Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wittgenstein's Mistress” as Want to Read:
Wittgenstein's Mistress
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wittgenstein's Mistress

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  4,873 ratings  ·  585 reviews
Wittgenstein's Mistress is a novel unlike anything David Markson - or anyone else - has ever written before. It is the story of a woman who is convinced, and, astonishingly, will ultimately convince the reader as well, that she is the only person left on earth. Presumably she is mad. And yet so appealing is her character, and so witty and seductive her narrative voice, ...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published May 1st 1988 by Dalkey Archive Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wittgenstein's Mistress, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
David Not specifically, no. The idea is that the narrator, Kate, writes like Wittgenstein's infamous Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Very short, matter of…moreNot specifically, no. The idea is that the narrator, Kate, writes like Wittgenstein's infamous Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Very short, matter of fact statements. Almost like tweets. Very short paragraphs. Solipsism is something you should look up if you not familiar with that. But as far as the psychology itself, no. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,873 ratings  ·  585 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Wittgenstein's Mistress
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Is Wittgenstein’s Mistress For Me?

The following survey is designed to predict your strength of connection to this very distinctive book. Choose the responses that apply best to you and tally the associated points. Then compare your total with the ranges below to see the course of action recommended especially for you.

1. If offered, I’d choose the stack of pages by a) Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, and Nora Roberts (1 pt.), b) Lee Child, James Patterson, and Vince Flynn (2 pts.), c) Carson
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Just read it.
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Mike Puma
The world is everything that is the case

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
Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: anyone with a rodent infestation
Beaten senseless by the author's large brains I slumped to the ground. When I awoke I found rats had eaten the rest of the book and they had all died with uncanny expressions of horror on their little furry faces. I wasn't disappointed. This novel was a little too avant for my garde.
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: The Patient; The Lonesome; Those Who Fill In The Blanks
Okay, right up front, I read this on the basis that David Foster Wallace, who is unambiguously my literary hero, ascribed extremely high praise to this book. Foregoing any knuckle-biting self-analysis over what effect this had on my perceptions of the book I will just give my thoughts directly.

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,
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Imaginative Impedimenta

Having just read Lowry’s Under the Volcano, I suppose I was prepared for Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress. The former is an account of life seen through an alcoholic haze. The latter is a life seen through dementia. There are remarkably similarities between them, with the notable exception that Markson’s Kate is much more self-aware than Lowry’s Geoffrey. Kate knows that almost everything about her life is a delusion or a distortion of her experience. She knows neither

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


This novel is a genius exploration into the limitations of language (are my roses still red in the dark?), the fragmented, unreliability of memory... all of the varied imperfections of the mind. The repetition can be tiresome, but
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The hidden artist and the crazy philosopher in you.
Recommended to Garima by: s.penkevich
Till yesterday...Castles in the air was just a phrase for me, today I built one and burned it. I gave myself a new name and wrote it on the sand, the waves took with them a different me. I took a ladder and climbed the moon; the yonder earth looked both sad and serene. With colors from nature, I painted an ocean, where the seashells were crooning and pearls were flying. I asked a tree if my words will live, forever is a myth it replied before dying. Am I alone or am I lonely? Such questions I
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megha by: Thomas Bernhard, sort of
Shelves: reviews

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
Mike Puma
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you know who you are

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

Jun 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm having a quarrel with DFW. He loves this book, and I do not.

It hurts me that we disagree.

But I read the book, read Wallace's argument (this essay) and the flaws that he points out (and forgives) I can't get past. Here is his defense, which I summarize:
-this is one of those novels which cry out for critical interpretation and directs it, like a waltz does in music.

-a cross between fiction, and a weird cerebral roman à clef.

