The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, 2009.
"Hello, this is Paul Chowder, and I'm going to try to tell you everything I know. Well, not everything I know, because a lot of what I know, you know. But everything I know about poetry. All my tips and tricks and woes and worries are going to come tumbling out before you. I'm going to divulge them. What a juicy word that is, 'divulge.' Truth opening its petals. Truth smells like Chinese food and sweat."
I met my friend Katia early one morning during the first week of undergrad. We were both early for class, a nightmarish, albeit beautiful, survey of English Lit, and had parked our butts on the floor in front of the lecture hall until the prof arrived. What started as small talk soon grew to sharing tales of freshman trauma, which led to late night crash sessions and countless afternoons bonding over copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes.
This was almost 10 years ago, which is nuts cause I think we both still feel like lost lambs in a world made up of real adults. So much has happened since we met; we've lived in different countries, different cities, she's married and a step-mom to two beautiful kids, and I'm riding solo, deep in my masters and in the midst of urban trotting. Our lives are totally different yet somehow nothing between us has changed.
Every year I give Katia a book for her birthday, a gesture that is probably propelled by our literary connect, but also one that I don't overthink. I'll peruse shelves with nothing in mind and will stop once my eyes land on the perfect spine. This year, Baker's The Anthologist seemed super apropos, seeing as how the beginning years of our friendship were spent pining over Norton's onion pages, quizzing each other on who wrote what and when. Explain the elements of mortality in Kubla Khan. Describe self-defence and provocation in Margaret Atwood. What Would Joyce Do? When I spotted Baker it was a total bulls eye, but, true to form, I couldn't stop at just one, and I managed to find two other gems (swipe right for the full trio) that I think she'll love.
Happy Birthday to my very dear, very silly, and totally perfect amiga.👯