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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

First Love and other sorrows in Karl Ove Knausgaard's Boyhood

Nearing the end of volume 3 of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle, and one of the episodes in the final pages is the piece that the New Yorker ran, in edited version, as a story several months ago, KOK's brief first taste of pre-teen love: he meets a pretty girl from another town at a holiday parade - he teasingly tries to lift the hem of her skirt with a flagpole he's carrying, and she smiles at him; she later shows up at his soccer practice and eventually has a friend make contact and tell KOK she'd like to go out with him. He's really pleased and flattered and smitten - and like almost any 6th-grade boy has no idea what to do w/ his feelings, much less with her (Kajsa, I think). They go for a bike ride; have no idea what to say to each other. She is, as girls always are, far more mature and advanced; she invites him over to her house on a day when her parents won't be there - and he's a bit overwhelmed at this opportunity. Before that, they go on another bike ride, and he has an elaborate plan to kiss her: he wants to break a friend's local record for the longest kiss. Disaster. It's clear after that this she's just not into him; she breaks off the Saturday date and ends the brief relationship. His lesson #1 should to be just be himself, smart and observant. In fact, though, when he goes home and confesses all to his older brother, the brother gives him the line about many fish in the sea, etc. - not much solace there. Then brother puts on a Norwegian-punk record about a guy who's just broken off a relationship - and this give KOK solace - yes, music has does that from the beginning of human time no doubt. What we see over the course of this volume, and could not see in the New Yorker story alone, is the gradual maturation and independence of KOK, contrasting this w/ his very playful and innocent first-grade crush, and seeing how he is finally emerging as a personality in his own right and not as a trampled, humiliated son of a tyrannical father. The father's spirit dominates this volume, but the story is about the emerging of KOK from boyhood (the volume title) into early manhood. We think back to volume 1 and the spirit KOK shows as a teenager and we understand the strength and resiliency of his personality and the honesty of his writing.

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