Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point

5.0 2
by David Markson
     
 

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In the literary world, there is little that can match the excitement of opening a new book by David Markson. From Wittgenstein’s Mistress to Reader’s Block to Springer’s Progress to This Is Not a Novel, he has delighted and amazed readers for decades. And now comes his latest masterwork, Vanishing Point, wherein an elderly writer (identified only…  See more details below

Overview


In the literary world, there is little that can match the excitement of opening a new book by David Markson. From Wittgenstein’s Mistress to Reader’s Block to Springer’s Progress to This Is Not a Novel, he has delighted and amazed readers for decades. And now comes his latest masterwork, Vanishing Point, wherein an elderly writer (identified only as "Author") sets out to transform shoeboxes crammed with notecards into a novel—and in so doing will dazzle us with an astonishing parade of revelations about the trials and calamities and absurdities and often even tragedies of the creative life—and all the while trying his best (he says) to keep himself out of the tale. Naturally he will fail to do the latter, frequently managing to stand aside and yet remaining undeniably central throughout—until he is swept inevitably into the narrative’s starting and shattering climax. A novel of death and laughter both—and of extraordinary intellectual richness.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
… [the book] rejects most of the trappings of conventional fiction. And still it delivers more narrative satisfaction than any number of painfully observed contemporary-realist novels do. — Jennifer Howard
Publishers Weekly
With his seventh novel, Markson, an avant-garde favorite for works like Wittgenstein's Mistress, which David Foster Wallace called "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country," proves once again that his trademark fragmental style yields boundless meditations on the mythologized lives of great artists and thinkers, as well as the somewhat hapless project of constructing and controlling a novel. Author, who began the book with two shoeboxes full of notes, only rears his head occasionally, to mention that he's a procrastinator, that he's "damnably tired" and physically clumsy "as if his Adidas had whims of their own," and that despite his best efforts to arrange his notes, he has no idea where the book is headed. Yet for all his supposed relinquishing of control, he's omnipresent and clearly omnipotent, steering the narrative into increasingly murky waters. As the novel progresses, he includes more and more references to the deaths of artists ("Devon, Jean Rhys died in," "Heidegger was buried in the same small-town German cemetery he had passed every day... eight decades before") and the book's quotes, once neatly attributed to anyone from Plutarch to Dorothy Parker, disintegrate in the latter half, not always attributed, littering the once sturdy narrative like so much detritus at sea. We are left wondering, as Author does, "Where can the book possibly wind up without him?" Striking, devilishly playful ("If on a winter's night with no other source of warmth Author were to burn a Julian Schnabel, qualms? Qualmless") and with a deeply philosophical core, this novel proves once more that Markson deserves his accolades and then some. (Feb. 2) Forecast: Markson's aper us are catnip for his fans. Though his audience is still small, he has become a minor master, and his name is surprisingly recognizable. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Similar in style to Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress and Reader's Block and strongly testing what constitutes fiction, this presents an unnamed author in the late stages of life who is ostensibly cobbling together note cards as inspiration for a novel. Making up the bulk of Markson's narrative, these cards hold myriad anecdotal musings on the creative life, philosophy, history, human behavior, and just plain gossip, all attributed to real persons past and present. The result reads more like an erudite trivia book than a novel; only occasionally does Markson's author poke through with a personal comment about his own life. The purpose of all these synapses firing becomes clear at the very end, but readers may be surprised at how little Markson has invested in the man at the center. Perhaps this is the point-but no matter: those who have trudged through the factoids looking for the novel's raison d'etre are likely to be underwhelmed. For larger collections.-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Those who adored experimentalist Markson's previous two outings (Reader's Block, 1996; This Is Not a Novel, 2001) will be ecstatic anew as the writer keeps up his near-single-handed effort to keep American prose fiction significant, deep, and subtle. Here is another booklength collection of facts, statements, and-like planted surprises-questions, the whole arranged in a breathtakingly seamless perfection by "Author," who has put "the notes on three-by-five inch index cards" and at last "is pretty sure that most of them are basically in the sequence that he wants." And what a sequence it is. Comic, bathetic, pathetic, wrenching, matter-of-fact ("Bach had twenty children, of whom nine survived him"), the entries manage to tell a story-of humanity and humanity's desires, if you will-without ever once straining to do so, or at least without ever once showing the strain. "The first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species sold out in one day," we learn, and, later, "Baltimore, Edgar Allen Poe died in." The result of Markson's immersion in these and many other such facts, and of his ineluctably perfect marshalling of them, is a kind of mini-epic-small in proportion and therefore appropriate to our own paltry, lost, uninformed, and diminished age-of Western humanity's long ambition toward the attainment of art, permanence, beauty, and meaning, all implicitly doomed by the pervasive banality and pseudo-bathos that we've degenerated into in our own day: a situation requiring that the tale now be told not in the broad strokes of real epic, but in the quietly understated, guarded, cautious, brilliantly organized yet unobtrusive listing of facts, queries, and assertions that Markson provides-rangingfrom "a terminal desolation and despair" to the plain fact that "Ravenna, Dante died in," or "Brundisium, Virgil." "The ways we miss our lives are life," we read, wondering whether Author himself penned these words. Then, more sad than is imaginable: "All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story. Said Isak Dinesen." Here, indeed, is a story: brilliant, high, fine, masterful, deep-whether or not there remains an audience capable of embracing it.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593760106
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
02/15/2004
Pages:
191
Sales rank:
622,278
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.59(d)

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