Thursday, November 19, 2015


I had, in all honestly, never heard of Karl-Ove Knausgaard until a couple of months back, or whenever it was the Times magazine published a piece by him about coming to America, getting stuck somewhere in the maritime provinces waiting on some bureaucratic nonsense, and then somehow making his way to Cleveland or wherever. I read some of it and thought, "who is this guy and what's it all about?"

Then, little by little, I became aware that Knausgaard was a literary sensation, writer of an acclaimed series of autobiographical works in which a first-person protagonist writes in considerable detail about the course of his life, including raising children, etc. It sounded, in short, like a much more serious and fictionalized version of a certain blog. Which made me even more resentful of him.

And so, when I saw that he had published a review of Houllebecq's Submission in the Times Book Review, I thought I would give him a chance. I read it. The guy is serious, thoughful. Unlike me, he has managed to attend to the craft of writing, which only makes sense, given that he writes for a living and has done quite well by it, or so it would seem. It would appear that I am going to need to read it.

I was impressed by his diligence, I must confess. He starts reading Houllebecq and discovers that the book revolves around Huysmans, so he goes back and reads Huysmans.

For some reason, it makes me want to read Chekhov stories, in Russian, but I can't find what I believe to be the one volume I have. Oddly, after selling most of my Russian library in Princeton back in 2003 I seem to have retained only things that were core to my major research projects: Mayakovsky, from my senior essay, and Turgenev, Goncharov, Belinskii, Dobroliubov, Pisarev, and Annenkov, from my dissertation. Plus Pushkin. Curious, how I pick things.

No comments: