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This Is Not a Novel (2001)

by David Markson

Series: personal genre (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4161760,477 (3.91)16
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.… (more)
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Gossip, factoids, zero narrative (or some very small fraction of narrative). I liked this more when I thought it was a one-off, but now that I realize that Markson has several books just like this...i don't get it. ( )
  audient_void | Jan 6, 2024 |
This is not a novel. I'm not sure quite what it is, because I'm not sure how much of it is fiction. Maybe none of it. A collage-style memoir, maybe.

But I liked it. As promised, it kept me turning the pages.

And Markson's style is infectious. ( )
1 vote Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
"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!"
( )
1 vote uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
The onlyostensibly 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. ( )
2 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (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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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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