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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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