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shin g point David Markson WHIM :971:rMargq :MgrZ share. Here, Google \(perhaps the end of walking, talking hyperlink-collectors my searches revealed that the source of a passage I loved \(“For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as his method but, in fact, Walter Pater. Elsewhere I reveled, sans computer, in a string of unmarked speeches from King Lear, one of several analogues for Authorbut no doubt Markson has provided numerous pathways through his maze for the nerdy pleasures of many a different reader. A whole other strand of Vanishing Point, raising the book’s stakes, concerns suffering on a mass level. We get very brief histories of mental hospitals, poison gas, and the lives of tyrants. Anti-Semitism among geniuses \(Chopin, Author quotes extensively from a matter-of-fact correspondence in which IG Farben and the Auschwitz Commandant negotiate the price of “a number of women” on whom to test a new drug. Osama bin Laden even appears, though only through another unattributed quote: “They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building; so I said to them: Be patient.” I think the strategy with these snippetsas with the quotes that seem to come from soldiers manning concentration-camp postsis to jolt us with what Hannah Arendt famously called the banality of evil, though what connection exists for Markson between the words of artists and of murderers never really comes clear. The book’s true passion ends up being the aesthete’s life, and Author peppers us throughout with the cities and circumstances of writers’ deaths \(“Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe died in”; “Sophocles may have choked to death on feel, is sort of like walking through an idiosyncratic graveyard of human history, where David Markson has taken it as his right to erect all the tombstones and write all the epitaphs, in order to tell us something otherwise inexpressible about his own life. While it certainly would help to know your Joyce and Shakespeare and have a bit of French and Latin before entering Markson’s echo chamber, I should note that this isn’t a book that \(like, say, secrets in a castle-keep of minute canonical references. Instead, Vanishing Point is really about the acts of reading and recall themselvesthe way the unconscious can fix things wrongly in the memory and assign great weight to the arbitrary and small, or the way poetry’s music will stick in the head long after its meaning. Author is at heart a mocker and ques tioner of himself, prodding his brain to remember scenes from Austen, musing over why he’s never made certain connections before, and wondering beautifully, at one point, whether “anyone ever die [s] who is not remembered through the remainder of at least one other entire lifetime by someone….” It’s difficult to say more about the course Author takes without spoiling Markson’s game. If your experience is like mine, though, Vanishing Point will be the sort of avant-garde artwork that keeps you asking “What exactly is he doing?” until, just as your patience might seem exhausted, your throat catches in the final pages and you ask, turning back to the beginning, “How exactly did he do that?” Markson’s epigraph, from Willem de Kooning, gives one clue to the book’s ultimate aesthetic mission: “Every so often, a painter has to destroy painting.” Fifteen years ago, in Wittgenstein’s Mistress, that theme of originality through destruction led Markson to the wry image of a woman living in the Met and the Louvre and building bonfires out of masterpieces to keep warm. Now, in both the form and sensibility of these last three books, Markson seems to have made his own mortality central to the question of what, in this world, will endure time’s cruelties. Without getting Derridean about it, it is fair to say that this late Markson insists that novels should embody within themselves the same sort of fleetingness, fragility, and outright self-destruction Author’s notes find in art’s history and in himself. The book ends with a word that, an earlier note has told us, “marks the end of verses in the Psalms, but the Hebrew meaning of which is unknown?’ It may mean only pause, or rest. Such is Markson’s guarded claim to writing, for himself and for us, a new kind of scripture. For at their most transcendent, Vanishing Point’s stark, mournful lines become a monk’s meditations for a world in which the one true God is art, but the major lesson, is still, memento mori. Call it an Ecclesiastes for the vanities of the restless mind. And read it. Since writing this review, Jeff Severs, a writer in Austin, has discovered \(through The G -String Murders was a mystery written by Gypsy Rose Lee in 1941 and later adapted into a film starring Barbara Stanwyck. He regrets ever doubting its reality. 2/27/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23