Books on GIF #21 — 'Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories,' by Robert Walser


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories,' by Robert Walser.


Let me not waste your time this week, dear friends. You can go ahead and skip this book.

There were hardly any girlfriends and even fewer ghosts in this collection of short stories. Well, short stories isn't really the correct description. Walser's 'stories,' written between 1907 and 1933, are mostly brief sketches.

Some are little scenes with characters, some describe walks in the forest, some are commentaries about the issues of a day gone by, and some are just a paragraph long. One of the more interesting stories was about the bob. Yes, this bob.*

The sketches reminded me of this drill we used to give our journalism students, when we would send them to a neighborhood where they'd never been to write a short scene based on what they saw there. The goal was to teach them to notice telling details that would help them bring their fully reported pieces to life. This book read like that drill: occasional gems of description and prose, but no real narrative to hold your interest. I was often bored, and my mind wandered quite a bit. Here's that experience in Japanese:

Still, there were beautiful passages here. I even underlined some of them, which I hardly ever do. Even so, I read this book so you don't have to.

'Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories,' by Robert Walser was collected from stories in Switzerland's Robert Walser Center and published by the New York Review of Books in 2016. The stories were translated from German by Tom Whalen, Nicole Kongeter and Annette Wiesner. 181 pages. 

My rating:

What's next? In the coming weeks I'll review 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers,' by Katherine Boo, 'The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe,' by D.G. Compton and 'The Sympathizer,' by Viet Thanh Nguyen, among others.

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Thanks for reading!**


* I've already forgotten what the point of the bob story was (it was some sort of commentary on 1920s feminism, I think), I only remember that I found it interesting.
** Thanks especially to Donna, who copy edits these reviews!