David Markson was born in Albany, New York and educated at Union College and Columbia University. After a period of living in Mexico, he published three novelsThe Ballad of Dingus Magee, Going Down, and Springer’s Progressbefore the appearance of Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano. His more recent novelsWittgenstein’s Mistress, Reader’s Block, This Is Not a Novel, Vanishing Point, and The Last Novelhave been highly and widely praised.
Malcolm Lowry's Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)by David Markson, Sven Birkerts (Foreword by)
In Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano, originally published in 1978, David Markson extended the pioneering work of his 1951 Columbia University master’s thesisthe first substantial study of Under the Volcano. In the years between thesis and book, Markson became Lowry’s close friend (see the invaluable reminiscence at the end of the/i>/i>/i>
In Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano, originally published in 1978, David Markson extended the pioneering work of his 1951 Columbia University master’s thesisthe first substantial study of Under the Volcano. In the years between thesis and book, Markson became Lowry’s close friend (see the invaluable reminiscence at the end of the book) and an accomplished novelist in his own right. His critical reputation has only grown in the past two decades.
Markson’s holds Under the Volcano to be the greatest English language novel after Ulyssesand very like it in ambition and method. While acknowledging that the novel’s primary pleasure is its literal, dramatic story, he argues here that Lowry’s book is a Joycean endeavor, both in its reliance on the mythic and in its allusive texture. Far from being incidental to the storybits and pieces of learning merely stuffed into the text, as Lowry’s one-time mentor Conrad Aiken thought themthe dense web of reference is an intrinsic part of Lowry’s plan, and demonstrates his mastery.
Working through the novel chapter by chapter, Markson conducts “an inductive investigation,” of the mythic dimension of Lowry’s great tragedy: “The guilt of the protagonist is that of Adam after the expulsion, his agony that of Christ at Golgotha, his frailty Don Quixote’s,” Markson writes. Lowry’s hero becomes, for examplethrough analogy, allusion, and metaphorFaust, Dante, Prometheus, Oedipus, Judas, Hamlet, Prospero and Macbeth, as well as Scrooge and Peter Rabbit.
Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano is more than just the first and most trenchant analysis of this great novel. It reveals the mind of a gifted contemporary novelist confronting the work of one of his own early masters. For, if Under the Volcano is a modern masterpiece, it has become increasingly clear that Markson is a master as well. Ten years after the appearance of this, his only non-fiction work, he published Wittgenstein’s Mistress, a novel that David Foster Wallace has called “pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.”
Praise for Malcolm Lowry's Volcano
“A tour-de-force of literary detection.”
“An important addition to the Lowry canon.”
Chicago Tribune Book World
“A major achievement in scholarly sleuthing, the sine qua non for apprehending Lowry’s great work.”
Fort-Worth Star Telegram
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