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This Is Not a Novelby David Markson
Synopses & Reviews
This Is Not a Novel is a "novel" like no other, with the possible exception of the author's own Reader's Block, which Anne Beattie hailed as "a work of genius."
This Is Not a Novel is a highly inventive work that drifts "genre-less" somewhere in between fiction, nonfiction, and psychological memoir. In the opening pages a narrator, called only "Writer," announces that he is "weary unto death of making up stories," not to mention inventing characters and contemplating plot, setting, theme. Yet the writer is determined to seduce the reader into turning pages and to "get somewhere," nonetheless. What follows are pages crammed with astonishingly fascinating literary and artistic anecdotes, quotations, and cultural curiosities. All this 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 that has mattered, not the arrival.
"No one but Beckett can be quite as sad and funny at the same time as Markson can." Ann Beattie
"The book does, as Writer hopes, seduce the reader into turning pages....Those with investigative proclivities can trace Writer's gloomy preoccupations through the items about how various notables died (and which states of financial destitution). Other items are more enigmatic (why did Henry James hide behind a tree to avoid Ford Madox Ford?), and a handful have an evocative, lovely melancholy: 'When and where did the last person die who still believed in the existence of Zeus?'" Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review
"Over the course of his career, Markson 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....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." Publishers Weekly
"From the erudite and extraordinary Markson: a sequel to Reader's Block that has the same high, literary shenanigans as the earlier volume but adds a newly deepened tone as the author looks unblinkingly into the eye of life and death....Gloomy? Sure, but also, without fail, interesting, the one thing left of true importance that the modern writer can be....Why does Writer want to write 'A novel with no intimation of story whatsoever,' one that's 'Plotless. Characterless,' and also symbol-less. Well, Writer wants something new, something real, something authentic, something that is yes art. And he wants it before the death that (Writer lets us know) is increasingly imminent. More than once, Writer cautions us that we must pay attention, be attentive. And so, paying attention, read on through Writer's closing pages: subtle, inventive, ineffably moving. Not to the taste of all, true, but wondrous proof, from one of our few worthy successors to Beckett, that in a literary age mainly of entertainment the art-novel the true-novel can still take wing." Kirkus Reviews
"I don't know where to put the man and for this I am glad....Magnificent, a compilation that so exceeds the scatter of its parts that one must take some time to ponder why this should be....[I]t's almost impossible to stop turning pages....When I reached the final pages, I felt, as all too seldom, sectioned off from the daily tyranny, released, as in a happy dream, into a kind of referential fugue the afterlife of reading." Sven Birkerts, The New York Observer
"The challenge he's taken on, Writer says early in the book, is to make readers keep turning pages even while denying them all the traditional pleasures they open novels expecting. "Is Writer thinking he can bring off what he has in mind?" he asks early in the game, but the reader is left with few doubts. Somehow, the momentum of the book is as forward-moving as any narrative. As you turn the pages, you realize that there is a story being told, the story of a character you come to care deeply about. When Writer reveals a devastating truth on the book's very last page, one that puts in context all the preceding preoccupations, your heart wrenches." Maria Russo, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
About the Author
David Markson is the author of five novels, including Springer's Progress, Wittgenstein's Mistress, and Reader's Block. He is the recipient of numerous award and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Salon Book Award. He lives in New York City.
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