CJ: So what about a book like Wittgenstein’s Mistress? Do you think that approaches reaching too far with a single tool, or do you think that it works for the subject matter?
SP: I found that book to be perfectly realized. The funny part is, the works that followed, they seemed to essentially try to exploit the same tool kit, and I didn’t find them as successful. I think that what makes Markson successful with WM and the others less so, to just me as a reader, not as a critic, is where the mistress departs from allegory. Where you start to feel that this could be true. That what this woman is experiencing could be the truth, in a way that those other novels never gave you. There’s that bizarre blending of, sure, it could be the ravings of a lunatic, but i don’t think the novel cheats in that way, to tell you that they are the ravings of a lunatic. I think you could read that book in a way that you can just accept that what Kate is telling you is an accurate portrait of what has occurred, and because the novel works that way, to me that is what makes it powerful. Whereas with Readers Block and This Is Not a Novel, it never felt that way, I felt an intrusion at the end. To me they just didn’t work. And it may just be, that when I read WM it felt really innovative and new, and it’s hard to capture that when you pick up the next book and sense that, ‘here come these little aphoristic-type declarations about artists’, and you’re already familiar with it in such a way that you can never fire those neurons again.
CJ: Right. So in one part of Personae, you choose the same scene:
SP: Wait a minute. No that’s not it, the octogenarian is the writer. It has italics under the chapter number I think, so I think we are lead to believe that Helen created that title for that particular document, or whoever did. But that is why is it called Personae, each part is not the ocean. The ocean is the actual work. And that moment is just probably a 55-year old professor or something, impulsively deciding to stop at the beach. I’m not sure if the beach stuff was a reference to Markson, I mean a beach and an ocean? I don’t think there’s any way that he could have patented that.