Travelling Sprinkler 

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       July 9, 2014


Author  Nicholson Baker

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781781252789
Publisher:         Profile Books
Release Date:    


This is a truly unconventional book, in the writing style, the characters and the storyline. Nicholson is a wordsmith of great imagination; it feels like the reader is actually inside his brain, with the flow of words and ideas passing by to their conclusion.

We discover the main character Paul Chowder is a poet who has published an anthology of poems. He is just celebrating his fifty fifth birthday and seems very uncertain about his future, and the direction in which he is moving. Rather like the Travelling Sprinkler, he appears to be moving aimlessly along a twisted hose.

His girlfriend Roz calls him on his birthday to offer good wishes and asks him what he would like to celebrate the day. What Paul really wants is to have Roz back again and to begin playing a guitar. He feels he can’t ask for either of these things and so he asks for  an egg sandwich to be made by her and eaten with her on a picnic.

Paul doesn’t feel the creative urge to write more poetry, though his publisher is encouraging, but is interested in putting his musical talents to work and producing music and songs. Previously a fine bassoon player, Paul purchases a guitar and begins to learn how to play it. He becomes aware of likely words and phrases that may blossom into worthwhile lyrics. He draws upon classical composers he is familiar with such as Bartok and Bach as well as McCartney and Marvin Gaye.

There is an in depth explanation of musical notation which maybe he uses to clarify the music in his own head.

Behind all of this there is a sense of loneliness. Paul spends time learning to smoke exotic cigars to lull his brain, work out in the gym as he tries to regain contact with Roz. He is very angry at the ongoing war in the Middle East, and furious with President Obama for sanctioning the use of killer drones. He wants his music to reflect his feelings on the war and also to reflect his love for Roz.

One feels that the reader has been a small part of  Paul’s life, longings and journey through his dreams and desires. He picks a topic and follows it through to a conclusion, demanding reader involvement in his unusual prose.