11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2008
A superb book. Markson has created a character who has the world to herself, though her memories and thoughts are infiltrated by the artists and writers and philosophers she has loved. There is also a real sense of place, whether real or imagined; mainly European, though the author is American. The book lies at a tangent to Gaddis, with hints and references in his direction. However, many ghosts from many eras share the world with a sympathetic and increasingly unreliable narrator.
I was recommended this book by a note in a bookshop in Memphis - thanks be given.
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2011
This is a novel about `somebody who woke up one Wednesday or Thursday to discover that there was apparently not one other person left in the world'. This is a novel of `inconsequential perplexities' and has the Laingian ethos that `there is no better way of being sane and free from anxiety than by being mad'.
This is a novel whose style appears (poorly) influenced by the work of Gordon Lish and, if not, then certainly - via existentialism - Samuel Beckett. Markson tries to evoke the absurdity of everyday life by relating the essentials of any one moment through a mass of intellectual trivia.
As examples, and in attempting to reflect the troubled nature of the central female character's mind, he will tell you what Spinoza did to spiders; the birth date of Picasso; how Anna Karenina's cat died; and the classical film roles of Katherine Hepburn. Bizarre events and the behaviour of an eclectic mix of artists can be found here. If you are looking for some sort of plot and want a `story', it's also here, but no more than four or so pages in length and scattered finely like so much powder, over the novel's 240 pages.
The main character is a woman, once a painter and married, who leaves her husband before everybody else, it seems, just disappears. For more than a decade she journeys, looking for other people.
The tale is spun in the form of a monologue, sometimes resembling those of the characters in Beckett's plays (most notably Winnie's in `Happy Days'). Yet the brilliance of Beckett - through his ability to capture the aching tedium and relentless repetitions of daily life - in an exact, sad, darkly humorous way - does not rub off on Markson: instead, he is encyclopaedic; a trivia quiz; an existential void - and here is proof, in the form of his fourth novel: nothingness.
4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2009
Oh dear, I struggled with this, and had to give up after 20 pages. I'm sure it is making a profound statement regarding the nature of language and knowledge as an inherently social activity, but the interminably dull monologue really didn't do it for me!