Vanishing Point by David Markson

The following is an excerpt from Vanishing Point by David Markson, published by Shoemaker and Hoard in February 2004.


Author has finally started to put his notes into manuscript form.

A seascape by Henry Matisse was once hung upside down in the Museum of Modern Art in New York—and left that way for a month and a half.

The speedometer after the crash that killed Albert Camus was frozen at 145, in kilometers—meaning roughly ninety miles per hour.
The driver of another vehicle said the car had passed him going faster than that.

Leonardo da Vinci's father had four wives.
Not one of whom was Leonardo's mother.

An early intention was that Hector Berlioz would become a physician.
Until he went headlong out a hospital window during his first dissection.

Author had been scribbling notes on three-by-five-inch index cards. They now come close to filling two shoebox tops taped together end to end.

Bertrand Russell was twenty-one years older than Wilfred Owen.
And would still be alive fifty-two years after Owen was machine-gunned in France in World War I.

Orchestra play like pig.
Being an Arturo Toscanini explanation of why he would not apologize to his Metropolitan Opera musicians after cursing at them in Italian.

Twenty-five years after she broke off their relationship, Charles Dickens had a tryst with Maria Beadnell, his still-remembered first love.
And found her fat and foolishly affected and wholly witless.

From the earliest biographical note on Rembrandt:
He could read only the simplest Dutch. And that haltingly.


Werner Heisenberg was thirty-one when he won the Nobel Prize.
And nine years earlier had been given a grade of C on his doctoral examinations.

By his own admission, William Butler Yeats, at twenty-seven, had not yet ever kissed a woman.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford, in the mid-seventeenth century, exchanged its First Folio Shakespeare for a Third—on the premise that the latter was more complete.

Actually, Author could have begun to type some weeks ago. For whatever reason, he's been procrastinating.

Karl Marx never in his life saw the inside of a factory.

Visiting Maecenas at Rome, in the decades before the beginning of the common era, Virgil and Horace were able to use his heated swimming pool.

At thirty-seven, in Key West, Ernest Hemingway badly marked up Wallace Stevens' face in a never fully explained fistfight.
Stevens was fifty-seven when it happened.

One hundred and sixteen thousand visitors had strolled past Le Bateau, the upside-down Matisse, without comment, before it was rehung correctly.

At the age of seven or eight, Sigmund Freud once delibrately urinated on the floor of his parents' bedroom.

Aaron Copland, on listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony:
Like staring at a cow for forty-five minutes.

Mark Twain forgot Becky Thatcher's name in the eight years between Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And called her Bessie Thatcher in the later book.

Thomas Hardy's anecdote about looking up a word in the dictionary because he wasn't certain it existed—and finding that he himself was the only authority cited for its usage.

Realizing that all of Byron's closest friends—Shelley, for instance—would have addressed him as my lord.

Corinna once defeated Pindar five times in a sequence of poetry contests at Thebes.
Pindar called her a sow.

Emerson was once quoted as having criticized Swinburne.
Swinburne called him a toothless baboon.

Stuff, Melville dismissed Emerson as.
I.e., as in stuff and nonsense.

Conducting Don Giovanni in Boston in 1913, Felix Weingartner actually set aside his baton and joined in the applause after John McCormack's Il mio tesoro.

One reason for Author's procrastination is that he seems to not to have had much energy lately, to tell the truth.
For work, or for much of anything else.


—Excerpted from Vanishing Point by David Markson. © 2004 by David Markson. Excerpted by permission of Shoemaker and Hoard. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.