The first page / title page of David Markson’s copy of Satan in a Barrel and Other Early Stories by Malcolm Lowry:
     On which the editor of the collection, Sherrill E. Grace, presumably wrote Markson the inscription:     “For David     With love—          Sherrill          31/03/99.”
—
     Sherrill E. Grace, in addition to her great work on Malcolm Lowry and Margaret Atwood, actually wrote a short piece on Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress titled “Messages: Reading Wittgenstein’s Mistress.”
     Some excerpts from that piece will follow…
     “‘In the beginning,’ that is, on my first reading of David Markson’s fourth novel, I knew I was missing many of the messages. They were there before me all right—in the street, in the sand, on the page, and I thought I knew the language (both the signs and the game)—but I had little idea what they meant.”
     “Wittgenstein’s Mistress was a beautiful, an important book, a book that meant to mean (a book about meaning and the importance of making meaning) and, thus, a book to reward richly my subsequent readings.”
     “Kate’s mind is a storehouse of Wittgensteinian facts that she has some difficulty sorting into chronological or biographical categories.”
     “Choose almost any passage of Wittgenstein’s Mistress at random and you will discover that it operates through repetition: repetition of words, hence of syllables, sounds and stresses, repetition of phrases, grammatical constructions (or misconstructions), repetition of names, facts, descriptions, quotations, and, of course, repetition of events such as writing those messages, visiting Simon’s grave, going to Hisarlik, burning books page by page, leaving food for a cat in the Colosseum, bouncing tennis balls down…Small wonder Kate’s favorite composer is Bach; her monologue could be called the Wittgenstein Variations.”
     “After my first reading, I felt (as I suggested above) that in creating Kate, Markson had out-Mollied Joyce because his woman was so much more complex.”
     “My third reading of Wittgenstein’s Mistress only confirmed my belief that the entire text was somehow contained, adumbrated in its first sentence: ‘In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.’”
     “The mystery story she gives us is, I would suggest, the very grail she is looking for: Dasein.”
     “Kate’s readers must be prepared to become her co-creators and co-curators.”
     “Markson’s Kate is waiting, still, time out of mind, for me to start reading again.”

     The first page / title page of David Markson’s copy of Satan in a Barrel and Other Early Stories by Malcolm Lowry:

     On which the editor of the collection, Sherrill E. Grace, presumably wrote Markson the inscription:
     “For David
     With love—
          Sherrill
          31/03/99.”

     Sherrill E. Grace, in addition to her great work on Malcolm Lowry and Margaret Atwood, actually wrote a short piece on Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress titled “Messages: Reading Wittgenstein’s Mistress.”

     Some excerpts from that piece will follow…

     “‘In the beginning,’ that is, on my first reading of David Markson’s fourth novel, I knew I was missing many of the messages. They were there before me all right—in the street, in the sand, on the page, and I thought I knew the language (both the signs and the game)—but I had little idea what they meant.”

     “Wittgenstein’s Mistress was a beautiful, an important book, a book that meant to mean (a book about meaning and the importance of making meaning) and, thus, a book to reward richly my subsequent readings.”

     “Kate’s mind is a storehouse of Wittgensteinian facts that she has some difficulty sorting into chronological or biographical categories.”

     “Choose almost any passage of Wittgenstein’s Mistress at random and you will discover that it operates through repetition: repetition of words, hence of syllables, sounds and stresses, repetition of phrases, grammatical constructions (or misconstructions), repetition of names, facts, descriptions, quotations, and, of course, repetition of events such as writing those messages, visiting Simon’s grave, going to Hisarlik, burning books page by page, leaving food for a cat in the Colosseum, bouncing tennis balls down…Small wonder Kate’s favorite composer is Bach; her monologue could be called the Wittgenstein Variations.”

     “After my first reading, I felt (as I suggested above) that in creating Kate, Markson had out-Mollied Joyce because his woman was so much more complex.”

     “My third reading of Wittgenstein’s Mistress only confirmed my belief that the entire text was somehow contained, adumbrated in its first sentence: ‘In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.’”

     “The mystery story she gives us is, I would suggest, the very grail she is looking for: Dasein.”

     “Kate’s readers must be prepared to become her co-creators and co-curators.”

     “Markson’s Kate is waiting, still, time out of mind, for me to start reading again.”

     The inside front cover of David Markson’s copy of The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature by Gilbert Highet:
     On which Markson wrote as an inscription:     “David M Markson      Columbia University—1951”
—
     Markson bought this book while getting his Masters at Columbia University.
     During this time he was writing his master’s thesis on Malcolm Lowry, which would later be published as the book: Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning.
     “When David Markson first wrote to Lowry on 3 June 1951, he was working on his master’s thesis at Columbia University, and his subject was Under the Volcano. He explained that he was ‘23, a foetal artist,’ and had read Lowry’s book three times before daring to write.”     So says pg. 398 of Sursum Corda!: The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, Pt. 2.
     Notice that the year Markson wrote Lowry, 1951, is also the same year he picked up Gilbert Highet’s The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature.
     Was Highet’s treatise on Greek and Roman influences on Western literature perhaps research for reading and analyzing Lowry?

     The inside front cover of David Markson’s copy of The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature by Gilbert Highet:

     On which Markson wrote as an inscription:
     “David M Markson
      Columbia University—1951”

     Markson bought this book while getting his Masters at Columbia University.

     During this time he was writing his master’s thesis on Malcolm Lowry, which would later be published as the book: Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning.

