Walserian Waltzes by Gad Hollander

very cool book i stumbled onto in a bookstore (is that stumbling a fading pastime?)… at a slim but just-right ninety-two pages, it’s got the heft of something three times as big… this sounds like a power tool review all of a sudden…

if the title throws you off with its awkward ballroom alliteration, try to ignore it–an inaccurate indicator of what’s inside… the walserian part refers to robert walser, the swiss novelist whose biography and fiction hollander empties and then refills and then empties again with significance of his own design.

hollander has a great sentence style, both lyrical and pleasingly complex. the book is made up of short sections, and they vary from essayistic meditations on madness to very beautiful borgesian ontological fables to headspinning prose blocks that live on the borderline of comprehensibility a la the fiction of maurice blanchot… in fact the book’s personality disorder at times reminded me of a real favorite– coleman dowell’s ISLAND PEOPLE–another book that deals explicitly with insanity.

for me it required a certain silence to read it in. there’s little action to move things along, and what action there is is figurative, metaphorical. but one hopes it’s wise to be thankful for something that takes and rewards a little concentration. despite it being made up of sections, they do feel ‘sequenced’ so that the whole feels like a complete work rather than a collection, ending also with a bravura flourish.

from early on:
“Robert had a thought and sat down. The thought had recurred throughout his life, assuming an abstract shape, and now, at the moment of his death, was no different. Though it helped to map the limits of his life, it had nothing to do with his death. Aware of its last rite in his brain, Robert sat down in the company of his thought. It happened in the mountains, in winter, when the mountains are are covered with snow. It was a thought he had always known, a shadowy trace moving inside his head like a sandwich-board figure without a message. It clung inside him as he sat down, as if to guide him on his final journey” (page 15).

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