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Markson Reading Markson

April 4, 2012

When the American writer David Markson, the author of Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988) anDavid Markson's copy of James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticism, edited by Sean Givens (1963)d Reader’s Block (1996), died on 4 June 2010, his personal library was in accordance with his wishes donated to The Strand bookstore on Broadway.  This New York bookstore, it is said, was a favourite of his.  Not soon after  a woman named Annecy Liddell bought Markson’s copy of Don DeLillo’s White Noise on the shelves.  Not knowing who he was, but fascinated by his increasingly scathing annotations — he seems to have found the novel “boring” — she decided to Google the person who had written his name on the front flyleaf and wrote about her discovery on Facebook.  Soon word spread and a small “underground” movement of Markson Treasure Hunters gathered to scour the shelves at The Strand.  Now a blog has been set up, Markson Reading Markson,  to collect and bring together again the books that have come from Markson’s library.

In all 63 boxes of books ended up at The Strand, the result of many weekly rummages by Markson who had lived nearby.  Craig Fehrman, who wrote about the library in The Boston Globe, called it a “library left, not lost”, in contrast with the many personal collections that have disappeared from history.  The romanticism behind the dispersal of Markson’s books is fascinating, though of course for historians of reading somewhat of a methodological nightmare.

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