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

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Another Side - of Karl Ove Knausgaard

This far in of course we know Karl Ove Knausgaard well enough that we know what will have inhis relationship with the woman who seems to be the first real love of his life: Gunvor. She's pretty, small, sweet, seems to care for him deeply, a serious but not too serious student, compassionate, devoted to her family, just the kind of girl any 20-year-old guy would want to meet, to "win" her affections, to introduce her to his family, all of which happens, and yet we know (not only because we've read about his life in later years in previous books in My Struggle, though of course that's a factor) the problem: she's a little too good, too conventional for him. Whether she recognizes this and pulls away from KOK or falls for another guy who's much more her type - a business student or law student, say - or whether he starts to sense that they're a mismatch, or that she's "too good" for him, or, most likely, that she's pulling away from the relationship, she's not all there - and then he goes on one of his morose benders, does something really destructive, ruins it all because he can't manage a mature young-adult relationship - I'm betting on the latter. But this is all so true to life, so typical for so many of that age and stage of life, a time of missed chances, broken connections, embarrassing mis-steops and mistakes, it's a wonder we every get through all those false starts and learn to love someone and to earn and keep someone's love. KOK is not all bad, ever - and we see his sweet and positive side as well in this part of Book 5: spending part of the summer near Gunvor in yuet another remote rural part of Norway, he takes a job as an orderly or aide in a hospital for the severely disabled and the mentally disabled. His account of the hospital is quite harrowing and, like many other readers I imagine, I felt that he has taken on holy work but work I could never do, not for a day - but he, despite his inevitable self-doubts, seems to step right in and care for the patients pretty well, even the neediest and most dangerous of the patients. Perhaps he learns something from this experience (of course he does, actually), and in another way: perhaps he teaches us something as well, something about himself and his generous, humane qualities that we have rarely seen in this long, purgatorial self-examination through art.

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