Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories by Robert Walser, afterword by Tom Whalen / ISBN 9781681370163 / 180-page paperback from New York Review of Books Classics
Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories brings together eighty-one brief texts spanning Robert Walser’s career, from pieces conceived amid his early triumphs to later works written at a psychiatric clinic in Bern. Many were published in the feuilleton sections of newspapers during Walser’s life; others were jotted down on slips of paper and all but forgotten. They are strung together like consciousness, idiosyncratic and vulnerable, genuine in their irony, wistful in their humor. Some dwell on childish or transient topics—carousels, the latest hairstyles, an ekphrasis of the illustrations in a picture book—others on the grand themes of nature, art, and love. But they remain conversational, almost lighter than air. Every emotion ventured takes on the weight of a sincerity that is imperiled as soon as it comes into contact with the outside world, which retains all of the novelty it had in childhood—and all of the danger.
"The inimitable output of the belatedly canonized Swiss writer Walser proves to be a gift that keeps on giving…Confirmed Walser fanatics will find countless examples of his reliably strange wit and bracing sincerity...The beauty and melancholy of landscapes such as 'Autumn Afternoon' are accompanied by autobiographical, virtuosic critical pieces such as 'Walser on Walser' and 'Something On Writing' that show that there are still surprises to be had even this far into the writer’s seemingly bottomless catalogue.” —Publishers Weekly