Tag Archives: Kelsey Osgood

The Best Books to Distract You From the Dumpster Fire That Was 2016

Should 2016 be forgot and never brought to mind…

There are, no doubt, a few people who love Donald Trump, hate music, don’t like zoo animals and despise beloved actors and actresses. For the rest of us, 2016 was terrible.

This calls for distractions. We asked Fiction Advocate contributors to tell us which books they read this year that helped them forget, even for fleeting moments, that David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gwen Ifill, Prince, and America — UPDATE: and George Michael and Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds — died over the last 12 months.

In what may be the only happy coincidence of the year, the vast majority of the recommendations below come from a few people who have some of the most important things to say about 2016: Continue reading

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Wittgenstein’s Mistress

Wittgenstein's Mistress

It’s frustrating! Rewarding! Brilliant! Difficult!

If you’re intimidated by the prospect of reading David Markson’s famous novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress, maybe you should bring a friend along.

That’s what Kelsey Osgood did.

Kelsey is a contributor to The New Yorker, The New Republic, Salon, and Vice, but even she didn’t feel up to the task of reading Wittgenstein’s Mistress alone. So she read it with Nemira Gasiunas, a Philosophy PhD candidate at Columbia University, whose qualifications for understanding a novel based on the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein include “a very sage-sounding British accent.”

Osgood / Gasiunas

Osgood / Gasiunas

Now you can bring Kelsey and Nemira along as you read Wittgenstein’s Mistress. Divided into five parts, their smart, funny, occasionally exasperated commentary will help you tackle one of the most enduring novels of our time.

Just grab the book and read along.

Eighty Dollars and No Sense (Pages 1-50)

Alone Again, Naturally (Pages 50-100)

Maybe He’s Just Fucking With Us (Pages 100-150)

The End is Nigh (Pages 150-200)

The Ends (Pages 200-240)

Good luck!

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The Ends


Wittgenstein's Mistress

Part 5 of 5

Pages read: 200-240, so many times I lost track

At the end of the last column, I suggested that my appetite for knowledge of Kate’s past has not been satisfied. Well, in these, our last forty pages, it was, along with, as DFW promised it, attendant tears.

Kate doesn’t jump immediately into confessional mode; she slides into it unwillingly over the course of twenty-two pages. It begins with a playful reimagining of soap opera plotlines from Ancient Greece (As Troy Turns?) and during that time Kate naturally mentions Helen’s cat. Helen’s cat leads her to write about an episode that took place in her loft before the Fall, during which a number of friends may or may not have helped her write to famous people to enlist their help in naming her new cat. (In this section, facts slip through her fingers in more noticeable ways, perhaps because we’re more familiar now with the information she’s working with.) And that cat leads to the cat of many years ago, the one named Cat or Gato (recall our conversation about naming things) who belonged to her son, here called Lucien almost uniformly. And then the remembrance of the unutterable of Long Ago: Lucien’s premature death from meningitis, Kate’s infidelities (“one sometimes merely fucked, too,” she says, and that profane word seems to burst like a bullet out of the dispassionate, academic prose), Adam’s drunkenness, and the murky questions of cause-and-effect surrounding all these tragedies.

The whole book, in some sense, was a means by which to distract herself from this trauma, and yet all the book was naturally leading directly to it. In fact, after she talks about Lucien’s death, and sputters a bit, trying to regain her footing, she wonders if perhaps she could have avoided the topic all together.

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