May 21, 2015
This Week in Karl Knausgaard
by Alex Shephard
Kim Kardashian is the American Karl Ove Knausgaard: Whatever you might think of Karl Ove Knausgaard, and whatever you think of Kim Kardashian, and whatever you have ever thought of Hitler’s much maligned magnum opus My Struggle…well, forget them. Because all of these things have been artfully collapsed in to an unintelligible thought-singularity by art critic Jerry Saltz. In a conversation with New York editor David Wallace-Wells, Saltz had this to say:
I won’t buy the book because in a way, the book is within me already, and we all have our own Selfish. Selfish is a kind of American My Struggle — that’s Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic, not Hitler’s. I mean, a chorus of one, written in a personal language of compassion, infinite theater, stage sets, setpieces, ceremony, shallowness, despairs, self-awareness, sexuality, unable to curtail one’s selfishness and obsession with one’s own image. Extras enter and leave the stage, but photography, rather than writing, as homeopathic medicament, remedy, used to relieve andexpress painful malaise. As with Knausgaard, I can imagine Selfish soon being forgotten; another struggle of a young girl inventing herself in and out of the spotlight amidst Southern California insanity, hedonism, and wealth, but at the epicenter of the most highly charged racial trial of an era; where the black man won at the same time as her body became deformed, shaped, changed. All while she does something in public that so many women do it private: look at herself in the mirror and through a camera at the same time. Some kind of love is born and maybe dies in this book, a sort of nervousness, inaccurate explanations, liberation. And I only need to see it once to get all this.
I’ve heard the “My Struggle is the masterpiece of the Selfie Age” argument before and I thought that argument had merit before I cracked open the actual books, but this takes it to another level—in Saltz’s hand its merits and flaws are so knotted together the only way to attack it is to grab a pair of scissors. But I agree that My Struggle may soon be forgotten! It also, uh, might not be—we’ll report back in fifty years.
Karl Knausgaard hates Sweden: As my friend Max Strasser noted on Twitter, Karl Knausgaard has written a takedown of the country of Sweden, birthplace of the third greatest band of all time (ABBA), for a Swedish newspaper. According to The Local the article is a response to a review by “feminist Ebba Witt-Brattström, which described Knausgård’s first novel Out of the World, just now translated into Swedish, as a type of “literary paedophilia.” Here’s more from The Local‘s report:
It… mercilessly tears apart what Knausgård sees as Swedes’ black and white approach to race, immigration, gender, and sex, lampooning the nation’s tendency to repress complex or difficult ideas, and its fear of moral uncertainty.
“The reason there’s so much hate among the Cyclops and so much terror I believe is simple,” he writes. “The Cyclops don’t want to know about that part of reality which isn’t how they think it should be.”
“The Cyclops cannot handle ambiguity, if something’s neither good or evil, they don’t understand and it makes them angry. That’s why they don’t like literature,” he argues.
“They say they like literature, but the literature they like is only a confirmation of their picture of good and evil, and that isn’t literature, but only something that looks like it.”
Karl Knausgaard has lived in Sweden for over a decade.
Karl Knausgaard is a kick ass drummer: Yesterday, Karl Knausgaard’s rock band Lemen reunited in Manhattan; they’ll perform again at Sunny’s, one of the five best bars in Brooklyn, on Friday. As far as the Paris Review‘s Dan Piepenbring knows, this is the band’s U.S. debut. But don’t compare these gigs to The Beatles triumphant American debut. According to Pipenbring, these shows aren’t about taking over the U.S. market:
“I think everyone understands that we are not trying to get into the U.S. market with our music,” Knausgaard told Dagbladet, a Norwegian paper. (Their headline: KNAUSGAARD BELIEVES HE HAS NOTHING IN COMMON WITH RINGO STARR.) He goes on to suggest that he’s not a terribly versatile drummer and that Lemen is an ad hoc project.
Well, Ringo Starr isn’t a particularly versatile drummer and he’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gawker‘s Max Read reports Lemen is not good, which they certainly are not, but expect Lemenania (Lemania?) to takeover America by mid-June.
Karl Knausgaard probably had an awkward lunch with an American author this week: No confirmation on this, but expect a 12,000 word Knausgaard piece in the New York Times Magazine in July, followed by a confirmation piece in the New York Times Book Review in September.
Simon Reichley contributed to this post
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.