I’ve always been curious about this book, My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgård.
I was working in bookstores when the first book of this 2,700 page memoir of someone I never heard of came out, and a mix of all different sorts of readers bought it: Moms, academics, cools and nerds. I was tempted to read it, but also, it’s quite a commitment. I can’t even start a mini-series if I know it’s more than three seasons. So I left it to be read by the moms, academics, cools and nerds.
Then I came across it in a free book pile a few weeks ago, and still curious, I read the first couple pages. Really good stuff: dark, detailed, and aware of mystery. So I took it.
I immediately understood why the book is generally considered captivating, hypnotizing even. I was drawn in by the complete disclosure of every moment, made so realistic, and hovering above some broader philosophy. Then there was one moment when he references his face, he writes of it in terms of shadows, furrows, darkness, “…it is impossible not to consider this face gloomy.” I flipped back to the cover and took a look at that face, then I was struck by something else in the picture: barely visible underneath this face performing gloomy, accentuating its furrows and surrounding itself with darkness, was a little brass zipper, zipped up right under the chin. It was just Karl, the void, and the zipper.
I couldn’t read more than two pages without closing the book to look at the cover again. The zipper. It haunted from the darkness, beckoned from the depths. This Norwegian was aiming for deep, serious and forceful, but I just kept thinking about Nordstrom.
I eventually had to stop reading about 40 pages in, couldn’t handle his zipper, too many questions. Why is it zipped so high up? It looks like the photo was taken in a studio, was it cold in there? Did he purposely zip it up so it made it into the frame? I mean, did he want that zipper there? What does the zipper mean?? Whatever the zipper is doing, it completely breaks the trust that this guy has access to the arcane and the tools of a genius, he just seemed like a guy in one of those hoodie-type things without hoods, something a guy who likes to ski would wear.
Maybe the book is fine, but I couldn’t get beyond my own struggle: that damn zipper.