The late David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress, received over fifty publishers’ rejections (in what must set some sort of record) before finally achieving print with the Dalkey Archive Press in 1988. Whereupon it was hailed, for example, by David Foster Wallace as “a work of genius… an erudite, breathtaking cerebral novel whose prose is crystal and whose conclusion defies you not to cry.” Ann Beattie deemed it “as precise and dazzling as Joyce… Original, beautiful, and an absolute masterpiece.” And there are many, especially at the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, which will be convening a memorial evening to celebrate Markson and his lifework on Thursday October 7 in New York City, who consider it among the greatest, most profoundly haunting works of American literature over the past quarter century.
Among those who will be taking part in the event to honor Markson, the Greenwich Village magus (Malcolm Lowry, William Gaddis, and Jack Kerouac were among his cohorts) who died in his sleep, at age 82, this past June 4, will be fellow writers William Kennedy, Pete Hamill, Ann Beattie, Art Spiegelman, Alastair Reid, Chris Sorrentino, Ted Mooney, Lawrence Weschler, Martha Cooley, and several others (along with Markson’s daughter Johanna); they will variously recall his sly and vivid presence and read favorite passages from his writings, which in addition to Wittgenstein’s Mistress included a medley of knowing genre send-ups, such as Epitaph for a Tramp and The Ballad of Dingus McGee, the rollicking erotic pastiche Springer’s Progress and a quartet of dizzyingly erudite and ever more daringly experimental late life metanovels, including Reader’s Block and culminating with 2007’s The Last Novel.
In a particular highlight, Kate Valk of Wooster Group fame, will read from Wittgenstein’s Mistress, the entirety of whose text purports to be the typescript, being tapped out in real time, of a woman who is completely convinced that she’s the last person on earth and may well be (though if she is, then who are we?), or not (perhaps she’s just mad). Completely alone for over ten years, she keeps typing—to keep herself company? to monitor the workings of language and her own mind? to preserve an entire lifeworld of cultural reference and heritage, all of which seem to be decomposting before our and her very eyes.
In the beginning, sometimes he left messages in the street.
A memorial celebration of novelist DAVID MARKSON
With readings, remembrances, and contributions by William Kennedy, Ann Beattie, Art Spiegelman, Kate Valk, Pete Hamill, Chris Sorrentino, Johanna Markson, Alastair Reid, Lawrence Weschler, Ted Mooney, Martha Cooley, and others.
The Tishman Auditorium of Vanderbilt Hall
40 Washington Square South
(between MacDougal and Sullivan Streets)