From the erudite and extraordinary Markson: a sequel to Reader's Block (1997) that has the same high, literary shenanigans as the earlier volume but adds a newly deepened tone as the author looks unblinkingly into the eye of life—and death.
The author, known only as "Writer," has plenty to say indeed, though admittedly in the most pared-down manner possible, via a booklength list (as before) of quotations, observations, and statements, all organized into a veritable word-orchestra of leitmotif, allusion, repetition, and subtle but steady growth toward the most meaningful end there can be. No page is eventless in the unceasing flow of this particular river, where a random dip, for example, finds the leitmotif "Timor mortis conturbat me. / The fear of death distresses me," followed by "Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day," and concluded by "Longevity all too often means not a long life but a long death," attributed to Democritus. Gloomy? Sure, but also, without fail, interesting, the one thing left of true importance that the modern writer can be. Markson's list—out-Whitmaning Whitman—touches on death on every page, but also on art and the cost of achieving it. Why does Writer want to write "A novel with no intimation of story whatsoever," one that's "Plotless. Characterless," and also symbol-less. Well, Writer wants something new, something real, something authentic, something that is—yes—art. And he wants it before the death that (Writer lets us know) is increasingly imminent. More than once, Writer cautions us that we must pay attention, be attentive. And so, paying attention, read on through Writer's closing pages: subtle, inventive, ineffably moving.
Not to the taste of all, true, but wondrous proof, from one of our few worthy successors to Beckett, that in a literary age mainly of entertainment the art-novel—the true-novel—can still take wing.