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April…and Knausgaard

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

(Said T.S. Eliot)

It’s a literary day. Last night Karl Ove Knausgaard in Santa Fe, today working on “100” (travel stories) for my class and even, maybe, reactivating the blogging life.

Before a word or more about the humdrum activities of April like moving; learning to sleep without fear of footprints on my head…or was that footfalls overhead; battling with smart phones from hell, losing one old friend, renewing contact with another…I must say something about Knausgaard. Karl Ove Knausgaard.

One of my top five favorite writers of a lifetime. Why Knausgaard? Why was the Lensic full last night? Why are the critics glowing, baffled, praiseful, annoyed with what a mesmerizing voice this guy is with a story and language so apparently ordinary.

Karl Ove does go on…and on. Six hefty volumes about what is in many ways an uneventful life, at least as measured on a grand scale of adventure and achievement (well, other than changing the whole realm of fiction/non-fiction/biographical writing, which might be called quite an achievement!). The critic James Wood said of Knausgaard’s writing, “Even when I was bored, I was interested.” It’s true, it’s like that with these books.

Even if I can’t emulate him, I desperately want to understand why he is this damn internationally-renowned amazingly inspiringly good. He doesn’t really play with language, as in googling every thesaurus available for just the right and oh-so clever word. His language is not fancy nor fanciful. His use of metaphors is more profound than clever. I think I have that right. For example (from An Open Mind: The terrible beauty of brain surgery, NYT Magazine, January 3, 2016)

As he views the open brain just before surgery.

A landscape opened up before me. I felt as if I were standing on the top of a mountain, gazing out over a plain, covered by long, meandering rivers. On the horizon, more mountains rose up, between them there were valleys and one of the valleys was covered by an enormous white glacier. Everything gleamed and glittered. It was as if I had been transported to another world, another part of the universe. One river was purple, the others were dark red, and the landscape they coursed through was full of strange, unfamiliar colors. But it was the glacier that held my gaze the longest. It lay like a plateau above the valley, sharply white, like mountain snow on a sunny day. Suddenly a wave of red rose up and washed across the white surface.

I think this was said last night in a much better way than I’m remembering. But something about how he, Knausgaard, gets the person on the page. It’s not the writer writing about something, he’s what’s written. Well, I have said that badly but this guy is a very hard writer to define.

I won’t even try to say more; there are at least a thousand reviews of his six-volume, My Struggle. Almost all admiring I believe. If occasionally exasperatedly so. I’m halfway through Volume 4. And sometimes feel I want to start over again from the beginning. But I won’t. There are many good books in the world and life is short. Most of them aren’t as good as Karl Ove Knausgaard’s though.

More about moving and ordinary shit (that the aforementioned writer could turn into multiple pages of compelling literature no doubt) later.

April’s my birth month and a good month it is if it ends with being just a few feet away from the dapper literary presence of Mr. Knausgaard. Beautiful skinny Viking, beautiful searching mind.

Karl Ove Knausgaard: Photo from The Guardian

Karl Ove Knausgaard: Photo from The Guardian

Day Four/Photo101: Bliss

My definition of Bliss: The moments, hours, occasionally more than a day, when I have this sense that there’s plenty in my life; that I’m doing exactly what I want to do for this time in time, and that I have the means to make it last a little longer. Sensations of sufficiency elation harmony anticipation; separately good—all at once…blissful.

Easiest path to bliss in my life. Books. Always. Here, to tell you that story is a picture ‘book.’

The First Book I Remember.

The First Book I Remember.

When I was four, I had a Geography Book. Couldn’t really read much of it but I dreamed through those pictures of the world outside.

As soon as I could read there was a wall of books at school to which I had unlimited access and a library in town. I dreamed books. Literally. In my dreams the books I wanted would be lying next to me on my pillow and I would, literally, reach for them when I awoke, only sad to find they were’t there until the next trip to library.

There's a tiny part of me that is always blissful as long as I have books.

There’s a tiny part of me that is always blissful as long as I have books.

Through my life as a perpetual student I’ve studied history and literature and writing (even when I was supposed to be focusing on education and social work). It seems I immerse in a genre and then move on, but only sort of, because I never leave my previous literary infatuations—I just make them share with the next love.

History, literary fiction, travel adventure, travel literature, political and social commentary are always just a shelf away but the competition for my attention is pretty intense. First, because there are always newbies, virginal in their Barnes and Noble bags— without dog ears or creased covers—stirring stories to be lived vicariously.

Then there’s the main competition, the kind of book that never leaves my bedside table or bed. Crime Fiction, generally of the international kind. More specifically of the Nordic Noir branch of the big bad crime family. It’s my go-to remedy for melancholy and tedium; it is both escape and companion for wanna-be outsiders like me.

My favorite Swede and my favorite Norwegian and my Whole Foods Christmas Tree to remind us of northern forests.

My favorite Swede and my favorite Norwegian and my Whole Foods Christmas Tree to remind us of northern forests.

My obsession with Nordic Noir and present desire for semi-immersion in Norwegian literary fiction come together right here. It is indeed blissful to contemplate the past, present and future in this photo. My somber Scandinavian soul has had many chilly adventures with that dour Swede, Kurt Wallander, and Kurt’s entire life is always only an arm’s length away for me to revisit at will. Past and future bliss assured.

Present. This weekend. Late winter/early spring 2015. I am experiencing many hours of bliss with Karl Ove Knausgaard, Norwegian writer of recent fame. To admit that moments of annoyance interrupt this bliss is okay isn’t it? After all bliss would not be a special state if we weren’t constantly reminded that most of life is otherwise.

 Come to think of it. Knausgaard can account for the past present future components of bliss all by himself. The books are ever so appealing; it took a long time to read the first; now a long time to read the second; and there are three more to go. The pleasure of now coupled with eagerness to finish one day. Bliss and anticipation. All rolled into one. Wow.

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