You have to read fifteen hundred books in order to write one.
Flaubert put it.
People who more immediately think of Mersault as a character in Camus rather than as a dry white Burgundy.
Not until a year after his burial at Sag Harbor did someone notice that the title of The Recognitions was misspelled on the back of William Gaddis’ headstone.
An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks almost as much as you do.
Said Dylan Thomas.
A while back, while doing some critical writing about Wittgenstein’s Mistress, I found myself desperately wishing that it had an index…so I made an index. I’m pasting it below; enjoy.
A few years ago, when I was in New York to give a reading, I called David Markson, cold. (His number was listed in the phone book.)
Someone picked up. “Hello?”
“Are you David Markson?” I asked.
“Yes…” the man replied, at once exceedingly wary.
“Please don’t hang up!” I pleaded. “I’m your biggest fan!”
He didn’t hang up. He also didn’t come to the reading (he told me he’d “just gotten Subway for dinner”). But he did invite me to swing by his apartment the following day, to possibly come up and chat.
And so I arrived exactly on time the next morning, and called him back.
Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.