…”Some Rain Must Fall,” volume five of Karl-Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle.” It picks up shortly after volume four ended, with Karl-Ove entering a writers’ program, and concludes several years later when, not without much intervening drunkenness, despair, and shattered relationships, he has one book out and, after a period of blockage, a second on the way.
The conception — and execution — of this work continues to be compelling. There are passages of stunning power. Unlike earlier volumes, there are no disconcerting time shifts but there continue to be the annoyances of frequent references to Norwegian writers unknown except to other Norwegians and the reappearance without identification to characters who have been encountered before but forgotten. I found it cool to have events that had been explored earlier, like the death of his father and its immediate aftermath to be re-explored from a different point in Karl-Ove’s life, and I liked encountering characters whom, in a traditional novel, you expect a lot more of than what happens here (or in life); but some might find this annoying.
If you’re looking for a 5-600 page novel to read, this would not be a good choice. But if you wanted to read five or six of them by the same guy, start with volume one and keep going.
…”Dancing in the Dark,” Karl Ove Knausgaard’s fourth volume in his “My Struggle,” an autobiographical saga. “Dancing” is mostly an account of Kausgaard, at 18, teaching school in northern Norway while, more importantly, taking his first steps of entry into Norway’s literary world and, more importantly still, attempting to have sex. [Author’s Aside: When I was at SF State, around 1970, the professor of my novel-writing class remarked one day that, whereas, a few years before the staple of his students’ work was their first sexual experience, now it was their first acid trip. Have we regressed?] There is only one lengthy portion where Knausgaard scrambles his time frame, as he was wont to do in his earlier books, and one shorter one where he, very nicely, steps into the present and examines himself then. The rest progresses in strict chronological fashion with Knausgaard depicts himself with the consciousness he (supposedly) had then. The prose is direct and clean. It reads quickly. The characters and places are well defined. But I think that, unless you’ve read the earlier volumes, there’s no reason to read this one.
…volume 3 of Knausgaard’s “My Struggle.” This was the most accessible and delightful so far. It is almost entirely his observations of himself as child and early adolescent, written only with the knowledge and understanding of this child/adolescent. Only occasionally does his adult consciousness break through. You gain crucial insights into relationships discussed in his earlier books. You often smile — and wince — if, like me, you had similar experiences.
And the final page is a whopper!
…Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” (vol. 2). (Am I the only one who didn’t know “Mein Kampf” means “My Struggle? Am I the only one who, knowing this, has whiffed on the connection?)
Anyway, it took a while. In fact, about two-thirds through, I considered quitting reading books altogether. I’ve been at this a long time, I thought, and enough’s enough. Part of it was, like vol.1, I didn’t see the point of sitting thru a 40-year-old instructing me about life. Plus, I kept forgetting who his friends and relatives were, or even if I’d med them before, and, except for Ibsen and Hamsun, I’d never heard of the famous Norwegians he kept posting as directional markers.
But after a week, I resumed. (Old habits are hard to break.) Toward the end, he started writing vol. 1, and that was cool. We have two more in the house, and I’ll get there; but not for a while. I picked the new Jonathan Franzen out of the free box at Café Bongo, and it’s a treat to find myself smiling for 15 consecutive pages.
…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.