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, That We Will Follow Her Hypnotically As She Unloads The Intellectual Baggage Of A Lifetime In A Series Of Irreverent Meditations On Everything And Everybody From Brahms To Sex To Heidegger To Helen Of Troy And As She Contemplates Aspects Of The Troubled Past Which Have Brought Her To Her Present State, So Too Will Her Drama Become One Of The Few Certifiably Original Fictions Of Our Time

10 thoughts on “Wittgenstein's Mistress

  1. says:

    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 McCullers, Richard Russo, and Wallace Stegner 3 pts , d William Gaddis, Ben Marcus, and Samuel Beckett 5 pts 2 Plot, to me, is a of primary importance 1 pt b often a great hook, but not always required 3 pts c pretty incidental to my edification and enjoyment 5 pts 3 A premise whereby the narrator, Kate, is the last living creature on Earth sounds like a good science fiction fare if nothing else 2 pts b the potential for a slick empathy vehicle, picturing what life in isolation would be like 3 pts c an intriguing conflict as we decide between a literal interpretation as the world cracked and one begot by madness as the individual cracked 5 pts 4 My tolerance for an unreliable narrator a approaches zero with every fact overthrown 1 pt b varies it s often a contrivance, though it can serve a useful purpose 3 pts c is as high as it needs to be to depict a disturbed state of mind or to get at a greater truth 5 pts d soars when it shows how tenuous the things we truly know can be 5 pts 5 Randomness is a the hobgoblin of preoccupied minds 1 pt b reduced, thankfully, after illuminating patterns of fact and behavior explain all they can 2 pts c next to Godliness 5 pts 6 I give bonus points when an author a eschews obfuscation thereby cosseting perspicuity 1 pt b makes nuanced arguments concerning bigger issues that become clearer the we reflect 4 pts c addresses issues I don t currently understand, might not appreciate even if I did understand, might never understand no matter how long I contemplate them, and am not entirely sure were intended as issues to begin with but, hey, it s all cool when distant synapses connect 5 pts 7 Loneliness as a theme can be a annoyingly solipsistic 1 pt b enticingly solipsistic 5 pts 8 A structure with no chapters, very short paragraphs, and little in the way of segues strikes me as a slapdash and artificial 1 pt b just another device, neither off putting nor profound 3 pts c a brilliant way of depicting Kate s state of mind as she flits from one inner thought to another 5 pts 9 Countless references to museum art, classical music, Greek mythology and German philosophers make me a yawn 1 pt b interested to the extent that there are insights to be gleaned and connections to be made 2 pts c giddy with delight, even if most of what s said is misremembered see 4 above re narrative reliability 5 pts 10 When an intellectual heavyweight like David Foster Wallace calls a book one of the best of all time, my reaction is likely to be a that s the guy with the bandana, right 1 pt b yeah, but wasn t he a philosophy major who was into all that existence and imprecision of language stuff a pea in Markson s a priori pod 2 pts c OK, but are we talking about the Wallace who wrote fun social commentary or the one who wrote an honors thesis that began by establishing Greek letter notation for a physical possibility structure, intersecting functional paths on ordered pairs time, world situation , and a primitive accessibility relation corresponding to physical possibility understood in terms of diachronic physical compatibility 0 pts because nobody would say this except as a gratuitous boffin joke d DFW genius damn straight 5 pts 11 The thing I would be most curious to know about Kate is this a With nobody around to see her, did she wear any clothes 0 pts dude, come on, we re trying to be serious here b Was she crazy because she was alone or did she see herself as alone because she was crazy 5 pts c What would it be like to be the last person on earth Would language devolve Would memories fade quickly Would memories be important for keeping yourself together 5 pts d Was there a precipitating event that put her into that state Though oblique, hints about a former husband and son were made Might they have been involved in the collapse 5 pts Recommendations 20 or fewer pts Even with a 20 foot pole, avoid touching this one 21 to 33 pts You might give it a go if you re curious, but don t feel bad if you don t Plenty of people are fulfilled without ever picking it up And synapses can connect with ready payouts than this 33 to 47 pts I know it s hard to resist after smart people like DFW and prominent Goodreads friends have praised it So please do try it if you want, but it s not like you re a cretin if you don t And even a close reading may have you wondering, to what end 48 or pts Drop everything you re reading right now including cereal boxes, bathroom walls, and Goodreads Markson is what you need instead Reviewer s note I scored a 36 myself, good for 3.5 stars rounded to 4 I sometimes wished those synapses that worked so hard to connect would have gotten a better return for the effort But at least they did better than today s money market funds.