     “When David Markson first wrote to Lowry on 3 June 1951, he was working on his master’s thesis at Columbia University, and his subject was Under the Volcano. He explained that he was ‘23, a foetal artist,’ and had read Lowry’s book three times before daring to write.”
     So says pg. 398 of Sursum Corda!: The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, Pt. 2.

     Notice that the year Markson wrote Lowry, 1951, is also the same year he picked up Gilbert Highet’s The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature.

     Was Highet’s treatise on Greek and Roman influences on Western literature perhaps research for reading and analyzing Lowry?


     Pg. 351 of David Markson’s copy of Forces in Modern British Literature: 1885-1946 by William York Tindall:
     On which Markson made a line in the margin and wrote the name of his friend “Dylan Thomas” to mark where Tindall’s discussion of Thomas begins.
—
     This seems like the right time to share a piece Markson wrote re: Thomas, in prose, that became one of the appendices for Markson’s own Collected Poems:
APPENDIX B
DYLAN THOMASTWENTY YEARS LATER
     For weeks now, I have been scowling over the premise behind this essay. Can it truly be possible that twenty full years have passed—to the day, come Friday—since Dylan Thomas died on West Eleventh Street? My lord, I think I saw him yesternight. And out of what ineluctable, startling legerdemain can I myself actually be older now than he was then?     Dylan, you randy, rumpled, boilermaker-chugging young dog…twenty years?     There he stands, in the White Horse Tavern. Though I have been to Laugharne as well, in southern Wales the color of owls, and seen where he rests in country sleep….     So what words then, to mark the day? That for many of us he remains the truest poet in the language since Yeats? Even were there point in such a judgment, just who am I to venture it?     I had thought of a reminiscence also, possessed of the trivial fond records of some eight or ten Dylan-soaked nights—but time, I am sure, must long since have distorted most. Did he and I really once race, mad as birds, some several staggered blocks along Hudson Street after a midnight’s glorious lying about our boyhood heroism at track? Or have I been making up most of that story for years?     But perhaps I find something I can trust. I have letters that I wrote about him, that seem in retrospect a fair accounting of what one casual acquaintance saw and felt, back then—and worth a modest footnote’s pause, as it were, for today. (The letters were to Malcolm Lowry, then in British Columbia; they were returned to me after Lowry’s death later on. If I abridge them considerably, often without ellipses, the only other very few changes will be for clarity.) Thomas died on November 9, 1953; the date on the earliest excerpt, at the time but incidental intelligence, is November 3:
Dylan is here again—kind of painful. He has been setting records with the bottle, unfortunately—doesn’t focus, moves about as if hypnotized, speaks past you into the emptiness of a limbo all his own—and is apparently writing nothing. I love the bastard’s stuff, and have for years; and liked him much when I was seeing him about a year and a half ago. Then, even in the drunkenness there was a kind of wit and vitality and stimulation that means life in abundance; but now he seems a caricature of himself, even in appearance. A dirty shame….
     Even youth, it strikes me now, is flimsy excuse for that sort of prose—though there would appear more insight back of it than I knew. Before writing, I’d seen Thomas only once during the two weeks of his then-current visit; yet within days I was to send Lowry the following:
A brief and terribly painful follow-up to something in my letter of a couple days ago. I learned just now that Dylan collapsed at the Chelsea (his hotel) yesterday, and is in a local hospital with a serious brain ailment. Precisely what it means I don’t know, but will let you know as soon as I hear anything. Christ.
     Typing hurriedly, I contrived to write “brail” instead of “brain.” In a reply he started before taking things quite seriously, Lowry asked if I meant to intimate “an ailment as of one slightly blind.” There was no returning the jest when I wrote again, however; I would post the letter only a few hours before Thomas “expired,” as the hospital switchboard was to have it that evening:
What to tell you, but the facts? There is no change in Dylan’s condition: five days in a coma, still critical. He has a brain hemorrhage and they have no idea what is keeping him alive. Caitlin flew in yesterday.   The facts. And your damned guts turn over. The young men already composing their elegies, and a disgraceful mob of them mills around the corridors of St. Vincent’s holding a premature wake. To be able to tell their tavern friends: look on Shelley plain? Hell, I was in the hospital the day he died….   I remember your story about him as a kid, hacking his lungs out, breaking bottles, declaiming on death. And so it’s taken twenty years. I guess he must have known—or knows, whatever the damned tense—his position. At the time I got to know him best, he was caught up in a whirlwind in which he seemed indifferently content. On the trip before, he had wondered, honestly, if he would be liked or understood. And on these later visits it was the purest degradation. They liked him, all right, all the fawning, uncreative sycophants who robbed him of his time and his energy and every other damned thing until even the person was gone and only the “personality” remained. What matter if he is mesmerized, mechanical, inarticulate? Hell, ma, look at me, sitting here buying beers for Dylan Thomas…and I also, those months in 1952. The mob that will feed upon him even in death—or what is worse, right now….   I saw a manuscript of his once, a poem of about thirty lines that made a sheaf as thick as a fist. I wonder, after the early romanticism passed, what he was like alone, working that way, doing “Fern Hill” and “In My Craft or Sullen Art,” the others that will last. When he was his own, I mean, and belonged to himself. The picture I have now is so cluttered, so unclean. But there is such a damned impossible purity and vitality in some of his things that probably it is that, even now, that is keeping him alive this long. It is the thing that made him, and will remain….   “When he walked with his mother through the parables of sunlight and the legends of the green chapels….” “And death shall have no dominion.” Jesus Jesus Jesus.   Two years ago the White Horse Tavern was an empty, unknown seamen’s bar where old men played chess, peripheral to the Village, nowhere. And now, because Dylan found it and had the instinct to make it a refuge in the beginning, it is the most mobbed, crawling bar downtown, the place to be. They came like flies, now like jackals. And now for a while it will be hushed, somber, a kind of shrine….   Balls. I’ll have a drink there with you one day. Meanwhile I’m sorry, with both of you out there, who knew him so long. I wish I had, before….

