I've not read a single review of Baker's The Anthologist. I'm sure I will shortly, but I'm not sure I'd care. He does something with language in this book that reminds me of what I love best about DFW. There is such forthrightness, such straight-forward talk that I spent much of the book thinking "yes, yes, this is how great stories are told...without all the linguistic somersaults and trumped up similes that other writers use...just honest, heartfelt words on a page." Which is perfection on top of perfection, since that is what Baker spends much of his novel arguing against. Kind of.
He's employed some of the most somersaulty language I've seen in a long time. Sentences that hop, skip, jump, lay flat then get back up again for another go, counterclockwise. Fantastic phrases. And all of it is delicious. And reminiscent of DFW in a not-very-similar way...but a little bit when you think of DFW's plain-speak coupled with his multi-page footnotes. It looks quiet and lovely on the surface, a sweet little tale. Yet it is bursting with big arguments and universal truths and fully intended ironies and delectable avoidance techniques and heartache on a cosmic level. Quietly.
Here's the main thing: I laughed out loud more than I've laughed out loud in a very, very long time. (Perhaps this says more about my current mental state than it does about Baker's novel...) Especially when reading fiction. Bravos and well-dones are in order, particularly on the heels of Human Smoke (which both destroyed me and inspired me) and I'm sure I'll eventually compose myself enough to hash out a proper tribute or review or smattering of more coherent thoughts.
But just now I'm thinking, what a delicious delight.