David Markson

by Jeff Laughlin

david markson

June 2010 David Markson died in.

It would be fitting if his gravestone had “Wittgenstein” misspelled on it.
As he suggested The Recognitions was misspelled on Gaddis’.

As soon as it was established that I had an enormous, blush-inducing crush on David, he promptly pulled a salacious book from the sexuality section, written by an old Playboy Bunny, in which she describes not only how cool and smart David was, but how impressive a lover.
Said Theresa, five decades his junior.

Pretty much the high point of experimental fiction this century, David Foster Wallace called Wittgenstein’s Mistress.

It is and it is not a sad day when an old man passes away. But I will remember him wonderfully, well, and long.
Remarked Hannah.

Als Ick Kan.

Not only does the reader catch his breath at the end, but the ‘note of sadness’ is wrenching.
Remarks Catherine Texier on The Last Novel.

Sad coincidences and disappointments, this life is made of. So thought the author after realizing he was handing a copy of Wittgenstein’s Mistress to a friend while David Markson died in his bed.
Unbeknownst to the author, of course.

When he was younger, Markson said he would keep money in books. One book for each of his children, remembers Kim.

But he knew everything else-everything worth knowing. And more importantly, he knew how everything worth knowing can be forgotten. And how it is always being forgotten, not only by others, but by oneself, A.D. Jameson said.

No longer Old. No longer Tired. No longer Sick. No longer Alone. No longer Broke.

The author feeling like he is cheating by not writing these phrasings on notecards. Even more by bungling this format, though heartfelt.

After about ten pages of hiccupy, pretentious writing, I was fed up and wanted to fire the book against the nearest wall.
An anonymous amazon reviewer quipped on Wittgenstein’s Mistress.

A piece of garbage. Unwatchable.
Markson on “Dirty Dingus Magee,” starring Frank Sinatra and inspired by his anti-western novel of a similar title.

Rejected by more than 20 publishers before coming out, was Wittgenstein’s Mistress, according to his publicist.

Rejected by more than 40 or 50, according to Markson himself.

I’m ignoring his request, said Elaine Markson, his publicist and former wife, after saying Markson wanted no public memorial.

Not fragments, but complete thoughts, the author thinks as he re-reads criticisms of Markson’s later novels. Not abstract, but intact.

I don’t remember the set-up but the people in the joke were trading quotations and the punchline was “’Fuck you’ — David Mamet.” He told that joke at least once every time I saw him, remembers Jim.

Along with John Barth, William Gaddis, and Gilbert Sorrentino, Markson was one of the few writers who proved that experimental writing need not be prescriptive, Ed Rants was known to have said.

David Markson is the best not famous writer in America, Ann Beattie once said in an interview.

The sad irony is that his books never sold very well. Perhaps in passing, Markson’s genius will be rightly recognized, Ed Champion hopes.

Farewell and be kind.

David was known to a select set as a stud lover-boy cocksman. Because he was literary and witty, handsome and hung.
Being what he showed people in the book Sleeping with Bad Boys.

I don’t know what it was but I’m glad I read it.
An old friend quipped after reading the author’s copy of This Is Not a Novel.

The day Mark and I scurried over to his apartment to deliver his birthday stocking cap, he showed us around and let us hang out for quite some time. My favorite bit, aside from the hallway of framed photos, typewriter and catalog of book notes, was his scattered notes to self, on little cards… about milk or appointments or short jokes. And it was fantastically clean.
Remembers Theresa.

That the author isn’t using a typewriter is troubling.

A list of street names does not describe a place; a list of towns visited does not describe a journey.
David Markson on Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, as told to Tedd.

Box 2, folder 10 in the Rochester Campus Library, University of Rochester.
Being where David Markson’s correspondence with Frederick Exley resides.

Manuscript Collection Number 348, Special Collections of University of Delaware.
He and Gilbert Sorrentino’s.

“Death is not an event in life. We do not live to experience death.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein said.

Alice Denham.

Lamenting the fact that the author is too lazy and too rushed to count the number of words in any of Markson’s novels.

Genuinely surprised that he thought to do so.
And even counted through three pages.

Nonlinear. Discontinuous. Collage-like. An assemblage.

Remembering the idea Richard had to follow Markson around with a recorder to capture all his stories as they sauntered through the village.
And being both amused and saddened that Markson was reticent.

Obnoxious; a pointless place now.
Markson on his old favorite haunt, White Horse, now of a different sort.

Remembering the stories of Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac being too drunk to stand there.
And Markson taking care of them.

Brilliant when he wasn’t too stewed to make sense.

Markson said of Dylan Thomas.

How few of a story’s details can one tell and still tell a story?
Asked Jennifer Howard in her review of Vanishing Point in the Washington Post.

The author asking himself the same thing about a man’s life written days after his death.
And considering how Markson would like that this was partially written in one of his favorite bookstores.

I’m not sure what I’ll do when he passes, Ben said years before Markson’s death.

Recalling the time Markson told me about listening to the Red Sox lose the ’46 World Series while overseas.
Then thinking maybe I forgot which series he actually heard overseas.

Enos Slaughter.

Nobody comes. Nobody calls.

The greatest novel in American history, I think. Every character, every word. He was the American zeitgeist.
Markson on The Recognitions as a part of his last conversation with the author.
Wondering how many times he recommended that book.

The author as Markson’s helper during a signing as he received four visitors in an hour. He drank nearly as many glasses of wine. One of the visitors presented a first edition of his book.
Where did you get this? I haven’t seen one in years, Markson’s reply.

The author thumbing through his copy of the very same edition the morning he learned of Markson’s death.

To the days of Luis Tiant, he signed it. And then regretted it.

Luis Tiant.

Albany, New York, David Markson was born in.

His penchant for exposing antisemitism.

His work left for all of us to read; more than the author will likely ever leave.

The red pen came right out.
Markson’s reaction to a postcard Jim sent with the phrase “Ben and me are going to California.”

As John recants Markson’s story, ‘It was ’46, maybe ’47. I’m sitting in Fenway and I throw this paper airplane. And it lands on the field and Ted Williams kicks at it. Ted Williams was kicking at my airplane.’

Maybe it was the ’67 series Markson listened to overseas.
Or maybe it was a telephone operator telling him the score.

I’d love to share the story involving David rowing a drunken Malcolm Lowry home in a skiff up a pitch dark river in the middle of the night. Only, I’m not prepared for eternal ghostly Markson scoldings for misquoting him, said Mark.

The letter David Markson sent the author in which he said ‘Kafka would be proud,’ re: a poem the author wrote.
The overwhelming sense of pride.

The overwhelming sense of obligation to write this.
And to keep writing it.

In death there is life.

David Markson was eighty-two when he died.

There is nobody living on this beach.

Jeff Laughlin is the editor of 10 Listens.