Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Hamilton Leithauser

By posted at 11:00 am on December 17, 2015 0

covercovercoverMy Struggle, Books 1-4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard: Having two kids has really chopped my reading time up into odd sessions at odd hours — always interrupted. I think that might be why My Struggle worked so well for me. You can pick this book up and read 10, 15, or 50 pages, put it down for an hour or a week, and when you pick it up again, you’ll come right into the same calm, funny, detail-driven narrative you remember…it sort of doesn’t matter whether or not you even remember what’s going on at that moment. Maybe a few lines in, you’ll see a name or place or something, and think “oh, right…teenage years, a band, a girlfriend…” and then you’ll just roll into some winding story. It’s amazing that something this self-analytical doesn’t ever strike me as narcissistic or unduly self-centered. I think that’s because it’s funny, and it strikes me as uncannily honest. Either he is remembering all of these details, and recounting some pretty embarrassing stuff, or he’s really good at faking it. A lot of the praise I’ve read for this talks about its grandiosity and ambition in terms of length and scope (rightfully so…it’s six books long and so far it’s all pretty fantastic) but what I like most about it is his willingness to be small…to focus and obsess on small details of events, or analyze his impulses and desires…not always painting the most likable picture of himself — whether it’s his sex-crazed teenage/early adult years or his current obsessive and difficult self — and somehow keeping it fun and, most impressively, interesting. He’s never been a saint, but he’s always charming in some way. For a 3,600-page Norwegian autobiography titled after Adolf Hitler’s own, it’s surprisingly light and fast-paced. I recommend it.

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