Just how many NYRBs can one reader have in progress at once? Three, apparently, if my own night stand is anything to go by. A further two more are waiting patiently for me to get to them (well, subscription books, not counting the pile that graces a bedroom shelf . . .). I am determined to finish this year's subscription books. It's not even officially fall yet, so there is plenty of time still (she said optimistically). Yesterday's mail happily contained a slender parcel with its always modestly printed NYRB label. Do I rip it open the minute I arrive home, not even waiting until I unload my bookbag and all the other daily accoutrements that get lugged to and from work? Or do I have a little delicious expectation of something good to look forward to at the end of the night when I can give it my undivided attention. I'm always impatient for books, but when I know it is there safely on my desk, I almost always open 'wanted' mail at a time when I can do so leisurely.
So, September's subscription book is Robert Walser's Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories. I have for some time now eyed his work. My library has a copy of his Berlin Stories (also reissued in a NYRB Classics edition), which I have often fingered and thought about reading. Now there is no excuse at all and I have already started reading. This is the perfect 'dippable' book as it is a collection of eighty-one (yes, a decadent 81!) brief texts. Easily I can read one or two on break or before bed. For September the plan is to finish Teffi and work my way through this slender volume of Walser's writing. Doesn't this sound good:
"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."
My friend Cath mentioned how pleased she was to see mention of some poetry here, so here is a very short piece about poetry written by Walser. I am a 'want to love poetry" sort of person, but I never seem to get around to/make time for poetry reading. My intentions are good, but you know how it goes . . . So, here is a little reading I did today about poetry. I thought this quite nice indeed and think I might make a copy of it and post it to my bulletin board. It is from Girlfriends, Ghosts . . . and is titled simply "Poetry (I)" (so there will be more later I hope).
"I never wrote poems in summer. The blossoming and resplendence were too sensuous for me. In summer I was melancholy. In autumn a melody came over the world. I was in love with the fog, with the beginnings of darkness, with the cold. I found the snow divine, but perhaps even more beautiful, more divine, seemed the dark wild storms of early spring. In the winter cold, the evenings glistened and shimmered enchantingly. Sounds bedazzled me, colors spoke. It goes without saying I lived eternally alone. Loneliness was the bridge I indulged, the friend I preferred, the conversation I adored, the beauty I enjoyed, the society in which I lived. Nothing was more natural and nothing friendlier to me. I was a clerk and often without a suitable position, which was fine with me. O the delightful dreamy melancholia, the enchanting hopelessness, the heavenly beautiful dejection, genial sorrow, sweet cruelty. I adored the outskirts with its figure of the solitary laborer. The snow-covered fields spoke intimately to me, the moon seemed to be weeping low onto the ghostly white snow. The stars! It was glorious. I was so princely poor and so regally free. In the wintry night, towards morning, I stood at the open window in only my nightshirt, the icy air blowing on my face and chest. And at the same time I had the strange illusion that the air was glowing all around me. Often in the remote room that I inhabited, I threw myself on my knees and begged god to give me a pretty line of verse. Then I walked out the door and lost myself in nature."
I can't tell you in how many ways I love this piece of writing. How did he get into my head and my heart and write these things I feel, too? Maybe this is my 'way into poetry reading'? Like reading about reading or thinking about reading, which is part of the pleasure. Maybe I need to think about and read about poetry this way for a while. Maybe I'll try and do this more often. Anyway, what a perfect little piece to read and share on this Indian Summer September afternoon!