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Authors: David Markson

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Ernest Hemingway once challenged Hugh Casey to a boxing match. Casey knocked Hemingway down repeatedly. Hemingway kicked Casey in the groin.

On an ancient sundial in Ibiza:
Ultima mvltis.
The last day for many.


Much of what we have of Aristotle was not strictly speaking written by Aristotle at all. But would appear to be classroom notes taken down by others.

Both of Verdi’s parents were illiterate. Like Abraham Lincoln’s.

Elegies to the Spanish Republic.

From Herodotus, on Thermopylae: It chanced that at this time the Lacedaemonians held the outer guard and were seen by the spy. Some of them engaged in gymnastic exercises, others were combing their long hair. At this the spy greatly marveled.

The Spartans on the sea-wet rock
Sat down and combed their hair.

Roman Jakobson, when Mayakovsky once read him his newest poems: Very good. But not as good as Mayakovsky.

For that matter Writer also has backaches.

As did Shelley.

A poet is a waste-good and an unthrif t, in that he is born to make the taverns rich and himself a beggar. Said Robert Greene.

But to speak plainly, I think him an honest man. Greene also said.

One of Robert Frost’s daughters went insane. One of his sons killed himself.

Christopher Marlowe, a stage direction: The Pope crosses himself, and Faustus hits him a box on the ear.

Puccini, sipping coffee, once told Lucrezia Bori that her costume was too neat for the last act of
Manon Lescaut,
in which Manon is destitute. And dumped the coffee on her gown.

Verses of Propertius were found copied out on walls in Pompeii.

The seemingly authentic report that a doctor performed an autopsy on the Abbe Prevost after a stroke-to discover that only the autopsy had killed him.

He who wrote that painting is a higher art than sculpture was as ignorant as a maidservant, said Michelangelo. Meaning Leonardo.

Chopin died of tuberculosis.

Salvador Dali once gave a lecture in London while wearing a diving helmet. And nearly suffocated.

Thomas Gainsborough, while painting Sarah Siddons: Damn your nose, madame! There’s no end to it.

Katherine Anne Porter died of Alzheimer’s disease.

Palestrina’s tomb, once in St. Peter’s, for obscure reasons no longer exists.

Musicae Princeps,
it had said. Prince of music.

Would Emily Dickinson have been aware that Lord Jeffrey Amherst arranged for blankets infected with smallpox to be set out for ill-clothed Indians to come upon during the French and Indian War?

The case for William Davenant having been Shakespeare’s illegitimate son.

A Novel Without a Hero.
Being the subtitle of
Vanity Fair.
Though there, at least in part, meaning only that the book has a heroine instead.

Catullus once wrote a poem criticizing Caesar. And was invited to dinner.

Osip Mandelstam once wrote a poem criticizing Stalin. And died in the gulag.

Martin Heidegger, in 1933: The Führer, and he alone, is the sole German reality and law, today and in the future.

Henry Miller died of cardiovascular failure.

B. Traven died of prostate cancer and sclerosis of the kidneys.

If Stephen Crane had in fact lived on an additional forty-plus years, how different might the hierarchy of American letters have been in that period?

No water-drinker ever wrote a poem that lasted. Says Horace in the

Un livre, c’est la mort d’un arbre.
Said St.-John Perse.

If you find this work difficult, and wearisome to follow, take pity on me, for I have repeated these calculations seventy times.

Wrote Johannes Kepler.

Italo Calvino died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

There is no description of Helen’s beauty anywhere in the

Strangely like is she to some deathless goddess to look upon, being all that is said.

Though the Trojan elders do acknowledge that no one could be blamed for having endured a war because of her.

Calderon de la Barca was once arrested for molesting nuns.

The John Dryden translation of Plutarch’s
eternally in print.

Which Dryden evidently did not do, but farmed out.

A face to lose youth for, to occupy age
With the dream of.

The speculation in later antiquity that Euripides had had two wives at the same time.

Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day, Emerson said.

Jean-Paul Sartre played the piano.
George Eliot played the piano.
Andre Gide played the piano.

The painting has a life of its own, said Jackson Pollock.

Henri Bergson died of pulmonary congestion.

Paul Klee played the violin.
Matisse played the violin.
Jeremy Bentham played the violin, the harpsichord, and the organ.

Schopenhauer was found dead sitting at his breakfast.

All your better deeds / Shall be in water writ, wrote Beaumont and Fletcher, two hundred years before Keats.

Teach me to heare Mermaides singing, wrote Donne, three hundred years before Eliot.

Marie Antoinette sat for twenty portraits by Vigée-Lebrun.

Anne Boleyn played the lute, the harp, the flute, and the rebec. And sang.

Voltaire, in an amiable mood about Jews: A brigand people, atrocious, loathsome, whose law is the law of savages, and whose history is a tissue of crimes against humanity.

If you will it, it is no dream. Said Theodor Herzl.

The word
never appears in Shakespeare. Jesus Christ is mentioned eleven times.

Cy Young died of a heart attack.

Lou Stevenson, Robert Louis was commonly called.

