This Is Not a Novel is a highly inventive work which drifts "genre-less," somewhere in between fiction, nonfiction, and psychological memoir. In the opening pages of the "novel," a narrator, called only "Writer," announces that he is tired of inventing characters, contemplating plot, setting, theme, and conflict. Yet the writer is determined to seduce the reader into turning pages-and to "get somewhere," nonetheless.
What follows are pages crammed with short lines of astonishingly fascinating literary and artistic anecdotes, quotations, and cultural curiosities. This Is Not a Novel is leavened with Markson's deliciously ironic wit and laughter, so that when the writer does indeed finally get us "somewhere" it's the journey will have mattered as much as the arrival.
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David Markson is the author of five novels, including Springer's Progress, Wittgenstein's Mistress, and Reader's Block. He is the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Salon Book Award. He lives in New York City.From Publishers Weekly :
Over the course of his career, Markson (Wittgenstein's Mistress; Reader's Block; etc.) has garnered high praise for his erudite, complex texts that challenge notions of genre. He continues to push against the boundaries of fiction with his latest, which echoes the titles of both Magritte's well-known painting of a pipe and a story by Diderot. Lacking plot or characters, this darkly humorous assemblage resembles a commonplace book or a notebook, such as Coleridge's or Emerson's, with entries noting odd facts, quotes and ideas. These entries averaging around 10 per page have the air of memoranda pointing to some future, more fully realized passage that might never materialize. Occasional appearances by someone called Writer ("Not being a character but the author, here") add a note of self-consciousness, reminding us of the performative nature of any work of art. Themes soon emerge: illness, art, fame and hygiene are obvious preoccupations. The entries lead us down the page, maintaining a brisk momentum. There are deaths (Pound of a blocked intestine, Manet of tertiary syphilis), quotations and seemingly out-of-context questions although it is apparent that context is rather beside the point. These references imply some ad hoc, interior encyclopedia: "The legend that as a young man Leonardo was so strong he could straighten a horseshoe with his bare hands." It is best to take Markson at his word and read this not as a novel but as some jester cousin to Pound's Cantos notations that gradually cohere in an underlying progress, a drift toward the momentary reconciliation of art, intellect and mortality. (Apr. 1)Forecast: Markson is at once unpredictable and reliable, to which the inclusion of blurbs from Ann Beattie and David Foster Wallace attests. This book won't appeal for most general fiction readers, but admirers of the author will seek out and savor his latest.
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