Wednesday, 9 June 2010

David Markson RIP

I have just learnt of the death of David Markson who was a long time friend of Malcolm Lowry in the 1950's. David Markson got to know Lowry while writing a thesis on Under The Volcano..

In Malcolm Lowry s Volcano, originally published in 1978, David Markson extended the pioneering work of his 1951 Columbia University master s thesis the first substantial study of Under the Volcano. In the years between thesis and book, Markson became Lowry s close friend (see the invaluable reminiscence at the end of the book) and an accomplished novelist in his own right. His critical reputation has only grown in the past two decades. Markson s holds Under the Volcano to be the greatest English language novel after Ulysses and very like it in ambition and method. While acknowledging that the novel s primary pleasure is its literal, dramatic story, he argues here that Lowry s book is a Joycean endeavor, both in its reliance on the mythic and in its allusive texture. Far from being incidental to the story bits and pieces of learning merely stuffed into the text, as Lowry s one-time mentor Conrad Aiken thought them the dense web of reference is an intrinsic part of Lowry s plan, and demonstrates his mastery.

NEW YORK — David Markson, a revered postmodern author who rummaged relentlessly and humorously through art, history and reality itself in such novels as "Wittgenstein's Mistress," and wrote crime fiction, poetry and a spoof of Westerns made into the Frank Sinatra film "Dirty Dingus Magee," has died at age 82.

Markson's two children found him on June 4 in his bed in his Greenwich Village apartment, the author's literary agent and former wife Elaine Markson said Monday. She did not know the cause of death or when he died, but said Markson had been in failing health.

Little known to the general public, Markson was idolized by a core of fans that included Ann Beattie and David Foster Wallace. He was celebrated for his insights and for how he expressed them, often in paragraphs lasting just a sentence or two. "Wittgenstein's Mistress," his most acclaimed work, and other novels were interior monologues on the state of the world and the state of the author's mind. "Nonlinear. Discontinuous. Collage-like" was how he summed up his approach, in the novel "Reader's Block."

A native of Albany, N.Y., raised by a newspaper editor (his father) and school teacher (his mother), Markson was an undergraduate at Union College, then received a master's in 1952 from Columbia University. His thesis on Malcolm Lowry's "Under the Volcano" led to a long friendship with the author. Markson also came to know Dylan Thomas (a fellow patron at New York's famous Lion's Head Tavern) and Jack Kerouac, allegedly so drunk when Markson asked for an autograph that he jammed his pen right through the paper.
Read full obituary here

Read Confessions of An Idiosyncratic Mind blog for a further obituary with links to other features on David Markson


  1. Had he lived, Heath Ledger (in time) would have made a perfect Consul in a remake of Under the Volcano. He would also have made a splendid Lowry, in a film adaptation of Gordon Bowker's great biography, 'Pursued by Furies.' The films could have been shot and released simultaneously; my personal preference for director would have been Richard Attenborough; and the music would have come from the 1980s album, 'The Sea of Love,' by the N.Irish group, The Adventures. The first scene of the picture would have had Lowry (Ledger), drunk as a lord, on a south coast beach in 1957, smashing countless golf balls into the sea during a drenching storm, cigarette in mouth, hair in eyes, gin bottle planted in front of him in the sand.
    The best Consul for a 1940s movie would have been David Farrar; the 1950s Olivier or James Mason; the 1960s, Richard Burton (he was too old and sick at 57 to have played the Consul in John Huston's film, whatever the romantics think!); in the 1970s, the great Robert Shaw would have made a great Consul.
    There is a painting of Heath Ledger in the University of Western Australia. It reminds me of Reynolds' painting of David Garrick, the title of which, I think, is 'Garrick- Pulled by Comedy and Tragedy.' But it is pure Malcolm Lowry too, and Heath's face is the face of the Consul at 3 o'clock in the morning.
    Lovely to write about the old lad again, the fabulous and miraculous Malcolm Lowry. Thank You.
    From Stuart Williams, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

  2. Stuart - Thanks for dropping by!

    I am very surprised that no one has made a film of at least some part of Lowry's life. His relationship with Jan would have been a good one. When we were working on the centenary festival last year, we came across all the telegrams sent to his father from LA as he went downhill in 39/40 which in themselves could have made a great short film. His minder in LA Parks wrote a 20 plus page letter to Malc's Dad which reads like a film script!

    Love the suggestions who should play him!



  3. I survived the interview Malcolm Lowry? Or simply record his voice, his poetry is in its execution?