-he was attracted to the book because of the title, noting it
Manuel Antão
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1990
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Simultaneous Worlds: "Wittgenstein's Mistress" by David Markson

(Original Review, 1990)

I think the point—or premise?—of “Wittgenstein's Mistress” is that the monologue of the only person on Earth—necessarily, in the physical sense of "only", a "monologue"—is not actually a monologue. Language itself—emerging or disclosed in and through the concrete words and usage of Kate's 'monologue'—is already communal, social, cultural, historical —
Riku Sayuj
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing

The five star, in all good conscience, should only be awarded after a second run-through and piece-together. I am stunned and throat-constricted after finishing this and need to catch my breath, regroup. I have my notes and a review kernel ready but it does no justice to this novel. I don't want to review it. Instead, I want to read it a thousand times.
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
the 'message' behind nele azevedo's melting ice people might've been environmental, but for me it's all about death and impermanence and the horrible fleetingness of... everything. of course, for me, the subtext of everything from homer's iliad to the newest kate hudson romcom is death in that everyone involved will someday die, and then the last person to know anyone involved will someday die, and then the last person to know of somebody involved will die, and then the last person will someday ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye

Martin Heidegger
Is not somebody I thought
I once understood.

Whispered Genius
[In the Words of David Markson]

What I believed was
A person was a shadow,
If not a curtain.

On the Beach

A note for myself:
Somebody lives in this state
Of solipsism.

Naming Cats and Dogs

Did you know Rembrandt
Named his cat after the dog
In the Odyssey?

I Looked Her in the Eye

One morning I finally determined not to make a major project out of doing this review.

Now that I think about it, I suspect I've done it while trying not
Arthur Graham
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Naturally what follows is a review of Wittgenstein's Mistress. Not his actual mistress, mind you (with whom I've never had the pleasure), but merely the book named after her.

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
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sarah (Presto agitato) by: Steve
Kate is the only person living in the world.

Well, what I should have said is the only creature living.

On my honor, there is nobody else. There are no dogs or cats or seagulls or scorpions.

Quite possibly there are no fish either.

I did not verify that for certain about the fish, however.

A part I always liked is when she was living at the Louvre and used the frames to make a fire. She nailed the paintings back into place.

Actually that was at the Tate where she did that.

Helen, being the name of
MJ Nicholls
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the first Markson I have read with, at least, his own linear sentences (if not structure or plot). As with certain Dalkey Archive titles, it helps to read around the book first (Foster Wallace’s RCF review from 1990 being a good place to start) to understand the technical philosophy being explored alongside the devastating depiction of loneliness and madness that forms the upfront textual heft. On a prose level, each sentence occupies its own little island of significance, standing alone ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: demigod-markson
Because it took me 5 days to read this, at only 240-pages, I feel that it would have gone even better in a single blast.
But life happens in the form of visitors, friends, birthdays, yard work.
When I say yard work, what I really meant was getting a new car.
Still, I can't help but shake the feeling that Markson could have tightened up the page count and lost nothing in the process, rather, strengthening the book's stunning denouement.
Which, even though more telegraphed than Samuel F. Morse, is
Algernon (Darth Anyan)

Doubtless these are inconsequential perplexities.
Still, inconsequential perplexities have now and again been known to become the fundamental mood of existence, one suspects.

Doubtless this is the passage that works best for me in suming up the experience of reading Markson’s anti-novel.
There’s no plot, no characters to speak of, no structure and no final illuminating revelations about fundamental aspects of human nature.
Unless one considers that we live in a constant state of bafflement,
Nick Craske
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My head is suitably bent-out-of-shape after reading this peculiar meta-meta-meta po mo writing. Inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstien's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus —a classic 20th century book, about 70 pages, consisting of remarks on the essence of language, the nature of the world; of logic, mathematics, science and philosophy and ending with comments on ethics, religion and mysticism— is quite a mind-bending read. It's written with logical precision and poetic intensity.

My understanding of dear
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My last review before this was about a novel with only one paragraph.

This time, it is about a novel with no paragraph.

Or maybe with many paragraphs.

I guess it depends on what a paragraph is.

When is a sentence just a sentence, and when does it become a paragraph?

Here, the paragraphs are composed of just one sentence each.

Sometimes not even a sentence.

Just phrases each ending with a period.

So if they're not paragraphs then this novel has no paragraphs.

Just sentences standing separately from each
Holy crap. Blimey, that is one hell of an impressive piece of writing. I have no idea how he pulled it off - how do I end up having a powerful, concerned, empathic connection with the narrator, when she can only truly be seen out of the corner of your eyes. How does one invent such a structure? looping like a slinky slightly stretched and laid horizontal on the floor...