     Pg. 351 of David Markson’s copy of Forces in Modern British Literature: 1885-1946 by William York Tindall:

     On which Markson made a line in the margin and wrote the name of his friend “Dylan Thomas” to mark where Tindall’s discussion of Thomas begins.

     This seems like the right time to share a piece Markson wrote re: Thomas, in prose, that became one of the appendices for Markson’s own Collected Poems:

APPENDIX B

DYLAN THOMAS
TWENTY YEARS LATER

     For weeks now, I have been scowling over the premise behind this essay. Can it truly be possible that twenty full years have passed—to the day, come Friday—since Dylan Thomas died on West Eleventh Street? My lord, I think I saw him yesternight. And out of what ineluctable, startling legerdemain can I myself actually be older now than he was then?
     Dylan, you randy, rumpled, boilermaker-chugging young dog…twenty years?
     There he stands, in the White Horse Tavern. Though I have been to Laugharne as well, in southern Wales the color of owls, and seen where he rests in country sleep….
     So what words then, to mark the day? That for many of us he remains the truest poet in the language since Yeats? Even were there point in such a judgment, just who am I to venture it?
     I had thought of a reminiscence also, possessed of the trivial fond records of some eight or ten Dylan-soaked nights—but time, I am sure, must long since have distorted most. Did he and I really once race, mad as birds, some several staggered blocks along Hudson Street after a midnight’s glorious lying about our boyhood heroism at track? Or have I been making up most of that story for years?
     But perhaps I find something I can trust. I have letters that I wrote about him, that seem in retrospect a fair accounting of what one casual acquaintance saw and felt, back then—and worth a modest footnote’s pause, as it were, for today. (The letters were to Malcolm Lowry, then in British Columbia; they were returned to me after Lowry’s death later on. If I abridge them considerably, often without ellipses, the only other very few changes will be for clarity.) Thomas died on November 9, 1953; the date on the earliest excerpt, at the time but incidental intelligence, is November 3:

Dylan is here again—kind of painful. He has been setting records with the bottle, unfortunately—doesn’t focus, moves about as if hypnotized, speaks past you into the emptiness of a limbo all his own—and is apparently writing nothing. I love the bastard’s stuff, and have for years; and liked him much when I was seeing him about a year and a half ago. Then, even in the drunkenness there was a kind of wit and vitality and stimulation that means life in abundance; but now he seems a caricature of himself, even in appearance. A dirty shame….

     Even youth, it strikes me now, is flimsy excuse for that sort of prose—though there would appear more insight back of it than I knew. Before writing, I’d seen Thomas only once during the two weeks of his then-current visit; yet within days I was to send Lowry the following:

A brief and terribly painful follow-up to something in my letter of a couple days ago. I learned just now that Dylan collapsed at the Chelsea (his hotel) yesterday, and is in a local hospital with a serious brain ailment. Precisely what it means I don’t know, but will let you know as soon as I hear anything. Christ.

     Typing hurriedly, I contrived to write “brail” instead of “brain.” In a reply he started before taking things quite seriously, Lowry asked if I meant to intimate “an ailment as of one slightly blind.” There was no returning the jest when I wrote again, however; I would post the letter only a few hours before Thomas “expired,” as the hospital switchboard was to have it that evening:

What to tell you, but the facts? There is no change in Dylan’s condition: five days in a coma, still critical. He has a brain hemorrhage and they have no idea what is keeping him alive. Caitlin flew in yesterday.
   The facts. And your damned guts turn over. The young men already composing their elegies, and a disgraceful mob of them mills around the corridors of St. Vincent’s holding a premature wake. To be able to tell their tavern friends: look on Shelley plain? Hell, I was in the hospital the day he died….
   I remember your story about him as a kid, hacking his lungs out, breaking bottles, declaiming on death. And so it’s taken twenty years. I guess he must have known—or knows, whatever the damned tense—his position. At the time I got to know him best, he was caught up in a whirlwind in which he seemed indifferently content. On the trip before, he had wondered, honestly, if he would be liked or understood. And on these later visits it was the purest degradation. They liked him, all right, all the fawning, uncreative sycophants who robbed him of his time and his energy and every other damned thing until even the person was gone and only the “personality” remained. What matter if he is mesmerized, mechanical, inarticulate? Hell, ma, look at me, sitting here buying beers for Dylan Thomas…and I also, those months in 1952. The mob that will feed upon him even in death—or what is worse, right now….
   I saw a manuscript of his once, a poem of about thirty lines that made a sheaf as thick as a fist. I wonder, after the early romanticism passed, what he was like alone, working that way, doing “Fern Hill” and “In My Craft or Sullen Art,” the others that will last. When he was his own, I mean, and belonged to himself. The picture I have now is so cluttered, so unclean. But there is such a damned impossible purity and vitality in some of his things that probably it is that, even now, that is keeping him alive this long. It is the thing that made him, and will remain….
   “When he walked with his mother through the parables of sunlight and the legends of the green chapels….” “And death shall have no dominion.” Jesus Jesus Jesus.
   Two years ago the White Horse Tavern was an empty, unknown seamen’s bar where old men played chess, peripheral to the Village, nowhere. And now, because Dylan found it and had the instinct to make it a refuge in the beginning, it is the most mobbed, crawling bar downtown, the place to be. They came like flies, now like jackals. And now for a while it will be hushed, somber, a kind of shrine….

