THE LAST NOVEL (2007)
In Markson’s final work, The Last Novel, an elderly author (referred to only as “Novelist”) announces that since this will be his final effort, he has “carte blanche to do anything he damned well pleases.” Pressed by solitude and age, Novelist’s preoccupations inevitably turn to the stories of other artists — their genius, their lack of recognition, and their deaths. Keeping his personal history out of the story as much as possible, Novelist creates an incantatory stream of fascinating triumphs and failures from the lives of famous and not-so-famous painters, writers, musicians, sports figures, and scientists. As Novelist moves through his last years, a minimalist self-portrait emerges, becoming an intricate masterpiece from David Markson’s astonishing imagination. Through these startling, sometimes comic, but often tragic anecdotes we unexpectedly discern the entire shape of a man’s life.
THE VANISHING POINT (2004)
In Vanishing Point, an elderly writer (identified only as “Author”) sets out to transform shoeboxes crammed with notecards into a novel – and in so doing will dazzle us with an astonishing parade of revelations about the trials and calamities and absurdities and often even tragedies of the creative life – all the while trying his best (he says) to keep himself out of the tale. Naturally he will fail to do the latter, frequently managing to stand aside and yet remaining undeniably central throughout – until he is swept inevitably into the narrative’s startling and shattering climax. A novel of death and laughter both – and of extraordinary intellectual richness.
Rights: Counterpoint; UL
THIS IS NOT A NOVEL (2001)
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.
Translation & UK Sold to: Turkey (Okuyanus Publishing) and France (Le Cherche Midi)
READER’S BLOCK (1996)
In this spellbinding, utterly unconventional fiction, an aging author who is identified only as Reader contemplates the writing of a novel. As he does, other matters insistently crowd his mind – literary and cultural anecdotes, endless quotations attributed and not, scholarly curiosities – the residue of a lifetime’s reading which is apparently all he has to show for his decades on earth. Out of these unlikely yet incontestably fascinating materials – including innumerable details about the madness and calamity in many artists’ and writers’ lives, the eternal critical affronts, the startling bigotry, the countless suicides – David Markson has created a novel of extraordinary intellectual suggestiveness. But while shoring up Reader’s ruins with such fragments, Markson has also managed to electrify his novel with an almost unbearable emotional impact. Where Reader ultimately leads us is shattering.
WITTGENSTEIN’S MISTRESS (1988)
Wittgenstein’s Mistress is a novel unlike anything David Markson — or anyone else — has ever written before. It is the story of a woman who is convinced — and, astonishingly, will ultimately convince the reader as well — that she is the only person left on earth.
Presumably, she is mad. And yet so appealing is her character, and so witty and seductive her narrative voice, that we will follow her hypnotically as she unloads the intellectual baggage of a lifetime in a series of irreverent meditations on everything and everybody from Brahms to sex to Heidegger to Helen of Troy. And as she contemplates aspects of the troubled past which have brought her to her present state — obviously a metaphor for ultimate loneliness — so too will her drama become one of the few certifiably original fictions of our time.
Rights: Dalkey Archive Press, World English; Gonzo, Russia; Edizioni Clichy, Italy
SPRINGER’S PROGRESS (1977)
Here comes Lucien Springer. Age: forty-seven. Still handsome though muchly vodka’d novelist, currently abashed by acute creative dysfunction. Sole preoccupation amid these artistic doldrums: pursuit of fair women. Springer is a randy incorrigible who is guided by only one inflexible precept: no protracted affairs. And thus he has slyly sustained eighteen years of marriage. Enter, then, Jessica Cornford. Age: almost half of Lucien’s. Lush of body and roguish of mind. Whereupon what begins as bawdy interlude becomes perhaps the most untidy extramarital lech in literature.
Rabelaisian yet uncannily wise, both ribald and bittersweet, Springer’s Progress is that rarest of gifts, a mature love story. It is an also exuberant linguistic romp, a novel saturated with irrepressible wordplay and outrageous literary thieveries.
Rights: Dalkey Archive Press, World English
DAVID MARKSON (1927-2010) was a writer of crime novels, westerns, and some of the most widely acclaimed experimental fiction in the postmodern canon.
Some Praise for Markson and his Books
“A work of genius . . . an erudite, breathtakingly cerebral novel whose prose is crystal and whose voice rivets and whose conclusion defies you not to cry.” —David Foster Wallace
“I can’t think of the last time I held my breath when I read a book, waiting for the author to make one slip. Markson is as precise and dazzling as Joyce. His wit and awesome power of observation make this fictional world utterly convincing. I couldn’t put this book down. I can’t forget it. While Markson himself would deplore the use of a cliche, all I can say is that this book is original, beautiful, and an absolute masterpiece. Anyone who reads it can’t think about the world the same way.” —Ann Beattie
“Hypnotic… a profoundly rewarding read.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“Provocative, learned, wacko, brilliant, and extravangantly comic…a formidable work of art by a writer who kicks tradition out the window, then kicks the window out the window, letting a splendid new light into the room.” —William Kennedy
“A book often dreamed about by the avant-garde but never seen…utterly fascinating.” —Publisher’s Weekly
The Last Novel / Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007
Vanishing Point / Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004
This Is Not a Novel / Counterpoint, 2001
Reader’s Block / Dalkey Archive Press, 1996
Collected Poems / Dalkey Archive Press, 1993
Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth, Symbol, Meaning / Times Books, 1978
Springer’s Progress / Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1977
Going Down / Holt Rinehart Winston, 1970
Miss Doll, Go Home / Dell, 1965
The Ballad of Dingus Magee; Being the Immortal True Saga of the Most Notorious and Desperate Bad Man of the Olden Days, His Blood-Shedding, His Ruination of Poor Helpless Females, & Cetera / Bobbs-Merrill, 1965
Epitaph for a Dead Beat / Dell, 1961
Epitaph for a Tramp / Dell, 1959