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 ...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 ...more
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
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 ...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
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 ...more
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...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
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...more
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....more
-a cross between fiction, and a weird cerebral roman à clef.
-he was attracted to the book because of the title, noting it
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 — ...more
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.
Is not somebody I thought
I once understood.
[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
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 ...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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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, ...more
My understanding of dear ...more
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 ...more
Thank you to all my new goodreads friends whose plundered shelves gave this to me.
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 Gaddis – David Markson is quite on his own here and Wittgenstein’s ...more
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 ...more
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 ...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 ...more
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 ...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 ...more
Markson's work is characterized ...more