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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Last Novel

David Markson

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To purchase The Last Novel

Title: The Last Novel
Author: David Markson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007
Length: 190 pages
Availability: The Last Novel - US
The Last Novel - UK
The Last Novel - Canada

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Our Assessment:

A- : now familiar approach, but still very effective

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 8/7/2007 Catherine Texier
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2007 Jeremy M. Davies
TLS . 25/5/2007 Stephen Burn

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Last Novel, which is anything but a novel in any conventional sense of the term. Yet it manages to keep us enthralled during the length of its short 190-page span, and even moved to tears at the end. (...) (I)t is that constant tension between pathos and wit that makes The Last Novel so exhilarating and moving to read. " - Catherine Texier, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(N)otwithstanding the general morbidity of the scraps Novelist shares with us -- not least about his own grim and lonely day-to-day life in Greenwich Village (well, he canít be that bad off) -- itís impossible to be anything but invigorated by them en masse, by the clarity and wit of their arrangement, by the magic of Marksonís great trick: to assemble a work that gives us all the pleasure and poignancy of a novel without resorting to a single recognizable trope of novel-writing." - Jeremy M. Davies, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Yet while this collection of around 2,000 fragments clearly follows the same format as his earlier books, there are subtle developments. In The Last Novel, the slender narrative concerning the Novelist who assembles the fragments is less intrusive than before, and Markson has added to his usual obsessions a fascination with writers' rooms" - Stephen Burn, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Last Novel is again a fiction consisting of fragments, a collection of facts and quotes, with occasional commentary and a few personal observations. Markson has now written several of these, "in his own personal genre", and though the identification of the protagonist varies -- it's 'Reader' in Reader's Block , 'Writer' in This is not a Novel, 'Author' in Vanishing Point, and now 'Novelist' -- they are clearly one of a piece -- though Markson goes out of his way to note:

     Wondering if there is any viable way to convince critics never to use the word tetralogy without also adding that each volume can be readily read by itself ?
       (Markson also includes a 'test' of sorts for reviewers, hoping to catch out the lazy ones who just flip through the book by, at one point, mentioning flinging his cat out the window -- only to reveal a few pages later that he has never owned a cat.)
       The titles of these books suggest what Markson is after: This is Not a Novel is already pure self-negation, and Vanishing Point just a different kind of absence. The Last Novel now insists on finality, presumably both of the form as well as the novelist's output. As in the previous books death, old age, and infirmity figure prominently: "Old. Tired. Sick. Alone. Broke." he sums up his condition several times, and elaborates on it occasionally. Deaths and death-dates are among the most common entries, and there are also frequent mentions of great artists who died poor or in debt.
       Markson harps a good deal on reputation, offering both admiring quotes from artists (and others) about each other as well as devastating judgments. Some of this is petty -- "I would go to considerable expense and inconvenience to avoid his company", he quotes Cheever about Updike -- but generally it is fairly amusing. Indeed, remarkably enough Markson's assemblages continue to entertain: they make for a good read not just piece by piece but in sequence, which isn't as easy to pull off as one might imagine.
       It seems familiar territory and yet there's still novelty to it, and it does add up to more than its pieces, not as a straight progression towards death or some sort of end, but as a book of reflection from near the (still unforeseeable) end of a writer's life.
       Worthwhile -- as are the other books of this informal tetralogy (which, yes, can be read and enjoyed separately).

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The Last Novel: Reviews: David Markson: Other books by David Markson under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       American author David Markson was born in 1927 and died in 2010.

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