Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


In the beginning I left messages in the aether

David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress: Markson recently released The Last Novel, fourth book in a trilogy of which the seed was contained in this novel, which bears more palpable fruit. (Not that I've read them, but from the descriptions I've encountered I'd rather be working my way through Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project, which, in fact, I am, between novels.) As I recall, when this first came out my interest was subdued by a co-programmer who was (is) a philosophy ex-post-doc (ergo propter?) (but as I think of it, perhaps ex-ante) (which is not to say Kantian) (I'm just not sure about his thesis) (if there was one) (but this was after that). But these are philosophical investigations of another order, or disorder: The narrator is not unreliable but her perception, memory, cognition are impaired. Prior episodes of madness have completely alienated her from human (even animal) contact, except through art and music (not reading), in which her interests lie not in the works but in the underlying artists (the only painting described in detail is by an unsigned and unknown artist), making for a sort of second-order engagement which is overlaid upon many of Wittgenstein's words (as material for Markson's bricolage) and overlaps his conceptions. It's a nice conceit, well executed in a brilliant comic confusion, though the conclusion doesn't satisfy, though I can't think of a better way to wrap it up. Beyond the coherence of the narrator in her in- or decoherence, there is the second-hand apprehension of literature via popular culture, context without content (even Pynchon's liner notes are online these days), pointed observation on Culture as well as on problems of depiction and language, which overrides the cheap thrills of recognition of allusions beyond the narrator's ken, a sort of brain candy that I suspect is more prevalent in Markson's later work; I'm now more interested in what preceded this. To turn to the author's story rather than his works, his role in rehabilitating Lowry (via thesis) and in refloating an unrecognized Gaddis inclines me more favorably towards his own efforts.

Other linkage:
Tabbi's reading of and interview with Markson
Badman's overview
TEV, likewise
A more recent interview


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