  2. says:

    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 how the book came to be resold, especially when there is a small inscription on the inside cover such as my hardback edition of Zbigniew Herbert s The Collected Poems Dad, Happy 83rd Birthday 2007 On one hand, the recipient may have disliked the book, or already had a copy, or there is the chance that this owner may no longer be with us In instances such as this, the small asterisks that precede a handful of titles in the Table of Contents suddenly become an increasing point of interest as I thumb through to these poems and wonder what they meant to the former owner Is there a message within the lines that provided comfort to someone in their twilight years, be it a laugh or an encouraging sentiment Another side effect of purchasing used editions is chance that the former owner was, like myself, the type to underline and take various notes This has been beneficial at times, such as a dirty softcover of Dylan Thomas Selected Poems I purchased from the Dawn Treader in Ann Arbor, MI my personal favorite bookstore when I was 19 and just beginning to immerse myself in the world of poetry Despite seeing a slew of margin notes, my shallow pockets persuaded me to buy it anyways after seeing a 4 price sticker Later at home while diving into Mr Thomas work, I discovered the notes were incredibly insightful and detailed and further investigation led me to realize that it had once been used by a UofM professor for use in lecture Without such accessible lecture notes, I may not have ever cracked the Thomas code and may never have become such an avid reader of poetry However, margin notes can occasionally be distracting I have a copy of Mice and Men where every single metaphor or simile is denoted in thick black ink, but I cannot complain too much as I also mark up all my books In his poem Marginalia , Billy Collinsdescribes this act of note taking as showing that we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge I find taking notes a unique method of further interacting with the author and leaving a tattoo of consciousness to commemorate my times spent between the covers of each book It is an old habit born from many hours spent in classrooms discussing literature that I have nurtured to keep from getting lazy with my readings plus certain authors come in handy to flip through while writing college essays to browse the many defined terms that may come in handy.When I received Wittgenstein s Mistress in the mail, I opened to the first page to discover an onslaught of margin notes and underlines Many of them didn t seem particularly helpful, and appeared as the previous reader attempting to get their bearings with Markson s innovative style Encouraged by their notes, I dove in as well, comforted by the echoes and footprints of a former traveler Even Kate it would seem that critics and scholars alike have accepted this as the signifier of our narrator despite it only appearing once in a novel where facts have a revolving list of names attached to them Kate refers to herself by a different name later on as well left messages in hopes of reaching a fellow soul such as someone is living in the Louvre Even underlining seems to be encouraged by Markson, as Kate will cite favorite quotes of hers that she underlined in non required books during her college days My safety net was not to last though 11 pages in, the notes stopped and I was flung into the maelstrom of bouncing ideas and fragmented consciousness, left to find my bearings in the dark without a fellow hand to hold as I descended deeper and deeper Having made it through to the other side, there could be no fitting way to approach this novel.Now that the overlong introduction is through, it is time to encourage you to read this wonderful novel Despite being rejected fifty four times Moore , this novel was picked up by Dalkey Archive Press who have done great things to keep the dream of literature alive and has lived to literary glory David Foster Wallace called it a work of genius and wrote an extensive essay, The Empty Plenum, dissecting and praising Markson s masterpiece It is not an easy novel, which can most likely be ascertained considering such praise by DFW, but it is a novel that unfolds into powerful messages of loneliness, language, art, and the human condition.As the title would suggest, Markson alludes heavily to Ludwig Wittgenstein and particularly to his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, a major work of modern philosophy, and of which the single sentence paragraphs found in WM seems to mimic The first line of Tractatus, the world is everything that is the case, is referenced often by Kate, and the nature of this novel further investigates what Wittgenstein meant by such a statement In Tractatus, Wittgenstein furthers with 1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not things.1.2 The world is divided into factsKate illuminates her life to the reader through a churning smattering of facts of art, music, literature, and events of her life It is through the jigsaw pieces of various facts falling into place that we are able to view the world through her eyes She, however, views Things , as not important beyond the facts they deliver Books she loves and cites often are burned up page by page or ripped apart to watch them soar on the wind