Dante quotes
The Consolation of Philosophy.
Chaucer quotes
The Consolation of Philosophy.
Milton quotes
The Consolation of Philosophy.

What is Hamlet reading, in Act II Scene ii, when Polo-nius inquires and Hamlet says Words, words, words?

Polybius died after a fall from a horse. At eighty-two.

Anacreon choked to death on a grape seed. At eighty-five.

Walter Scott walked with a limp from childhood polio.

The apparently never to be resolved question of whether it was Byron’s left foot that was crippled, or his right.

Edmund Wilson and a young Lionel Trilling once made use of adjacent urinals in a men’s room at the New School for Social Research. Trilling was thrilled when Wilson indicated familiarity with some of his work.

What tall building could who have shouted this from, that Writer knows it all these decades later?

St. Teresa of Avila played the tambourine.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s spelling:

John Galsworthy died of a brain tumor.

Could Richard the Lion-Hearted speak English?

The traveler with nothing in his pockets whistles indifferently as he strolls past the thief. Says Juvenal X.

Kant kept a portrait of Rousseau on the wall of his study. Tolstoy, as a student, wore a medallion portrait of him instead of his Orthodox cross.

His usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles.

Heinrich Schliemann died after collapsing with an unidentified fever on a street in Naples.

George Gissing died of pneumonia.

Watching Edmund Kean. Like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning, Coleridge said.

Donatello, at work on his
heard muttering at the stone:

Speak, damn you, talk to me.

Pope Clement XIV, on Houdon’s
St. Bruno:
That saint would talk, were it not that the rules of his order impose silence.

I gotta use words when I talk to you.

And Sir Launcelot awoke, and went and took his horse, and rode all that day and all night in a forest, weeping.

Sherwood Anderson died of peritonitis after swallowing a toothpick.

Remembering only belatedly
Houdon: That the Jefferson on the American nickel and the Washington on the quarter are from likenesses of his, also.

For as long as a millennium, until well into the Middle Ages, Menander was the most widely quoted author in Western literature outside of Homer.

The greatest lesbian poet since Sappho, Auden called Rilke.

Teaching, Lilli Lehmann actually tied Geraldine Far-rar’s hands behind her back to keep her from gesticulating.

And once threw a book at Olive Fremstad.

Was Moses an Egyptian?

As Manetho insisted twenty-two hundred years before Freud?

Fremstad. Who herself would later even visit a morgue to test the weight of an actual severed head before singing

A granddaughter of Wagner’s worked as a waitress at Schrafft’s in New York City during World War II.

Dinner at Benjamin Robert Haydon’s studio, St. John’s Wood, December 28, 1817: Haydon. John Keats. Charles Lamb (drunk). William Wordsworth.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight
In sunshine and in shadow

Patched together from pieces filched here and there, Beethoven jestingly scribbled on the manuscript of the C-sharp Minor Quartet. Affording his publisher a fit.

Leonardo is a bore, according to Renoir.

My cook knows more about counterpoint, said Handel the first time he heard Gluck.

Let us go closer to the fire and see what we are saying.

Thomas Girtin, who was dead of tuberculosis at twenty-seven:

Had he lived I should have starved, said Turner.

Flaubert died of what was then called apoplexy, i.e., presumably a stroke.

If its length is not considered a merit it has no other, said Edmund Waller of
Paradise Lost.

Thomas Hardy wrote a carefully sanitized third-person biography of himself and left it behind for his widow to pretend she was the author of.

Not a soul to talk to about Bloom. Lent the chapter to one or two people but they know as much about it as the parliamentary side of my arse. Wrote Joyce to Frank Budgen.

Sarah Bernhardt was known to sleep in an open coffin.

Pope offended so many people with the
that he subsequently never left home without pistols. Or his Great Dane.

Philip Larkin died of cancer of the esophagus. Only hours afterward, a twenty-five-volume diary that he had kept for almost fifty years was destroyed by one of his executors.

Less of a loss, Writer assumes, than the then-current last volume of Sylvia Plath’s that was destroyed by Ted Hughes.

Or the burning of Byron’s

Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of El Dorado.

This is even a mural of sorts, if Writer says so.

Marco Polo dictated the narrative of his travels to a fellow prisoner while in a jail in Genoa.

Jorge Luis Borges married a second wife at eighty-six.
John Dewey married a second wife at eighty-eight.

If it is just food you want, you will find that, she said in a voice calm, a little deep, quite cold.

Eugene O’Neill died of bronchial pneumonia in a Boston hotel room.

Albrecht Dürer died of malaria.

Sure I posed. I was hungry.

Caesar’s corpse lay at the Senate for some hours before slaves finally bore it away on a litter. With one arm hanging down, Suetonius makes note of.

Enrico Caruso died of a minor pleural infection that became fatal only after an Italian physician evidently used an unsterilized instrument in examining him.

Xanadu. Kubla Khan. Writer’s tendency to misremem-ber that they actually did exist.


Opera bored me. Said Helen Traubel.

Nobody knows the Traubel I’ve seen. Said Rudolf Bing.

BOOK: This is Not a Novel
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