This blog has moved to Please make a note, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Last Novel by David Markson

"David Markson's The Last Novel is composed entirely of short, one to three sentence factoids, reflections, and allusions, usually about historical and contemporary high cultural figures, that are separated one from another by a blank line. There are no conventional chapters, plots, settings, or characters, except for "Author," who appears in the third person in about 30 of the shorts."
         Jefferson Hansen, Experimental Fiction & Poetry

"Yes, that’s all there is, those little things. Those itty-bitty, disconnected paragraphs that read like a litany of writers’ and artists’ triumphs and woes and many, many deaths. From first to last page. No chapters, no breaks. That’s all there is."
          by Catherine Texier, New York Times Book Review

"The author notices a pharmacist noticing his threadbare coat. He calls the answering machines of friends recently dead, just to hear their voices on the outgoing message. But for the most part, if we want to know who the character is that's telling the story, all we have to go on is his choice of moments from the lives of others that he catalogs here. 'Vermeer died in 1675. at which time one of his largest debts was, in fact, to a Delft baker.'"
          posted by Suzanne Kleid

"It is both very easy and very difficult to quote from. On the one hand, it is filled with interesting, brilliant, funny, and depressing little bits of text, but on the other hand, shorn of the greater context the book begins to appear like some sort of reference work—unreadable and emotionally distant. This is distinctly not the case."
          review by Derik Badman, The Quarterly Conversation

"Take these examples, all from the same two pages, among hundreds: 'Old age is not for sissies. / Said Bette Davis.' 'Freud, born in 1856, being asked in 1936 how he felt: / How a man of 80 feels is not a topic for conversation.' 'Shaw, at 94, being asked the same: / At my age, one is either well or dead.' As in a fugal composition, an anecdote might be picked up a few pages later, or a passing thought might respond to an earlier one, mimicking Novelist’s mind jumping around and coming back to its obsessions in tighter and tighter circles.

"In rhythm and tonality, if not in content, The Last Novel hints at the incantations of the Kaddish — it sometimes evokes the beat of author Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” and “Howl.” As the witty, playful surface and the spellbinding incantations accumulate, the faint contours of a story reveal that Novelist is not only worried about getting old, but is also most certainly sick."
          by Catherine Texier, The New York Times

"There's a lulling beauty here — and a crackling wit, too — but readers will have to ask themselves: Does the end of this 'seminonfictional semifiction' justify the means?" 

"Since Reader’s Block in 1996, Markson has spent the last 11 years working within a genre he claims to have invented. Essentially, he produces book-length lists of some of the most interesting and/or scandalous minutiae in the history of Western culture (especially literary culture)."
          reviewed by Justin Taylor, book slut

"Markson takes some bizarre stands in this book. He writes: 'Future generations will regard Bob Dylan with the awe reserved for Blake, Whitman, Picasso and the like. Said an otherwise seemingly rational writer named Jonathan Lethem.' There are a few things wrong here. First, whatever Markson personally thinks of Bob Dylan, there’s almost no question that some substantive portion of Dylan’s work will live on."
           reviewed by Justin Taylor, book slut

"Question: should we assume that the pronouncements of 'The Author' are true, rather than invented by Markson, and should we assume that 'The Author's' views are the same as Markson's?"
           Jefferson Hansen, Experimental Fiction & Poetry

"It's really easy to get lazy and conflate Novelist's thoughts and opinions with David Markson's. But he's way too much of a trickster to be so obvious. However, it isn't easy to shake the suspicion that Markson is putting one over on you, and he's enjoying your boredom and confusion." 
          posted by Suzanne Kleid

"Both the structuring and the reading of collage fiction often involves an aleatoric component that recalls not only the Cubist work of Braque and Picasso, but also the Dada and Surrealist work of Duchamp and Breton: interest in the found object, the readymade, the chance encounter."
          Lance Olsen at

The book ends:
          "Is it true then, what they say — that we become stars in the sky when we die? Asks someone in Aristophanes.

          Access to Roof for Emergency Only.
          Alarm Will Sound if Door Opened."
                       David Markson, The Last Novel

"Can we end up as stars if the door to the roof is closed?"
           Jefferson Hansen, Experimental Fiction & Poetry

        "Ernest Poole. Margaret Wilson. Julia M. Peterkin. Margaret Aye Barnes. T.S. Stribling.
          Being five of the first fifteen winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction."
               David Markson, The Last Novel

No comments:

Post a Comment