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Reader’s Block

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  915 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
In this spellbinding, utterly unconventional fiction, an aging author who is identified only as Reader contemplates the writing of a novel. As he does, other matters insistently crowd his mind - literary and cultural anecdotes, endless quotations attributed and not, scholarly curiosities - the residue of a lifetime's reading which is apparently all he has to show for his d ...more
Paperback, 194 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published January 1st 1996)
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The Third Policeman by Flann O'BrienWittgenstein's Mistress by David MarksonThe Recognitions by William GaddisThe Tunnel by William H. GassJ R by William Gaddis
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,515)
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I have a narrative. But you will be put to it to find it.

Markson’s short work of experimental fiction weaves together strings of historical facts (Frederick Delius was paralyzed and blinded by syphilis.), quotations (Pouring out liquor is like burning books. Said Faulkner.) and endless references to the horrors of humanity and human suffering (Two of Thomas Mann’s sons committed suicide. As did two of Marx’s daughters.), with the patches of a novel the Reader is trying to write.

Sometimes a pa
Mike Puma
Mar 25, 2015 Mike Puma rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you know who you are

Right book. Right time. 5 stars. No apologies.

Ah, but is it a novel?

Well, let’s see. A Handbook to Literature: Novel Novel is used in its broadest sense to designate any extended fictional narrative almost always in prose. In practice, however, its use is customarily restricted to narratives in which the representation of character occurs either in a static condition or in the process of development as the result of events or actions. Often the term implies that some organizing principle—PLOT,

MJ Nicholls
Dec 11, 2010 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it
A novel of literary trivia. Markson's knowledge of biographical curios is far and wide, far beyond his desire to tell his own stories, so he uses this richness of detail to weave an unconventional narrative. The trivia is interrupted by an attempt by Reader to create his Protagonist, who gets swallowed up in a bog of anti-semitic and suicidal writers. The story is never told: the idea is the anecdotes tell the story. (Though precisely what that is is beyond me. The tone is one of oppression and ...more
Nick Craske
May 03, 2015 Nick Craske rated it it was amazing
David Markson achieves a pure distillation of form in these works and has created his own genre - a lucid, incantatory and trance inducing prose style, in which a person's entire self can be discerned through a stream of fragments. Fragments concerning the lives of writers, philosophers artists and their subjects. The greatest, and peculiar reward in reading these four novels, is experiencing the incredible heft of sadness while simultaneously grinning form ear-to-ear. These books deliver an awe ...more
Riku Sayuj
May 11, 2013 Riku Sayuj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: extra-creative
You have to read all of Markson to get Markson. Challenge Accepted. I feel Markson is pushing me over the brink as far as my own ambitions are concerned, redefining definitions. This is a fascinating journey and it is compulsive to say the least. I shudder to think that when I reach The Last Novel, it will really feel like exactly that.

A review titled Reviewer's Block is ready but will be up only after completing the tetralogy(?). I am sure I am missing all the really good twists.
Jun 20, 2012 Adam rated it it was amazing
Markson’s book in a brief description sounds like a post-Calvino or Borges exercise in cute metafiction. A character named Reader has difficulty composing a novel about a character named Protagonist. The actually book Markson delivers is very different. The narrator intersperses his notes on his novel with anecdotes about a literary and artistic personalities. These start out gossipy and chatty and then lists of how someone committed suicide or died appear, and then lists of who was an anti-Semi ...more
Feb 06, 2016 S. rated it it was amazing
I was reluctant to say anything much about this book, as I prefer to keep it my own selfish secret. This is pretty much a literary and historical trivia book with a very thin strand of plot to it. The book would (almost) have survived without it. What appealed to me was the readerly devotion, the obsessiveness, how the 'Reader' character returned to various themes over and over, such as who was an anti-semite, and who died how. I thought it was marvelous and affirmative. My first Markson.
Jul 30, 2010 Shane rated it really liked it
I was rather harsh on David Markson on reading his last book Springer’s Progress, but this time I was engrossed in yet another experimental novel of his: Reader’s Block. Reader, in this case, is the writer, suffering from the dreaded “Block”. We get glimpses of him as someone who has suffered losses of friends and family, of health and livelihood, and is all alone trying to write this novel.

Reader is distracted from developing his plot and characters by the random thoughts and trivia of all the
Guillermo Jiménez
Leer este libro puede llevarte más tiempo del que te imagines.

Cada página está escrita como un laberinto en el cual los muros son en realidad invisibles y todo camino posible está dentro de tu cabeza.

El camino mismo sucede en tu mente.

En tu experiencia.

En tu cultura.

