Follow by Email


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

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Karl Ove Knausgaard, and the doo-wop song that captures the essence of a million love stories

Lest anyone get the wrong impression, it's not just the absolute meanness of Karl Ove Knausgaard's father that dominates the story - there are plenty of memoirs out there about kids living in horrible families, e.g Richard Rhodes's painful book and to a degree Geoffrey Wolff's, but what raises KOK's My Struggle to a higher level is the sweetness and good nature of the child and the fearless honesty of the adult KOK as a novelist, who includes every detail of the child's life, including some that must have been painful for him to write (and maybe palliative and necessary, as well), everything from minor gaffes and blunders - mocking a friend young man with obvious learning disabilities, without really appreciating the harm and pain his remarks caused - to throwing a rock at a car on a highway, causing a near collision - even to remarks about his body image and his stuttering (no doubt caused in part by constant fear of mockery from his father). Yes, we know he will grow out of these childhood troubles - to the extent we "grow out" of anything - and that his childhood pain will provide him with rich ore to mine as a writer, but there's something far beyond the ordinary in this series: take for example the exquisite account of his first "love," Anne Lisbet, won and lost, over the course of a school year (they are 7 years old) - who hasn't experienced that sense of exuberance when you first feel or sense that someone you're drawn to seems to like or love you as well (maybe not at 7, but sometime), and the hurt and humiliation when she or he moves on to someone bigger, stronger, faster, better - or when she or he is, seemingly suddenly, just not into you - and who hasn't done the same? Everyone knows the powerful hurt and jealousy Proust captured in his novels, but KOK, modeled in many ways on Proust and inevitably compared with him, presents a much more contemporary, familiar experience, not obsessive bordered on mania but something we all endure in life and learn from - possibly never captured as well and, in a way, as concisely, as in his volume 3, Boyhood. There's a great doo-wop song that contains essentially only these lyrics: Gloria, it's not Marie. Gloria, it's not Cheri. It's Gloria - but she's not in love with me. That is the essence of 10,000 novels and 100 million love stories.

No comments:

Post a Comment