I just finished Volume 1 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series of books. This one is called A Death in the Family. My take: it was okay. I know that in today’s culture, to deem something just okay isn’t the done thing. Everything has to be either monumentally great or incomprehensibly horrible, as if there is no more room in modern culture for works that are adequate and nothing more. Here are some snippets of reviews for the book:
“Ceaselessly compelling. Superb, lingering, celestial passages…” – James Wood, The New Yorker
“The slow pace of disclosure makes this account of a Norwegian adolescence pulse with intensity” – Selina Guinness, Irish Independent
“Rare and ruthless…perhaps the most significant literary enterprise of our times.” – The Guardian
I’m sorry, but really? The most significant literary enterprise of our times? Is this why the world is in the state its in? I’ve heard people describe his literary output at “brave” and “unflinchingly honest”, but nothing in this book struck me as overly courageous or raw, certainly not to the extent that the hype had me believe.
Nothing is too mundane, too inconsequential for Knausgaard to explore. Something as fundamental as cleaning a house can take fifty pages, for example. Perhaps the true genius, if you choose to frame his work that way, is the fact that no detail is worth omitting when you want to tell the whole story. Clearly, Knausgaard did not prescribe to the well-worn writer’s cliche of “show, don’t tell”. Knausgaard thumbs his nose at such notions, and does so in painstaking detail. Admittedly though, there is something compelling about simply putting life on the page in an unfiltered way. Perhaps it is this stripped back style that is garnering so much praise for Knasgaard.
As a writer, I must admit that his output is very inspirational. I looked into it, and apparently he wrote twenty pages a day and ended up with six volumes of work. Very impressive.
I’m into Volume 2 now, called A Man in Love. So far he and his family have gone to a fairground and a children’s party, with a flashback to a boxer busting open a door for his partner, who is heavily pregnant and stuck in the bathroom.
When something becomes as popular as Knaussgard’s My Struggle series so quickly, you wonder if, when all the smoke clears he and his work are forgotten about almost as fast as they rose to prominence. I supposed time will tell.
So I caught the Kobe Bryant documentary, Muse. It was fantastic. Being a Spurs fan, I am a natural Kobe hater. I found him to be nothing more than a Jordan clone, and while I still feel that way to an extent, I cannot deny that he is one of the all-time greats. Of course, I knew this before the documentary came along, but seeing how he approaches not only the game, but his own life definitely changed my outlook on him as a player and a man. Good documentaries are designed to make you think a certain way about the subject, and they show what they want, and more importantly, omit what they want to ensure the subject is portrayed in a particular light. Whatever the case, Kobe came off as more human than ever before. He came into the league as a kid, and I think a lot of people forget that. He played on the biggest stage in the world. Basketball in Los Angeles with Shaq as a teammate, and later on, Phil Jackson as coach. The whole world was following his every move, his every word. Everything was dissected and discussed and criticized. Do I feel sorry for him? No, not really. He gets paid millions to play a game. But I do have a better sense of who Kobe Bryant is as a man with a family and a burning desire to play basketball at the highest level. He plays to win and he’ll tear your heart out in order to do so. You can’t fault that fire. The game will be poorer when he finally hangs ’em up.
Steve Nash retired. It was more a formality than anything else. His body broke down years ago. As a Spurs fan I saw plenty of Nash in the playoffs. We massacred the Phoenix Suns every time we saw them. They got us in 2010, but that was an anomaly. I always admired Nash’s toughness. If I were a Suns fan, I only wished he’d of shot it more. He’s one of the best shooters to ever play the game, but he was wired as a pass-first point guard. You really can’t fault that approach to the game, but he was such a deadeye shooter. I think if he were in his prime today his style might be a bit different. Look at Steph Curry with the Warriors. Nash was every bit as good as he is from deep.
Thanks for the memories, Nash. I only wish you could’ve got the ring you so greatly deserved (though not at the expense of my Spurs).
I watched the Jimi Hendrix biopic the other day. Not quite sure what to make of it. It ended up not getting a theatrical release in the country that I live in, which is rarely a good sign. The film was by no means great, but I thought it was okay. Not having the rights to play any of Hendrix’s actual songs was quite distracting. How can you make a film about such an iconic musician and not play any of his original music! They got around it by playing covers. Andre 3000 was pretty good as Jimi. They portrayed him as a green-eyed woman beater, which kind of annoyed me. But to be fair, I’m not too clued up on what he was like to his ladies. I haven’t read up on the man too much. Maybe I’ll do that this year.