Las múltiples referencias son abismales porque exigen en el lector una concentración intensa. Una atención particularmente precisa. Incluso leyéndolo en su traducción al español, hay párrafos que requieren ser leídos en voz alta, pa
Jun 08, 2010 Jesse rated it really liked it
A kind of elegant, twisted mystery with no conclusion for the reader to solve--it's not a story or even a narrative per se as much as the straightforward listing of the "notes" of an otherwise nameless Reader, which consist of countless factoids and anecdotes and quotes as well as jottings of what is presumably to be an outline of a novel Reader is working on. But what initially seems to be completely disparate musings (which I found interesting enough simply on that level) slowly begin to form ...more
Jeff Jackson
Nov 14, 2010 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing
"Markson's panorama is that of the world of books and of tiny mosaics of historical fact. Though poignantly hinting at deep personal anguish as the organizing principal behind this miniaturist encyclopedia of bits and pieces, this amazing novel evokes all books and all lists and the powerful human lust for inclusiveness. It's as if he's saying, "read this book and know everything worth knowing." But the only thing left out is ... everything else -- which howls at the center of this book like the ...more
Vit Babenco
Sep 06, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
The Magic Theatre, for Madmen Only, Price of Admission Your Mind
Reader’s Block reads literally as a baedeker to misfortunes and calamities lying in ambush for a creative mind on its way to the fulfillment of its pursuits.
“A novel of intellectual reference and allusion, so to speak minus much of the novel.”
Like a perfect thing-in-itself Reader’s Block contains its own perfect self-definition.
I’ve spent hours and hours in this old literary curiosity shop cracking the bookworm’s riddles of names, t
T Fool
Oct 03, 2009 T Fool rated it it was amazing
Reader’s Block, thematically, stylistically, twins Vanishing Point, though it precedes that other Markson book by eight years. An older sibling, really, with many family traits. Rather than accusing it of executing by formula, we have to praise it. So referential are the fragments, they set up an intrigue – what is a reader to do in piecing it all together?

We enjoyed doing it in VP, and once again the action wobbles around a book project in-the-making. Instead of VPs Writer, here we have a dua
Milly Cohen
Nov 18, 2015 Milly Cohen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Qué lectura más fantástica

Textos sueltos y amarrados
Todos te dejan impactado

Pinceladas de realismo puro
¿O habrá invento alguno?

No lo sueltas desde que lo tomas
No te crees lo que lees

Me gustan tantas referencias al judaísmo
No me gustan tantas vidas que terminan pronto

¿Cómo ata cabos este hombre?
¿Cuánto tiempo dedica a este libro?

Quisiera escribir un libro así, sobre otro tema
Pero claro, nunca podré!

May 07, 2015 Antigone rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Gray's Elegy is 128 lines long. Gray spent seven years writing it.

If forced to choose, Giacometti once said, he would rescue a cat from a burning building before a Rembrandt.

I am growing older. I have been in hospitals. Do I wish to put certain things down?

David Markson, author of Wittgenstein's Mistress, presents us here with a state of inspirational struggle familiar to writers everywhere. Through a collection of seemingly arcane factoids and trivia, interspersed with the questing voices resid
Jun 18, 2013 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Another masterpiece. Every bone in my body wanted to revolt against it but I was simply unable...powerful and moving. Review to follow once I have some time. Markson shall be Completed, it has been decided.
Jun 20, 2010 Bria rated it liked it
Ha ha! You didn't expect Wikipedia to happen, did you, Markson?
Feb 25, 2009 Janet rated it it was amazing
I've read several David Marksons now but this is my favorite. Formally interesting--it works on a musical principle, told in discrete single sentences or two or three, and gradually, you gain a picture of what is going on, like motivic musical work a la Beethoven. Love this book.
Yi Ly
Feb 23, 2015 Yi Ly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No puedo ponerle menos puntaje a un libro con el cual he aprendido tanto y que ha hecho que me detenga una y otra vez en determinados momentos porque simplemente tenía que dejar de leer y pensar: "¡Esto es genial!".

Me ha encantado toparme con esta lectura, descubrir tantos hechos y disfrutar del humor que hay en el libro, un humor diferente y a veces macabro pero totalmente hipnótico.

