Old. Tired. Sick. Alone. Broke.
Those of us who consider ourselves “artists” are always comparing ourselves to the greats. Not just our work, but our lives. There’s a bit of conceit in this habit, to convince ourselves that there’s greatness in us too. But mostly we do this for humility and comfort: Well, Poe ended up drunk and crazy, and Erik Satie lived the second half of his life in indigence, and Herman Melville never lived to see his reputation recover after Moby-Dick… so all things considered, I guess I shouldn’t complain…
The world has no pity on a man who can’t do or produce something it thinks worth money.
Says Gissing in New Grub Street.
Technically I met David Markson, but I never really spoke with him. I might have helped him find a book once, but I can’t remember for sure. He often came into the bookstore where I once worked. He’d sign copies of Wittgenstein’s Mistress and talk a while with the clerks. He was always warm and smiley in the bookstore, not the way you might expect the author of lonely, death-obsessed experimental fiction to act. I kept meaning to read Wittgenstein’s Mistress, but I didn’t get around to it until after he died. If I had read that book when I was still working at the store, I might have tried to get to know David Markson. At the time I was just too shy to get to know an author I hadn’t read. Jeff Laughlin worked at that store with me, and he knew David Markson much better than I did, and he wrote the perfect obituary for him.
Well, my own work, I am risking my life for it and my reason has half foundered because of it– that’s all right.
Says a last unfinished letter of Van Gogh’s found after his death.
I love the parts of The Last Novel when Markson (“Novelist”) calls his dead friends to hear their answering machine messages. That’s something I’m totally gonna do when my friends start dying.