Karl Ove Knausgaard is a divisive figure. Either you have no idea why anyone would waste their time reading seemingly endless accounts of a man’s daily activities and anxieties or you are a convert who finds the immersion in his uncanny ability to capture consciousness a step closer to enlightenment. Count me in the latter group. The first book in his My Struggle series included the greatest meditation on death and loss of a parent that I’ve ever read. The second book was better preparation for fatherhood than any baby class, article or bullshit book I encountered leading up to the birth of my son. I found his attitude towards the whole thing, that loving and caring for your kids is easy but learning to sacrifice your personal time to navigate the never ending demands they bring with them is extremely difficult, to be the perfect bottom line on becoming a parent. What was once someone else’s problem has become my daily reality and there are moments of absurdity within this new life I lead where it helps to imagine what Karl Ove would think of the situation. His unfiltered honesty is one of his trademarks and his caustic reaction at being forced to deal with the other parent’s during a birthday party for one of his daughter’s classmates had me literally laughing out loud.
When I saw the New York Times Magazine relaunch included a two-part feature where Karl Ove travels through North America recording his thoughts, I couldn’t wait to dive in. It had been too long since I’d checked in with my old friend, which because of the intimacy of his writing is how closely you begin to feel towards him. I’m sure these pieces will seem long and excessively rambling to the uninitiated but for those of us that have navigated the 500+ pages of his books it feels like a quick dip in the ocean. True to form, there are all the hallmarks of what makes his writing so uniquely his – the complete lack of artifice, the Norwegian point of view that informs the way he experiences everything, his inability to stomach the commercially driven and mindless nature of the modern world, the social phobias that threaten to derail him and the fearless spirit that allows him to include all of this in his work to create the impression that you’re reading his innermost thoughts and not a commissioned feature for the New York Times. Personally, I think he’s a genius and one of the truly important writers to emerge in recent times. This is a perfect opportunity to find out if you feel the same without the daunting commitment of taking on one of his books, though if you do it can be an extremely rewarding experience.