Thinking about fiction

This is Not a NovelThis is Not a Novel by David Markson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining and provocative experiment in writing "A novel with no intimation of story whatsoever.... / And with no characters. None. ... / Plotless. Characterless. / Yet seducing the reader into turning pages nonetheless." Oddly, it works. If not a novel, it is perhaps an epic poem, if Writer says it is, or, most accurately, as he suggests on one of the last pages, "a kind of verbal fugue." The paragraphs, some no more than two words and none more than five lines, are like (or simply are) stanzas, most containing odd facts about writers and other creative people ("Frans Hals was once arrested for beating his wife.") A recurrent theme is the manners of death of these people, further emphasized by this repeated statement:- "Timor mortis conturbat me. / The fear of death distresses me." Another is the ironies of anti-Semitism: "What the world would know of the Holocaust if the Germans had won" is one entire stanza. (The answer? Not much, I suppose.) The overriding theme is the writer's right to create whatever he pleases and call it whatever he wants. "Chi son? Chi son? Son un poeta / Che cosa faccio? Scrivo." It's an inspiring note for any writer, or at least for this one (me) 021215.

(I read this book almost ten years ago, but now the latest novel of Enrique Vila-Matas made me think of it again. There is an English translation of the Vila-Matas novel, Dublinesque. Look for it.)

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