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

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Missing his chance: Navigaing the difficult waters of romance in My Struggle Book 5

So let's think for a minute about why Karl Ove Knausgaard, then age 19 and just begin his studies at the Writing Academy in Bergen, a fairly prestigious gig it seems, which KOK recounts in, as all readers of My Struggle know, almost excruciating detail, refuses to get back in touch with the young woman, Ingvile, with whom he's been madly in love from a distance and whom he has affronted or alienated by his boorish, drunken advances when she accompanied him to his brother's party, their first date. He visits her briefly the next day, a penitent, and things seem to be going OK, maybe she will forgive him and maybe he can learn to be more thoughtful and tender toward her, to nourish their relationship rather than leap on her, crowd her, or push things too fast. So he decides to let her make the next move - and he spends it seems well more than two weeks, waiting each night for her to call or stop by. Why would he do this? Strange as it seems it's a behavior that I think echoes with a lot of male readers, as we look back on teenage years and the struggles of early college years. First, there's the sense of wounded pride - let her make the first move, I shouldn't go groveling to her, it's not "manly" - an attitude guys get from much of pop culture (though not from pop or rock music, which is more about the pain of broken romance). But it's also about shame and abasement - he feels so embarrassed about his clumsy approach to her, and about his own sexual inadequacies (he suffers from premature ejaculation, which may be why he fears a long, tender sexual encounter), that he just doesn't want to see her again, on some level. Third, there's a sense that young men sometimes feel of, the hell with it, relationships are just too complex and demanding and troubling that I'd rather just check out and be left alone. He doesn't really feel that, or not for long, but he may feel that he just can't navigate all those difficult waters, making conversation, making arrangement, all the verbal and physical foreplay - guys are just not good at that and maybe not meant to be (there's a reason that girls tend to date guys several years older). Whatever the reason may be, it's a sad moment in Book 5 of this series, as Ingvild seems like a perfectly delightful girl and we can see - as KOK could not, at the time - that she is probably at home, crying wondering what she did to lose him, and it will not take long before she's w/ someone else, someone better, probably older (there's a hint that it may be KOK's older brother, Yngve) and he will have missed his chance, let her get away.

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