In this spellbinding, utterly unconventional fiction, an aging author who is identified only as Reader contemplates the writing of a novel. As he does, other matters insistently crowd his mind — literary and cultural anecdotes, endless quotations attributed and not, scholarly curiosities — the residue of a lifetime's reading which is apparently all he has to show for his decades on earth. Out of these unlikely yet incontestably fascinating materials — including innumerable details about the madness and calamity in many artists' and writers' lives, the eternal critical affronts, the startling bigotry, the countless suicides — David Markson has created a novel of extraordinary intellectual suggestiveness. But while shoring up Reader's ruins with such fragments, Markson has also managed to electrify his novel with an almost unbearable emotional impact. Where Reader ultimately leads us is shattering.