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The Dog Ate the Sock

September 11, 2009

Man Who Collects Stories Struggles to Tell His Own


By Nicholson Baker

243 pp. Simon & Schuster. $25

Paul Chowder knows a story about a dog that ate a sock. Why shouldn’t he tell it? Paul, the narrator of “The Anthologist,” Nicholson Baker’s new novel, will talk about anything that flits through his mind. He’s supposed to be thinking about poetry, but Paul is easily distracted. The poetic and the prosaic divide Paul’s attention as he talks about anything from trochaic octameter to mowing his lawn.

But here’s the thing about that dog story: it’s awfully good. Not fancy, but it really makes a point about socks, dogs and art. The dog ate the sock. The sock had to be removed surgically. And somehow that makes Paul think of one of the nifty poetry-writing tricks that he knows: you write a poem about something that’s real. (Call that a sock.) You let that reality “slide right into your poem and twirl around in it.” Then you cut out the sock as if this were veterinary surgery, but that just makes the poem better. The poem winds up with “a mysterious feeling of charged emptiness, like the dog after the operation.”     Full text in the NYT.


Saw this while I was downloading.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2009 3:26 pm

    Regarding what a painter might think of first as dimensions of canvas.

    I would suggest that one element of “picture-making” that painters/2-d artists and photographers share is the concept of “frame.” The frame is fundamental to any 2-d art work regardless of dimension. If the creator is unaware of frame, then nothing that is placed in or on the 2-d surface will have impact.

    A canvas bears an unchangeable boundary in the frame; a photograph should never have to be cropped.

  2. September 12, 2009 8:12 pm

    Lyn, A perfect remark, and one that points to a very troubling trend in digital photography. My preferred format is the square. There does not seem to be a square frame option in the world of digital camera chips. Hasselblad originally had a digital back for around $30,000. Now they switched to the rectangle. The cringe inducing option is cropping, which I never could get comfortable with.

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