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David Markson

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  • David Markson

    In honor of David Markson's birthday today, here follows the first page of his best-known novel, Wittgenstein's Mistress, a novel narrated by a woman named Kate, who is convinced that she is the only person alive in the world and whose grip on Time's passage is, um, tenuous:

    In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.
    Somebody is living in the Louvre, certain of the messages would say. Or in the National Gallery.
    Naturally they could only say that when I was in Paris or London. Somebody is living in the Metropolitan Museum, being what they would say when I was still in New York.
    Nobody came, of course. Eventually I stopped leaving the messages.
    To tell the truth, I left only three or four messages altogether.
    I have no idea how long ago it was when I was doing that. If I were forced to guess, I believe I would guess ten years.
    Possibly it was several years longer ago than that, however.
    And of course I was quite out of my mind for a certain period too, back then.
    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?
    But in either case there was little question about that madness. As when I drove that time to that obscure corner of Turkey, for instance, to visit at the site of ancient Troy.
    It gets weirder . . . and more and more poignant and beautiful. This novel, and Markson's other work, are well worth your attention.

  • #2
    I recently stumbled across an interview with Markson on Bookslut, looked at a few of his novels, and ran here to search for any relevant threads. As far as I can tell, he is mentioned in 1,000 Favorite Books but nowhere else. His novels (and not-novel) look at the least novel, and possibly quite astounding. I'd dash out and snatch them up right now if I didn't have so damn much to read already. This is truly an unwinnable battle.


    • #3
      I had intended to respond to this earlier.

      I don't know what else is on your list of Books to Read, but Markson's work most likely deserves to cut into that line fairly close to the head of it. I don't know of anyone else whose work is like his--and it's depressingly few writers these days about whom one can say such things.


      • #4
        If you insist. Things are especially tumultuous right now, I'm trying to cultivate an appreciation for poetry and that means acquiring (don't ask me why) Stephen Mitchell's translations of Rilke in hardcover. It might be because I read Gravity's Rainbow and The Poetics of Space in succession, and I felt like I was being left out of something. Let me amend that. I felt like I was being left out of a great many things, one of them being an understanding of this poet with the most beautiful name to grace any human being, ever.

        Is there a particular book of Markson's you recommend starting with?


        • #5
          Rilke writes gorgeous poetry. I don't think Markson would mind much if you put Rilke ahead of him. Another book to add to your list: ALL aspiring artists of any sort should read Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.
          As for Markson's work, I think Wittgenstein's Mistress is as good a place as any to begin.