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Paul Chowder, the poet protagonist of Nicholson Baker’s widely acclaimed novel The Anthologist, is turning fifty-five and missing his ex-girlfriend, Roz, rather desperately.
As he approaches the dreaded birthday, Paul is uninspired by his usual artistic outlet (although he’s pleased that his poetry anthology, Only Rhyme, is selling “steadily”). Putting aside poetry in favor of music, and drawing on his classical bassoon training, Paul turns instead to his new acoustic guitar with one goal in mind: to learn songwriting. As he struggles to come to terms with the horror of America’s drone wars and Roz’s recent relationship with a local NPR radio host, Paul fills his days with Quaker meetings, Planet Fitness workouts, and some experiments with tobacco. Written in Baker’s beautifully unconventional prose, and scored with musical influences from Debussy to Tracy Chapman to Paul himself, Traveling Sprinkler is an enchanting, hilarious—and very necessary—novel by one of the most beloved and influential writers today.