Markson’s This is Not a Novel actually is very much a novel but appears as a disconnected collection of quotes, the ways a variety of artists have died, musings, journal type notations, coincidences, gossip, anecdotes, glimpses into the creative life which become quite a compelling read. Markson sets us up on the very first page:
This at first seemingly random compilation of ideas and disparate information is actually not random nor disparate at all and poignantly reveals its meaning in the last pages of the book. “Writer” is the protagonist in this sea of informational bits and pieces creating what seems to be an anti-novel without obvious narrative or characters or plot or conflict. Yet it is difficult to put the book down. As a reader the information is compelling and sometimes mysterious and pushes you forward with the hope of understanding the book as a whole, that drives you to turn the pages (also a lot of the information is just plain interesting).
Markson’s literary experiment is simultaneously clever and plaintive; provocative and poetic. Yes, This Is Not a Novel and yes it is very much one. And most definitely, this book about legacy and mortality, is very novel.