David Markson

I can’t remember how I ran across Markson’s novel This Is Not A Novel, but I found it so fascinating an experiment that I scooped up and read his other novels that followed the same disconnected yet mosaic-like form.

Colin Marshall has written an appreciation of Markson, who recently died, that takes in all of his novels, and the comments led me to this post on the author’s death, written in the late-Markson style.

It’s a potent style that’s quite seductive to adopt. I adopted it when writing about Markson’s last books for the school’s in-house zine, The Galley, and which I’ve included below. (I had a stringent word-count to meet, hence its painful brevity.)

Suggested headline: This Is Not A Book Review

Commuting from the Park & Ride lot, I read these books, one by one. You can read 10 pages in a very short time.

Unusual they are, with sometimes awkward syntax. With about 14 one- or two-sentence blurbs to a page. Sometimes only fragments.

Every page filled by remembered passages of verse or prose, quotations, anecdotes, the detritus and gossip of artists’ sad lives. The “residue of a lifetime’s reading,” says the back-cover blurb.

A melancholy book. With one or two jokes thrown in.

You’re left to intuit what’s really happening at its center. Rather like contemplating the negative space in a painting. It’s weirdly fascinating and absorbing.

Markson claims that not one fact is repeated among all the books.

Reader’s Block and This Is Not A Novel are the first two books, and are the best. Markson has found a new, challenging, avant-garde form, and plays with this odd new toy.

But the third book, The Last Novel, feels too deliberate and planned.

Give them a try. They’re at Davis Library. But I bet you’ll read more than 10 pages at a time.


Comments

  1. David Markson has been on my to-read list for a month or so. David Foster Wallace called Wittgenstein’s Mistress the high point (or “pretty much the high point”) of experimental American fiction. This post makes me want to read more.

  2. I’m glad the post inspired you to take up Markson! There’s a part of me that would prefer to line up an author’s books and then read them chronologically, to see his or her development over time. In Markson’s case, to see how big the shift to “Wittgenstein’s Mistress” was from his previous work. Harry Mathews is another “writer’s writer” who’s come up on my radar over the years, but who I’ve not had time to explore.

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