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This Is Not a Novel (2001)

by David Markson

Series: personal genre (4)

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3851448,137 (3.9)15
David Markson was a writer like no other. In his novels, which have been called "hypnotic," "stunning," and "exhilarating" and earned him praise from the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace, Ann Beattie and Zadie Smith. Markson created his own personal genre. With crackling wit distilled into incantatory streams of thought on art, life, and death, Markson's work has delighted and astonished readers for decades. Now for the first time, three of Markson's masterpieces are compiled into one page-turning volume:This Is Not a Novel,Vanishing Point, andThe Last Novel. InThis Is Not a Novel, readers meet an author, called only "Writer," who is weary unto death of making up stories, and yet is determined to seduce the reader into turning pages and getting somewhere.Vanishing Point introduces us to "Author," who sets out to transform shoeboxes crammed with note cards into a novel. In The Last Novel, we find an elderly author (referred to only as "Novelist") who announces that, since this will be his final effort, he possesses "carte blanche to do anything he damn well pleases." United by their focus on the trials, calamities, absurdities and even tragedies of the creative life, these novels demonstrate David Markson's extraordinary intellectual richness--leaving readers, time after time, with the most indisputably original of reading experiences.… (more)
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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
"Thought-provoking" is one of those words I use as sparingly as "breath-taking," but well, here we are. This book definitely isn't for anyone: it rewards minimum four years in higher education and includes all notable literary/artistic deaths by dropsy. It's a weird, rhythmic meditation on genius: latent, tormented and other. The formatting here kind of presages the weird Wikipedia effect of knowing a little about quite a lot, but beneath all the trivia is a story about someone working in earnest to make something meaningful, made all the better by the author's photo: "Hey, thanks for reading! Means a lot to me!"
( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
The only fictional character in this novel is Writer. 'Writer is pretty much tempted to quit writing,' the book begins, and scattered throughout it are Writer's thoughts on novels and writing, which eventually give way to personal information about Writer, information that the reader may already have gathered from the rest of the book.

And the rest of the book is a collection of baldly-stated facts, most of them about writers and particularly about their deaths, brief quotations, and mere phrases. None of these is random nor are they irrelevant to each other and to Writer's situation--in fact, the book is a marvel of organisation, despite appearances:

'Virtually every inadequacy in recent French literature is due to absinthe, Daudet said in the late 1800's.

Annals 165. Where Tacitus actually does, does, call a spade "an implement for digging earth and cutting turf".

Paul Klee died of cardiac arrest after years of enduring scleroderma.

Sarah Orne Jewett died of a cerebral hemmorhage.

Thomas of Celano.

I have wasted all my youth chained to this tomb.
Michelangelo protested to Julius II.

Why hasn't Writer ever known? What is the black liquid that spills out of the dead Emma Bovary's mouth?'

That's most of the page I chanced to open the book to and ought to give a perfect idea of what the writing is like. You could, I suppose, use it as a bedside book of trivia, you Philistine you, but in doing so you'd be losing the novel itself: There is a story here, though it's told in an untraditional way. And it's left me more keen than ever to read all that Markson wrote. ( )
1 vote bluepiano | Dec 30, 2016 |
I did read this mish-mosh of historical/literary details & interspersed commentary fairly quickly, in line with the description of it being a page-turner. However the book's inclination towards the random & obscure, beyond a focus on causes of death, is puzzling. ( )
  JamesPaul977 | May 26, 2013 |
What this is: a list of short (1-3 line) anecdotes about artists. How they died, where they died, ways they insulted people, with occasional bits from Writer, who seems preoccupied with getting older, as well as the failure of his last book. Despite being devoid of plot and characters, there's quite a nice story here - mostly sad, but kind of funny. It's a quick read, and a good one. ( )
1 vote kszym | Apr 3, 2013 |
Following the title, I wasn't expecting this to be a novel, but I did hope for some sort of philosophical statement about art & mortality. I found none. Why on earth was this even published? It's just a grocery list of anecdotes. Dull & uninspired. ( )
  aliceunderskies | Apr 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
True to its title, the book doesn't, at first glance, appear to be a novel at all. As in his 1996 book "Reader's Block," Markson assembles a series of notebook-like entries that relate historical facts, philosophical observations and nasty gossip about the lives of great writers and artists throughout history. A typical item: "Trollope, as remembered by a schoolmate at Harrow: Without exception the most slovenly and dirty boy I have ever met."
added by davidcla | editSalon, Maria Russo (Apr 19, 2001)
 
Writer mopes around, feeling ''weary unto death of making up stories'' and ''equally tired of inventing characters.'' In an apparent bid to make his readers just as miserable, he wishes to ''contrive'' a ''novel'' without either.
 

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David Markson was a writer like no other. In his novels, which have been called "hypnotic," "stunning," and "exhilarating" and earned him praise from the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace, Ann Beattie and Zadie Smith. Markson created his own personal genre. With crackling wit distilled into incantatory streams of thought on art, life, and death, Markson's work has delighted and astonished readers for decades. Now for the first time, three of Markson's masterpieces are compiled into one page-turning volume:This Is Not a Novel,Vanishing Point, andThe Last Novel. InThis Is Not a Novel, readers meet an author, called only "Writer," who is weary unto death of making up stories, and yet is determined to seduce the reader into turning pages and getting somewhere.Vanishing Point introduces us to "Author," who sets out to transform shoeboxes crammed with note cards into a novel. In The Last Novel, we find an elderly author (referred to only as "Novelist") who announces that, since this will be his final effort, he possesses "carte blanche to do anything he damn well pleases." United by their focus on the trials, calamities, absurdities and even tragedies of the creative life, these novels demonstrate David Markson's extraordinary intellectual richness--leaving readers, time after time, with the most indisputably original of reading experiences.

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