Reader's Block

Overview

In this spellbinding, utterly unconventional fiction, an aging author who is identified only as Reader contemplates the writing of a novel. As he does, other matters insistently crowd his mind--literary and cultural anecdotes, endless quotations attributed and not, scholarly curiosities--the residue of a lifetime's reading which is apparently all he has to show for his decades on earth. Out of these unlikely yet incontestably fascinating materials--including innumerable details about the madness and calamity in ...

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Overview

In this spellbinding, utterly unconventional fiction, an aging author who is identified only as Reader contemplates the writing of a novel. As he does, other matters insistently crowd his mind--literary and cultural anecdotes, endless quotations attributed and not, scholarly curiosities--the residue of a lifetime's reading which is apparently all he has to show for his decades on earth. Out of these unlikely yet incontestably fascinating materials--including innumerable details about the madness and calamity in many artists' and writers' lives, the eternal critical affronts, the startling bigotry, the countless suicides--David Markson has created a novel of extraordinary intellectual suggestiveness. But while shoring up Reader's ruins with such fragments, Markson has also managed to electrify his novel with an almost unbearable emotional impact. Where Reader ultimately leads us is shattering.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Gilbert Sorrentino
“Reader's Block is, like all of David Markson's work, marvelously intelligent and beautifully wrought. It is also suffused with a rueful gaiety, the sort of humor characterized by Flann O'Brien as 'the handmaiden of sorrow and fear.' It's a wonderful book that will break your heart.”
Rikki Ducornet
“Stunning . . . one of the strangest, most compelling books you will ever read.”
From the Publisher

"Finally, a prose sequel to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. This is really a work of genius." -- Ann Beattie

Dalkey Archive Press

"Hypnotic... a profoundly rewarding read." -- Kurt Vonnegut

Dalkey Archive Press

Boston Globe
“In Reader's Block, David Markson has crafted a savvy metafictional game of Trivial Pursuit.”
Washington Post Book World
“David Markson's 'seminonfictional semifiction' is exhilarating, sorrowful and amazing. Indeed, a minor masterpiece.”
Cups
“If you read one book this year, read David Markson's new novel . . . A beautifully crafted condensation of language, Reader's Block is the poetic novel for century's end, recalling those great Modernist novels at century's beginning . . . Reader's Block is Markson's most refined example of his telescopic and allusive style. The reader enjoys the indelible language . . . The book is also downright fun—for it is in part a collage of anecdotes from literary and art history, anecdotes that reveal the struggles of all writers and artists. This business of art is not a casual affair. Reader's Block is one of the purest books ever written, not a novel to taste but to ingest. We owe Markson for everything, for he is more than gifted and we, struggling readers, are more than blessed.”
Newsday
“Reader's Block is tart and playful, and as you learn increasingly more about the narrator's solitary life, remarkably poignant.”
American Book Review
“In giving form to his private imaginary, and accessing the texts of a culture as something other than an accumulating archive, Markson reminds us of how it is that a canon of books, itself an imaginary notion, can come to have a real existence in a living mind.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Now in his 60s, Markson continues to blossom as an experimental novelist. His early work, Springer's Progress, published in the mid 1970s, carried the seeds of the collage technique that the much-praised Wittgenstein's Mistress put to such great effect and which in his latest has resulted in a book often dreamed about by the avant-garde but never seen. "A novel of intellectual reference and allusion, so to speak, minus much of the novel?" asks Markson's narrator, called The Reader. "Or perhaps not a novel? Is he in some way thinking of an autobiography?" "Or does the absence of a narrative progression... possibly render it even a poem of sorts? Not to add avec exactly 333 interspersed unattributed quotations awaiting annotation?" Reader's Block asks all these questions, and the lucky reader will not care a whit, for what Markson accomplishes, despite his doubts, is an utterly fascinating document that in itself is a small education in the history of Western literature, seen through the eyes of a gravely impassioned litterateur. The quotations from his reading that have become Markson's signature are so remarkably sustaining that the book, despite its lack of narrative, is hard to put down: the fate of Auden's royalties (Chester Kallman's dentist father's second wife); the suicide of Adrienne Rich's husband; Conrad's verdict on Moby-Dick ("not a single sincere line"); the Sappho fragment, "Raise high the roof beam, carpenters." The collection of these fragments, which also include a list of nearly a hundred writers deemed anti-Semitic and another list of author suicides, invests this work with a terribly mordant tone and gives Markson's meditation on the novel form a fresh urgency. This is a playful book with dead serious concerns. As The Reader wanders through the life of his extraordinary reading, the endeavor of novel-writing is subtly repositioned as perhaps something that lies about life and needn't. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The principal question to ask when reading Markson's Wittgenstien's Mistress, Dalkey Archive, 1995. reprint latest book is, "What genre is this?" This is an important question because one's expectations are shaped to a great extent by conventional donnes. These conventions may be stretched by the author, but it is important that their essence remains. Markson's book is not a novel, which requires plot and character development. Rather, it is a prose poem with varying rhythms that examines, among other things, idiosyncratic attitudes about various artists and their possible inclination about anti-Semitism and suicide. The world view presented is solipsism. As the author himself says, "In the end one experiences only one's self. Said Nietzche. Nonlinear. Discontinuous. Collage-like. An assemblage. Wastebasket." This series of sentencesmore than anything elserepresents this work. It is intensely personal, with nothing really universal presented about the human condition, and as such has a very limited appeal.Michael Boylan, Marymount Univ., Arlington, Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564781321
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 12/23/2014
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 194
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David Markson's novel Wittgenstein's Mistress was acclaimed by David Foster Wallace as "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country." His other novels, including Reader's Block, Springer's Progress, and Vanishing Point, have expanded this high reputation. His novel The Ballad of Dingus Magee was made into the film Dirty Dingus Magee,
which starred Frank Sinatra, and he is also the author of three crime novels. Born in Albany, New York, he has long lived in New York City.

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