A postcard sent to Charles J. Shields from David Markson re: the biography of Kurt Vonnegut that Shields has written.
On which Markson wrote:
“Dear Charles— 11/15/07
I’ve a list—everybody’s birthdays—kids, grandchildren, miscl. chums—and at the start of every new yr. I copy them into the new calendar—to remember to send cards, etc. Ergo, when was it?—exactly 4 days ago—what did I see scribbled in at the bottom of 11/11?—“KV B’day.” Meaning, as in recent yrs., I’d have called him in the a.m., just to wish him well. Alas.
(Though 10 days earlier I was still able to phone Knox Burger. You do know the lovely dedication in Monkey House?)
Stay well. My best again—-
Over this Veterans Day holiday weekend was the late, great Kurt Vonnegut’s bday.
The above is a postcard that David Markson sent to Vonnegut’s biographer Charles J. Shields a few days after Vonnegut’s birthday in 2007.
That was his first birthday after Vonnegut’s death earlier that year in April.
If Vonnegut had been alive, Markson’d “have called him in the a.m., just to wish him well.”
Instead, the classic Marksonian refrain:
“Nobody comes. Nobody calls.”
“Novelist naturally does receive some few phone calls after all.
All too often in these years with news of someone’s death however.”
- David Markson, The Last Novel, pg. 63.
One call between Markson and Vonnegut that took place in the 90s was discussed by Markson in his Conjunctions interview:
“It’s funny. When Reader’s Block came out, Kurt Vonnegut called me, two-thirds of the way through, and said, ‘David, what kind of computer did you use to juggle this stuff?’ I told him what I’d done, and he called me when he finished it and said, ‘David, I’m worried about your mental condition.’”
And other more melancholy calls made my by Markson:
“He explains that his friends die one after the other, and that he calls their telephone numbers to hear their voices on their answering machines one last time, like voices from the great beyond.”
Wrote Françoise Palleau-Papin on pg. 258 of her book on Markson and his writing: This Is Not A Tragedy.
“A quirky new impulse of Novelist’s, at news of several recent deaths—
Dialing the deceased, in the likelihood that no one would have yet disconnected their answering machines—and contemplating their voices one eerie final time.”
- David Markson, The Last Novel, pg. 139.
Reading Markson’s postcards.
Like a voice from the great beyond.
Contemplating that voice one eerie final time.
This postcard is owned by Charles J. Shields. The above scan is used with his permission. Copyright © Charles J. Shields.
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