in 2009, there was The Anthologist, about a poet trying to write an introduction to an anthology of rhyming verse, and before that was Human Smoke, a book of nonfiction about the beginning of World War II. My first novel, The Mezzanine, about a man riding an escalator at the end of his lunch hour, came out in 1988. I'm a pacifist. Occasionally I write for magazines. I grew up in Rochester, New York and went to Haverford College, where I majored in English. I live in Maine with my family.



Customer Reviews

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See all 20 customer reviews
Another great read by one of America's truly talented wordsmiths.
Nortin Hadler
I liked the overall flow of the story and the character but his subjects of interest just didn't match up with mine.
Rebecca
Nicholson knows a lot about a wide array of subjects and minutiae which he shares along the way.
Sharon - NYC

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Some writers have a knack for making readers feel good, not because they're describing a good world, but because they describe a rotten world in a good-natured way. Nicholson Baker reminds us that the world isn't all bad (even if the news is), that it's filled with well-intentioned (if sometimes misguided) people, and that much of what we fret about is silly, although much (like drones dropping bombs on children) provides good reason to wear a misery hat.

At 55, Paul Chowder (last seen in The Anthologist) is a bit late for a mid-life crisis but he's having one anyway. Chowder is struggling to shape a new identity. He'd like to write protest songs. He'd like to have big lips because he thinks women find them attractive. He'd like to get back together with Roz. He'd like to help people. He'd like to stop eating the peanut butter crackers that are giving him a potbelly.

Chowder figures that after publishing three collections and an anthology, he is finished as a poet. In his youth, Chowder gave up the bassoon for poetry; now he is learning to play a cheap guitar. His friend Tim tells him that taking up the guitar is "a middle-aged thing to do," that he'll be like the people at faculty parties who "sneak off and play Clapton Unplugged and Blind Lemon Jefferson." The wry humor in that observation, and in Chowder's response ("Exactly"), sets the tone for Traveling Sprinkler.

Just as the pleasure of music derives from "the singularity of every utterance," the unique nature of every individual's thought patterns is well illustrated in Traveling Sprinkler.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sharon - NYC on September 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As we travel along with the protagonist, Paul Chowder of "Anthologist" fame, we are drawn into the twisting, winding path of his mind and by extension that of the author. As he purposefully, or not, writes a book about writing a hit dance-music song, we are taken along a meandering journey of the intellect . You gots your poetry, you gots your rock music, you gots extensive digressions on techno-music, some pacifism, the art of making and playing an oboe, political protest and yes, you gots some religion too! And like any good novel, there is a love interest, unconventional and tender and touching . Want to really enjoy this book? Go to one of the online music services and play the extensive and varied music which inspires our poet turned songwriter. There are pieces as varied as those of Stravinsky, Debussy and Marvin Gaye. Not only will you love the music, you will begin to really get into the mind and heart of Paul Chowder . Did I mention that the book is funny. It is, and quirky and erudite. Nicholson knows a lot about a wide array of subjects and minutiae which he shares along the way. This is one guy's journey in a difficult world and you will be captivated by his thoughts, his musings, his interests, his loves and his humanity. Guaranteed to make you smile - just a little!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephen T. Hopkins VINE VOICE on January 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Having started to read several books by Nicholson Baker, and having finished some, I’ve concluded that his love of words can become so obsessive that it requires more patience than I usually have to stay with him to the end. I finished reading his novel, Traveling Sprinkler, that reprises the character Paul Chowder, a poet from an earlier novel, The Anthologist, one that I gave up reading after a few dozen pages. Baker meanders with readers over the course of three hundred pages, finding every possible way to reinforce the sprinkler metaphor, or to digress on any number of subjects. I found some of this writing to be enjoyable, but after a while I couldn’t take Paul Chowder’s stream of consciousness any longer, and was reluctant to join him on another trip to Planet Fitness. I endured to the end, but found only mild satisfaction. Read a sample to test your own patience before you commit to reading this quirky novel.

Rating: Two-star (I didn’t like it)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ktina on September 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Poet still seeking himself at fifty-five tries to re-connect with ex-girlfriend while trying on new identities like cigar smoker and guitar player. Parts of this book are laugh-out-loud funny. Was led to purchase this book by good review in the New Yorker. Must confess to skimming some of the parts about the bassoon and the evils of drone warfare. Glad I bought it and got reacquainted but I liked the Anthologist better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper VINE VOICE on January 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In his wonderful novel The Anthologist: A Novel, Nicholson Baker features Paul Chowder, a "once-in-a-while-published kind of poet" who has agreed to create a poetry anthology and write its introduction. And for 241 of that novel's 243 pages, Paul procrastinates, busying himself with this and that while he, in a delightful fashion, muses about the history, structure, and beauty of poetry. Then, Paul focuses and, in the novel's final pages, completes his introduction and book. To a large extent, TA is about poetry. But through Paul, TA also shows how procrastination can be a working style. And it shows how procrastination can create collateral damage with Roz, Paul's girlfriend, moving out because she is exasperated with his dilatory work style and ambivalent commitments.

In THE TRAVELING SPRINKLER, Paul Chowder returns. In this novel, a few years have passed and Paul really misses Roz, who has a new boyfriend. At the same time, Paul, at 55, has reached the age when the compositional power of most poets is in eclipse. Finally, Paul is outraged at the Obama administration and its policy of drone warfare. But his long poem exploring drone warfare and its repercussions is hopelessly stalled. In TTS, Baker shows how the non-linear and whimsical Paul finds solutions to these three problems. Once again, wait for the final few pages.

The jacket copy of TTS points out that Paul, thwarted in love and poetry, turns, in this period of need, to songwriting, which he learns with Logic, a music composition program from Apple. As he explores Logic, Paul treats the reader to some thoughts about poetry.
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