Post Road Magazine #26

You Are the Robert Walser!

Mina Pam Dick

Onward, Robert! Weiter, Walser! The book is a city with streets of sentences with words making eyes at you. Playful, rushing, sad or gay. Chinese flower-bloused ladies wheeling carts, shiny fragrant professionals, royal Polish loiterers. A thin guy wears crutches; snorting beasts of trucks idle and hurtle, showing off. The city's a fairy tale, a Wanderjahr, a stirring giantess. Is this kitsch or Herr Kutsch, I mean Herr Robert? It's a school girlboy crush on/of everything. Transience, speed, impressionability, distraction, forgetting. The park a room you're in but no longer of, you expelled single adult. A distant landscape. A laughing girl flanked by two men like Jeanne/Catherine in Jules et Jim or Julie in The Mod Squad. Except that Julie wasn't laughing. It would be indelicate to pry into why. Dreaminess, sweet melancholy, cleverness, passivity—is that Franz K.? Robert will have to set off for an asylum when he quits noticing the moment. Until then, say Ja! to the street, which inhales successes, exhales failures. The lowly, wretched, criminal: approved! Ethics of marginalia, or outsiders let in. Urban monism: Um! In the market, this gleaming sausage of a thought: "What is mobile is always the most just." Beauty: the deli man proudly stacking his tomato edifice. You, I, we: pronouns jostle. Comrade subject! Being nuts for something leads to joy, being nuts simplicitur doesn't always. I, Robert, will one day know this. In the bar or prose scrap where the elegant frau ogles me, I suddenly perform dignity. Although clearly I am a loafer. "[I]t's our duty to esteem others more highly than ourselves no matter what, a worldview splendidly in keeping with the earnestness with which I now contemplate the abrupt demise of my sardine pallet." It's unseemly to be the narrator of that long-ago first story, wanting to see and hear everything. Never mind! Onto the next region— it might be in pencil. Tender catalog of persons. "The lively is, in the end, the most beautiful," life the ultimate value. Why be a seen-it-all? Maybe splendor and squalor are equally dreamy. Are their words dreams? Daydream ontology! Though maybe I am taking too long, swerving means roving, rubbing. Self-conscious writing curls into doubts, confesses them. But in the garden, you could turn into a servant girl, delightful@passive-digressive, listening, looking vs. manly deeds. That was a typo which I shall adore and accept. The intimate address to the second person, who is perhaps you, the first person. Identity paradoxes! Doing something that another is doing is a great intimacy. In the subway it's possible suddenly to become a musical genius like Webern or Satie. Maybe this book should've been structured as variations or impromptus or bagatelles or thirty-eight little pieces or études or jeux, not a symphony, which seems too grand and organized for wandering Robert. Also the clumping of subject matters might weaken some pieces' impact slightly. But there's no time for petty criticism, and the translation is witty and lovely! In the train car most people stare straight ahead, cool as cucumbers. The petite, unwaxed Kirby ones are better. Then maybe suddenly a fleeting transfiguration. The street is, after all, an escape from private woes into comradeship. Stillness and gravity no reason not to jest, play pranks. The theater a dream, irony transposed to sincerity and vice versa. Playbills are lovely yet also at times boring and superfluous, while great actresses ravish you. Writing is acting without an audience. Sentences perform gestures. How come I don't feel curious now? Many adverbs, adjectives and superlatives lead to so-called bad, awkward, amateurish writing. No, they don't! Yes, they do, but great! Robert is a luftmensch, reinflating clichés to blow insanity away from him. The Russian ballerina soars in toe shoes. Stomping boots say Robert once craved to be an actor. Furthermore, idealized falsehoods' fantasies might make life bearably, vividly crude. Dark hints suffuse even the most rapturous or plucky or hilarious performances. Like with Lenz. Or Liza with a z. Walser with an s pronounced z in German, I think he would like her! Vide the poet Seltsam, the actress Eyesore, the dramaturgids and the pure-at-hearts. Drinking from a lady's boot vs. kissing her boot: some girls are treated condescendingly as sexual creatures, most are worshipped as exalted beings. Cf. Franz. Lanky transmen hankering hopelessly for disinterested distant ladies. (O closed-minded ladies!) Or self-conscious impotents who feel like bad male impersonators. Or bedroom Bartlebys. But in their prose pieces they/their protagonists are mostly Lotharios. But their pieces are fairy tales. The lion also something Franz could write about. Every creature performing in its own tragedy, therefore be empathic. Poets' whimpers sound like beautiful music, as cried Kirk Edgar. "The souls of artists must always be woken a little from the magic spell in which they lie fettered," murmurs Walser. Solipsism vs. sensitivity. The princedom of sluggishness broken by the coarse multifarious city. Still there exists loneliness. The artist's mad desire to create the beautiful. Try the fervent narrator. His/her infatuations with, e.g., waxy orange butcher's paper etc. are defenses against madness which themselves might become madness, not symptoms of cures, as wrote (but beautifully) Walter B. One day in a few years