Crying Shames: Reader’s Block by David Markson

Godamn it. I wanted to love this so hard, but it just fell flat for me. Fuck.

I wanted to tear up and roll around in Wittgenstein’s Mistress for the rest of my life. Everything about it did it for me – the post-apocalyptic locale, the odd, glancing humor, the damaged narrator, the throat-strangling sadness. You guys! I found my post-Modernist writer! A writer who can kick the shit out of me in about 200 pages, while being experimental and allusive and just plain fun? Jeesh, that’s not something you run across every day, no sir. In Autobiography of Red, Carson talks about the Gertrude Steinian piece of meat, left in the middle of the Modernist trapeze to stink and rot, a heart that isn’t so much beating as writhing. That was Wittgenstein’s Mistress for me: Steinian meat in a box of scraps, at the end of the world, with a bunch of cartons of books in the basement. It made me freak out so bad I ordered a used copy of Reader’s Block because my libs didn’t have it, nor any other Markson. Shame.

But, no. In terms of the feel of the prose and the choppy, Twittery sentences, Reader’s Block is very similar to Wittgenstein’s Mistress: all these gossipy anecdotes and listing, personal stories of the art-set instead of the art of the art-set, fuckery about voice and who and what blah blah. If that’s what you’re into with Markson, then this is going to be cool. But I loved the fuck out of Wittgenstein’s Mistress for its central coathanger of sadness, this quick charcoal sketch of a woman at the end of all things who tears up and rearranges the artifacts of culture and then rolls around in them for the rest of her life. I can’t get on with this Reader construct, writing a non-novel with a character called Protagonist who might live by the graveyard. The graveyard’s got no ghost, yo. More importantly, it’s got no meat. Shame, it’s a godamn shame. I wanted to love this so hard.

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