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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

Monday, May 25, 2015

His struggle is ours - Karl Ove Knausgaard

Blackouts - Karl Ove Knauisgaard's youthful behavior in volume 4 of My Struggle, in which we see him, at age 18!, take on his first teaching job - and it's very funny to see him act like a kid, despite these new responsibilities - consigning almost all of his salary toward a new stereo, keeping an eye on the high-school girls (despite obvious complications, he's essentially their age), partying with the guys just like any teenager - though not quite, because it soon becomes obvious that he has a big problem w/ alcohol, as he describes going to a party, there's a high-school girl whom he's interested in, and then - nothing, a blackout, he wakes the next morning, feeling horrible, having no memory of the night before, gets pretty violently ill, begins to recall dancing, kissing, probably acting like an idiot. You have to admire his incredible honesty as a writer - most of us have been there, once anyway, though he doesn't seem to learn from experience, it's a real problem for him and will dog him throughout his life - and we see the influence of alcohol on his family quite starkly in volume 1. KOK uses the blackout for the first break in sequence in this novel, for one of the long side trips his narrative often and artfully embarks upon - as he with extreme candor describes his teenage sexual urges in a way that's funny and painfully recognizable I'm sure to all male readers - the awkwardness of sexual awakening and unwanted arousal, the shame of being, he thinks, the only 18-year-old virgin, the all-consuming desire balanced against angst and shame, what he very aptly describes as the sense that having sex would or could be so simple - in 30 seconds he could have her dress off, he thinks when aroused - and yet, that chasm - sex is so far from his reality, he has no idea how to approach a girl or woman, has no idea about, physically, how to make it work - it's all so complex and fraught and few if any writers have taken on this subject, so universal, so directly. As a writer, he stands now at a great distance from his material, and it's amazing how much he can summon and how or why he's so willing to do so - or perhaps so obsessed w/ doing so, writing for him a kind of compulsion and exorcism, far beyond what most writers experience - but this quality, so rare or at least so rarely linked w/ talent - is what makes his work feel so universal and, to many readers, so personal - his struggle is outs.

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