like seagulls favorite painting are burned or painted over clothing, watches, electronic devices and any other baggage she carries is all left behind Wittgenstein writes that 2 What is the case a fact is the existence of states of affairs.2.021 Objects make up the substance of the world, and 2.0271 Objects are what is unalterable and substantial their configuration is what is changing and unstable. ,thus showing Kate s burning of books and houses a method of transforming them from being simple things, into objects, an idea, which make up the substance of the world, This substance of the word is a fact, which is the world Through destruction, Kate is creating a world of facts It is fitting then, that Kate is an artist, a person who creates, and Markson does an excellent job of showing creation and destruction as two parts of a whole Much of Kate s writings double back in an attempt to portray the most precise and accurate use of language possible in expressing herself This often becomes comical, redundant, and often obscures her original intentions by sidetracking into a different branch of thought She pays such close attention to phrases The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frighten me For instance I thought about them like that, also.In a manner of speaking, I thought about them like that.The she attempts to affect concise language, urging the reader to believe her and by employing phrases such as on my honor, the she exposes the latent fallacies and impreciseness of language Occasionally, when she double backs to exemplify the multiple interpretations that exist for these arrangements of words Word, Wittgenstein argues in works such as The Blue and Brown Books, are merely dead and trivial signs and symbols that only get their significance from the system of signs, from the language to which it belongs Essentially, words are meaningless signs and we only apply meaning to them through our arrangement of signs to create a set reaccepted connotations, denotations, and, well, meaning By calling to mind the possible variations of interpretation for each phrase, she is checking our preconceived notions and making us aware of the analogous nature of words Many times, the sentence in question was accepted by the reader and wouldn t have seemed cumbersome without her direction, or, as Kate says even if for some curious reason one s meaning would generally appear to be understood, in such cases. While she often questions if she is mad , observing her acute sense of language makes the reader wonder if this awareness comes from madness as it would initially seem , or a higher sense of consciousness and understanding It should be mentioned as well that such attention to the multiple interpretation of words can be applied to the enigmatic conclusions of the novel itself Markson leaves room for many interpretations while simultaneously, as DFW posits, cries out to be interpreted while also directing the reader towards the tools for interpretation.Validity is crucial to Kate She stresses the importance of believing her fractured mind, yet bombards the reader with facts that are constantly morphing A reader should be wary of prematurely spouting out exciting factoids, as pages later they may find the factoid was attributed to the wrong artist Late in the book, Kate questions why writers such as Homer would blatantly lie or stretch the truth on matters such as the number of ships involved in the battle of Troy Quite possibly Homer knew perfectly well himself about the real number of ships, but decided that in a poem one thousand, one hundred and eighty six would be a interesting number as well.Well, as it undeniably is, as is verified by the very fact that I remember it. It is curious how lies and impreciseness can be effective that the truth, and that falsities of language may not be intended to deceive but actually have an honorable impetus of furthering a deeper literary meaning Certain writers are sometimes smarter than one thinks Therefor, Kate s revolving names and facts may be than the slip ups of a damaged mind Various facts get paired, or mis paired, in a method that furthers the understanding of one fact by using the other as a ruler of sorts, some system of measurement or reference such as the back of Kate s hands are a reference to her age When facing the harsh reality of her past, Kate refers to herself by a different name, Helen Kate has spent much energy examining the impossibilities of the Trojan war being just over one Spartan girl , and applying the name to herself may be her method of accepting full responsibility while also expressing that it is foolish to actually believe all the blame could rest on her shoulders.Wittgenstein s Mistress boils down to a gorgeous climax that should not be missed This novel, which almost never saw publication, is a true gem of literature Through her exploration of language, validity, and madness, Kate leaves the reader questioning their own perceptions Free yourself from the safety harness of the world and take the plunge into the eye of the hurricane that is Wittgenstein s Mistress.5 5Works Cited Wallace, David Foster The Empty PlenumMoore, Steven Afterword to the WMWittgenstein, Ludwig Major Works Selected Philosophical WritingsThank you to Mike Puma for recommending David Markson, and for joining me in my read of this wonderful book.

