Customer Review

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An existential vacuum - and a poor substitute for the work of Samuel Beckett, 18 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Wittgenstein's Mistress (Paperback)
This is a novel about `somebody who woke up one Wednesday or Thursday to discover that there was apparently not one other person left in the world'. This is a novel of `inconsequential perplexities' and has the Laingian ethos that `there is no better way of being sane and free from anxiety than by being mad'.

This is a novel whose style appears (poorly) influenced by the work of Gordon Lish and, if not, then certainly - via existentialism - Samuel Beckett. Markson tries to evoke the absurdity of everyday life by relating the essentials of any one moment through a mass of intellectual trivia.

As examples, and in attempting to reflect the troubled nature of the central female character's mind, he will tell you what Spinoza did to spiders; the birth date of Picasso; how Anna Karenina's cat died; and the classical film roles of Katherine Hepburn. Bizarre events and the behaviour of an eclectic mix of artists can be found here. If you are looking for some sort of plot and want a `story', it's also here, but no more than four or so pages in length and scattered finely like so much powder, over the novel's 240 pages.

The main character is a woman, once a painter and married, who leaves her husband before everybody else, it seems, just disappears. For more than a decade she journeys, looking for other people.

The tale is spun in the form of a monologue, sometimes resembling those of the characters in Beckett's plays (most notably Winnie's in `Happy Days'). Yet the brilliance of Beckett - through his ability to capture the aching tedium and relentless repetitions of daily life - in an exact, sad, darkly humorous way - does not rub off on Markson: instead, he is encyclopaedic; a trivia quiz; an existential void - and here is proof, in the form of his fourth novel: nothingness.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jun 2012 15:38:32 BDT
Nicole says:
Couldn't of put it better myself. I'd also like to add it got 54 rejections before finally being published; speaks volumes.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Aug 2012 15:58:39 BDT
But why did you read it. Were you forced to by gunpoint?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2012 14:28:49 BDT
J says:
Don't you mean "at"?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2012 15:45:28 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Aug 2012 15:56:22 BDT
bobbygw says:
Hi Dr Large!

I read it because I read widely and one of my passions is modern literary fiction and Markson has been highly regarded by many literary critics. So I read one that was, I think, the first or one of the first to be published in the late 80s in the UK.

But in a way you're right: I would certainly have to be forced (gunpoint would be just about right, yes or flogging equipment) to read another novel of his after the headache of this reading experience...

Have you fared better with his work?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2012 15:50:53 BDT
bobbygw says:
Wow. I hadn't realised. Thanks, Nicole, for advising. I think it does speak volumes.

We know there are now-famous (but they are still rare) novels published that have gone on to sell millions and/or garner rave reviews, etc., that were first rejected by the bucket load (Stephen King's Carrie, J K Rowling's Harry Potters, etc), but this for me could and should have stayed on the reject pile!
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