I just finished…

…Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle,” vol. 1.
Triggered by an article by him in the NYTimes Sunday mag and cashed in a credit we had at Amazon for the first three. But after 20 pp., she placed in on a stack of to-be-returned-to’s of hers, which stands several years deep.
I retrieved it from there. Adhering to my policy of not reading reviews of contemporary novels in order to avoid unwarranted hype, I knew little about it. But I had gleaned it was considered a major work; plus I had nothing else going; plus, like those mountains, it was there.
It is deceptively simple. Lableled a novel, it presents as autobiography. The suggestion is so powerful that it overrides the impossibility he could recall with such exactitude all that he has set down. The conversations; the details of rooms; the lighting. (There is a lot of recalled lighting. I can’t recall last week’s.) And aside from the subject matter resonating as autobiographical, there is a shaping that runs counter to a novel’s. The author if a novel, it seemed to me, wouldn’t have included much of what Knausgaard did. But it all worked, puzzlement included. Only five more volumes to go.
One other thing, there is a lot in the book about death. It begins with passages on death. It ends with them. Idea-wise, death seems the major thing. Knausgaard was 40 when he wrote this book, and if you are 40 or 50 or 20-something reading it, you might think, Oh, wow, heavy. But if you are 73 and have been coded twice yourself, you may find yourself thinking that his thoughts are not as interesting as all that. They carry about the same (or less) weight than the lighting. That is no reason not to read it though. The stuff on relationships, friends, girls, brothers, fathers, is high quality.