  3. says:

    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.

  4. says:

    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, writers, philosophers, ancient Greek mythology, and other assorted ivory tower, academic name droppings and trivia The book is constructed as series of single sentence paragraphs, has no breaks, no chapters The narrator repeats the same things several times, self interrogates with a faulty memory about what she s written, failed to mention, perhaps already mentioned, and so forth However, there s to it than this To invoke a cliche about avant garde literature and experimental art generally this is a difficult book it takes effort It takes reading between the lines In short, it requires patient meditation and perhaps the just so levels of circumstance equalized just right to fully enjoy After the fact randomly inserted trivia This book was rejected 54 times before being published There s a interview with Markson at the end in my copy detailing this I found myself totally smitten with it immediately, before the blizzardy bursts of aforementioned name droppings really kicked in I think its very necessary to go into this book realizing that it consists of the strange, non linear, typed thoughts of a woman who is, within the logic of the novel, the very last animal on the planet No humans, no seagulls, no cats, etc This circumstance is not explained, at least not explicitly so What IS explained though are seemingly random accounts of traversing the globe by her lonesome living in famous European art museums staying warm by burning art, artifacts, frames of famous paintings admissions of periods of time where she was undeniably mad descriptions of reading collections of ancient Greek plays and tearing out and burning each page after reading both sides in order to stay warm sleeping in, driving and destroying and oddly enough nearly being killed by some of the millions of abandon vehicles she finds discovering tapedecks set to Play in said vehicles and listening to beautiful music in them and many, many other heartbreaking, beautiful little descriptive gems of these kind of things that would transpire eventually in such a reality The flurry of meandering thoughts about artists, writers, etc, and the many dis connections between them as annoying as they sometimes became though much of it was very interesting really do serve as an excellent device which both obscures and sheds light upon the fleshed out picture of Kate, our singular protagonist narrator A character whom I basically fell in love with, perhaps in a superficial way as so much of her person is obscured with the constant asides and gaping holes within the plot but I recant the superficial there and want to replace it with the idea that I fell in love with her humanity, as cheesy as that may sound She is the single loneliest character I ve ever encountered Her descriptions of imagining having seen a cat at the Colosseum in Rome, which becomes a motif throughout the book like most of her thoughts, they repeat, all motif ishly becomes clearly heartbreaking as they go on She often has this emotionally detached voice, this sound of resignation, but it cracks and becomes desperate loneliness for the briefest flashes She describes putting dozens of open cans of cat food about and being unable to tell if any has been eaten or not, though she seems know beneath her desperation and wishful thinking that there are no creatures left but her Good grief, this book is appearing beautiful to me upon reflecting on it right now than it was while I was reading it Another cliche about difficult art it makes for slow digestion Thinking about it now I realize that there are hundreds of beautiful little descriptions scattered throughout this book, cropping up amongst the scatterbrained trivia some so beautiful that to try to describe them out of context just feels wrong.I could go on giving sketches of her sketches, but I think, to somewhat relevantly quote Wittgenstein, What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

  5. says:

    Imaginative ImpedimentaHaving 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 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 her age somewhere perhaps between 47 and early 50 s , nor what she does to make a living a painter perhaps but there are other possibilities , nor very much about her history at all she has vague memories of living in various museums around the world So her condition is a tad less debilitating than that of Geoffrey Firmin At least she isn t paranoid and she accepts the possibility of her own madness.The radical Scottish psychiatrist R D Laing created a wonderfully concise aphorism for his field and for his patients If you don t know that you don t know, then you think you know if you don t know that you know, then you think you don t know Kate is unsure about almost everything in her life She knows she doesn t know about everything and anything This is an entirely different logical category to Laing s classification about knowledge Knowing that you don t know is in fact an attribute of wisdom It also breeds humility, and a certain form of honesty which is sometimes difficult to accept If none of Kate s writing is a narrative of actual events, why spend the time writing or reading about them She immediately contradicts almost everything she says On the other hand, isn t that precisely the presumption of all fiction The fact that a fictional character is constantly spilling the frijoles about her lack of concrete existence shouldn t be so disconcerting.How does something real, a house say, get to be something mental, a thought in one s head What is the connection between the imaginary and the real thing Clearly it is not language because there are also painting and music and ancient artifacts not to mention smells and random noise to consider These things get in our head as well And they ramify For example, Kate, thinking about a person in a painting which hangs upstairs in another room Although I have also just closed my eyes, and so could additionally say that for the moment the person was not only both upstairs and on the wall, but in my head as well In other words she has the mental image of a mental image And by the way, who is that person in the painting Why is she there Who else can be imagined in the house What is the relationship between her and the painter Imagination runs rampant as soon as the questions arise Where might it end Words, paintings, music, all representations go adrift like rowboats on the ocean, never to be brought back to shore.All this weight of imagination constitutes excess baggage The Romans called it impedimenta And it certainly is that, an impediment to an easy life Kate has gotten rid of her physical impedimenta anything run on electricity, flush toilets, in fact all modern conveniences But she can t get rid of her imaginative impedimenta That stuff comes with the territory called age, an accumulation of imaginative connections which multiply even as one tries to restrict them Imagination is what we can t control Imagination is what is behind sex, and greed, and religion, and even violence just as the Ancient Greeks knew Restricting imagination demands imagination, not less Clytemnestra killed her husband Agamemnon not because he sacrificed their child but because she imagined him doing it And her children, Electra and Orestes, murdered her and her new husband, probably because of a lack of imagination about maternal love Imagination Can t live with it can t live without it All of Markson s paragraphs are exactly one sentence long and in the first person The effect is not so much train of thought as a barrage from long distance artillery The shells burst everywhere within his landscape in a random pattern But nevertheless there is a pattern Somewhere in this pattern lies Kate s truth This is a mystery to her In addition to remembering things that one does not know how one remembers, one would also appear to remember things that one has no idea how one knew to begin with How does a pattern consisting of Archimedes, Bertrand Russell, Brahms and Kathleen Ferrier, for example, cohere That s an inductive question But it requires than induction to answer It requires what might be called empathy, that is a presumption that there is a pattern, a purpose, in Kate s musings to begin with Kate can supply the raw data points as it were but not the the gesso, the glue and paint necessary to prepare a canvas for for a painting This is supplied by her readers or not at all In short, it s hard to say which requires imagination, writing or reading The alternative in both cases is solipsistic delusion.

  6. says:

    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 it s necessary If you think about what one thinks anywaythe way one tends to ruminate I think about thinking a lot.I have a lot to say and would love to discuss this novel with those of you who have read it But in the mean time Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent Ludwig Wittgenstein Helen of Troy, Wittgenstein, painting by Modigliani, Giotto s Tower, Jane Avril, John Ruskin, Penelope, Guy de Maupassant, painting by Artemesia, Erased de Kooning Drawing, and the brilliant man behind WM, David Markson

  7. says:

    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 raised for no reason or rhyme When the sun was a little far but the stars were within reach, I used to leave messages in the street That someone is living on that mountain Somebody is living on this beach Once in a while, when I was not mad, I would turn poetic instead.How often does a book leave you with a brand new imagination by the time you finish it No That s not what I want to ask How often does a book entreat you to imagine everything you always wanted to imagine I ll come to the language, the words, the literature and the art later I want to engage in abstract first I want to think about a time before Adam and beyond Eve It s easier said than done Or, easier to write The things that are capable of existing in my head rarely make their way on a piece of paper or a blank page of a word document and even if they do, the medium doesn t waste any time in pointing out the mistakes in my thoughts and highlight the same with green or red crinkly lines Digressions can be futile but I really want to say something About this book About Kate About Wittgenstein s Mistress.We can never be sure what can cause us deep sorrow Why tears welled up in my eyes when I turned the last page of this book have no coherent explanation or I m simply incapable of explaining This book has facts which were sad, it mentions people who suffered ill fate, it has Kate who probably, may be, perhaps is alone or lonely She is compensating her solitude with her writing and nursing her grief by construing a world of which she is the sole curator She is living her life with one sentence at a time Her story starts on a beach and ends up in books It starts with typing on her typewriter and ends with writing on sand It starts with looking at paintings and ends with looking at castles It starts with cats and ends with seagulls It starts with Shakespeare and ends with Wittgenstein It starts in certitude and ends in doubts It starts with words and ends in silence Her story starts in nothingness and ends in nothingness She s a mystic creature throughout who embraced the facts of the universe and carved a fiction of her own And once I got acquainted with her, I mixed some of my personal dilemmas with her confusions mainly because Kate came dangerously close to some of the buried emotions that quietly stay in the deepest recesses of my being and forced me to acknowledge their obscure existence At this point I realized that the damn book was reading me and that s precisely why I loved it Kate has a baggage to shed Emotional baggage, material baggage, rational baggage, some indefinable baggage and in shaking off that baggage, she travels the world and visit numerous places or she thinks she does Her mind is an abode for reminiscences about Helen of Troy Her heart is full of pities for the great artists and philosophers who used to fret about inconsequential perplexities Her words are a tribute to Modigliani and Johannes Brahms Her soul is in desperate search for alternatives, for what ifs the result of which is a resolute happiness and better endings Her uncertainties give birth to outlandish episodes while her imagination renders the past as funny and ironic with her playful jiggle with the nuances of language and its limitations All the conclusions she draws by distorting several facts reflect the ingenuity of David Markson and affirm his talent as a writer, a talent which is free from the universal humdrum There is naturally nothing in the Iliad, or in any of the plays, about anybody menstruating.Or in the Odyssey So doubtless a woman did not write that after all.At the outset she might come across as delusional and somewhat mad But who am I to say she s mad even if she herself believes so May be the world around her is filled with so much insanity that she in turn remains the only sane person alive on the face of this earth In fact, when she recalls few world wide historical references based upon her unreliable memory, we actually realize that the world has so much collective madness to offer us God, the things men used to do. She s in race with her thoughts and attempt to register the same by articulating them into words and in doing so she unfolds copious facets of language and its complexities A world in words A world devoid of words What is said to be done, what is actually done What we think exists, what actually exists How to capture the palpability of something intangible What is an ideal expression for anything we experience by way of seeing, listening, reading or writing When I state that any of these things were done or said, incidentally, what I truthfully mean is that they were alleged to have been done or said, of course.Among various school of thoughts, Kate tries to provide her two cents where only she is capable of right and wrong, acceptance and rejection, truth and lies and we simply become privy to a life led by a supreme dependence on thoughts and supreme freedom of conventions In this way, she softly urges the readers to question the significance of philosophy of mind in our lives and to recognize a white canvas which we all carry but at the end it is either left blank or splashed with glorious colors Although it takes some effort to get inside her mind but once we become aware of her unique ways, we find ourselves hopelessly in love with her story and feel a sense of responsibility that if there is a mistress of Wittgenstein somewhere, then lets leave her with a bundle of happy memories to summon up to herself.Highly Recommended with Five virtual stars and Five bright stars on loan from the night sky It might have been interesting to see one s messages beginning to deteriorate even before they were finished being written after all.

