One Last List of Literary Trivia


Part 3 of 3–a last look at cool facts gleaned from David Markson’s Reader’s Block:

  • Tennyson was reading Cymbeline when he died. His copy of the play was put into his coffin.
  • Thomas Gray was one of twelve children. All eleven others died as infants.
  • Eliot, as an editor, rejected Animal Farm.
  • Tolstoy ranked Guy de Maupassant second only to Hugo as the great European writer of his day.
  • Nobody ever laid it down without wishing it were longer. Said Johnson of Robinson Crusoe.
  • Blake was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
  • Joyce had lost all his teeth by the age of forty-one.
  • When Stalin himself was found dead, a recording of Mozart’s twenty-third piano concerto lay on his turntable.
  • Goethe, to Eckermann: Have all the nations of the world since Euripides produced one dramatist worthy to hand him his slippers?
  • Apollinaire came extremely close to being permanently paralyzed by a head wound in World War I.
  • Melville and Whitman were born within two months of each other and died within six. And were in close proximity in or near New York through much of their lives. Never meeting.
  • As a master at a boy’s school in London during World War I, Eliot tried to teach his pupils baseball. John Betjeman included.
  • John Berryman: Rilke was a jerk.
  • I guess maybe there are two kinds of writers: writers who write stories and writers who write writing. Said Raymond Chandler.
  • Carl Sandburg was the one poet who would probably gain from translation. Said Frost.
  • Kafka died in 1924. All three of his younger sisters would later be incinerated by the Nazis.
  • Lucia Joyce, institutionalized, when told of her father’s death: What is he doing underground, that idiot?
  • Nothing bores me more than political novels and the literature of social intent, Nabokov said.
  • Dickens was certain after reading only her first novel that the name George Eliot belonged to a woman.
  • Joyce called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” the greatest of all short stories.
  • Cavafy, acknowledged as the great Greek poet of his time. Who lived his entire writing life in Egypt.
  • I couldn’t do that to him. Said Nora, at the suggestion that Joyce be given a Catholic funeral.
  • Van Gogh shot himself in the chest. And then walked home and took two days to die.
  • Whittier threw Leaves of Grass into a fire.

And from Markson himself, in the role of blocked reader:

  • Why does it sadden Reader to realize he will almost certainly never know what book will turn out to be the last he ever read? What piece of music, the last he ever heard?