Friday, May 31, 2013

From Wittgenstein’s Mistress

One more passage from David Markson’s 1988 novel, six pages from the end, from a litany of suffering that sounds like something from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy:

Well, and poor all the young men who died in places like the Hellespont, by which I mean the Dardanelles, and then died again three thousand years after that, likewise.

Even if I hardly mean the same young man.

But meaning poor Hector and poor Patroclus, say, and after that poor Rupert Brooke.

Ah, me. If not to add poor Andrea del Santo and poor Cassandra and poor Marina Tsvetayeva and poor Vincent Van Gogh and poor Jeanne Hébuterne and poor Piero di Cosimo and poor Iphigenia and poor Stan Gehrig and poor singing birds sweet and poor Medea’s little boys and poor Spinoza’s spiders and poor Astyanax and poor my aunt Esther as well.

Well, and poor all the youngsters throwing snowballs in Bruegel, who grew up, and did whatever they did, but never threw snowballs again.

So for that matter poor practically the whole world then, more often than not.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress is unlike any other novel I have read. That alone would not be reason to recommend it. The novel’s strange and baffling premise, its comic timing, its pathos: they clinch the deal.

[Mixed-up names from baseball are a minor element in the novel: Stan Gehrig, Campy Stengel, Sam Usual, Stan Usual. Spinoza liked to watch spiders fight. I’ll leave the rest to your curiosity.]

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