Tagged: David Shields

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Why Knausgaard?

Why Knausgaard? When I have a dozen other things I should be doing, at least three blogs I have lined up to write? Well, sometimes you just have to sit down and blog it out.

In this instance, the post was brought on last night when @gillybethstern hijacked a Twitter conversation about The National to ask: Any of you read the latest Knausgaard?

My contribution was:

I finished Vol II over w/end. Easy to SAY it’s superb. Harder to say WHY, to which Gillian replied

Agree. But I am enthralled, even when he boils water or fries up his meatballs. Then me:

and unties his shoelaces and takes off his shoes and hangs up his jacket…

She’s right, and those laces and jacket were already underlined in my copy of the book, that I finished in a glorious sunny binge this weekend just gone, during a 24 hour stretch staying in a nice hotel in St Ives on my own – one of those pockets in time that allow you to really immerse yourself in a book, with no distractions.

Nobody wanted me for reviewing duties on this, the second volume of Knausgaard’s epic, six-volume succès de scandale, My Struggle, so this is my opportunity to just sit down and bash out an attempt at that question: Why Knausgaard? What is about his books that fires me up in a way that simply no other books do, at the moment?

@seventydys tried to answer it thusly: The quality of attention. How the facts are held in language. Nope-can’t do it.

This then is nothing so considered as a review – instead, here are a few of the comments I scrawled across the tops of the pages I read, and a few of the lines or passages I underlined, with hopefully brief attempts to explicate them. Continue reading

Fragment / aphorism / tweet

Going out to sit in a doctor’s waiting room I picked up Lars Iyer’s Dogma to keep me company and, in the few minutes the sadly super-efficient NHS kept me waiting, I was reminded quite how enjoyable it is. Just pitched in to the middle and came up with stuff like this:

What is it that keeps him from cutting his own throat?, W. wonders. What is it that keeps me from cutting mine?

We want to see how it all ends, he says. We want to see how it will all turn out. But this is how it ends. This is how it will all turn out.

Wonderful, beautiful stuff, that sticks its neck out, then pans back to see what the rest of the body is doing – it’s twitching convulsively, of course – and to show how much further out the rest of the body is than the poor old neck and head.

When I covered Dogma briefly in my January reading round-up, I said I thought it worked better as tweets or blog posts than a novel. Now I’m not sure. I think it benefits from being on paper – the veneer of respectability it gives – but I still don’t rate it as a novel particularly (though I doubt Iyer is aiming for it to be that kind of novel). It works best as a book picked up and “dipped into” (in that godawful phrase) and put down again. The tantalising thought that all these bits and pieces might coalesce into some kind of fulfilling, developing narrative is present on every page, and is rewarding as such even when you know that no such thing occurs. Continue reading