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A Man In Love: My Struggle Volume 2 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Indifference is one of the seven
deadly sins, actually the greatest
of them all, because it is the
only one that sins against life.
First off, Merry Christmas everyone, and also, here's wishing you all a very happy new year. Let's all hope that 2016 is the year that we all learn just what it is we want and how to get it.

To the task and book at hand, and I am trying desperately to space out my intake of Knausgaard, despite my usual trick of buying everything he's written as soon as I've read half of one book. I am an author-glutton, it's undeniable, but defensible in this instance as, after all, Knausgaard's work is compulsive reading, and very much like life itself it has episodes of great intensity dotted with moments of total self-immersion, acute scrutiny of the minutiae of existence, and rambling discourses on the nature of everything from emasculated fathers to whether madness is desirable in the literary arts. But I have one great reservation about this project, to which I'll come shortly. 

Book two follows on from one, picking up on the new, exciting relationship with Linda Borström, poet and dramatist, who fills the Tonje-shaped hole in his life almost as soon as he has left his first wife for life in Stockholm, hence the subtitle. It is almost very satisfyingly bookended by the story of an abortive and stressful-sounding holiday taken with their three kids, but of course, bucking all literary tropes (or perhaps using all that derive naturally from the storytelling arts) it can't possibly end in such a formulaic fashion  As it turns out that he had met Linda before, at a Nordic writer's seminar in Biskops-Arnö, where she spurns his drunken advances so he cuts up his own face. But she returns by dint of coincidence–she lives in the building in which he miraculously finds an apartment (which he refuses because he was ashamed she might consider it more than a coincidence)–and thereafter he discovers she really does hold a candle for him. So they get married and have the aforementioned three children, which changes his life in so many frightening, uncomfortable and instantly recognisable ways that he almost can't cope with it all.

It's does get a little post-modern. Towards the end of this book, Karl Ove is starting to write the first book, for some reason thinking it a solution to the cycle of anger and frustration on which both he and Linda are stuck. I may have missed the bit where he explains how that works. This book also seems to end with a tacked-on segment, after the spurned opening for the nicely circular ending, which rushes through his best friend mother's funeral to an ending in an unusually forthright manner, with little discussion or digression considering it takes in a revelation from his mother about his father (nothing earth-rending, but it does appear to have come out of the blue for Knausgaard). But honestly, it has me champing at the bit to read book three, so who's laughing now, eh?

Anyway, to the reservation at which I baulked earlier. I fear this cycle is going to end no-where. That there will be no satisfaction for the reader. That Knausgaard is going to go on living, angry, ashamed, indignant, perfidious, and we don't have a climax, or a dénouement, or a cliff hanger, or anything of the sort. It may be some sort of confessional series, something Knausgaard had to write for one of the many reasons has thus far touched upon in the first two books, and serves a purpose in that respect, but as a reader expecting some sort of narrative arc, some hook other than the writing is outstanding and complex and shockingly honest and "intense and vital, ceaselessly compelling" yaddah yaddah, I fear I'll come to the end and like watching a serial that is inexplicably cancelled mid-storyline, howl frustratedly into the sky in impotent rage. Of course, as drawbacks go, it's the least worst one imaginable, but that I'm worried about it already wears a little at my generosity of spirit. 

I've committed to reading two other novels before book three, but I confidently predict I'll race through them en route to Boyhood Island. I honestly can't wait.

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How's about that then?

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…

A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson

Ah, what would be a review penned by yours truly without some sort of grovelling apology at the outset? A better review no doubt, but that aside I can't help but continue the tiresome tradition with an apology. Sorry to my regular robotic readers (hi bots!) but I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, having been tied up with my pursuit of a broader spectrum of dilettantism; I've been taking part in a number of MOOCs offered by various HEIs on the FutureLearn platform. Worth checking out if you ask me.

(Subtle enough plug, you think?)
Anyway, the break afforded by a foray into further education has proved something of a test for Jasper Gibson and his fiction. In truth, it took me a little while to remember what exactly the novel was about, who was in it, and how I felt about the whole thing. Instant alarm bells. Of course, having had a break, I'd had a good crack at filling my head with a whole bunch of other things worth remembering, so maybe it all just got squeeze…

Open Door by Iosi Havilio

*Shame Klaxon*
I am ashamed to admit it but I know next to nothing about Borges. I know the names of his books. I know he crops up almost without fail when conversations include literature from South America. I know his words book-end so many novels that I have that habitual proving-my-bold-assertion-mind-blankness which means my brain knows it to be true and won't humour your scepticism with an example*. And I know it's likely the biggest single lacuna in my entire reading history**.
So you may imagine my lack of surprise, on finishing this novel and reading the afterword by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, and author of works on the history and politics of Latin America, that Borges pops up, within three lines of text. Three lines! He wastes no time does Oscar. Of course, my shame bristled and I was ready to adopt the usual casual hostility to something of which I was ignorant. But straight away, I understood what he was saying. I have often consid…

UnAmerican Activities by James Miller

I don't think I was asked to honour the old convention that a freebie necessitates an honest if gently favourable review (at least I can find no written proof). I will however, name-check the generous (and possibly over-optimistic) @TheWorkshyFop, editorial director of the independent British publisher, Dodo Ink, from whose proof boxes of new November lead titles this one arrived. Thank you, sir!
I recall James Miller, specifically Lost Boys, from the dim and distant past. It may have been a commission for Waterstones Books Quarterly, or perhaps I was doing a solid for the Little, Brown sales rep. Regardless, I remember nothing about the book except being underwhelmed. From reading old reviews, it seems it had the coat-tails of the contemporaneous zeitgeist in its teeth, but one slightly savage Guardian review* points out it was pretty badly done. This might explain why I remember very little, perhaps proving Auden's assertion that, "some books are undeservedly forgotten; …