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.”
“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?