Epitaph For a Novel

MarksonOne of my favorite authors is David Markson. I was introduced to Markson’s work while taking a creative writing coursetaught by Peter Marcus. Marcus gave me the image of Markson hoarding shoe-box after file cabinet stuffed with little slips of paper and the odd gum wrapper or two with carefully collected factoids written neatly on the available white space. Look at these titles for Markson’s later fiction:

  • Reader’s Block, 1996.
  • This Is Not a Novel, 2001.
  • Vanishing Point, 2004.
  • The Last Novel, 2007.

Here is where all those factoids ended up, carefully arranged and, although seemingly random, telling a story about the life of the writer in four novels. If you are of the stodgy old school that thinks a novel must have a plot and characters, dialogue and at least one theme, then Markson might be problematic. Still I highly recommend that you at least try one of the novels: start with Reader’s Block (they’re all fascinating but function best when read in order).

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Genremandering

I often hear the argument about Historical Fiction only to realize that it is often confused with a particularly embarrassing form of writing is called Historical Romance: Bodice Rippers for the most part. So to start with a reasonable definition: Historical Romance is Genre Fiction whereas Historical Fiction is Literary Fiction. Got that? But what is the difference between Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction? We need an impartial Martian to come to earth and help us understand this differentiation … the literary commentators and critics are all over the place with their firm pronouncements.

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Books In a Series

There once was a website that itemized the many series’ found in the mystery genre, giving the titles, main characters, publishing dates, and even the chronological order of all the books. I’ve lost track of this site but suspect that it still exists, maybe in a “for-fee” arrangement. I don’t think I got involved with these mystery series until the 1980s when my wife (the librarian) introduced me to the likes of Fletch, Travis McGee, Monsieur Pamplemousse, Joe Leaphorn, and Spenser. I have followed these series mysteries somewhat faithfully, along with many others that at least held my interest for a few novels. There were definitely many low points in the series’ but I usually allowed the author an occasional dud and continued reading when the next book was published. Even the long-running Spenser slipped into mediocrity when Susan moved to Los Angeles, but she came back eventually and the series improved greatly.

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