Tuesday, January 01, 2008

belatedly for David Markson

A thoughtful post on occasion of his 80th birthday, here.
Oh, well, there are books by friends, that you do give yourself to. You approach them with a different psychological stance, somehow, wanting to enjoy. And doing so. As with the most recent Gil Sorrentino, for instance. Or Ann Beattie's new collection of stories. But there's simply no impulse toward anything else, and certainly not toward the latest generation. They all seem like they shouldn't have driver's licenses, even. You do become aware of the names, of course. Who are they, Lethem, Foer, Eggers? Are they mostly named Jonathan?

You know of them, but you're not interested in reading them?

Seriously -- to paraphrase Ezra Pound, there's no record of a critic ever saying anything significant about a writer who came later than he did. You grow up getting interested in books, and the writers of your own generation or the generation or two before your own are the ones you pay most attention to. But listen, I'm scarcely as bad as some of the people I know. But good lord, some of the people I went to college or even graduate school with pretty much quit about nine days after they got their diplomas. And haven't read a poet since Auden, or a novelist since Hemingway. There was one fat novel I did read. In 1996, in fact. I remember the date because my novel Reader's Block had also just been published: Infinite Jest. Before I'd heard of David Foster Wallace, way back in 1990, he'd written a very perceptive long essay on Wittgenstein's Mistress for a periodical. Even though I was never able to solve the structure of his novel, to understand why it ended where it did, I admired the hell out of it. Eight or nine years ago even, I wasn't reading with the equipment I possessed when I was younger. But pat me on the head, I did manage to get through one novel that long in the past decade.

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