   Balls. I’ll have a drink there with you one day. Meanwhile I’m sorry, with both of you out there, who knew him so long. I wish I had, before….

     The inside front cover of David Markson’s copy of James Joyce: His Way Of Interpreting The Modern World by William York Tindall:
     On which Markson placed his name as an inscription:     “David M Markson”
—
     It was William York Tindall, the writer of this book, who actually approved Markson’s thesis on Lowry.
     The following exchange on Lowry, Tindall and Joyce is from a Markson interview with Joseph Tabbi:     JT: You mention your critical study of Volcano. But you did a master’s thesis on it at Columbia much earlier?     DM: While we were in touch, but before I’d actually met him, yes. In 1951.     JT: Which means it was only four years after the novel had been published. Isn’t that rare, an academic paper on an entirely “new” writer with no body of criticism to verify his status?     DM: As a matter of fact I had to wander around the English department knocking on doors looking for someone to approve the project. I remember Lionel Trilling’s dismissal in particular: “What is all this drunkenness all about?” My whole object was to explain just that, obviously, but I decided to find less of a current to buck. Finally William York Tindall gave me a go-ahead.     JT: That brings up a question of a different sort, however. Volcano is scarcely your everyday traditional novel. What sort of training or background did you have that let you feel able to confront the challenge of interpreting something that difficult?     DM: To tell the truth, I’m not sure if I had any real idea what I was getting into, or if any of us do, the first time we’re seduced by a book of that sort. Though Joyce certainly teaches us, for starters. By which I mean that we all learn quickly with Ulysses that we cannot simply read the novel itself but have to lean on some of the critical crutches.
     Finally William York Tindall gave me a go-ahead.

     The inside front cover of David Markson’s copy of James Joyce: His Way Of Interpreting The Modern World by William York Tindall:

     On which Markson placed his name as an inscription:
     “David M Markson

     It was William York Tindall, the writer of this book, who actually approved Markson’s thesis on Lowry.

     The following exchange on Lowry, Tindall and Joyce is from a Markson interview with Joseph Tabbi:
     JT: You mention your critical study of Volcano. But you did a master’s thesis on it at Columbia much earlier?
     DM: While we were in touch, but before I’d actually met him, yes. In 1951.
     JT: Which means it was only four years after the novel had been published. Isn’t that rare, an academic paper on an entirely “new” writer with no body of criticism to verify his status?
     DM: As a matter of fact I had to wander around the English department knocking on doors looking for someone to approve the project. I remember Lionel Trilling’s dismissal in particular: “What is all this drunkenness all about?” My whole object was to explain just that, obviously, but I decided to find less of a current to buck. Finally William York Tindall gave me a go-ahead.
     JT: That brings up a question of a different sort, however. Volcano is scarcely your everyday traditional novel. What sort of training or background did you have that let you feel able to confront the challenge of interpreting something that difficult?
     DM: To tell the truth, I’m not sure if I had any real idea what I was getting into, or if any of us do, the first time we’re seduced by a book of that sort. Though Joyce certainly teaches us, for starters. By which I mean that we all learn quickly with Ulysses that we cannot simply read the novel itself but have to lean on some of the critical crutches.

     Finally William York Tindall gave me a go-ahead.

     Pg. 3 of David Markson’s copy of James Joyce: His Way Of Interpreting The Modern World by William York Tindall:
     On which Markson underlined Malcolm Lowry’s name and placed a check next to it in the following sentence:     “But almost all our important novelists—Steinbeck, Faulkner, Malcolm Lowry, and Dos Passos—have drawn freely upon Joyce.”
—
     This Lowry-Joyce connection Markson had mined in his introduction to his study of Lowry’s Under the Volcano titled: Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning:     “Joyce, here, is the master, Ulysses the watershed. But even Homer nods; and it is ironic that such few reservations we maintain about Ulysses may arise from the very direction its author chose to pursue in his own mythic interpolations.     Joyce more than one remarked, for example, that his identification with of Leopold Bloom with Odysseus occurred because the latter is literature’s ‘complete man.’ Yet Bloom is not Odysseus solely; almost as if in afterthought he is equated with the ghost of Hamlet’s father, or again with Christ. And it was through these ‘incidental’ parallels that Joyce took a clue from himself, as it were, in establishing the far more inclusive mythic scheme of Finnegans Wake. There we have no single predominating mythic analogy. The dreaming H. C. Earwicker is the legendary Irish figrue Finn MacCool to be sure, but by deliberate extension he is an incalculable number of others from Moses to Dean Swift—‘Here Comes Everybody,’ as his initials proclaim. The concept remains immensely provocative: Any man’s myth increases me, for I am ‘Mankinde.’     But was Earwicker’s improbable dream necessary? Foregoing traditional chronology, much of contemporary writing demands to be read as we look at a mural: where individual stanzas or even lines may bear no immediate relationship to those nearest them, they hold their decisive, reflexive place in the whole when viewed spatially. Yet with a volume the length of Finnegans Wake, such perception requires a kind of intellectual peripheral vision. A perspective can certainly be achieved, nor does it cost that lifetime of dedication Joyce half-seriously asked of the ideal reader. Nonetheless Joyce’s own shifting focus begs the question: if the ‘multimythic’ richness of Finnegans Wake is what the novelist is after, must he cease to be novelist? Can this wealth of prototypal allusion, which after all evokes nothing if not the essence of man’s creative tradition—which is man—be integrated into a fictional form that is itself traditional?     After Joyce, it can. The guilt of the protagonist of Under the Volcano is that of Adam after expulsion, his agony that of Christ at Golgotha, his frailty Don Quixote’s. Through degrees of highly specific analogy Lowry’s hero so to speak ‘becomes’ Faust, Dante, Prometheus, Heracles, Buddha, Oedipus. He is Aeneas, Hamlet, Noah, Judas, Prospero, Narcissus, Trotsky, Macbeth, Shelley, Scrooge, Quetzalcoatl, Bix Beiderbecke, Candide, Moses, and Gogol’s Tchitchikov—if not to add Peter Rabbit and the Fisher King, among many more. There is even a touch of Alice in his makeup, and at one juncture, as if to assert that one man’s myth scarcely need become another’s poison, he boldly enacts a Homeric parallel of his own. Each of these projections vastly amplifies the meanings of Lowry’s narrative, but—and this remains crucial—that narrative does exist, with its own organic structure, its cohesive surface sequence. Such identities are proclaimed only through allusion or metaphor integral to the contextual reality of the book itself, and even when length equations of ‘episode’ are created, again Lowry’s surface is not distorted. The mythic content is there, and then some; but Under the Volcano remains always a novel first of all, with its own profoundly dramatic literal impact.     In fact it is a paradoxical tribute to the richness of Lowry’s achievement, because if this very indivisibility of surface and symbol, that even where he is most unstintingly praised he is often less than perceived. Inevitably, Joyce does become the basis of comparison, but only insofar as Under the Volcano occurs within the frame of a single day, that it makes use of interior monologue, that it is characterized by pun and verbal excess and what far too many otherwise sophisticated readers still think are ‘literary references.’” (Pgs. 3-5)

