First off, I think I could accept a description of this book as pretentious, self-indulgent, plotless, etc. All the usual suspects. Large swaths of its content are jumbled thoughts about painters, museums,...more
But when they succeed, as I claim David Markson's 'Wittgenstein's Mistress' does, they serve the vital & vanishing function of reminding us of fiction's limitless possibilities for reach & grasp, for making heads throb heartlike... ~ David Foster Wallace
I reserve the right to tweak this review at will.
One of many things I love about this book is how ardently it made me want to get inside of the mind of the narrator. A lot of readers have written reviews describing 'Wittgenste...more
When looking to purchase a book I always try to buy them used. This allows me to stock my personal library with nice hardcover editions that often cost just as much, or occasionally less, than the price of a new paperback edition while also supporting small businesses that do their part to keep the dream of physical books alive. Used copies of books also come with an elusive presence of the previous owner haunting the pages. Occasionally I will wonder ho...more
It probably took me less than 20 pages to be enamored with Wittgenstein's Mistress and I turned the last page quite in awe of David Markson.
What we read as the novel is an unbroken series of sentences being typed by a woman, who could be the last animal alive on the earth. One by one she pulls out little threads out of the tangled yarn that her fading and cluttered memory has become. As she unloads her intellectual baggage, she constantly corrects and contradicts herself. We see her struggle to...more
Grief is the great isolator, even though everyone, for better or worse, has to experience it at least once in their life. And if you can manage to get by with experiencing just only one moment of grief? Then you’ve lived something of a blessed life. If you say you’ve lived a life free of grief? Then you’re a dirty liar. Or a heartless robot.
The weird thing about grief is that there is nothing really communal about it, even though we try pretending there is. We give condolences when someone su...more
That alone would've been a good premise for a novel. But Markson takes that premise as just the backdrop, the starting point for many other investigation...more
12AUG12. Someone read the foregoing five-word review and told me "Long overdue for a REVIEW!" which flummoxed me a bit because I thought I had at least jotted a few thoughts in here. Not only had I not commented here (apart from the reread comment), I haven't commented on my personal page! What the hell damn guy! WM is on my list of lifetime favorites, and yet now that I've sat down to write I find myself glaring into an empty "What did you th...more
If you don't know your worth in art history, philosophical references or European history, it might be a less enjoyable reading experience, but those are the things I get off on, so I had an a-ok relationship with it.
What initially enticed me, of course, was the title (although I am fond of the cover, which quotes the first strange line of the book, "In the beginning I left messages on...more
[Courtesy of Ikea]
When I first saw Kippenberger's shelving unit I laughed [briefly], then I immediately moved on without compunction. I mention this because a great deal of experimental literature is, in my opinion, comparable to Kippenberger's artwork. It is, y...more
This book is one continuing monologue of a woman named Kate who is convinced she is the last remaining person (and animal) on earth. She has given up looking for other people, but many of her reflections concern traveling the world in search. Finally persuaded of her isolation, her companions become her thoughts and musings on artists, paintings, music, writers, characters of myth and philosophers.
She tells us Wittgenstein was too difficu...more
This is a digressive monologue told in short declarative statements deliberately parallelling Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Which gives you some idea of how brilliant Markson is, because i...more
The best thing about the book was the narrator's way of over explaining her sentences when they didn't need to be explained. It was the best depiction of a person going insane. I also enjoyed the one liners, such as "The things one becomes tardily aware of," and "God. The things men used to do."
I finished this book on New Years Eve 2007; I expected to cry after reading the quotes on the cover that dared me not to at the end but... I didn't cry. It was ver...more
Not that every other book I have read is relevant to this one of course.
The websites, mostly selling stuff, lump certain books into certain piles.
Like "Infinate Jest" and "You Bright and Rising Angels" and "Under the Volcano" for example.
When someone has read and highly reviewed these books, per se, "Wittgenstein's Mistress" comes up as a must...more
One's language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.
First, a few facts about the reviewer: 1) Has never read DFW's essay on WM, or anything else by Markson. 2) Is passingly familiar with about 66% of the writers, artists, and composers mentioned throughout, as well as their major works. 3) Has experience...more
The idea based on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosohphicus is that language itself is structured so that it obstructs one’s connection with reality. Language is a fract...more
Because I was listening to her tell me that.
Well, the point being that she was hard to trust.
Though of course it is people who are hard to trust who are often most compelling.
All the protagonists we find most memorable, in fact. Ahab, Heathcliff, Stavrogin, even all the way back to Don Quixote—every one of them is certifiable.
I met her here a year ago. We’ve been comparing notes sin...more
David, David, David. How you Wow!* me.** You found your way to me at exactly the right time, and I’m devouring you at a pace McCarthy and Bolaño and Marías could only hope for. Don’t worry Chuck, Bobby, Javi, I’m still yours, but David has earned his place in your esteemed company. I am most pleased that this group seems to have so little in common—other than me.
But first, the obligatory: a MUCH better review is to be found by JN-M here (read it, Like it, then read it again), if I were to quibb...more
I gave up on it. I understand its appeal for many, and it's probably the best example of what stream-of-consciousness would look like written down in first person by someone with an obsessive mental editor, but that as a convention doesn't hold up for as many pages as this novel wants to be. It would have been a great plotless short story, though. The narrator's voice rings true, if somewhat grating, like reading the two-hundred-...more
To render that novel into a work of post-apocalyptic fiction, told from the perspective of a solitary female narrator left all alone in the world, is to join thematic brilliance to narrative inspiration.
To structure this narrative as a 240 page long sequence of one sentence paragraphs, the paragraphs not so muc...more
Markson's work is characterized...more