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The Last Novel

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  812 ratings  ·  115 reviews
In recent novels, which have been called "hypnotic," "stunning," and "exhilarating," David Markson has created his own personal genre. In this new work, The Last Novel, an elderly author (referred to only as "Novelist") announces that since this will be his final effort, he has "carte blanche to do anything he damned well pleases."

Pressed by solitude and age, Novelist's pr
Paperback, 220 pages
Published March 16th 2007 by Counterpoint
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  812 ratings  ·  115 reviews

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Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
Semifictional Semifiction

The Last Novel is a compendium of apparently disconnected facts, aphorisms, anecdotes, and assorted witticisms. Mostly these are about writers and other artists but also includes other notables like scientists and politicians. All are delivered in the best traditions of WC Fields and Henny Youngman as perfectly crafted one-liners. The effect is startling - as if Markson first wrote something of high literary density - like a Finnegans Wake or an Under the Volcano - and t
Mike Puma
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you know who you are
Shelves: 2012, david-markson

You know the feeling you have when you approach the end of a book you’ve been loving—that feeling of wanting to finish it, but not wanting it to end? That’s me, right now, in spades.

But you have finished it, Blanche, you have. (some obscure reference to Seinfeld, Baby Jane, Bette Davis, Bette Davis channeling H.L. Mencken? Perhaps leading to Kevin Bacon, so degreed my separation)

Separation anxiety aside, I still have several Marksons to wallow in, even the poems (sadly, I lack the $90, 50-year-o

David Katzman
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
The Last Novel is a quick, easy, charming, sad, profound, surprising, humorous, angry, erudite, critical, clever, bitter, energetic, thought-provoking, challenging, heavy, light, experimental non-novel.

Novel? Perhaps the title is satirical. He calls it a novel, which may be intended as a form of challenge to "the novel" or more likely a joke and a sarcastic one at that. It's a book, certainly. But novel? It's like trying to force a Mormon through a keyhole. Why make "the novel" take on the burde
Vit Babenco
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The subject of The Last Novel is death and art… The story is focused on the virtual immortality that art provides to its creators.
There is an almost perfect description of the book given by the author himself:
“A novel of intellectual reference and allusion, so to speak minus much of the novel.
And thus in which Novelist will say more about himself only when he finds no way to evade doing so, but rarely otherwise.”
In The Last Novel a creative mind exists in the inimical world and is surrounded by
MJ Nicholls
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The final work from Markson concludes the foursome in fine fettle. To describe and defend these things as novels can be a beach—in terms of plot and character, we have Markson describing himself as he composes the collages, commenting on the collage (telling us what we are reading and coining a name for the form), around the addictive slips of trivia. Markson’s best achievement, some argue, is making the experimental as readable as a bestseller, but there has always been a receptive audience for ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had this whole thing planned where I was going to do all the reviews of the tetralogy aping the style. Yeah, original. I opt instead for sincerity, always a bad idea.

Markson's quartet fucked me up in the best possible way. It is one of (the?) most original approaches to the novel that I've seen in a long time. What came across to me as a bit of a cheap trick in Witt congeals in these books and demonstrates the deep humanity of the Man-As-Reader. It's beyond brilliant and I've disappeared compl
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Tosh and Twaddle

It was a sad mistake to read the last instalment of David Markson’s quartet straight after the third. Not only because it shows a modest talent deteriorating into an immodest talent, but because it displays what is worst about white male American Post-modernism.

“Old. Tired. Sick. Alone. Broke.” (2, 3, 93, 190) Author (now called Novelist) has lost whatever sense of humour he might once have had, and is now bitter and twisted, snarky and scornful:

“His last book. All of which also
Proposition #1: Nearly all readers of The Last Novel have read Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress.

Proposition #2: Most of those readers will have read Wittgenstein's Mistress because David Foster Wallace thought it was cool beans.

Proposition #3: Eagle-eyed readers of this short review may recognize that I'm shittily and superficially cribbing the style of Wittgenstein's Tractatus (which [natch] plays heavily into the style of the aforementioned Markson novel and the thought of the late Mr. Wallac
Nick Craske
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
And the sentence structures.

Reading can never be the same again.

