Posts Tagged ‘Karl Ove Knausgaard’
November 22, 2013 | by The Paris Review
Where do letters come from? Why do they change? What are they, really? What makes a q a q, and what quiddity does it share with Q? These are questions that most kids outgrow around the time they learn how to read. Ewan Clayton has written a book for the rest of us. In The Golden Thread: The Story of Writing, he leads us through the formation of the Roman alphabet, the development of medieval scripts, the evolution of Renaissance and modern typefaces, the rise of cursive, the twentieth-century invention of “print” handwriting as a progressive educational tool, the unexpected success of e-mail, and into the future of data storage. A calligrapher (and former monk) who helped Apple create its onscreen fonts, Clayton is as interested in a digital Gill sans as he is in uncials written with a quill. Although different readers may warm to different chapters of his book, my galleys are dog-eared throughout. Whether his topic is Roman inscriptions, the bookkeeping traditions of the East India Company, the first admission of handwriting as evidence in a court of law, the pitfalls of the paperless office, or the experience of copying sacred texts, Clayton writes with ingenuous charm and contagious enthusiasm, often illustrating his points with “calligraphic studies” of his own. I only wish there were more of these—more illustrations in general—because he turns a line of type into an object of contemplation and makes it okay to be curious, all over again, about the ancient symbols we all spent so long learning to use, and to ignore. —Lorin Stein
Nell Dunn’s 1963 short story collection Up the Junction ain’t for the faint of heart—think bleak birth and mundane death, impersonal sex, pub patrons whose breasts evoke “two cheeses in a gauze bag.” As a young woman Dunn forsook her posh West End upbringing (she’s the daughter of late businessman Sir Philip Dunn) to move to Battersea, South London, where she found work in a sweets factory. At 127 pages it’s an all-out romp, capturing a particular cultural moment and inspiring several more: eponymous works by Ken Loach (a 1965 BBC Wednesday Play), Peter Collinson (a 1968 feature film) and “Squeeze” (a 1979 #2 UK single) all owe their debt to Dunn. —Abby Gibbon Read More »
August 2, 2013 | by The Paris Review
Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, an anthology of “domestic suspense” fiction written by women between the forties and the seventies, makes for perfect subway reading: not only are the stories magazine-short, but the book’s terrific, pulpy cover is a real conversation starter. In her introduction, editor Sarah Weinman makes a compelling case for the genre’s subversive impact, both on society and the modern psychological thriller. But influence aside, the stories are just plain fun: whether it’s Patricia Highsmith’s highly-strung nanny, Shirley Jackson’s paranoid runaway, or a noirish housewife with a sinister secret, the cast of characters will haunt you long after you’ve reached your stop. —Sadie Stein
My first read through Geoffrey O’Brien’s new collection, People on Sunday, induced a kind of dazzled bafflement. The language is precise but the turns are hard to follow: “It’s the opposite / of dreaming,” he explains in one poem, “except that objects / are alive and episodic, connected / by comforting blurs.” I especially liked a poem set in New Mexico (“This land was always postnuclear, / Out of time while in it”), and another about riding the F train (“it’s embarrassing / still to be riding this system, antiquated / As reading a newspaper or choosing / The semicolon”). After a second and third reading, I find that O’Brien’s most urgent theme is the difficulty of writing public-spirited poetry at a time when “the poem / Is now believed to be the most distant / Object ever seen.” You might think this would make for a poetry of despair or irony, but oftentimes it’s just the opposite: “We decided to rebuild our home again / In the intermittent sun, strangers with arms / Linked to protect the thing behind them.” —Robyn Creswell Read More »
July 3, 2013 | by Jesse Barron
Of the two people who have written books called My Struggle, Karl Ove Knausgaard is the less notorious. In Scandinavia, where the tradition of memoiristic writing is less prevalent and self-exposing than it is in America, he wrote, for three years, twenty pages a day about himself, his friends, his wife, and his kids. When the first of the six books was published, reporters called everyone he’d ever met. It sold half a million copies.
But unlike most literary controversies, this one’s less interesting than the work that provoked it. Knausgaard has written one of those books so aesthetically forceful as to be revolutionary. Before, there was no My Struggle; now there is, and things are different. The digressiveness of Sebald or Proust is transposed into direct, unmetaphorical language, pushing the novel almost to the edge of unreadability, where it turns out to be addictive and hypnotic. A man has written a book in which a man stays at home with his kids, and his home life isn’t trivialized or diminished but studied and appreciated, resisted and embraced. An almost Christian feeling of spiritual urgency makes even the slowest pages about squeezing lemon on a lobster into a hymn about trying to be good.
Book One ends with that impossible thing: an original metaphor for death. The last sentence of this interview may do the same for writing. Read More »
August 31, 2012 | by John Jeremiah Sullivan
This week, our Southern editor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, stepped in to address your queries.
Dear Paris Review,
I live in the deep south and was raised in a religious cult.
Still with me?
Okay. I’m attempting to throw off the shackles of my religious upbringing and become an intelligent well-informed adult. My primary source of rebellion thus far has been movies. I would watch a Fellini movie and then feel suddenly superior to my friends and family because they only watched movies in their native tongue (trust me I know how pathetic this is). My main question involves my reading selections. Obviously, I have stumbled upon your publication and am aware of its status as the primary literary periodical in English. Also, I have a brand-new subscription to the New York Review of Books, since it is apparently the intellectual center of the English-speaking universe. I am not in an M.F.A. program or living in Brooklyn working on the Great American Kindle Single, I’m just a working-class guy trying to take part in the conversation that all the smart people are having. This brings me to my question: What books should I read? There are so many books out there worth reading, that I literally don’t know where to start. To give you some background info: I was not raised as a reader and was not taught any literature in the Christian high school that I attended. What kinds of books do I like? My answer to that would be movies. I’m desperate to start some kind of grand reading plan that will educate me about the world but don’t know where to start. The classics? Which ones? Modern stuff? Should I alternate one classic with one recent book? How much should I read fiction? How much should I read nonfiction? I went to college but it was for nursing, so I have never been taught anything about reading by anybody.
I realize this stuff may be outside of your comfort zone, as most of the advice questions seem to be from aspiring writers or college-educated people. Please believe me when I say that I am out of touch with the modern world because of a very specific religious cult. I want to be an educated, well-read, cultured, critically thinking person but need some stuff to read. Before I end this letter, I’ll provide an example of just how out of touch I am: you know how "Ms." is the non-sexist way to refer to a woman, and that "Mrs." is sexist? Yeah, I just found out about that. I’m twenty-five.
August 31, 2012 | by The Paris Review
Of the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s long, uneventful bildungsroman, My Struggle, James Wood wrote, “Even when I was bored, I was interested.” Wood is a man who knows how to pay attention to long, boring books, even at times enjoys them, so I began My Struggle with trepidation; it was misplaced. The book kept me up till two almost every morning for a week. All the good things Wood says about the novel seem to me true; but I loved it even when the narrator slipped into clichés, because they made him seem that much more real and singleminded in his storytelling. I don’t read Norwegian, but it’s hard to believe that the translator, Don Bartlett, could have made such vital, humane prose—over such a long stretch—unless he was hewing close to a work of genius. —Lorin Stein
“Here’s my brutal / many-minded / poem / to the new city,” are the first words of Manuel Maples Arce’s “City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in 5 Cantos.” The poem was first published in Mexico City in 1924, and the subtitle isn’t entirely ironic. Another stanza begins, “Russia’s lungs / blow the wind / of social revolution / in our direction. / Literary dick gropers / will understand nothing.” I first read about Arce in Savage Detectives, where he is one of the deities in Bolaño’s pantheon of the Latin American avant-garde, identified as “the father of stridentism.” I thought this was a made-up group, but it really existed (that’s them, in the photo). They gathered in a café called Multánime (“many-minded”), where a contemporary reports that “the waiters placed their order via radio and the Pianola played music from intercepted Martian concerts.” —Robyn Creswell