     Pg. 3 of David Markson’s copy of James Joyce: His Way Of Interpreting The Modern World by William York Tindall:

     On which Markson underlined Malcolm Lowry’s name and placed a check next to it in the following sentence:
     “But almost all our important novelists—Steinbeck, Faulkner, Malcolm Lowry, and Dos Passos—have drawn freely upon Joyce.”

     This Lowry-Joyce connection Markson had mined in his introduction to his study of Lowry’s Under the Volcano titled: Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning:
     “Joyce, here, is the master, Ulysses the watershed. But even Homer nods; and it is ironic that such few reservations we maintain about Ulysses may arise from the very direction its author chose to pursue in his own mythic interpolations.
     Joyce more than one remarked, for example, that his identification with of Leopold Bloom with Odysseus occurred because the latter is literature’s ‘complete man.’ Yet Bloom is not Odysseus solely; almost as if in afterthought he is equated with the ghost of Hamlet’s father, or again with Christ. And it was through these ‘incidental’ parallels that Joyce took a clue from himself, as it were, in establishing the far more inclusive mythic scheme of Finnegans Wake. There we have no single predominating mythic analogy. The dreaming H. C. Earwicker is the legendary Irish figrue Finn MacCool to be sure, but by deliberate extension he is an incalculable number of others from Moses to Dean Swift—‘Here Comes Everybody,’ as his initials proclaim. The concept remains immensely provocative: Any man’s myth increases me, for I am ‘Mankinde.’
     But was Earwicker’s improbable dream necessary? Foregoing traditional chronology, much of contemporary writing demands to be read as we look at a mural: where individual stanzas or even lines may bear no immediate relationship to those nearest them, they hold their decisive, reflexive place in the whole when viewed spatially. Yet with a volume the length of Finnegans Wake, such perception requires a kind of intellectual peripheral vision. A perspective can certainly be achieved, nor does it cost that lifetime of dedication Joyce half-seriously asked of the ideal reader. Nonetheless Joyce’s own shifting focus begs the question: if the ‘multimythic’ richness of Finnegans Wake is what the novelist is after, must he cease to be novelist? Can this wealth of prototypal allusion, which after all evokes nothing if not the essence of man’s creative tradition—which is man—be integrated into a fictional form that is itself traditional?
     After Joyce, it can. The guilt of the protagonist of Under the Volcano is that of Adam after expulsion, his agony that of Christ at Golgotha, his frailty Don Quixote’s. Through degrees of highly specific analogy Lowry’s hero so to speak ‘becomes’ Faust, Dante, Prometheus, Heracles, Buddha, Oedipus. He is Aeneas, Hamlet, Noah, Judas, Prospero, Narcissus, Trotsky, Macbeth, Shelley, Scrooge, Quetzalcoatl, Bix Beiderbecke, Candide, Moses, and Gogol’s Tchitchikov—if not to add Peter Rabbit and the Fisher King, among many more. There is even a touch of Alice in his makeup, and at one juncture, as if to assert that one man’s myth scarcely need become another’s poison, he boldly enacts a Homeric parallel of his own. Each of these projections vastly amplifies the meanings of Lowry’s narrative, but—and this remains crucial—that narrative does exist, with its own organic structure, its cohesive surface sequence. Such identities are proclaimed only through allusion or metaphor integral to the contextual reality of the book itself, and even when length equations of ‘episode’ are created, again Lowry’s surface is not distorted. The mythic content is there, and then some; but Under the Volcano remains always a novel first of all, with its own profoundly dramatic literal impact.
     In fact it is a paradoxical tribute to the richness of Lowry’s achievement, because if this very indivisibility of surface and symbol, that even where he is most unstintingly praised he is often less than perceived. Inevitably, Joyce does become the basis of comparison, but only insofar as Under the Volcano occurs within the frame of a single day, that it makes use of interior monologue, that it is characterized by pun and verbal excess and what far too many otherwise sophisticated readers still think are ‘literary references.’” (Pgs. 3-5)

