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Wittgenstein's mistress by David…
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Wittgenstein's mistress (original 1988; edition 2012)

by David Markson, David Foster Wallace (Verfasserin Eines Nachworts)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3642911,542 (3.94)90
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--obviously a metaphor for ultimate loneliness--so too will her drama become one of the few certifiably original fictions of our time. "The novel I liked best this year," said the Washington Times upon the book's publication; "one dizzying, delightful, funny passage after another . . . Wittgenstein's Mistress gives proof positive that the experimental novel can produce high, pure works of imagination."… (more)
Member:Grant_McLeester
Title:Wittgenstein's mistress
Authors:David Markson
Other authors:David Foster Wallace (Verfasserin Eines Nachworts)
Info:Champaign Dublin London Dalkey Archive Press March 2012
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:None

Work Information

Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson (1988)

  1. 20
    Man in the Holocene by Max Frisch (Philll)
    Philll: The speaker follows a similar path in that he's quickly loosing his grasp. It's also full of intellectual stuff like in W's M, though of a different variety.
  2. 10
    The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald (michaeljohn)
    michaeljohn: Both novels—each nontraditional and singular in form—feature a narrator wandering in a desolate landscape. Both narrators also show a similar propensity for historical digression.
  3. 00
    Glass by Sam Savage (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Another outstanding book whose protagonist is isolated and possibly unreliable. It too has an unconventional narrative style and an astoundingly distinctive voice.
  4. 00
    Humpty Dumpty: An Oval by Damon Knight (bertilak)
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» See also 90 mentions

English (27)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Not for everyone. Stream of consciousness by a woman who is probably the last woman on earth, trying to set her thoughts down. It is very repetitive, and gets tedious quickly. ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
I read this in fits and starts over too long a time, so I lost a lot of the intertextuality. And I should definitely have read this when I was younger and smarter. But it was beautiful and clever and reminded me of a lot of things I've lost. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
DM was a god-damned genius ( )
  lehrer21 | Jun 29, 2021 |
If you can handle the diary entries of easily distracted autistics then you will dig this book.

This rambling, discursive, plotless "novel" is kind of like a Robbe-Grillet novel, in that even if you don't really have a lot of fun reading it, you can still nod sagely as you turn the pages, appreciating the technique and the uniqueness of the style. This is one of the most straightforwardly philosophical novels I've read in a while, and even if it's not always pleasurable to read, it's interesting enough to be worth finishing.

It's written as one long chapterless series of short thoughts, observations, and memories typed by a not-entirely-stable woman, who for some unspecified reason has been the last living creature on Earth for a while and has been travelling aimlessly for a few years seeings the sites. She writes a lot about music, art, and history, can't remember things too well, doesn't seem to miss the past world much, and likes to muse about the logic of syntax and semantics, even if she acknowledges how crazy she must seem as she types to herself. The entire book reads like this:

"Sculpture is the art of taking away superfluous material, Michelangelo once said.
He also said, conversely, that painting is the art of adding things on.
Although doubtless he would not have thought that the heap of added-on bottles is like a painting, either.
Yet it is not one hundred percent unlike a painting by Van Gogh at that, when one comes right down to it.
If one squints a little, it is even very like a painting by Van Gogh."

This is the kind of book that begs for some kind of philosophical justification, because on the surface it's exactly as boring as it sounds. Per the title, 2 of the 3 epigraphs, and several mentions in the text, you're supposed to read the book as a kind of commentary on the works of Wittgenstein. Seen in that light, the book is a sort of funny riff on his system of logic and his famous seven propositions, in that most of them are implicitly mocked by the protagonist's meanderings:
1. The world is all that is the case.
2. What is the case - a fact - is the existence of states of affairs.
3. A logical picture of facts is a thought.
4. A thought is a proposition with a sense.
5. A proposition is a truth-function of elementary propositions.
6. The general form of a proposition is the general form of a truth function.
7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

The first and especially the last proposition will spring to mind frequently, as you ponder this character's seemingly purposeless logorrhea - is this crazy woman just talking to herself, or is she saying anything meaningful about the world around her? What's the purpose of her attempts to communicate, if she really is the only person left alive, and do her travels to museums and art galleries mean anything to the reader? What is the book's world like outside of her experiences?

After I finished the book I found a review from David Foster Wallace heroically trying to fish some higher truths out of it. Buried in the somewhat tortured and over-verbose analysis were some good insights about how the protagonist's peregrinations mirrored the Odyssey (which gets mentioned a lot), so I guess in that sense you could compare the intentional sparseness of this book to the overflowing fullness of Ulysses. It's also noteworthy that the main character's artistic tastes don't seem to extend past certain periods of art and literature; if not for a few mentions of Joan Baez, you'd almost think her appreciation for culture stopped when Wittgenstein died in real life.

Overall I'd put it in the respect but not really enjoy category, even though as a book of experimental fiction I guess it works on its own terms. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Marksonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moore, StevenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wallace, David FosterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.
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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--obviously a metaphor for ultimate loneliness--so too will her drama become one of the few certifiably original fictions of our time. "The novel I liked best this year," said the Washington Times upon the book's publication; "one dizzying, delightful, funny passage after another . . . Wittgenstein's Mistress gives proof positive that the experimental novel can produce high, pure works of imagination."

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