Robert will leave Berlin, even though here and now he says he never could. Words like spell or fairy tale. Kutsch as a self-portrait done in the third person, you can stand to the side of yourself. Kutsch has no life! Envy, ego, accusations, vs. being a servant. Ach, kvetching Kutsch! Oh, unfinished works, and thieved ones. Selfmockery of overenthusiasm. Mountain halls incline to dreaminess. I try to live life as a book. "Wherever Nature is, there is meaning," even if it is a female wolfing down a sausage. The little Berliner, however, is a deeply realized girl character like Robert later says he would've liked to be. Na├»ve, self-scrutinizing, complacent, curious. The romantic allure of ruins such as Robert. Flower days suggest my paragraph on being a boy flower! But if your penis is a flower like Robert's was, you might have trouble with some girls. But not all. Although supposedly he died a true innocent. The city as nature, forest or sea, but a fire is the theater or a fairy tale. The railway station's good for nogoodniks. The ne'er-do-well imagines travel, then imagines non-imaginary travel. I think there's something about George B.'s perceived but wannabe-unperceived tree here, but I can't stop to think! Flick of the wrist ends Robert's pieces with irony, doubt, mischief, sudden collapse of the conceit. Waking up. What will become of Walser is sadness. Also microscripts, gardening, stupors, and finally a snow coat. Berlin life is ended with a lament on the negativity, ambition, loss of divinity, vanity of the class of gassers-off. At stake is simply the fate of yourself, the world, the god. Aesthetic distractedness, vagrant enthusiasms, mood swings are a gift, ethical commitment is to choose precisely the life of the transient, religious faith is to steal yourself (a juvenile delinquent!), then toss yourself off like a remark or away like litter, thusly play a servant. But actually, secretly the stages are occupied all at once, in rapid-I movement, just as he said all the pieces are from one enormous, torn-apart book of myself. Wälzer pronounced failed sir means huge tome. Walser the wall sir/wallflower is a mispronounced/unpronounced magnum opus. The epiphany of the tales of Hoffman reveals this spiritual wrestling of the Robert Walser. With the occasional reductio ad absurdum, contradiction. The I need not be said, it is shown, breathes everything into thought and speech balloons. The world is its world. Odd to have all these rare naked-I-pieces together. But let's be grateful for, e.g., his gratitude for inspired writing such as of the Tanners. And the Secretary's self-deprecating humor which also opens out. Your subjectivity shot through with others' subjectivity, the subjects open, vulnerable. Metaphysics of fontanelles! Unprotected ich's. With Frau Bähni the narrating Robert stays an outsider to great admirable love dramas. Of course the narrator/protagonist Roberts are an invention, so is the Robert who wrote them: writing fictionalizes you. Full is my subway with crowd and culprit. Horse and woman make me think of the small old lady, dirtily barefoot and probably delusional, on the subway platform. But she did not ask, and I did not volunteer, and I am unhappy at this small, even puny, experience. The horse is like in that French film by the other Robert, Robert B., who also noticed the humble, the outcast, the overlooked. By Frau Wilke, Robert's in a bad mental way but mostly focuses on the sorrows of his landlady. And all suffering mortals. But then a moment of grace, when "[l]ife took me by the shoulder," and led me out of the room. For the room must always be left. Reverse interpretation of the Fall. To Frau Scheer, Robert is as finely observant and empathic as to Frau Wilke. To love even the unlovable, even if rich, is good. Again interpenetration of sorrows. Nothing is trivial in Robert, although almost everything is small. The second version is Robert feeling cold and distant, how frightening. Sense vs. reference, modes of presentation of the same thing, aspectual being! Ditto for the whole world—of the happy or the unhappy one. Thus for yourself. The homecoming in the snow: supposed joyous equanimity was in Berlin, but that's a fantasy, and anyway turned out to be unsustainable. Dereliction in the humble duty of cheerful contentedness, plus ennervation, impracticality, failure. Ergo run away. (Ignore the supposed interest of a female.) The gray immobile giant negates the waking Berlin giantess. Unknowability of the private demands the god puts on another. You only know your demand now is to leave the city, return home to play the prodigal. (Later it will be to leave the external world, turn away to be the spectral, to live on but not onward, escape time's pointed narrative. Only, sometimes you will still go onward, won't be able to halt yourself.) Thuswise is the youthful self offered for sacrifice, with the absurd faith that you'll get it back: the only useful self is the juvenile. "All former things bloomed fragrantly and youthfully in my direction. . ." End with long quote from the snow story, the childish joy, the Christmas tune, the snow cloak, the conqueror, another Victor, like but not like Eremita! Except I can't, that would be excessively excessive. The return being nonetheless back to language, and to walking through the book, your native land: the snow-white page or re-scribed scrap. Writer, Robert. Hey, Robert.

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