     Pg. 115 of David Markson’s copy of Ushant by Conrad Aiken:
     On which Markson places a check next to a mention of “Hambo,” as he does at every other mention of the name “Hambo” anywhere in Ushant.
—
     The reason why he’s checked every mention of “Hambo” in his copy of Ushant is because, as he writes on pg. 226 of Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning:     “Lowry appears as ‘Hambo’ in the work; only in an edition republished after Lowry’s death did Aiken append an identification.”
     And, as we know, Lowry was to Markson, what Aiken was to Lowry.
     Markson in conversation with Joseph Tabbi:     “[Under the Volcano] quite simply knocked me out of my chair. Within a couple of years, I’d  read it probably half a dozen times. And then I finally sent [Lowry] a  letter saying God knows what—be my father, or something as asinine. But  evidently it did strike the right chord, since one of the first letters  I got back ran on for twenty or more pages[…]Of course something I didn’t know at the time was that Lowry had written  the same sort of letter himself, as an even younger man, to Conrad  Aiken. So he was ready to be sympathetic with that “identification” that  someone can feel for a given book.”

     Pg. 115 of David Markson’s copy of Ushant by Conrad Aiken:

     On which Markson places a check next to a mention of “Hambo,” as he does at every other mention of the name “Hambo” anywhere in Ushant.

     The reason why he’s checked every mention of “Hambo” in his copy of Ushant is because, as he writes on pg. 226 of Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning:
     “Lowry appears as ‘Hambo’ in the work; only in an edition republished after Lowry’s death did Aiken append an identification.”

     And, as we know, Lowry was to Markson, what Aiken was to Lowry.

     Markson in conversation with Joseph Tabbi:
     “[Under the Volcano] quite simply knocked me out of my chair. Within a couple of years, I’d read it probably half a dozen times. And then I finally sent [Lowry] a letter saying God knows what—be my father, or something as asinine. But evidently it did strike the right chord, since one of the first letters I got back ran on for twenty or more pages[…]Of course something I didn’t know at the time was that Lowry had written the same sort of letter himself, as an even younger man, to Conrad Aiken. So he was ready to be sympathetic with that “identification” that someone can feel for a given book.”

     Pg. 229 of David Markson’s copy of Ushant by Conrad Aiken:
     On which Markson underlined the following phrase about Hambo (aka Malcolm Lowry):     “That sixth-sense mysticism of his, and his eternal, and so often verifiable, adduction of cabalistic correspondences—the evidences, to him, of a mystic pattern.”
    And also placed a rather awkwardly large and squiggly check mark next to that mention of Hambo/Lowry.
—
     Aiken’s mention of Hambo’s(/Lowry’s) “sixth-sense mysticism” and “adduction of cabalistic correspondences” reminds me of Markson’s discussion of similar things in his study of Lowry’s(/Hambo’s) Under the Volcano.
     For example:     “But since this Cabbalistic abyss will also again recall Dante’s, there are simply too many of Lowry’s key symbolisms thrown into simultaneous juxtaposition here to be separated this early; discussion of his occult apparatus will occur elsewhere.”
     Elsewhere:     “And here the novel’s configurations of light and dark can be put into occult perspective also—connected, as Lowry points out, with the summit of the Cabbalistic Tree of Life.” (Pgs. 64-65).
     And:     “In the preface Lowry states that ‘the deeper layer of the novel’ and the Cabbala are ‘linked’ through this usage.” (Pg. 68).
     One more:     “What Laurelle dismisses as a ‘trick of the gods’—his unplanned Mexican reunion with the Consul—in the latter’s eyes is a specifically Baudelairean or Swedenborgian ‘correspondence,’ an interaction between the comprehensible and the unknowable of Hermetic proportions.” (Pg. 68).
     Special bonus:     Here is a handdrawn version of the diagram of the Cabbalistic Tree of Life with Correspondences that Lowry sent to Markson:

     Pg. 229 of David Markson’s copy of Ushant by Conrad Aiken:

     On which Markson underlined the following phrase about Hambo (aka Malcolm Lowry):
     “That sixth-sense mysticism of his, and his eternal, and so often verifiable, adduction of cabalistic correspondences—the evidences, to him, of a mystic pattern.”

    And also placed a rather awkwardly large and squiggly check mark next to that mention of Hambo/Lowry.

     Aiken’s mention of Hambo’s(/Lowry’s) “sixth-sense mysticism” and “adduction of cabalistic correspondences” reminds me of Markson’s discussion of similar things in his study of Lowry’s(/Hambo’s) Under the Volcano.

     For example:
     “But since this Cabbalistic abyss will also again recall Dante’s, there are simply too many of Lowry’s key symbolisms thrown into simultaneous juxtaposition here to be separated this early; discussion of his occult apparatus will occur elsewhere.”

     Elsewhere:
     “And here the novel’s configurations of light and dark can be put into occult perspective also—connected, as Lowry points out, with the summit of the Cabbalistic Tree of Life.” (Pgs. 64-65).

     And:
     “In the preface Lowry states that ‘the deeper layer of the novel’ and the Cabbala are ‘linked’ through this usage.” (Pg. 68).

     One more:
     “What Laurelle dismisses as a ‘trick of the gods’—his unplanned Mexican reunion with the Consul—in the latter’s eyes is a specifically Baudelairean or Swedenborgian ‘correspondence,’ an interaction between the comprehensible and the unknowable of Hermetic proportions.” (Pg. 68).

     Special bonus:
     Here is a handdrawn version of the diagram of the Cabbalistic Tree of Life with Correspondences that Lowry sent to Markson:

     Pg. 425 of David Markson’s copy of An Artificial Wilderness: Essays on 20th-Century Literature by Sven Birkerts:
     On which Markson placed two dashes, an X, and an asterisk in the index of the book marking the places in which he is mentioned.
—
     Markson is mentioned often in discussions of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano because of his master’s thesis which later became a major published work of Lowry critical scholarship: Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning.
     When asked in an interview with Alexander Laurence:     “Do you admire Ulysses and Modernists in general because of their allusions? I feel that many of them were trying literary traditions in their books.”     Markson responded:     “That I love. Obviously. The books that I care about like Joyce, and Malcolm Lowry’s Under The Volcano, which I wrote about in great length about four years after it came out. I wrote my master’s thesis on Lowry where I wrote about all those allusions before anyone else. Nobody had written anything. I wrote about William Gaddis’ first book The Recognitions. I’m mentioned as one of the earliest people to have written about it. It’s a great book. Much of the Lowry criticism mentions my book. I went to a Lowry conference nine years ago. They were pleased to see me because I was able to inform them about what Lowry was like in person. I visited Lowry in Canada in 1952, and he stayed with me in New York a few years later.”
     In a different interview, this one with Conjunctions, Markson said of his relationship with Under the Volcano:     “A great percentage of the people in the world haven’t  had this experience, but sometimes you read a book, and it’s almost as  if it’s been written for you, or you’re the only one who really  understands it. The impulse—creatively, artistically, spiritually—was to  say, ‘Be my daddy. Be my father.’”
     In An Artificial Wilderness, on pg. 197, Sven Birkerts writes of Markson’s Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning:     “By the end of the book Markson has nearly convinced us that Lowry out-Joyced Joyce.”
     Towards the end of his life, Markson was often quoted as saying that he no longer read anything, except Ulysses—not even his other favorites, not Dostoevsky, not Faulkner, not Gaddis…and not even Lowry.
     I wonder if Markson still thought at the end of his life, when the only fiction he felt motivated to read was Ulysses, that Lowry had out-Joyced Joyce?     Or I even wonder if he ever thought that at all?

     Pg. 425 of David Markson’s copy of An Artificial Wilderness: Essays on 20th-Century Literature by Sven Birkerts:

     On which Markson placed two dashes, an X, and an asterisk in the index of the book marking the places in which he is mentioned.

     Markson is mentioned often in discussions of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano because of his master’s thesis which later became a major published work of Lowry critical scholarship: Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning.

     When asked in an interview with Alexander Laurence:
     “Do you admire Ulysses and Modernists in general because of their allusions? I feel that many of them were trying literary traditions in their books.”
     Markson responded:
     “That I love. Obviously. The books that I care about like Joyce, and Malcolm Lowry’s Under The Volcano, which I wrote about in great length about four years after it came out. I wrote my master’s thesis on Lowry where I wrote about all those allusions before anyone else. Nobody had written anything. I wrote about William Gaddis’ first book The Recognitions. I’m mentioned as one of the earliest people to have written about it. It’s a great book. Much of the Lowry criticism mentions my book. I went to a Lowry conference nine years ago. They were pleased to see me because I was able to inform them about what Lowry was like in person. I visited Lowry in Canada in 1952, and he stayed with me in New York a few years later.”

     In a different interview, this one with Conjunctions, Markson said of his relationship with Under the Volcano:
     “A great percentage of the people in the world haven’t had this experience, but sometimes you read a book, and it’s almost as if it’s been written for you, or you’re the only one who really understands it. The impulse—creatively, artistically, spiritually—was to say, ‘Be my daddy. Be my father.’”

     In An Artificial Wilderness, on pg. 197, Sven Birkerts writes of Markson’s Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning:
     “By the end of the book Markson has nearly convinced us that Lowry out-Joyced Joyce.”

     Towards the end of his life, Markson was often quoted as saying that he no longer read anything, except Ulysses—not even his other favorites, not Dostoevsky, not Faulkner, not Gaddis…and not even Lowry.

     I wonder if Markson still thought at the end of his life, when the only fiction he felt motivated to read was Ulysses, that Lowry had out-Joyced Joyce?
     Or I even wonder if he ever thought that at all?

     Pg. 21 of David Markson’s copy of Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life by M. C. Bradbrook:
     On which Markson marked a red line in the margin next to where his name is mentioned at the end of the following paragraph:     “The effect of Aiken’s own novel, an attempt to ‘eat’ Hambo before he is eaten, was eloquently described as ‘underground bleeding’ by Lowry—a phrase borowed from Aiken—to the young David Markson who twenty years later had become his own spiritual ‘son.’”
—
     Underground bleeding.
     In Conrad Aiken’s novel Blue Voyage, which had quite an effect on a young Malcolm Lowry, Aiken wrote on pg. 6:     “No, I’m too old to transplant. Too many roots to be broken, too much underground bleeding. Ten years ago—well, that would have been a different story.”
     Conrad Aiken then took on Malcolm Lowry as his young, literary, “spiritual son.”
     As the above scan quotes from pg. 294 of Aiken’s autobiographical novel Ushant:     “And hadn’t dear Hambo himself, and early, avowed his intention of absorbing all he jolly well could of D., and in that curious and ambivalent relationship of theirs, as of father and son, on one hand, and teacher and disciple on the other, absorbing him even to the point of annihilation?”     Hambo being Lowry. D. being Aiken.
     The effect of Aiken’s own novel, an attempt to ‘eat’ Hambo before he is eaten…
     Underground bleeding.
     As Aiken took on Lowry, Lowry took on Markson as his own young, literary, “spiritual son.”
     In a letter to Markson, Lowry used Aiken’s phrase “underground bleeding” in discussing Ushant.     “All is half gaily bloody and schizophrenic here but hopefully and even gaily going forward,—but going forward;—oddly enough your card caught me at th emoment when I too was reading Ushant—for the first time more or less objectively that is: I found it somewhat too productive of underground bleeding for certain participants therein to make much intelligent comment at the time its creator sent me it; an oversight which I fear may have somewhat hurt the old master: something which will now be corrected. It is though, you will admit, a hell of a difficult (and not merely in the sense of its being profound, which it frequently it, but of its moving away from one while one reads) book to grasp right off in its entirety of evocation, or of which to say ‘Jolly good job old boy,’ or something: especially when oneself is supposed to be one of the protagonists.”
     As of father and son, on the one hand, and teacher and disciple on the other, absorbing him even to the point of annihilation…
     Underground bleeding.

