Reader’s Block by David Markson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Markson’s book in a brief description sounds like a post-Calvino or Borges exercise in cute metafiction. A character named Reader has difficulty composing a novel about a character named Protagonist. The actually book Markson delivers is very different. The narrator intersperses his notes on his novel with anecdotes about a literary and artistic personalities. These start out gossipy and chatty and then lists of how someone committed suicide or died appear, and then lists of who was an anti-Semite, and then names associated with war, massacre, and the holocaust appear. The eternal beauty of art seems to be contrasted with frailty and ugliness of humanity, which gives the book an obsessive and dark edge while still retaining a bizarre humor. A cultural history of the western world imbued with morbidity and melancholy. Here are some quotes from the narrator commenting on what exactly this book is.
A novel of intellectual reference and allusion, so to speak minus much of the novel?
A seminonfictional semifiction? Cubist?
Or does the absence of narrative progression plus that cross-circuited schematism possibly render it even a poem of sorts?
In dramatic and not narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and terror.
And the penultimate line of the book.
Nonlinear-discontinuous. Collage-like. An assemblage.
While not quite matching the emotion and focus of Wittengenstein’s Mistress this is still a performance of what Markson does best, an all too rare successful experimental fiction. Or whatever it is? A beautiful book is all I can say definitely.
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