Paul Chowder, hero of “The Anthologist,’’ rides again in Nicholson Baker’s latest antic performance. Near the end of “Traveling Sprinkler,’’ Chowder (or Baker?) speaks of “this book, if it is in fact a book, and I think it is” by way of assuring readers that they have been reading a coherent narrative.
We need to be assured, since we have been bombarded with a bewildering variety of information: thoughts on playing the bassoon, on chewing and smoking tobacco, on attending Quaker meetings, on working out at Planet Fitness, on contemplating Debussy and Stravinsky, along with innumerable pop artists and songs. After delivering some harsh words about Pablo Picasso, Chowder confesses, “I’m a rogue mastodon who dismisses Picasso with an annoying wave of his trunk,” one of countless metaphors for what Paul is and how he operates.