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.

 

2 thoughts on “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”

    1. He’s saying that as he got older, reading became more difficult. “Equipment” here is a metaphor for a number of things, perhaps—intellect, acumen, probably stamina and persistence.

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