Reader's Block, this is not a novel, Vanishing Point and The Last Novel.

Mr. Markson induces a meditative state thorough an assemblage of 'collage like' fragments.

I repeat.
Jeff Jackson
Oct 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The breeziest book of the author tetralogy, where most of the references that make up the text are either attributed or put into immediate context. Despite endings and death looming large throughout, this is probably the funniest book of the bunch. More sports this time, too -- including the great Wayne Gretzky quote: "I don't skate to where the puck is, but where it's going to be." A pretty good summation of Markson's visionary series. If you haven't read these yet, time to catch up!

Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american
What happens when a novelist writes a book so poor that it not only fails in itself, but reveals the novelist's other works as failures?

I am so sorry I read this. After reading "Wittgenstein's Mistress," I was eager to see what else Markson had done. This novel, judged just for itself, is extremely weak: it depends on a ploy, which Markson announces: he will keep himself out of the book as much as possible, and fill it instead with facts and anecdotes about painters, composers, and writers. As a
May 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
this is a little strange: i saw markson read a month ago at the 92nd Y. i've loved him for a long time, partly out of a romanticized notion that these books portray of the long-suffering and isolated genius. i was a little surprised to see not someone who was particularly cranky, but someone almost describable as cheery... something struck me: that the protag of these books is definitely a character, perhaps an exaggeration (vonnegut evidently called up markson after the last one, concerned abou ...more
Simon Robs
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The 'Novelist' who speaks intermittently throughout "The Last Novel" is of course Markson as in each of his other similarly arranged "not novels" only this one he laments his condition as 'Old, Tired, Sick, Alone, Broke.' It's a shame too because I could with enthusiasm read ten more just like it and never get bored. They are that good! We who pay homage to the artists we love by reading and often rereading their works (or/and viewing as for painters/sculptors, etc.) can never get enough raw "da ...more
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone who likes to read books that are formally different but not annoyingly "experimental"
The word I said as I finished this today at lunch in the Bourse in Philly was "perfect." That is, it ends perfectly, so smoothly. It's all these short quotes and bits of high-art trivia, dates of death etc, about artists, musicians, poets, writers, and the occasional athlete (Yaz, Gretsky)and politicians, mixed in with bits about the Novelist. It also intermittently tells you what the Novelist is up to with the book you're reading, for example: "For all its seeming fragmentation, nonetheless obs ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
what i learned from this book: 1.popular conceptions of great "masterworks" of art are continually evolving. 2.concerning other artists' work, one can hear the singing of highest praises or the most brutal dirges by other artists where judgements are determined by the strongest jealousies imaginable...
the novelist's constant effort to size up his career through comparison to the "greats," saturates every page, paying considerable attn. to how it is that so many artists completed enviable oeuvres
Peter Landau
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
David Markson has a dark sense of humor. His last novel is called THE LAST NOVEL, he died a few years after its publication in 2010. I think it’s the fifth novel that he’s written in a genre of his own creation, something he’d been working on since the late 1980s, a sort of collage of facts that creates a narrative — not linked stories, but more emotional connections holding the whole thing tenuously together. The facts are akin to tweets, short bursts of trivia, sometimes funny, other times not ...more
Nadine Doolittle
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"Old. Tired. Sick. Alone. Broke." My first David Markson but not my last. I picked this book up in my indie bookstore because I feeling kind of broke and miserable myself and wanted company. The Last Novel is not a novel on the surface so much as a collection of anecdotes, quotes and factoids on and about the creative life.

But underneath or threaded throughout those clips is a sad truth about art and culture and the value society has always given it. It's also the story of getting old, passing
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Imagine a person came up to you and started talking in one-sentence paragraphs.

Rather than following the normal pattern of speech in which data is parsed into fragments, short exclamations, and longer asides, everything they said consisted of a one sentence point.

Assuming that such a person could reference Ancient Greece, Osamu Noguchi, and Virginia Woolf, such an achievement might be actually fairly impressive.

Some people think that grammatical conventions exist for a reason, inviting a discour
Sep 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-lit
I picked this up after serving an americano to a guy who had it tucked under his arm, when I worked at Urban Standard. He seemed discriminating. Had good hair. I googled it. What, is that weird?

