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David Markson (1927 - )

Lifespan: 1927 -

Related: experimental literature - American literature - postmodern literature

This Is Not a Novel (2001) - David Markson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


David Markson is an American author, born in Albany, New York in 1927. He is the author of several postmodern novels, including This is Not a Novel, Springer's Progress, and Wittgenstein's Mistress. His work is characterized by an unconventional approach to narration and plot, that is very much his own. While his early works draw on the modernist tradition of William Faulkner and Malcolm Lowry, his later works have almost completely stripped away plot in favor of a fragmented internal consciousness consisting mostly of scraps of historical, artistic, and biographical "facts". Dalkey Archive Press has published several of his novels.

In addition to his novels, he has published a book of poetry and a critical study of Malcolm Lowry. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Markson [Aug 2006]

This Is Not a Novel (2001) - David Markson

In search of experimental literature

Quoting from The Sharp Side:

The title of This Is Not a Novel puns on Magritte’s painting entitled This is not a pipe, which was one of the 22 paintings included in the artist’s first one-man show in the USA, in New York in January 1936. It was a copy of an earlier, almost identical work Ceci n’est pas une pipe painted in 1929.

The joke in the Magritte title is to do with representation and reality. Magritte’s immaculate painting of a pipe is not a pipe because it is a painting. The joke subverts all titles claiming to offer a window on to a real object. This Is Not A Hay Wain. This Is Not The Mona Lisa.

Markson adapts the joke to the genre of the novel. His book is not a novel because it has no characters and no setting. It does not tell a story. Its form is fractured. It consists largely of facts and quotations, separated by spacing. For example:

Flaubert died of what was then called apoplexy, i.e., presumably a stroke.

If its length is not considered a merit it has no other, said Edmund Waller of Paradise Lost.

Thomas Hardy wrote a carefully sanitized third-person biography of himself and left it behind for his widow to pretend she was author of.

This Is Not A Novel is more or less an anthology of bits and pieces.

The whole set-up reminds me a bit of my own site and of a quote by Walter Benjamin: "I have nothing to say, only to show." Publisher's weekly says this:

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.

Two of Markson's novels are listed in the anthology 1001 books you must ....

See also: the antinovel - experimental literature - 2001

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