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

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Knausgaard's shame and cruelty

Karl Ove Knausgaard boldly looks deeper into his teenage sexual anxieties and shame, in volume 4 of My Struggle, as he looks at his inability to have sexual intercourse - though he's able to attract many women and he engages in lots of sex he never seems to be able to consummate, to his deepening shame and fear; main problem seems to be premature ejaculation, pretty common with teenage boys fro my memory anyway, and the overall awkwardness and ignorance or maybe innocence about sexuality - he seems to have no idea about how the women are feeling as he comes on to them, or no desire to think about his partner's pleasure, in any case - again, probably pretty typical of teenage boys - but not something he can talk about with anyone, so his anxiety builds - and of course his "treatment" for his anxiety and shame is excessive drinking, which obviously only makes matters worse. What we don't know, what he may never know in fact, is what's driving him - what he really seems to want is a healthy, passionate relationship with a girl his age - but he can't seem to do this - in fact, he gets very intimate w/ the younger sister of his brother's fiancee, but just as they're relationship is about to get more serious he cruelly pushes her aside, says it's all over, he wants nothing more to do with her. In some ways, that's the most surprising and puzzling scene in the book. Why would he do that? Is he fearful about his inability so far to have sex? Or is his inability to have sex - as well as his excessive drinking - all about his fear of a close relationship? He wants closeness, but there's a part of his individuality that he can't give up, that he fears closeness to another may smother. Perhaps this is something he saw in his father - the frustrated intellectual, feeling trapped in a tepid marriage and in a career that he believes is beneath his talents - and, like his father, he drinks himself to oblivion. Sadly, as a teenager, he also is beginning to show tendencies toward cruelty and bullying - again, much like his father - the cruel rejection of a lovely young woman noted above, teasing and even kicking a small man that he and his gang encounter in a snack bar (he's made to pay for this - but does not feel any remorse) - in other words, he's headed down a very dark pathway - and we think back to where KOK was at the outset of this volume - 18 years old, beginning what could be a respectable teaching career, but still drinking himself blind - and we wonder how he could grow and mature into the author of these novels. Again, KOK's decision to tell his story in assembled narrative segments rather than in straight sequence proves to be a wise authorial decision.

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