David Markson is one of the most well read and literary people I know. Conrad Aiken, Malcolm Lowry, William Gaddis, and Frederick Exley were among his friends. He is the author of Wittgenstein's Mistress, which Ann Beattie has called "An absolute masterpiece." He is also the author of Springer's Progress and Reader's Block. He has lived in Greenwich Village for almost fifty years.
Markson was a big reader of literary allusions and quotations. When he first read Under The Volcano, he wrote a fan letter to Malcolm Lowry. They met in Canada a while letter. Markson went on a personal crusade to draw attention to Lowry's work: "Which is why I wrote a master's thesis (at Columbia) on Lowry's Under The Volcano only four years after it was published, for instance, when nobody else had written anything except the original reviews, and so I had the allusions all to myself to dig out."
Markson was also the first person to give William Gaddis' The Recognitions its high rank also. He called it the most important American novel since Moby Dick? "Actually it was just a throwaway passage in an old detective novel I wrote," Markson confesses, "but there too it was only three years after Gaddis had published. I'm delighted, or even honored, when I'm still given credit for it.
Although he would give his right arm to have written The Recognitions, Markson is looks down at Gaddis' later work: "That business of the nonstop conversation, with all the repetitions and digressions and so forth that are supposed to be precisely like real life--except that art is selectivity, damn it. I read an interview where he talked about authorial absense, but what happens instead is that what he hopes will sound natural simply sounds faked. It's a gimmick, and it ultimately makes us infinitely more conscious of the writer than we'd ever be otherwise."
Markson has little interest in current fiction, although he occasionally reads it. His all-time list would include Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, The Stranger, early Celine, The Sot-Weed Factor, Nightwood, The Ginger Man, early Beckett. He thought very little of Thomas Pynchon. "I've got an odd bias against him. I've always believed that it's a serious reader's responsibility to pick up on virtually any valid literary allusion--even though a shrewd novelist tries to bury such things too, of course, so that the context makes sense even if the resonances are missed."
Markson did read Infinite Jest when it came out, but would make no comment. He remarked "Most of your enthusiasm is for the major stuff just before your own time. But deep down I know, know, that there are books out there just as good as Under The Volcano or The Recognitions--and it's my own damned loss that I've misread them."