Traveling Sprinkler was just released last week and is the sequel to one of my favorite novels, The Anthologist. I included it on my list of fall book releases that I’m most excited about, and in my Weekend Reading post.
I started it Friday, read it in the hammock on Saturday afternoon, and finished it on the plane ride from Grand Rapids to LaGuardia this morning. Here are some random thoughts:
1. I still really like Paul Chowder as a narrator. He’s endearing, and it gives the novel a very personal feel, as if Paul Chowder is your good friend.
2. This is the second novel I’ve read in a row that mentions The Sunken Cathedral by Debussy. The first was Night Film by Marissa Pessl. It’s an interesting coincidence, and I’ve been listening to different performances of The Sunken Cathedral on Spotify. In fact, Traveling Sprinklers says quite a lot about The Sunken Cathedral. Pages 255 to 257 go into detail on the piece and is perhaps the most beautiful description of what a piece of music is about that I have ever read.
3. Traveling Sprinklers includes Paul Chowder commenting on a lot of current political topics (namely, drone warfare, and war in general). I don’t mind this being included in theory, but it seemed disjointed and out of place here. It was tied to his attempts at songwriting, but just ended up feeling strange and inconclusive.
4. In the Anthologist, Paul Chowder’s focus and obsession is poetry, with some music commentary as well. In Traveling Sprinkler, Paul Chowder’s focus is on music, with a little poetry commentary. I enjoyed the poetry focus more.
Do I recommend? If you have read & enjoyed The Anthologist, yes, it’s worth reading. If you have not yet read The Anthologist, definitely read that one first. If you don’t like The Anthologist, do not read this one. Straightforward, isn’t it?
“I want to confide – that’s what I want to do. What confiding is is that you have a woman you like a great deal and you tell her things that you didn’t even know were secrets. You look at her and you feel a nervous warmth because she’s the only person who will understand. She’s just said something so direct and so interesting – something you never heard before – and suddenly all of the distractions of people’s opinions swirling around you stop. You hear just this one woman next to you saying this one opinion that’s coming out of her mouth, and you think, I could listen to her say things forever.” – Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker, page 43