How Alive I Find Him to Be, Now that He Is Alive No Longer: Thoughts on David Markson’s Passing
David Markson, novelist (1927-2010)
The great and experimental writer David Markson died earlier this week, highly regarded by some and yet still severely underappreciated by most. Here are a few compiled and digested thoughts on his death, written in a style that hopefully approximates a portion of the genius that was present within his most known and accomplished novels, chiefly Wittgenstein’s Mistress and The Last Novel.
A.D. Jameson writes about finding David Markson’s phone number in the New York City phone book and cold-calling him.
Jameson writes that he “didn’t get far.”
But he was invited to come by David Markson’s apartment, where they sat for a few hours, on the stoop, talking.
Jameson also writes about how he later sent David Markson a story “about Bonnie Raitt.”
“I think that it reads well,” wrote back Markson, one week later, in a typewritten letter. “Of course the pop culture reference is lost on me.”
An example of several things about the writer.
Kimberly Ann Southwick, a friend of mine, writes about David Markson’s frequent visits to the Strand Bookstore, where she once worked.
He was “always pulling books off of the shelf for me that were mis-shelved,” she remembered.
HTMLGIANT commenters also weighed in on David Markson’s death.
“An utter fucking tragedy,” commented somebody, anonymously.
“Inevitable,” commented somebody else, also anonymously.
The lone AP report, as of 1pm or so EST, used this headline: “David Markson, postmodern master, dead at age 82.”
Edward Champion writes, too, of David Markson.
An updated AP report mentions that there will be a public memorial, which will, apparently, be against his final wishes.
“I’m ignoring his request,” said his ex-wife (and agent), Elaine Markson.
My own first experience with David Markson’s work being excerpts of The Last Novel published in an old issue of Opium Magazine.
Or maybe an essay written by David Foster Wallace, entitled “Direly Underappreciated Novels since the 1960′s,” or something similar to that, in which David Foster Wallace calls Wittgenstein’s Mistress “pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.”
I don’t remember, exactly, when it was I first encountered David Markson’s work.
Regardless, I found the excerpts I read from The Last Novel to be very funny and very profound.
Formally unusual, as well as oddly moving.
How so much could be compressed into these hard, single lines.
Appropriately, now that I think about it, I purchased the book from the Strand.
Maybe I even bought it from Kimberly Ann Southwick, while she still worked there and saw David Markson occasionally.
It would make sense had I bought it from her, for a number of reasons not worth going into here.
Although I’m pretty sure I did not buy it from her.
We once talked about David Markson, I think, although I don’t remember what we said exactly, other than something most likely about how much we admired his books, even though we hadn’t read enough of them.
I do remember finishing The Last Novel on a train back from seeing my mother off at the Newark International Airport.
There was something about the light, the way it slanted in from the window, that made me feel emotional.
There was something also, of course, about the book, and about just seeing my mother off, as she’s getting older and every time we say goodbye, there’s something of that feeling when she goes.
Revisiting the book, I realize that I never looked up what the last line meant.
Or, that I looked it up, then somehow let it pass through my brain.
For a moment, I considered finding and then repeating the line here for you.
What, did you think I was going to spoil it for you?
A few years ago, in 2007, Tayt Haylin interviewed David Markson for Web Conjunctions.
I read this interview for the first time, today, three years after the fact.
The interview is an interesting one, and I do not feel that way about most interviews.
In the interview, Markson talks about inviting Dylan Thomas to get drinks with him and “a couple of graduate students,” as well as loaning a t-shirt to Jack Kerouac.
At one point, Markson makes mention of Wittgenstein’s Mistress being rejected “54 times,” before finally being accepted by a notable, but small independent press.
At another point, the phrase “stud lover boy” is recalled, as a reference to Markson.
This coming from a book entitled Sleeping with Bad Boys, a memoir written by a former Playboy playmate and short story writer, Alice Denham.
How alive I find him to be, now that he is alive no longer.
David Markson, author of pretty much the high point of experimental American fiction since the 1960′s, once called stud lover boy in a published memoir written by a Playboy playmate, dead at 82.
(The photo above is an undated photo of David Markson released by Johanna Markson. AP Photo/Johanna Markson)
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