Edgar Allan Poe/Harry Clarke/Ludwig Wittgenstein (Books acquired, 10.26.2015)


I’ve long admired Harry Clarke’s illustrations to Edgar Allan Poe (widely available for years now thanks to 50 Watts), and after posting Poe’s story “Berenice” with its Clarke illustration yesterday, I decided to see if my favorite local used book shop had a copy. Which they did. My kids had fun looking at the creepy pictures.IMG_0275 Continue reading “Edgar Allan Poe/Harry Clarke/Ludwig Wittgenstein (Books acquired, 10.26.2015)”

Child’s crying (Wittgenstein)


From Culture and Value.

Thoughts which bustle (Wittgenstein)

Screenshot 2015-09-08 at 3.38.33 PM

From Culture and Value.

Issue 1.1 of The Scofield catches up to David Markson

If someone is merely ahead of his time, it will catch up to him one day.

From Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Translation by Peter Winch.

David Markson was ahead of his time.

I don’t know if David Markson read Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Culture and Value but it seems unlikely incredible improbable impossible unreasonable that he didn’t.

I don’t know what the “merely” means in that quote above—it seems pejorative, perhaps, no?

Wittgenstein’s original German being Wer seiner Zeit voraus ist, den holt sie einmal ein. 

Was David Markson “merely” ahead of his time?

And what would that mean?

Issue 1.1 of a new literary magazine, The Scofield, is available as a free pdf.

For our inaugural issue, we have chosen David Markson and Solitude. We chose David Markson, I must confess, because I have long been obsessed with his work, especially the late novels. Five years ago, just after his death, when his personal library was sold off at the Strand Bookstore, I collected hundreds of his books, posting scans of the pages with marginalia on my tumblr blog Reading Markson Reading.

From editor Tyler Malone’s introduction to the volume.

There are poems and essays and riffs and stories and art and comics and marginalia and older public domainish things in The Scofield 1.1.

And a cocktail recipe.

There are interviews: With Markson, with Ann Beattie, with Steven Moore, with others.

There are bits and pieces you might’ve read before,

There are tendencies towards imitating Markson’s style too, which I’ve lapsed into here my own goddamn self.

Evan Lavender-Smith doesn’t imitate Markson in the quartet of stories he contributes, including this one:

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 1.36.56 PM

But still: Was David Markson “merely” ahead of his time?

By which ahead I mean the last four (anti-)novels, the so-called Notecard Quartet.

I’m reminded of some lines from Evan Lavender-Smith’s Marksonesque novel From Old Notebooks.

I count David Markson’s literary-anecdote books among the few things I want to read over and over again, yet I have no idea whether they are actually any good. They’re like porn for English majors.

No idea whether they are actually any good.

In his essay contribution to The Scofield, Matt Bucher writes:

I think this is partly what makes the Quartet novels so easily digestible: the names change in every paragraph, but the context stays the same.

So easily digestible. There’s a sustenance there, yes. But also a kind of rhetorical infection.

I think they, the quartet, The Notecard Quartet, those (anti-)novels, are actually very very good.

You can read the beginning of the last one, The Last Novel in The Scofield.

You can also read the opening of Wittgenstein’s Mistress in The Scofield.


Wittgenstein’s Markson.

Merely ahead of his time, as in, like, not transcendent of his time?

I have not read all of The Scofield 1.1 yet (it is very long, as these things go, despite an easy digestibility), but it makes a very nice catching up to David Markson, a recognition/performance of his impact and influence on writers and readers of this time, which was his to be caught up into.

I squander untold effort making an arrangement of my thoughts that may have no value whatever.

From Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Translation by Peter Winch.


W o r t e   s i n d   T a t e n.

Problem (Wittgenstein)

Screenshot 2015-08-17 at 4.53.48 PM

From Culture and Value.

Delightful way/empty tube (Wittgenstein)

Screenshot 2015-08-14 at 5.28.11 PMFrom Culture and Value.

Surprise (Wittgenstein)

Screenshot 2015-08-11 at 9

From Culture and Value.

Struggle (Wittgenstein)

Screenshot 2015-08-07 at 4.26.38 PM

From Culture and Value.

Ugly/beautiful (Wittgenstein)

Screenshot 2015-08-05 at 12.05.32 PM

From Culture and Value.

