- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
This experimental work is an enthralling amalgamation of anecdotes, aphorisms, and quotations from writers and artists, interspersed with self-reflexive comments by the “Writer” who has assembled them. As the title implies, this is certainly not a novel -- not in the general sense of the term. And yet a reader who follows the flow will gradually notice certain novelistic conventions insinuating themselves. Writer -- as the narrator refers to himself -- is “tired of inventing characters” and subjecting them to the rigors of plot development. Instead, historical personages from Dickens to Beethoven recur throughout the book: They’re born, create, speak fondly or acidly of their own work and the work of others, and then die. (Death, in fact, is a major concern of Writer.) Works of art interlock and interrelate; diary entries, attributions, and critical comments jostle for position. But what at first appear to be random bits of historical trivia ultimately come together with a narrative logic: a beginning, middle, and end. So while Markson has jettisoned the standard conflict-and-resolution pattern of a novel, he nevertheless fashions a literary journey that “gets somewhere.” Indeed, the book’s conclusion will come as an intensely moving surprise to those who reach it.
“Does Writer even exist in a book without characters?” the narrator wonders. Passing through a period of aging and self-doubt, Writer looks deeply inside himself over the course of the book and worries about his very purpose. The real question hovering in the margins of this beguiling work is, “Why do I write?” Many an artist suffers under the burdens of posterity, the sinking feeling that words and works will fade with the passage of time. Eventually, though, this particular Writer answers in a qualified affirmative, for he realizes himself to be the main character in his own life. That which is not a novel, he implies, is life itself; creating art is what the artist does to live. In the end, out of a shared sense of mortality and its frailties and beauties, we can only agree. (Jonathan Cook)