Aún así, tengo que decir, que no es una lectura que recomiende a todos. Solo te lo puedo recomendar si estás dis
Apr 13, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
In a very rough sense, this reminds me a lot of Wittgenstein's mistress. Markson weaves a dazzling array of historical facts, trivia and direct transpositions from other works into an almost skeletal narrative frame. But unlike Wittgenstein's Mistress, there isn't a be-witching central character here, more like a skeletal, self-reflexive combination of a narrator, a reader, and possibly some biographical slivers from Markson's own life. The weird array of historical facts, direct quotations and ...more
Roy Kesey
Jul 23, 2013 Roy Kesey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masterful weave of quotations/"quotations" and facts/"facts" [(mostly) about writers and their ridiculous lives] that ends up being a novel about how hard it can be to write a novel. Themes coalesce slowly-–a contemplation of death, anti-Semitism, writers caught in their own brains. An unlikely, terrifically powerful ending. I've since seen half a dozen serious attempts to mimic what this book does either thematically or structurally, and all of them feel feeble by comparison.
Sep 12, 2015 melanie rated it it was amazing
alt. title: The Waste Basket

"Nonlinear? Discontinuous? Collage-like?

An assemblage?"

this is essentially T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, revisited– both build themselves out of the rubble/flotsam/waste of writing and writers that came before, all the while meditating on time, art, and nothingness. Markson even gives a few explicit nods to the poem, like when he quotes from Dickens' 'Our Mutual Friend' : "He do the Police in different voices" (which served as the basis for Eliot's original title fo
A much different follow up to Wittgenstein's Mistress and what might be an anomaly in Markson's own "personal genre," as he states in his Silverblatt interview that the central figure, Reader/Protagonist, takes up roughly "20%" of the novel. This 20% gives the novel much more of an immediate, discernible structure, unlike Wittgenstein's Mistress. We discover that Reader is an aging writer and living alone. Protagonist becomes an aging writer and lives alone. He lives by a rundown cemetery. This ...more
Oct 03, 2014 Dpdwyer rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This strange book was weirdly compelling. Billed as a novel, which I couldn’t see, it’s mainly a series of loosely connected, short, factual statements or quotes, mostly by or about writers, artists, and composers. Some of the statement/quotes reappear several times in the course of 180 pages. The overall tone is somber, tending toward the macabre. The text seems to be attempting to answer four questions: 1) who was anti-Semitic? 2) who committed or attempted suicide and by what means? 3) who di ...more
Feb 08, 2014 JC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most innovative, poetic, and unique novels I've ever read, and also perhaps one of the saddest. About 10% of the book concerns an aging, struggling author known only as Reader who is unable to make any real progress on a new novel. The other 90% is a collage-like assemblage of facts and quotations taken from the sum of Western art & literary history. While fascinating in their own right (especially if, like me, you take the time to Wikipedia everything unfamiliar), the presentatio ...more
Adam Floridia
Aug 28, 2015 Adam Floridia rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1-star-books
Postmodernism. Reader-response. Death of the author. Erudite pretentiousness. These are all things I tend to enjoy (the latter in the case of Nabokov at least). However, Markson just doesn't do it for me.

Maybe this wasn't possible when the book was first published, but now instead of reading it, try this:
-Google "Obscure literary facts"
-Try to limit the search by the following key words: anti-semites, The Iliad, deaths (especially accidental and suicides), war, and random authorial connections.
Oct 10, 2015 Suhrob rated it it was amazing
An enigma really.

No matter how I think about it, Reader's Block has barely any appealing features, but all the trappings of a postmodernistic trainwreck:

1. brutally repetitive structure
2. nary of a narrative
3. the most distastefulness solipsism of all: writing about writing (and even writing about writing about writing!_
4. I repeat - repetitiveness
5. Oh, so obviously existential: lone writer, lone person in a destitute house on a cemetary/beach... etc.
6. Compulsive, obsessive. Skeletal. List-y.

Jan 02, 2014 Jim rated it liked it
I read my first book by David Markson five days ago. It was The Last Novel and you can read my review here. I gave it four stars. I had no intention of reading another by him so soon and yet I found myself compelled to do so. I wanted to see if the magic worked a second time. It did but—in full accordance with the law of diminishing returns—the effect was reduced. It’s the story of my life. Of most people’s lives I suspect.

Of course this isn’t the same novel but the approach is the same: “Nonlin
No sé que calificación darle, pero lo he disfrutado y leído de un tirón.
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David Markson was an American novelist, born David Merrill Markson in Albany, New York. He is the author of several postmodern novels, including This is Not a Novel, Springer's Progress, and Wittgenstein's Mistress. His most recent work, The Last Novel, was published in 2007 and received a positive review in the New York Times, which called it "a real tour de force."

Markson's work is characterized
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“Tolstoy's wife copied out the entire manuscript of War and Peace in longhand seven times.” 5 likes
“Can Protagonist think of a single film that interests him as much as the three-hundredth best book he ever read?” 3 likes
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