Early in the novel, Markson defines it succinctly as
A novel of intellectual reference and allusion, so to speak minus much of the novel.--though that does nothing to answer inescapable questions about whether it really is a novel, because it consists almost entirely of page after page of two- or three-line notes from the lives of writers and artists, their syntax given a convoluted arrangement reminiscent of index entries.
But that larger question will have to wait until I have more time and thought available. For now, I'll just share some of the irresistible biographical nuggets that Markson provides, seemingly the fruit of a lifetime of magpie work in biography and literary history. The range of subjects is wide enough that any dedicated reader will learn something about his favorites, and several regular subjects of this blog make appearances. Thomas Hardy, for example:
Andrew Lang's indignation over a mild blasphemy in Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
A gentleman who turned Christian for half an hour, Hardy dismissed him as.
Then there's this guy:
So difficult and opaque it is, I am not certain what it is I print.
Said John Donne's very publisher about the first edition of his verse.
But I need to wrap this up and head off to the office, so I'll close with this one, which seems like a good thought with which to start one's day:
Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice.
Said Cyril Connolly.