Didn't realize until halfway through that Markson's the guy who wrote "Wittgenstein's Mistress," which I always meant to read but haven't.

The character of "the writer," is not really a character and not really interesting. But the book is. Sometimes. Oh, and there's no narrative. And no optimism really.
Moira Russell
Yeah, I read this out of sequence -- it's the last of the four "index card books" -- but I couldn't help gobbling, and in the end I'm almost glad I did so, despite its being so disappointing....I would've hated to have read it as the very last one in the series. A very bitter aftertaste.

People joked about Markson writing "The Posthumous Novel," but this really feels like that title. It's prickly, sad, and self-pitying, obsessively concerned with posterity, critical judgements, and the impossible
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We appear briefly in a sea of human folly.

The ways we fight for power and build empires and states, and the way these things collapse and die, and the kinds of harm we invent for ourselves and each other, would be comic if they weren't so damned sad.

Art, in Markson's weird literary collages, is not the cure for any of this. If anything, Markson finds in the history of art a transcendent embodiment of our follies and the futility of our efforts.

But there's a deep and effervescent kind of beauty
Jack Waters
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
"Stories happen only to people who know how to tell them. Said Thucydides."

"His last book. All of which also then gives Novelist carte blanche to do anything here he damned well pleases."

These quotes and those that follow are from what is both the literal last novel in Markson's career and the final installment in his tetralogy. Markson places the Pretty Much Mirrored Version Of Himself -- Novelist -- in the center of a tapestry of historical anecdotes with regard to all manner of other artists'
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Just couldnt get into it. I tried to keep an open mind but it just seemed like I was reading a stream of conciousness of an old ornery man nearing the end whilst he peppered in the random facts and quotes of the geniuses of the world. I felt as if most of the ancedotes were very entertaining but a whole book of them, let alone it being called a "novel" ....its something i couldnt really agree with.

With that said I felt compeled to continue reading it until i felt as if i was wasting my time to
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
Markson's last is every bit as beguiling and wonderful as his predecessors. We have the same fragmentary bits, vague autobiographical sections embedded in a staggering range of anecdotes, bon mots and trivia points about the life and work of famous painters, writers and composers of the past.

This being his last work, what we read is vastly more inflected with thoughts about death and dying; about the hopes and fears any creative person has for the work and world they leave behind. This is as fra
Rick Seery
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Maybe I got a bit fed up with Markson's terse, wry aesthetic on this one. Things generally work better in trilogies, right? Seems like he might have got lazy - it doesn't seem as subtle or nimble as the first three volumes in the tetralogy. Which is sad because it's his swan song. And obviously death and wear were very much on his mind. There was a degree of pathos about it. And it was interesting how he worked in his own bitterness in this final volume. Maybe my own patience wore thin after bei ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
A brilliant cut-and-paste job.
The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Can be read in any direction, but it 'works' linearly.
Of a piece with Markson's other work.
Perfect timing.
I hope 'writer' writes to live again.

A real treat: read this in conjunction with David Shields's The Thing About Life... and Julian Barnes's Nothing to Be Frightened Of.
Jul 12, 2014 added it
Shelves: 2014-favorites
This novel – a series of aphorisms – infuriated me at first. I wanted to hurl the book at the end of the room, abandon it entirely. Until finally I began to get the hang of it, and get to feel the larger story in small installments. It was brilliant really. A very human story of a life nearing extinction.
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it
I would have given it 4 stars if the author hadn't spent so much time not so subtly insinuating that he was just another in a long line of misunderstood geniuses. The ultimate passive-aggressive (non)narrator.
Apr 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
Absolutely hated the half of this book I trudged through before putting it down. Apparently Markson is a "postmodern novelist" whose "work is characterized by an unconventional approach to narration and plot." Blech. Get it away.
Nancy Lamb
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Dazzling, waaay-out-there... an experimental collage of facts and fictions narrated by Markson in a genre that belongs to him alone.
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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
“The morning’s recollection of the emptiness of the day before. Its anticipation of the emptiness of the day to come.” 16 likes
“Is T.S. Eliot the only poet one can think of who could have spent a year on his own in Paris at twenty-three—and managed to have no sexual encounter whatsoever?” 7 likes
More quotes…