“You’re like an empty can of lucky lager, useless to everyone except the homeless.”
“Clearly you don’t do much bottle recycling.”
That was a line I thought up. However, I stopped writing whatever piece it would have opened because I don’t feel like starting anything new until the end of the year. I talked about the new direction and all that other bullshit in the last blog post I wrote, so if you feel the need for a review on that, scroll on.
So now I’m staring down nights where it seems impossible to sleep, only now without the release of new writing to give me some kind of comfort; hence, the blogging. Editing, and moving forward on the existing projects I have planned for the end of the year, is something that I can’t seem to do nearly as easily late at night as I can just sit and write things out. I need space and time to edit, and sometimes, I’m not even able to work on existing work unless I get out of my apartment and go to a coffee shop down the road. My four walls are apparently not a fan of the red pen; they represent a creative space, and when I’m in the mood for that there is no better locale to hammer the keys in. It’s when I have to sift through all the typed debris that’s washed up on my desk that the tides turn and I need to head out. Which is hard to do at 1:30 in the morning in a city with no 24-hour coffee shops, and all the sidewalks rolled up six hours prior to now.
I finished a book earlier, volume 4 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s series My Struggle. I still can’t seem to come to terms with what it is that makes his prose so captivating. Critics much more accomplished than me have come to the same conclusions about the validity of the work, and have come up against the same obstacles of pinpointing what it is that makes it so good. You would think, after having read some 2000 pages of prose in 20 days, that I would have a concrete example as to why I had read them, especially considering the mundane content of those 2000 pages; dinner parties, childhood memories, cups of tea, family gatherings, writing, cigarette smoking, drinking, and the consumption of various food. If you were to read a two hundred page excerpt of one of the books in the series, you would come to the end of it realizing that all the protagonist Karl Ove accomplished was making a cup of coffee and descending into deep thoughts about said cup of coffee and his life around that cup of coffee. That’s not how every other piece of literature I have read this year works.
While smarter people than myself probably have a whole interesting host of theories as to why this new form of literature works so well, I do have a small idea as to why it is so captivating to myself; it feels like I’m reading the novel as it is being written. There is that drive of a person possessed to hit the keys evident on every page, the drive to put everything down on the page, to keep everything moving and working, and to give everything to the work and have the end result be so massive in scale while so minor in focus, is truly captivating. So many modern novels that I have read are so awash is perfection and detail, that they almost seem to lose the human touch. The writer seems to be drowning me in every single conceivable detail of the characters, the world, the setting. I read those books with the sense that the author was at one point trying to impress me with the amount of research that they did for the novel. While this is not always a bad thing (because most of those novels end up being pretty darn good) I still feel that a chasm of some kind is opened up between the person doing the typing and the editing, and me reading it in a coffee shop.
My Struggle has none of these problems. It is so intimate with the writer at its helm that I can’t help but feel that I am along for the ride of creating the work itself. I seem to be beside him as he cranks out page after page of work about his life. The fact that all of the books in the series are presented without chapter breaks, as a flowing work, like a manuscript, helps this idea gestate as I read through long diatribes on art, love, teenage angst and lust. It feels like Knausgaard has discovered a new form of writing simply by having the endurance to complete a 3,600 page written selfie of his entire life.
Hence the series title, as writing such an immense literary undertaking would be something beyond a struggle. Although there is debate that he is referring to the struggle of his life. However, I prefer to view the title, and the work itself, as a reaction to the creative struggle that exists within writers to write good literature, yet it is only in this series of books that we get such a kick in the teeth of what it that struggle is; being poured out page after page, detail after detail, as if written by someone who will die if they stop typing.
It’s something I wish I could do. However, I don’t think I’m skilled enough to write 3,600 pages about my life. I do write about myself a whole lot, but it’s usually confined to the arena of poetry, not prose. Also, my poems are usually short, so that that particular snippet of my life doesn’t go on so long that you get bored hearing about my problems. You’re not paid enough to deal with that shit.
Still, there is something great about reading an epic and thinking to yourself, “yeah, that’s what I want to do.”
I just can’t start it right now, because it’s 2:20 in the morning, I have therapy tomorrow, I need to finish editing a collection of the last two years of work, and do up a bunch of edits on another chapbook I drafted. Balls.