  8. says:

    It probably took me less than 20 pages to be enad 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 hold on to a train of thought and connect her ideas in some manner Many of the thoughts are repeated and re visited, except by the time she comes back to a thought, she may be misrembering what she had said earlier Different ideas blend into one another, time is bent out of shape, resulting in inaccurate and mixed up facts There are times when something which had existed only in her head takes the shape of reality that she completely believes in She sees some broken bottles by the garbage disposal and imagines how Rembrandt could have painted that Several pages later she informs us that Rembrandt s painting The Broken Bottles had been painted by him standing by a garbage disposal Sometimes details from her present or past life project themselves onto learned knowledge of hers and color it with subjectivity Within these seemingly disorganized sentences, there is an intricate pattern through which Markson brings forth the nature of memory, the close connection between imagination and our concept of reality What an extraordinary change takes placewhen for the first time the fact that everything depends upon how a thing is thought first enters the consciousness, when, in consequence, thought in its absoluteness replaces an apparent reality KierkegaardHer meandering thoughts on literature, art history, philosophers etc., perhaps have to do with escapism Her ramblings are sprinkled with little tidbits of her daily life, but one rarely finds her talking about her past life or the family she once had Slipping into madness may be the only way she can have an iota of sanity While her being the last animal alive on the earth is an acceptable premise, there is some hint that this world may be existing only in her head I see the possibility of this being a coping mechanism for her to deal with her son s death Perhaps her trying to name the cat she thought she saw at the Colosseum or the tape that makes a cat like scratching sound, is only an attempt to name the cat that her son used to have but never gave a name to Cat was all they called it However the dam does break at times and what it gives away is devastating Throughout there is a sense of sadness lurking just beneath the words, that one can t shake off Be it her trying to play tennis with herself, or her putting out cans of cat food for a cat she knows she had only imagined.In her own rambling and scatterbrained manner, she brings up many a philosophical questions Though I am not familiar with the related works, one of the themes I did notice was about Wittgenstein s concern with logic and precise use of language She often discusses questions of This is not a pipe variety and worries about expressing herself accurately The novel itself could be an example of some such philosophical theme in that the literal meaning of the words you see printed on the paper won t explicitly tell you the meaning of the novel You have to peel the layer and discover the order in disorder It is amazing how much Markson says without putting it into words.Amidst all the trivia, philosophy and a heartbreaking depiction of loneliness, there are several beautiful scenes that leave quite an impression her sitting in an automobile watching Stratford on Avon fill up with snow, rolling hundreds of tennis balls down the Spanish steps or the transcendental view of the Parthenon in the afternoon Sun And the ending the first 220 pages might be worth reading just to be able to experience those last 20 pages in the light of the rest of the novel.

  9. says:

    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 Bola o and Mar as 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 quibble at all and I won t , I d question the difficulty of this novel It requires a commitment of sorts, but I m reluctant to call it difficult I d say of WM what I said of This is Not a Novel Some assembly required With this novel as with the tetralogy, which for the life of me has a very similar feel , Markson does what the often referred to Michelangelo said of sculpting the artist strips away the unnecessary part of the novel, of the marble slab , leaving a bare bones orgy of intertextuality, art history, and philosophy, while telling the tale of a madness prone, lonely, frequently confused woman you want to know in the worst way and he does this in a most gentle, often humorous voice that leaves the reader this reader sated to a level of perfect contentedness Readers may find editions with Afterwords by either Steven Moore here thanks, Moira or David Foster Wallace here thanks, s.penx I especially liked Moore s suggestion of a Jack Benny pause between some sentences Sorry, you pups, if that voice isn t familiar DFW s essay is simultaneously academic and casual keep a dictionary at hand not that it will help Except for your poems Not you, Kowalski, or Jonke, or whoever the hell you are as spectacular as you must be

  10. says:

