I just returned from Japan where I attended a friend's wedding. The requisite lengthy plane ride allows me to present this review:
Book 3 of Karl Ove Knausgaard's MY STRUGGLE may have been his struggle but it was my torture. That's why I can only read his books during long plane rides when I'm literally a captive audience. If I were to read it, say, at home, it'd be too expensive as I'd undoubtedly fling the book at the walls too often, miss too often, and smash a window too often. Too often because after each flinging, I'd nevertheless be compelled to go outside and pick up the book, return into the house, and continue reading it until I flung it again to smash yet more glass.
I don't fling himself's STRUGGLE at the airplane windows as I want to live and, living, don't want to be arrested when the plane lands. Anyway, two take-aways from this Book 3:
1) First, thanks to Knausgaard for explaining why the area around a toilet is usually damp after male usage. See, I'd always assumed it was because men miss as they aim their telescopes at the urinals. But no, Eileen. As Knausgaard reveals, it doesn't happen during the actual pissing. It's when men shake their telescopes afterwards that the pee goes spraying outside the urinal boundaries. I never thought about that before. Why would I think about that? Why would Knausgaard write about that? Because that is his strength, isn't it? The guy's vision doesn't miss anything. Such lucidity must be often painful--I hope it occasions him as much pain as it does the reader who must experience every teeeeeeny-tiiiiiny detail or banality that his sight uncovers.
2) The fact that each volume is so long -- Book 3 goes for 427 pages -- highlights the brilliance of his endings. I'm debating with myself as to whether Book 3 is his weakest or strongest ending among the first 3 volumes. It's probably equal to (though different from) the strong endings of the first two volumes. It's just that the strength of Book 3's endings lies in its last six words and so one can relish it only for as long as six words ... whereas, if memory serves me correctly, the radiant endings of the first two volumes were longer and thus could be relished for a longer time.
427 pages and I don't get even the t-shirt, just the above 2 take-aways. Seems paltry when I talk about it. But what's so brilliant about his STRUGGLE is not what others say -- you need to read every word to get the paradoxically intense yet light balance he achieves between. every. single. word. AND MAINTAINS over a lengthy span of pages.
Actually, there is a third take-away: I'd be remiss if I didn't note this third facet that stuck: the abusiveness of his Dad and how Knausgaard takes it as among if not his greatest achievements that his children will never live in fear of him. Yes, that's notable ...]
Okay, off to Book 4. It surely can't be as odious as Book 3's narrative that I find quite painful for being of so little interest to me. Jeffrey Eugenides' review also makes me look forward to Book 4 (UPDATE: I’ve since ordered it).
Ultimately, I adore how I both loathe and admire Knausgaard--the only contemporary writer for me that elicits, nay, wrings out this pleasurable dysfunction. So, with both a long-suffering sigh and yet no small amount of anticipation: Onward...