Tuesday, December 11, 2007

David Markson's The Last Novel

I've never been a big fan of the outrageously experimental, though I've always advocated for its right to exist, because, you know: something for everyone, correct? But so far I'm adoring Markson's The Last Novel. It is a novel (maybe?) with only the tiniest trace of characters, pretty much no plot, and absolutely no setting. It's a collection or list of observations about historical and literary personalities, with a few recurring themes, some connecting webs of influence, and a taste for the funny and ironic. That's pretty much it.

Here's a bit from where I stopped reading last night, fairly representative:
One can now hear famous pieces of music as easily as one can buy a glass of beer.
Proclaimed Debussy in delight at the advent of the phonograph.

They who drink beer will think beer.
Said Washington Irving.

Cracked, Edith Sitwell called Blake.

Flaubert's outrage at the notion of an illustrated version of Bovary.

I don't know how Markson intended it to work, or how it works with other people, but for me it's just delightful to see these fragmented bits of character and history tossed together so that they form almost random patterns. It makes me think of standing on a bridge in the fall and watching leaves float by -- they turn and bump into each other and sink in ways that seem random but that you know, because they are following the rules of physics, are actually predictable. But you don't know what the rules are, so you have to just observe it and be surprised.

I'm constantly impressed by how many different ways there are to write and to read.


moonlight ambulette said...

Pooh sticks! That's pooh sticks you're playing. http://www.theenchanted100acrewoods.50megs.com/poohsticks.htm
Sorry. Just had to share.

rmellis said...

Yes! My mother taught me to play that when I was a wee one. It could get very competitive...