Nicholson Baker’s Paul Chowder novels

I’ve been enjoying Nicholson Baker’s Paul Chowder novels, which are the musings of a mid life poet, full of intriguing theories and literary gossip. There’s a little romance, the case for Quaker pacifism, and the incredible story of how a poet, Archibald Macleish, became one of the founders of the CIA, a man the Chicago Tribune called ‘the bald bard of balderdash’.

‘Archibald MacLeish was one of the original instigators and organizers of this bloated monstrosity of assassination and violent regime change and unaccountable underhanded ugliness and skullduggery. And drone warfare. Which is why Plato was right: poets should never get involved in politics.’

Baker, Nicholson. Travelling Sprinkler (p. 107). Profile Books. Kindle Edition.

Few people are as eclectic as this writer. Innovative erotica, reportage, experimental novels you can actually read: Mr Baker is one erudite, digressive gentleman. Can’t agree on Philip Larkin – ‘his acid is too corrosive’,  but then cynicism hasn’t always served me well. Maybe I should have been more like Paul Chowder. If you ever need to accentuate the positive just read these informative, highly entertaining novels.

He is also a wonderful essayist. As an ex musician he has fascinating insights into, for instance, Debussy’s La Mer, some of which was written in Eastbourne.

Hear here

Debussy piece in The Way the World Works.

Nicholson Baker’s Paul Chowder novels are The Anthologist and Travelling Sprinkler – the latter on Serpent’s Tail, my old publisher. Although Mr Baker has fewer cadavers. And no kinky stuff.