Thank you to all my new goodreads friends whose plundered shelves gave this to me.
Vit Babenco
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“And of course I was quite out of my mind for a certain period too, back then.
I do not know for how long a period, but for a certain period.
Time out of mind. Which is a phrase I suspect I may have never properly understood, now that I happen to use it.
Time out of mind meaning mad, or time out of mind meaning simply forgotten?”
Although influences are rather apparent – Molloy by Samuel Beckett and The Recognitions by William GaddisDavid Markson is quite on his own here and Wittgenstein’s
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: list-pomo
I once wrote a letter to Selma Blair and told her she was really good in the movie Cruel Intentions. This was before I had seen the movie, in fact. But she was really nice on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and I wanted her to feel good that someone enjoyed her movie. Even though I was probably not the only one who enjoyed the movie. But I wanted to have something to say to her and since her show on the WB was still a few months off I didn't have anything else to say, factually, expect, "You did ...more
I have to admit that I admired this much more than I enjoyed it.

I admired it for its ability to do so much with so little. Markson's novel is written, as you probably know, as a sequence of short paragraphs -- often just one sentence per paragraph -- that relate the thoughts of protagonist Kate in a spare, simple, lucid style modeled (at least superficially) on Wittgenstein's Tractatus. The content of Kate's musing is, if this makes sense, spare in a way directly analogous to its style. Most of
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bitchin
In the beginning, I worried about the style.

It looks like How It Is, is what I told myself upon opening the book.

Naturally I did not want to read something that appeared to be so much influenced by How It Is.

How It Is being the Samuel Beckett novel I have least enjoyed.

Generally speaking, I like Samuel Beckett a lot, but How It Is did confuse and bore me a little.

Although, upon reflection, Wittgenstein’s Mistress is nothing like How It Is.

Markson’s novel is actually influenced by Ludwig
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The protagonist, a painter, finds herself to be the last person on earth. More accurately, the last mammal, as even cats and seagulls are nowhere to be found except in bits of tape and pieces of floating ash. For years she wanders the earth alone. Looking for people in store windows. Feeding imaginary cats. Is she mad? Has she imagined all this?

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
I have a fever at the typing of these characters. An actual, or should I say, literal fever. 102.4 by electronic mouth thermometer. Whatever is meant by that time annuls. In a sense.

Having read Wittgenstein's Tractatus, but nothing more than secondary texts or quotations of Investigations, I will cop to missing some of what Markson was likely up to here, until the DFW.

My prima facie negative ghost comment may well have been, and may well still be that Markson's text can border on tedium [though
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing if I have been appointed curator of all the world."

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
Dec 13, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: those I loathe.
Is there a negative three stars rating? If this was the last book on earth, and destroying it would mean that all future generations would be illiterate, I would DESTROY IT and save all those unborn children the senseless pain of attempting to take any point away from this author's vulgar display of hoity-toity "I know all about art and greek mythology, so I'm going to talk about it but mix it up just enough for you to buy that I know SO MUCH MORE ABOUT IT THEN YOU that YOU MUST BE STUPID. And ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Wittgenstein's Mistress, by David Markson 1 15 Oct 04, 2016 01:50PM  
Spine Crackers: Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson 1 7 Sep 15, 2015 05:46PM  
Literary Fiction ...: Wittgenstein's Mistress 40 26 Sep 10, 2014 10:08AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Omensetter's Luck
  • Почти два килограмма слов
  • Lost in the Funhouse
  • The Recognitions
  • Autoportrait
  • Wittgenstein's Nephew
  • JR
  • Both Flesh and Not: Essays
  • The Crying of Lot 49
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
  • The Broom of the System
  • 2666
  • The Pale King
  • Girl with Curious Hair
  • Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius
  • Infinite Jest
  • The Tunnel
See similar books…
David Markson was an American novelist, born David Merrill Markson in Albany, New York. He is the author of several postmodern novels, including This is Not a Novel, Springer's Progress, and Wittgenstein's Mistress. His most recent work, The Last Novel, was published in 2007 and received a positive review in the New York Times, which called it "a real tour de force."

Markson's work is characterized
“Was it really some other person I was so anxious to discover...or was it only my own solitude that I could not abide?” 65 likes
“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.” 31 likes
More quotes…