Books I Love

Dancing in the Dark (My Struggle Book 4) March 22 2016, 0 Comments

"Book 4 is also the airiest book in the ­series. The pages are rarely dense with text. The essayistic passages that elevate the earlier volumes, bold in their old-­fashioned European profundity and full of keen, original, brilliantly associative thinking, are nowhere to be found. Everything here is dramatized, scene after scene, compellingly so but without the gravitas of the earlier books and suggestive of a lighter, more carefree period in Knausgaard’s life.

The reason these books feel so much like life is that there’s only one main character. For all of his gifts, Knausgaard ­never leaves an indelible impression of other people. I have only a limited sense of his ­father and mother despite having read hundreds of pages about them, and the figures Knausgaard meets in Hafjord, his teaching colleagues, the girls he falls for and his students, tend to merge. You never get inside these people. It’s impossible to be inside them without altering the focus of Knausgaard’s solipsism. This wouldn’t work with most writers. They wouldn’t be interesting enough, tormented enough, smart, ­noble, pitiless or self-critical enough. With Knausgaard the trade-off is more than worth it. His is such an interesting brain to inhabit that you never wish to relinquish the perspective any more than, in your own life, you wish to stop being yourself. One of the paradoxes of Knausgaard’s work is that in dwelling so intensely on his own memories he restores — and I would almost say blesses — the reader’s own."
Jeffrey Eugenides, The New York Times

Eugenides hits the nail right on the head here. As much as I will give 10 stars to the entire My Struggle series (and I have yet to read installments 5 and 6), this one felt much, much lighter than the previous three. There were a lot less flights of the mind between the past relived and the present moment of writing the book. There were a lot less of the existential digressions and philosophical asides that I loved so much in the first two books. There was a lot less free play and improvisation in the writing.

There was a lot of sexual yearning. A lot of booze. A lot of (very) young girls with perfect bums and breasts outlined underneath their shirts. A lot of self-awareness. A lot of hunger for life, for transcendence, for excitement, for heat in all its manifestations, for independence. The adolescent male in its primeval glory.

And yet. There is absolutely nothing like living inside Karl Ove Knausgaard's mind. If this volume is more airy than the previous ones, it is precisely because it portrays a shifty, self-conscious, arrogant and confused period of life. There is no room for much complexity here because the entire self is pointed and taut like an arrow, aimed at one thing and one thing only: sex. So it must be.

And this is where Knausgaard's genius lies. If you trust him, if you are willing to tread through the mundane as well as the sublime, you will be rewarded in ways that you will never suspect. You will experience what it's like to be in someone else's head, literally. Lives are messy, boring, mucky and repetitive. Lives are also unique, unpredictable, elegant and heartbreaking. As Oscar Wilde said, we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.