Digging Into David Markson

On my books to watch for in 2011 page, I flagged an interesting-looking study of David Markson, whose body of work only continues to grow in my eyes (and surely the eyes of others). The book is:

This Is Not a Tragedy: The Works of David Markson (Dalkey Archive Scholarly Series) by Françoise Palleau-Papin

Release date: January 6
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
The very first book-length study to focus on this seminal American author. This Is Not a Tragedy examines David Markson’s entire body of work, ranging from his early tongue-in-cheek Western and crime novels to contemporary classics such as Wittgenstein’s Mistress and Reader’s Block. Having begun in parody, Markson’s writing soon began to fragment, its pieces adding up to a peculiar sort of self-portrait—doubtful and unsteady—and in the process achieving nothing less than a redefinition of the novel form. Written on the verge of silence, David Markson’s fiction represents an intimate, unsettling, and unique voice in the cacophony of modern letters, and This Is Not a Tragedy charts Markson’s attempts to find, in art and language, the solace denied us by life.

Now Colin Marshall has interviewed the author on his excellent Marketplace of Ideas show:

This week on The Marketplace of Ideas, I talk to Françoise Palleau-Papin, teacher of American literature at the Sorbonne Nouvelle and author of This is Not a Tragedy: The Works of David Markson. The book comes as the first study of its length of all of the late Markson’s novels, a body of work which includes such early detective “entertainments” as Epitaph for a Tramp and Miss Doll, Go Home, such intermediate and comparatively traditional yet still exuberantly inventive books as Going Down and Springer’s Progress, and the final five novels for which readers know him best. Running from Wittgenstein’s Mistress to The Last Novel, these brief but deep excursions into isolated creative minds showcased Markson’s unmatched skills at shaping facts and ideas from art, philosophy, literature, and history into narratives like no other writer has ever written.

By the way, it seems that if Colin doesn’t amass 10,000 subscribers to his podcast feed by the end of the year his show is going to close down. That would be quite a disappointing loss. So, you know, subscribe, if not for your own benefit then for the benefit of myself and others who listen to the show.

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What a great find Markson was for me last year. I finished the Last Novel a month or so before he died, which put the book in a new light for me.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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