Review(ish): Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

wittgensteins mistress (markson)

I love this book, but it is pretty difficult to write about it. My husband read it, and hated it, so it’s certainly not for everyone. Plus, David Foster Wallace has already written everything I want to say about this book, I think, in the afterword to the edition I read. Really, though, it is so good in terms of experimentation. Mostly I just want to find some people who have read this book, so that I can talk to them.

The basic premise of the book is that it is told by a woman who is – or believes herself to be – the last human on earth. It makes an eery mental picture – this woman going around the world in abandoned cars. There are no dead people; all the people simply vanished.

Anyway, so I have some thoughts on this book, in lieu of a real review:

  1. In one part in London, there’s a part where a car rolls down a hill and it is empty. I love this image, and I would love to have a crowd-sourced film version of this book – from footage taken by people around the world on those rare early summer mornings, at say 5 a.m., when everyone is asleep and you feel that you’re the only person alive, and it feels invigorating and strange.
  2. I love the rhythm of this book and its deep creepiness and insanity, although I realise those are probably key things that people dislike about this book at points.
  3. I don’t know much about Wittgenstein, or many of the other cultural references that are made in the book. But I want to know more.
  4. I frequently found myself think about this book this year, although I read it almost 8 month ago now. It is a powerful thought experiment.
  5. I thought about buying another Markson book when I was in a bookshop in San Francisco, but I didn’t really get into the style as much or the experimentation. I would love to hear more about his writing if anyone knows more?

This doesn’t do the book justice. Someone else read it and talk to me about it!


Quotes (a random sampling – I liked lots of it):

“Doubtless I had not even realized that anything had changed, for some time.
For some time I have been watching the sun go down every evening without anxiety, is perhaps what I finally one evening remembered to think.
Or, the eternal silence of these infinite spaces no longer makes me feel like Pascal.” (84)

“Or perhaps it is only the past itself, which is always smaller than one had believed.
I do wish that that last sentence had some meaning, since it certainly came close to impressing me for a moment.
There is a great deal of sadness in the Iliad in either case, incidentally.” (126)

“Although what I have basically been doing about the rain is ignoring it, to tell the truth.
How I do that is by walking in it.
I did not fail to notice that those last two sentences must certainly look like a contradiction, by the way.
Even if they are no such thing.
One can very agreeably ignore a rain by walking in it.
In fact it is when one allows a rain to prevent one from walking in it that one is failing to ignore it.” (184)


One thought on “Review(ish): Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

  1. Pingback: My year in reading: 2013 | bewhatwedo

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