Monday, July 26, 2010

From David Markson's edition of The Waste Land, recently bought by some lucky bugger at the Strand.

My friend Ethan paid not enough money for a heavily annotated edition of Hart Crane’s poetry, an even more heavily annotated T.S. Eliot, and a beautiful volume of Melville’s shorter works, with every one of Bartleby the Scrivener’s ‘I would prefer not to’s underlined. (‘Melville, late along, possessed no copies of his own books,’ Markson wrote in Vanishing Point.)
In summer 2000 I explained to an editor at Grand Street that this epigraph to The Waste Land was the source of the name of Sibylla, and that features of the text marking the fact that the character was an Anglicised American influenced by Eliot, including influence of Silver Latin on Donne, were essential to the book, had been established in the version approved for publication in volume form, and were not to be removed. He explained that American readers would not recognise the allusions and therefore the text must be altered for the benefit of American readers.

Since my arguments carried no weight I hired the Wylie Agency to fight my corner (Andrew Wylie told me he could settle the matter with a phone call). This went badly wrong.

Is this dull? Yes, this is dull.

Was this a long time ago? Yes, it was a horribly long time ago.

Markson books on sale at the Strand, story at LRB blog, here.

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