Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Struggle, Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

You know too little and it doesn't exist.  You know too much and it doesn't exist.  Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows.  That is what writing is about.  Not what happens there, not what actions are played out there, but the there itself.  There, that is writing's location and aim.  But how to get there?

We understand everything, and we do so because we have turned everything into ourselves.

What did I like about volume 1 of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the IT book of the year or past year or so?

Well, I can tell you what I didn’t like.  I didn’t like the plot: almost nothing happens.

I didn’t like some of the characters, they were indistinguishable from other characters, and had impenetrable Swedish names.

The setting was hard for me to follow:  in the first half, it seem to rely heavily on the difference between Sweden and Norway, which my naïve American idiocy unconsciously had always assumed were just different names for the same (sort of) country.

So what did I like?

Dunno, but I read the whole damn thing and found it half compelling, half boring.

There is so much almost unmediated physical description: half the time I found it boring, half the time I thought it was overwhelming strong, making things, stuff, landscape and sky, into almost living characters themselves.

It seems to be a coming of age story, then the story of the aftermath of a difficult father’s death.

from James Woods New Yorker profile: "But there is also a simplicity, an openness, and an innocence in his relation to life, and thus in his relation to the reader. Where many contemporary writers would reflexively turn to irony, Knausgaard is intense and utterly honest, unafraid to voice universal anxieties, unafraid to appear naïve or awkward. Although his sentences are long and loose, they are not cutely or aimlessly digressive: truth is repeatedly being struck at, not chatted up."

The Martian by Andy Weir

Great book, listened to it on cd in the car, made 375 miles almost a joy, even brought it inside the house on Thursday to finish it from the office.  Come for plot, suffer through some scientific details, and stay for the great first person narrator's voice.