Fare Forward: Letters from David Markson
Ed. by Laura Sims
powerHouse Books, 2014
153 pages / $12.95 buy from powerHouse Books
1. The first of paragraph of the New York Times obituary of David Markson grants him the following description: “almost always surprisingly engaging and underappreciated.” Which strikes me as one of the most damningly reluctant compliments I’ve ever read one person give another.
2. almost always surprisingly engaging
3. David Markson, in a letter written two months before his death: “Everything I can think of would be making me repeat myself—and I almost prefer the silence. (Actually, I hate it.)”
4. It is endlessly frustrating to attempt to begin a review about a book about Markson. All sentences begin to feel like collections of adverbs and prepositions.
5. Yet adverbs tell us how a verb occurred. Prepositions place us in space. Nothing occurs in Markson’s later work. The only space in which his later novels take place is in the roving scope of the writer’s mind.
6. Nobody comes. Nobody calls. Reads a line from Reader’s Block.
7. Laura Sims’s collection of letters from Markson, called Fare Forward: Letters From David Markson. A series of postcards from a Greenwich Village address, from a writer almost nobody read, who had quit reading novels altogether.
8. Writing to Sims before a reading he was giving in 2007, who had told him she’d planned to bring friends, Markson asked: “But why in hell would you punish any good friend by making him/her go?”
9. I have the sense that this review is going badly, so I’ll here quote the late David Foster Wallace’s lackadaisically phrased claim re: Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress—“a novel this abstract and erudite and avant-garde that could also be so moving makes ‘Wittgenstein’s Mistress’ pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.”
10. Adverbs, too, are splattered all over his obit: “Mr. Markson’s books expressed, both mischievously and earnestly, the hem-and-haw self-consciousness of the perpetual thought-reviser. He wrote mostly monologues, or at least the narration seemed to emanate from a single voice, though the books were not necessarily narrated in the first person.”