     Pg. 21 of David Markson’s copy of Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life by M. C. Bradbrook:

     On which Markson marked a red line in the margin next to where his name is mentioned at the end of the following paragraph:
     “The effect of Aiken’s own novel, an attempt to ‘eat’ Hambo before he is eaten, was eloquently described as ‘underground bleeding’ by Lowry—a phrase borowed from Aiken—to the young David Markson who twenty years later had become his own spiritual ‘son.’”

     Underground bleeding.

     In Conrad Aiken’s novel Blue Voyage, which had quite an effect on a young Malcolm Lowry, Aiken wrote on pg. 6:
     “No, I’m too old to transplant. Too many roots to be broken, too much underground bleeding. Ten years ago—well, that would have been a different story.”

     Conrad Aiken then took on Malcolm Lowry as his young, literary, “spiritual son.”

     As the above scan quotes from pg. 294 of Aiken’s autobiographical novel Ushant:
     “And hadn’t dear Hambo himself, and early, avowed his intention of absorbing all he jolly well could of D., and in that curious and ambivalent relationship of theirs, as of father and son, on one hand, and teacher and disciple on the other, absorbing him even to the point of annihilation?”
     Hambo being Lowry. D. being Aiken.

     The effect of Aiken’s own novel, an attempt to ‘eat’ Hambo before he is eaten…

     Underground bleeding.

     As Aiken took on Lowry, Lowry took on Markson as his own young, literary, “spiritual son.”

     In a letter to Markson, Lowry used Aiken’s phrase “underground bleeding” in discussing Ushant.
     “All is half gaily bloody and schizophrenic here but hopefully and even gaily going forward,—but going forward;—oddly enough your card caught me at th emoment when I too was reading Ushant—for the first time more or less objectively that is: I found it somewhat too productive of underground bleeding for certain participants therein to make much intelligent comment at the time its creator sent me it; an oversight which I fear may have somewhat hurt the old master: something which will now be corrected. It is though, you will admit, a hell of a difficult (and not merely in the sense of its being profound, which it frequently it, but of its moving away from one while one reads) book to grasp right off in its entirety of evocation, or of which to say ‘Jolly good job old boy,’ or something: especially when oneself is supposed to be one of the protagonists.”

     As of father and son, on the one hand, and teacher and disciple on the other, absorbing him even to the point of annihilation…

     Underground bleeding.

     The first page of David Markson’s copy of Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life by M. C. Bradbrook:
     On which Markson wrote as the inscription:     “Markson—NYC—1974”
—
     Malcolm Lowry was a literary father figure to David Markson, as I’ve mentioned here a number of times.
     Markson described being “possessed” by Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano, and in fact, went on to write his masters thesis on it while studying at Columbia University.      With help from Lowry himself, through a series of letters, he wrote what would become the text now published as Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning, which is, as Markson declared in the introduction, “an inductive investigation, from the inside out, ‘under’ Under the Volcano.” (Pg. 6).
     Lowry’s novel, Under the Volcano, is a novel which, like Joyce’s Ulysses, takes place on one day. Only instead of June 16, 1904, which has now become Bloomsday in Joyce’s and Leopold Bloom’s honor; Under the Volcano takes place on November 2nd, 1938, which is already a holiday in and of itself.
     November 2nd, 1938, was exactly 73 years ago, today. It was, like today, El Dia de los Muertos: the Day of the Dead.
     “Indeed, the events in Under the Volcano occur on the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead, during which, in words Lowry borrows from an unnamed Strauss song, ‘Once a year the dead live for one day.’”     - Markson, Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning, pg. 9.

     The first page of David Markson’s copy of Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life by M. C. Bradbrook:

     On which Markson wrote as the inscription:
     “Markson—NYC—1974”

     Malcolm Lowry was a literary father figure to David Markson, as I’ve mentioned here a number of times.

     Markson described being “possessed” by Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano, and in fact, went on to write his masters thesis on it while studying at Columbia University.
     With help from Lowry himself, through a series of letters, he wrote what would become the text now published as Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning, which is, as Markson declared in the introduction, “an inductive investigation, from the inside out, ‘under’ Under the Volcano.” (Pg. 6).

     Lowry’s novel, Under the Volcano, is a novel which, like Joyce’s Ulysses, takes place on one day. Only instead of June 16, 1904, which has now become Bloomsday in Joyce’s and Leopold Bloom’s honor; Under the Volcano takes place on November 2nd, 1938, which is already a holiday in and of itself.

     November 2nd, 1938, was exactly 73 years ago, today. It was, like today, El Dia de los Muertos: the Day of the Dead.

     “Indeed, the events in Under the Volcano occur on the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead, during which, in words Lowry borrows from an unnamed Strauss song, ‘Once a year the dead live for one day.’”
     - Markson, Malcolm Lowry’s Volcano: Myth Symbol Meaning, pg. 9.