    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 clef he was attracted to the book because of the title, noting it would be in some way about Wittgenstein The title is a sort of epigraph And an intellectual shibboleth Kate the narrator gets a lot of Wittgenstein wrong Her errors serve as original art and interpretation Wittgenstein s idea are sprayed all over the book the epigraph about sand The world is everything that is the case speculations about tape the book renders the bleak mathematical world of the Tractatus It asks the question what if somebody really had to live in that world the prose is hauntingly pedestrian allusions to everything are difficult to trace the transformation of a philosophy to a world, reveal that philosophy is about spirit This might explain why Wittgenstein was so unhappy it is indirect, devices like repetition, return, free association, slipping sand of English, self consciousness if Kate is mad so are we shows what cannot be expressed, like good comedy it is not a letter, a diary or journal, or a monologue she is shouting into the blank paper the need to write is the need for an affirmation of an Outside I EXIST Yet this begs the question it only proves writing exists the reader is directed to the Tractatus It is a kind of philosophical sci fi It s a portrait of what it would be like to live in the world that Wittgenstein posits A logical heaven ends up a metaphysical hell the Tractatus explores the relation between language and the reality it captures Like a mirror and the mirrored Kate s textual obsession is to find connections between things, genuine connections elude her, only finds an occasional synchronicity Markson makes facts sad Kate makes external history her own, rewrites it as personal She is the final historian the most affecting rendition is her description of tennis without a partner she has nothing left except memory, imagination the English language the solipsistic nature of her reality is the same whether it s a response to it, or out of touch with it at stake ethics, guilt and responsibility The Tractatus denied these, making Wittgenstein at odds with himself Kate s central identification is with Helen of Troy and haunted by the passive sense that everything is her fault Markson s idea of the female voice says about the 1988 male received doctrine Homer s Helen is guilty, because of her effect on men This is to be Classically feminized, responsible without freedom to choose or act in contrast to Eve Markson clumsily reminds us that Kate is a woman by references to menses, like bad science fiction constantly mentioning the antennae or whatever Wallace does not like the explanation of Kate s fall, the world s fall her betrayal of her husband and son, 10 years ago at the same psycho historical point at which Kate s world emptied This threatens to make WM just another madwoman monologue and becomes conventional fiction Eve s Evian betrayal of the world, alluded to over and over, coyly, a scary blend of Hellenic and Evian misogyny guilty as object Helen and guilty as subject Eve ambitious for the late 80s Markson has fleshed Wittgenstein doctrine into the concrete theatre of human loneliness, its relation to language itself the Philosophical Investigations concern to show the impossibility of private language, and our bewitchment of ordinary language Expressions like the flow of time, making time seem external to us although the book is sometimes tiresome with all the allusions, it refines and opens up later, to a fragile weltschmerz Kate s text is a desperate attempt to recreate a world by naming it, obsessively naming persons, figures, books, symphonies, towns Markson communicates her extreme upset when she can t summon facts up properly it is an imperfect book because of voice, over allusion, and explanation, but succeeds in evoking a truth, both sides of the solipsistic bind If I exist, nothing exists outside me But If something exists outside me, I do not exist This quote is not in WM It might be based on something W.J Turner wrote Kate s actions summons the final prescription of the Tractatus, loosely translated Anybody who understands what I m saying eventually recognizes that s nonsense, once he s used what I m saying rather like steps to climb up past what I m saying he must, that is, throw away the ladder after he s used it But what it s really about is the plenitude of emptiness, the importance of silence in terms of speech There you have it Wallace sees a world in a grain of sand and he makes it brilliant and convincing in his essay But for me, it is a little book of 240 pages, perhaps 10 allusions on each page none obscure , strung together with quirky asides, and expressions like well , as a matter of fact , oops , the things one knows , hm , and so on, and all narrated by a person whom I did not believe in WM reminded me of something I do think about though how would I live and act in a world with no other person in it Aside from the real possibility of going madI sort of believe I would just keep on keeping on, doing what I do Why not, if you had no other choice Silly me.For the Wittgenstein, and for the lovely title, 3 stars.