Finished up rereading Wittgenstein's Mistress last night. I came around a little more to the "the narrator is mad" point of view by the end. That's the view the back of the book takes, that she's mad and that everyone in the world didn't really just disappear suddenly. But I like the idea of her not being mad, or of her being mad but that everyone really did just disappear. That requires a science fictional reading, but one that doesn't provide any of the normal elements you expect from science fiction, like some kind of explanation for the event, or at least a protagonist who seems interesting in the explanation for the event. The narrator of the novel doesn't really address the "everyone disappeared" problem at all. In one of his essays about science fiction and language Samuel Delany writes about the phrase "his world exploded" (I may not have that exactly right) and how in a conventional novel that is a metaphorical statement, but in a science fiction novel that can be a literal statement. Wittgenstein's Mistress straddles that divide, offering both the metaphorical and the literal reading.
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Still reading Wittgenstein's Mistress and picking up bits and pieces that feel like meta-commentary on itself or Markson's later work.
"I see now way of refuting either of those statements." (121)
The narrator was talking about a paintings and the subjects in paintings. Is the sleeping girl in a Vermeer painting asleep in Delft (where Vermeer painted) or asleep in the Met in New York (where the painting hangs)? There's an obvious relation here to language and Wittgenstein (what little I know), but this ambiguity is applicable to the general situation of the novel. Is the narrator really alone in a world where all people and animals have simply disappeared without explanation or is she just mad?
"Certain matters just come up, being connected to the subject at hand." [...] "As a matter of fact even so trivial an item as Guy de Maupassant eating his lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower is very likely connected to something, just as inevitably." (121-2).
The discussion of the interconnectedness of trivial facts seems like a key element in all Markson's later novels. But also, the ambiguity... are these things all connected? Or are they just contingent, adjacent?
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Took a break from A Brief History of Seven Killings (will I return to it, I'm not sure yet) to start rereading Wittgenstein's Mistress for xth time (at least 4 or 5 I would think). There are some authors I seem to always be able to return to, especially Markson and Queneau. Just grab one of their books off the shelf and I know I'll have an enjoyable, interesting read for a little while (neither wrote long works). My Markson books in particular have little underlines and very brief comments in the margins that I put in on previous readings, mostly noting references and connections within and between his books. I never was very comfortable writing in books: it seems like marring them, and also after I've done it, it is often embarrassing and distracting to come back later and see what I chose to annotate. But Markson's books (especially the later ones, starting with this one, have a mysterious element to them, like there is some secret I might reveal if I read them often and close enough. I don't know that I actually believe that, but it's the feeling I get as I read.
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