My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgård

You don't remember people's faces or what they say, but you remember all the inconsequential details of that one time you were embarrassed by work 20 years ago?

You don't have the courage to do something about your grandmother sitting in her own piss for several days, as you clean the house you let her fester in for years?

Your brother hasn't introduced all his children to their own blood?

Your father is a worthless alcoholic, he dies, and you dedicate a whole book to describing your reaction to the death, but the actual description and characterization of that father isn't worth more than the 10 pages that's dedicated to it? He looked at you funny once running into the garden? He was crying on the couch that one time? He spent his time in the barn? He got a divorce and a too-cool new girlfriend? What about alcoholism itself, any thoughts on that? "I liked getting drunk in high school, and we'd hide our beers in the woods."


Perhaps I wouldn't be any better, but I didn't need a whole book of ad-hoc, thin descriptions to remind me. We all live the observations. Where's the depth behind them? Or is your point that there isn't any depth. Well then I disagree.

I don't blame Karl Ove Knausgard for my not liking the book. It feels like a polished journal entry he wrote for his own catharsis, and that's fine for him; I hope it helped him. But it's a repulsive and overall uninteresting account. He describes the simple set of selfish, numb, disinterested emotions peppered with observations of the banal background, all the while dismissing the base, irresponsible behavior all around him. The implication: that there's either something profound about remembering counts of cigarettes smoked while cutting the lawn, as you grieve your dying father (there's not); or that grieving your father is on the same level of profundity as feeding seagulls (it's not.)

Or maybe it's just less obvious to some, the fans of this book and the author, that profundity has to struggle to emerge from these trivialities, and so relieving the trivialities against the obvious seriousness of death provides some insight for them. Perhaps, but not for me.

In general, Karl describes the foundational, egotistical, disconnected human state from which redemption can happen, and in Book 1 of My Struggle, that redemption doesn't happen. He doesn't bother to speculate on why, which is the interesting question to explore. Instead, he enumerates. He describes the setting without bothering with the plot, and then he peppers in hipster koans and brief references to high art for spice.

"For humans are merely one form among many, which the world produces over and over again, not only in everything that lives but also in everything that does not live, drawn in sand, stone, and water. And death, which I have always regarded as the greatest dimension of life, dark, compelling, was no more than a pipe that springs a leak, a branch that cracks in the wind, a jacket that slips off the clothes hanger and falls to floor."

Wrong. Monkey's don't make music. Mountains don't create governments. Sand castles don't write books about grieving their fathers. Humans do. We're different. The description of how we're different is all of literature. So you've turned art on its head and people clap for it? I thought you only get credit for building beauty, not for tearing it back down to atoms.

Also, what's with all the high contrast low saturation photos with him peering through his bangs smoking cigarettes? Put your copy of Nevermind back in the closet, and grow up.

Maybe I'm missing something...