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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Reader's Block

David Markson

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To purchase Reader's Block

Title: Reader's Block
Author: David Markson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996
Length: 193 pages
Availability: Reader's Block - US
Reader's Block - UK
Reader's Block - Canada
  • Salon named this one of its Best Books of 1996.

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Our Assessment:

A : an unusual but utterly engaging work

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe . 31/10/1996 Bill Marx
The NY Times Book Rev. C- 12/1/1997 William Ferguson
Salon . 9/12/1996 .
The Washington Post . 3/11/1996 Michael Dirda

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.

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The complete review's Review:

       Reader's Block is an odd piece of fiction. Presented in brief bursts of one or two (and rarely more) sentences, each "paragraph" separated from the next, the text looks like a collection of aphorisms. The sentences themselves generally convey some information, but many are merely a name or a title. Two shadowy characters appear -- occasionally -- in these pages, a Reader and a Protagonist -- and it is clear only that the Reader wishes to write and is considering what he might do with his fictional protagonist.
       An unlikely set-up for a novel, and yet Markson's fiction is an almost complete success. It is a literate experiment, founded, anchored in Western literary experience (there is only an occasional nod to non-European and non-American writing), Markson manages to situate the reader -- and the writer -- of our day, and the difficulties each faces.
       The quotes, the names, the titles, the bits of information: it is an agglomeration that Markson manages to tie together even as it remains a loose bunch of fragments. In questioning "What is a novel in any case ?", in arguing "Joyces write, Readers read", Markson addresses many of the difficulties facing authors in this age. These fragments, shoring his ruins (as is cleverly suggested), offer an alternative -- one that is, to Reader (as ambitioned writer), not ultimately successful, but to readers elsewhere a profound pleasure.
       The bits and pieces include several recurring motifs: many authors are listed as anti-semites, many as suicides, as sexually inexperienced, as suffering premature and terrible deaths and terrible fates. There is a pleasure in names, in classical quotes, all overwhelming Reader. He describes the book -- the attempt -- at one point as: "Obstinately cross-referential and of cryptic interconnective syntax in any case." True, it is: "Nonlinear. Discontinuous. Collage-like. An assemblage." Where Markson triumphs is in so carefully fashioning it that it nevertheless makes a delightful, progressive read, that even without a clear or forceful narrative driving the fiction it is a gripping and thoroughly enjoyable text. This is not amateurish, post-modernist experimentation, this is art. Firmly founded in our literary heritage it is, though formally unusual, also traditional fiction.

       We certainly recommend this book very highly. Some familiarity with Western culture and specifically literature is presumably necessary to fully enjoy the highly allusive text, but otherwise this should be a pleasure -- indeed a thrill -- for one and all.

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Reader's Block: Reviews: David Markson: Other books by David Markson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

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

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