Thursday, May 15, 2008

Books: Springer's Progress, by David Markson

Procrastination is in the air; I've put off writing about this book for ten days, but put off reading it for ten months (God knows why, it's such a slim little volume, toothless, really, and, paradoxically, toothsome to boot). Worse, Lucien Springer, our anti-hero, has been putting off work on his new novel (I can sympathize. . . were it not for iTunes, my laptop would be as dusty as his typewriter). Instead, he's been nursing yet another extramarital affair, this time with student Jessica Cornford, writing a novel of her own (without, it seems, any bother by procrastination). He calls her "horsey," but in all other ways impresses upon us her beauty, so let's instead call her "equine." Somewhere along the way (seemingly about the time his cock stops working, to his young and fertile lover's vague disappointment (she has no shortage of other lovers, which inspires Springer's impotently raging jealousy which might in fact be the inspiration for his impotence) he finds that she's inspired him to write again, and he begins his novel, which is about his extramarital affair, this time with student Jessica Cornford, writing a novel of her own. . . wait: Mobius Strip Alert.

But that's what the book does, collapse on itself and thusly end just as it's getting started, in either a majestically painless, perfectly landed, triple axel of postmodern figure skating kind of way, or in that leave-a-swampy-taste-in-your-mouth three card monte of postmodern con-artistry kind of way, depending on what camp you're in (and depending on whether you even got to the end of the book anyway, considering the way it's all bunged up inside with big long words that will send even Ivy League grad students to Merriam Webster in tears, not to mention the lists and anagrams and codes and literary and art historical in-jokes that aren't "in" between anybody but Markson and his own self, at least until he discloses his secrets in a compendium, or until a reader comes along with enough OCD to tweeze them all out (he makes, I promise you, excellent use of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky). Being a complete cad, David Foster Wallace called Markson "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country." Being a complete cad myself, I will now have to read all of Markson's other books, too.

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