Wednesday, July 21, 2010

David Markson, This Is Not A Novel

David Markson, This Is Not a Novel
Counterpoint, 2001

Reading David Markson gives me the blessed illusion, for a few hours, that I possess a mind capable of thinking only interesting thoughts. Suffering and mortality abound -- the average must be about five deaths a page -- but it is imbued with coolness and space, like wandering through a marvelous but unpopular museum on a rainy Tuesday morning.

Markson creates a mosaic of tragic facts. Anecdotes, almost, except that most are only a sentence long. (Looking at a page will be more useful to the prospective reader than any review.)

A friend said, "Looks like a book I'd keep beside the toilet." Well. Certainly you could, and Mr. Markson would be well-pleased I imagine -- but you might find yourself spending all day in the john. The facts, and the way they are all woven together, is entirely transfixing.

Now that David Markson is dead, it is impossible not to think of his death, in a list with all the other deaths he mentions: David Markson was found dead in his Greenwich Village apartment. Like most of the artists and writers he mentions, he deserved vastly more honor and notice than the world ever provided.

Markson wrote several books in this format and he tried not to repeat event or quote. One place he tripped up was a quote of Emerson's, which he gives in both Reader's Block and This Is Not A Novel. It's worth repeating though, and it's an excellent reason to read Markson: "Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day."

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