“A Country On The Far Side of Fiction” — Riffing Over Gerald Murnane’s Barley Patch

Claude Lorrain’s "Landscape with Samuel Anointing David."
Claude Lorrain’s “Landscape with Samuel Anointing David.”


In my last riff on Gerald Murnane, I wrote about his book Inland, and that he wanted to “craft a universally mutable and relational ‘I.'” And I started off with a quote. I’m going to do that now. This is a short passage from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s The Blue and Brown Notebooks.

The word “I” does not mean the same as “L.W.” even if I am L.W., nor does it mean the same as the expression “the person who is now speaking”. But that doesn’t mean: that “L.W.” and “I” mean different things. All it means is that these words are different instruments in our language.

Think of words as instruments characterized by their use, and then think of the use of a hammer, the use of a chisel, the use of a square, of a glue pot, and of the glue. (Also, all that we say here can be understood only if one understands that a great variety of games is played with the sentences of our language: Giving and obeying orders; asking questions and answering them; describing an event; telling a fictitious story; telling a joke; describing an immediate experience; making conjectures about events in the physical world; making scientific hypotheses and theories; greeting someone, etc., etc.) The mouth which says “I” or the hand which is raised to indicate that it is I who wish to speak, or I who have toothache, does not thereby point to anything. If, on the other hand, I wish to indicate the place of my pain, I point. And here again remember the difference between pointing to the painful spot without being led by the eye and on the other hand pointing to a sac on my body after looking for it. (“That’s where I was vaccinated”.)—The man who cries out with pain, or says that he has pain, doesn’t choose the mouth which says it (67-8).


The “I” in Barley Patch, as it is ostensibly used in the literary sense, merely implies the presence of the author. The “I” is as much of a fiction as the collection of words around it. Barley Patch is a strange, strange fiction. I’m honoring the narrator’s/implied author’s/personage’s/ghostly presence’s/reader’s/image-person’s wishes by not calling it a novel, an essay, a memoir, an autobiography. And though Barley Patch is all of these forms, often simultaneously, ultimately it is a “report,” to use the narrator’s term, of how a story becomes removed from itself. Some questions BP asks: How do I know that am I me? Am I the imagined personage of a writer in a “country on the far side of fiction?” How do I know where I am is really where I am?


Continue reading ““A Country On The Far Side of Fiction” — Riffing Over Gerald Murnane’s Barley Patch”

Another paradox (David Foster Wallace)

This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person’s life are ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn’t even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so little relation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another-word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second’s flash of thoughts and connections, etc. — and yet we all seem to go around trying to use English (or whatever language our native country happens to use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people what we’re thinking and to find out what they’re thinking, when in fact deep down everybody knows it’s a charade and they’re just going through the motions. What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant. The internal head-speed or whatever of these ideas, memories, realizations, emotions and so on is even faster, by the way — exponentially faster, unimaginably faster — when you’re dying, meaning during that vanishingly tiny nanosecond between when you technically die and when the next thing happens, so that in reality the cliché about people’s whole life flashing before their eyes as they’re dying isn’t all that far off — although the whole life here isn’t really a sequential thing where first you’re born and then you’re in the crib and then you’re up at the plate in Legion ball, etc., which it turns out that that’s what people usually mean when they say ‘my whole life,’ meaning a discrete, chronological series of moments that they add up and call their lifetime. It’s not really like that. The best way I can think of to try to say it is that it all happens at once, but that at once doesn’t really mean a finite moment of sequential time the way we think of time while we’re alive, plus that what turns out to be the meaning of the term my life isn’t even close to what we think we’re talking about when we say ‘my life.’ Words and chronological time create all these total misunderstandings of what’s really going on at the most basic level. And yet at the same time English is all we have to try to understand it and try to form anything larger or more meaningful and true with anybody else, which is yet another paradox.

From David Foster Wallace’s short story “Good Old Neon,” collected in Oblivion.

I read “Good Old Neon” first back when Oblivion came out in hardback. It was good then, but it seemed more poignant and deeper after Wallace’s suicide. I reread it again last night, and I’m convinced it’s his finest discrete piece, and rivals some of the strongest sections of Infinite Jest and The Pale King. Anyway, I encourage doubters to check it out if they haven’t read it.

I’ll close by suggesting that in some way I think the story works through an idea from Ludwig Wittgenstein:

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits. (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.4311).