Pat me on the head, I did manage to get through one novel that long in the past decade, David Markson remarked of Infinite Jest

Seriously—to paraphrase Ezra Pound, there’s no record of a critic ever saying anything significant about a writer who came later than he did. You grow up getting interested in books, and the writers of your own generation or the generation or two before your own are the ones you pay most attention to. But listen, I’m scarcely as bad as some of the people I know. But good lord, some of the people I went to college or even graduate school with pretty much quit about nine days after they got their diplomas. And haven’t read a poet since Auden, or a novelist since Hemingway. There was one fat novel I did read. In 1996, in fact. I remember the date because my novel Reader’s Block had also just been published: Infinite Jest. Before I’d heard of David Foster Wallace, way back in 1990, he’d written a very perceptive long essay on Wittgenstein’s Mistress for a periodical. Even though I was never able to solve the structure of his novel, to understand why it ended where it did, I admired the hell out of it. Eight or nine years ago even, I wasn’t reading with the equipment I possessed when I was younger. But pat me on the head, I did manage to get through one novel that long in the past decade.

David Markson, interviewed by Joey Rubin in 2005. Rubin’s interview was first published in Bookslut, and is reprinted in the inaugural issue of The Scofield with a new introduction.

 

Issue 1.1 of The Scofield catches up to David Markson

If someone is merely ahead of his time, it will catch up to him one day.

From Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Translation by Peter Winch.

David Markson was ahead of his time.

I don’t know if David Markson read Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Culture and Value but it seems unlikely incredible improbable impossible unreasonable that he didn’t.

I don’t know what the “merely” means in that quote above—it seems pejorative, perhaps, no?

Wittgenstein’s original German being Wer seiner Zeit voraus ist, den holt sie einmal ein. 

Was David Markson “merely” ahead of his time?

And what would that mean?

Issue 1.1 of a new literary magazine, The Scofield, is available as a free pdf.

For our inaugural issue, we have chosen David Markson and Solitude. We chose David Markson, I must confess, because I have long been obsessed with his work, especially the late novels. Five years ago, just after his death, when his personal library was sold off at the Strand Bookstore, I collected hundreds of his books, posting scans of the pages with marginalia on my tumblr blog Reading Markson Reading.

From editor Tyler Malone’s introduction to the volume.

There are poems and essays and riffs and stories and art and comics and marginalia and older public domainish things in The Scofield 1.1.

And a cocktail recipe.

There are interviews: With Markson, with Ann Beattie, with Steven Moore, with others.

There are bits and pieces you might’ve read before,

There are tendencies towards imitating Markson’s style too, which I’ve lapsed into here my own goddamn self.

Evan Lavender-Smith doesn’t imitate Markson in the quartet of stories he contributes, including this one:

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But still: Was David Markson “merely” ahead of his time?

By which ahead I mean the last four (anti-)novels, the so-called Notecard Quartet.

I’m reminded of some lines from Evan Lavender-Smith’s Marksonesque novel From Old Notebooks.

I count David Markson’s literary-anecdote books among the few things I want to read over and over again, yet I have no idea whether they are actually any good. They’re like porn for English majors.

No idea whether they are actually any good.

In his essay contribution to The Scofield, Matt Bucher writes:

I think this is partly what makes the Quartet novels so easily digestible: the names change in every paragraph, but the context stays the same.

So easily digestible. There’s a sustenance there, yes. But also a kind of rhetorical infection.

I think they, the quartet, The Notecard Quartet, those (anti-)novels, are actually very very good.

You can read the beginning of the last one, The Last Novel in The Scofield.

You can also read the opening of Wittgenstein’s Mistress in The Scofield.

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Wittgenstein’s Markson.

Merely ahead of his time, as in, like, not transcendent of his time?

I have not read all of The Scofield 1.1 yet (it is very long, as these things go, despite an easy digestibility), but it makes a very nice catching up to David Markson, a recognition/performance of his impact and influence on writers and readers of this time, which was his to be caught up into.

I squander untold effort making an arrangement of my thoughts that may have no value whatever.

From Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Translation by Peter Winch.

and

W o r t e   s i n d   T a t e n.

Ernest Hemingway vs. Wallace Stevens (David Markson)

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Hemingway’s regard for T. S. Eliot, as a poet, a critic, and a man (David Markson)

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Read “Beliefs Reasonable, Unreasonable Beliefs,” Maxims by Gilbert Sorrentino

Reading Gilbert Sorrentino’s riff/story/essay “Beliefs Reasonable, Unreasonable Beliefs,” I couldn’t help but think of his correspondent, David Markson, whose 1996 novel Reader’s Block is anticipated in the structure of Sorrentino’s piece. Obviously Markson’s project and Sorrentino’s riff have literary roots that go way way back—maxims and riffs are hardly novel. Still, there’s something about the tone, rhythm, and content of the piece that reminds me of Markson’s tetralogy. A few samples below; read the whole thing in the Fall ’93 issue of Conjunctions.

I have never read a review of a play by Samuel Beckett in which the reviewer’s ignorance of Beckett’s fiction was not made clear.

All popular culture is essentially the same, i.e., it cannot transcend its audience-attentive whatness, nor can it escape the universe of camp toward which it is pointed at the moment of its birth. Lawrence Welk really is the same as Mick Jagger and “Saturday Night Live” the “Ed Sullivan Show”‘s other face.

No fatal disease is privileged, and all disease is as natural as health. To believe otherwise is to believe that we are “supposed to” die in a certain, “reasonable” way, sans pain and sadness. This attitude toward mortality makes for a lot of misery.

That Charles Olson made indisputably great poetry does not obviate the fact that he was also the Wizard of Oz.

There are few things more disgusting than a superior, mocking, self-important review of a trashy book by a hack writer.

Abstract love and generalized compassion increase in direct proportion to organized social viciousness.

Frank O’Hara is the saddest of all postwar American poets.

My father didn’t speak English until he was eleven, at which time he left school and went to work on the Brooklyn waterfront. His letters, despite an occasional spelling error or grammatical gaffe, are written in a better prose than can be managed by most of the university undergraduates I’ve taught. He was far from unique.

If, as Goethe’s Mephistopheles says, all theory is gray, theory concerning theory is Joycean brown.

Artists who pretend that they are no more than workers in the arts are neither artists nor workers.

To say that most book reviewers are lazy, illread and addicted to the banal is like saying “war is hell” or “greed is the root of evil.” These remarks hide their truths behind the deadening familiarity of their verbal representations; but they are truths nevertheless.

Popular art reflects and flatters popular culture, or, if you prefer, the Zeitgeist. In retrospect, it sometimes seems as if it leads and influences the true culture, or the innate wisdom of a people, but this isn’t so.

The Emily Dickinson Fifty-Dollar Bill

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See more American literary icons on American money by Shannon May.

And, by the bye—

In his last novel The Last Novel, David Markson lamented a lack of—

America’s Emily Dickinson dime?

—this preceded by:

Before the Euro, the portrait of Yeats on Ireland’s twenty-pound note.

America’s Whitman twenty-dollar bill, when?

The Melville ten?

Suspicions (David Markson)

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April 23, 1616 (David Markson)

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Dissection (David Markson)

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William Gaddis and David Markson, New York, 1964

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(From The Letters of William Gaddis, Dalkey Archive).

Burning Sappho (David Markson)

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