Here comes Lucien Springer. Age: forty-seven. Still handsome though muchly vodka’d novelist, currently abashed by acute creative dysfunction. Sole preoccupation amid these artistic doldrums: pursuit of fair women. Springer is a randy incorrigible who is guided by only one inflexible precept: no protracted affairs. And thus he has slyly sustained eighteen years of marriage.
Enter, then, Jessica Cornford. Age: almost half of Lucien’s. Lush of body and roguish of mind. Whereupon what begins as bawdy interlude becomes perhaps the most untidy extramarital letch in literature.
Rabelaisian yet uncannily wise, both ribald and bittersweet, Springer’s Progress is that rarest of gifts, a mature love story. It is an also exuberant linguistic romp, a novel saturated with irrepressible wordplay and outrageous literary thieveries. Contemplating his own work, Lucien Springer modestly restricts his ambition to “a phrase or three worth some lonely pretty girl’s midnight underlining.” For the discerning reader, David Markson has contrived a hundred of them.