Customer Reviews: Reader's Block
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Customer Reviews

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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2000
Markson's remarkable book is a novel in disguise. It resembles Julian Barnes' "Flaubert's Parrot." That novel was supposedly an encyclopedia of trivia about Gustave Flaubert, but if you read between the lines, you could discern that the narrator was describing his betrayal by his own wife. Here the Reader (the narrator's only name) is, behind a screen of quotations and historical detail, depicting his own threadbare life and contemplating suicide. The remarkable thing is that Reader assembles hundreds of facts that only convince him that he should kill himself. Markson seems to be saying that the whole literature of the West, which is thoroughly represented in the collage-like body of the novel, is a tale of despair and death. This is certainly a gloomy conclusion and not really warranted, in my opinion. But Markson tells his dark tale with style.
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on November 14, 1996
If you read one book this year, read David Markson's new
novel. Whether or not you've read any of his previous
novels--which, by the way, represent one of the finest
and most innovative bodies of work of the last thirty
years--Reader's Block will astound you. A beautifully
crafted condensation of language, Reader's Block is the
poetic novel for century's end, recalling those great
Modernist novels at century's beginning. Concerning
the struggles of a writer named Reader, who tries to
write about a character named Protagonist, Reader's
Block is Markson's most refined example of his
telescopic and allusive style. The reader enjoys an
indelible language, told in terse, paratactic
sentences, and it is my opinion that Markson has
always written an absolutely tactile prose. I felt
each word with my fingers. I found myself eating
this novel. The book is also downright fun--for
it is a collage of anecdotes from literary and
art history, anecdotes that reveal the struggles
of ALL writers and artists. This business of art
is not a casual affair. Reader's Block is one of
the purest books ever written, not a novel to
taste but to ingest. We owe Markson everything,
for he is more than gifted and we, struggling
readers, are more than blessed.
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on February 21, 2000
I anticipated a slow and perhaps even difficult read. Instead, I found Reader's Block to be one a the most purely entertaining novels I've read in a long time.So long as you aren't a reader enslaved by narrative expectations (as perhaps Reader, the central "character" of the novel, might be enslaved by narrative expectations?) this book is a literary joyride, a feast of anecdotes, details, ephemera, and hesitation.While I'm not sure the conclusion is, actually, as devastating as the blurbs would have us believe, it IS remarkable in its "resolution."I have recommended it to friends with great success, and I will surely continue to recommend it. I suspect that it has a much broader potential appeal than one would expect of such an experimental novel.
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on October 24, 2000
This book only got three stars primarily because I had already read Wittgenstein's Mistress, and had seen the emotional response that Markson's style could produce, a response that he doesn't really bring off here. The style still has a certain hypnotic momemtum, and most literate readers will have no desire to put the book down (mostly for the high level of interest one has in the anecdotes), but it lacks the sense of character that the previous book had. Although he tries to create the same sense of loneliness that Kate had in W.M., the lack of a consistent narrative voice never allows us to get any sense of Protagonist or Reader as people, which is perhaps the point but doesn't really allow us to have any emotional ties with them - so the ending is much less affecting than it could have been.
And while W.M. dealt deftly with complicated philosophical issues, the issues Markson deals with here - mortality, bigotry, etc. - seemed to be handled a little heavy-handedly.
Sentences like:
He's completely alone here now.
And passages like:
Four of Freud's five sisters were incinerated by the Germans in 1944.
struck me a little overblown and pretentious, while the allusions and references to isolation in W.M. never did.
So: the book is certainly a worthwhile read, but I would read Wittgenstein's Mistress first. Probably the high point of experimental fiction in our time.
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on February 11, 2016
The first book I discovered by David Markson. Literally saw it at a Barnes & Nobles and it caught my eye. Love it tremendously. You either love David Markson or you don't 'get' him. He conveys solitude, loneliness and humor. Love how he experiments with storytelling. Highly recommend this book.
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on August 30, 2011
All of Markson's mature work is worth reading, but especially from Wittgenstein's Mistress on and *especially* Reader's Block. A collection of allusive fragments referring to the lives and deaths of artists, writers, musicians and philosophers, Markson weaves a haunting, sparse narrative through the fragments that leads to a startling and heartpounding conclusion. Markson wrote three more books in this style (This is Not a Novel, Vanishing Point, and The Last Novel) and they're all great, but this is the one with the most immediacy and, in its own unique way, humor and sadness and grandeur.
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on September 24, 2001
"Reader's Block" somehow manages to pick up where "This Is Not a Novel" left off, even though the latter was written later. This is managed by TINaN being more polished, more reader-ready, more "practiced," and is thus a good introduction to the genre; but Reader's Block is more true to the genre by being less "produced" and therefore more "honest." And yet, if you go back even further to "Wittgenstein's Mistress," the genre is exploited in the form of actual fiction-- biographical fiction, to be sure, but fiction nevertheless-- so that if one needs fiction as an introduction to the genre, one has it available, and again, Reader's Block will pick up where W'sM leaves off.
I can't speak to still earlier works by Markson, but I can say the "adventurous reader," the literary equivalent of the day-walker who sets out in strange cities with nothing more than a bottle of water and power-bar, will enjoy the adventure of discovering this genre. "This Is Not a Novel" is the packaged tour; "Reader's Block" is the nitty gritty.
Oh, by the way, the genre is called "zuihitsu." It's Japanese.
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VINE VOICEon July 28, 2005
Reader's Block is a fiction, although not necessarily a narrative, of an author (Reader) determining the protagonist of his new work. (Potential) bits and pieces of the character, environment and history of the protagonist are interspered with 333 unattributed quotes of literary trivia. These quotes provide a repeating insertion of anti-Semitism into the fiction.

Sound like an intellectual playground? Perhaps, expecially given the breadth in space and time covered by the quotations. However, this is a fiction that works - that keeps the reader interested in the text and provides a significant character study of Reader through the potential choices regarding the protagonist.
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on April 13, 2014
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 lists of major and minor figures in world culture that he cobbles together begin to resonate with each other and with the reader/writer/character thing he creates in sad, elusive ways that are so slight they might not even be there at all.

The overall effect of the book is one of loneliness; at how fundamentally atomized we are, and at how utterly small every person, whether they are Dante or Shakespeare or you or me or no one, ultimately is. Like certain Japanese artists, Markson seems almost hypnotically obsessed with letting out a gentle sigh at the reflective transience of our world and it's histories. Yet his voice is utterly and completely his own. I can not think of any other American fiction writer capable of creating such an effect with such a minimal amount of character or narrative or any other of the things that usually makes fiction work on any level. I almost can't believe something this elusive can be so powerful. Highly Recommended.
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on April 12, 2000
A work of experimental fiction, Reader's Block does not present itself in a traditional, linear way, but instead as a series of short, sharp sentences. They are rememberances and thoughts and come at you in a way not unlike your own brain delivering random thoughts when staring out the window on a rainy afternoon. But before long a narrative presents itself in a most subtle way and by the end you appreciate the richness of the book. So the experiment works, in a most remarkable and original way Readers Block is a wonderful book.
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