karl ove knausgaard

Sitting in Starbucks in Providencia talking to my friend R. R is a writer, as in R actually gets paid to write. I’m also a writer, in that I also get paid to write, though it’s not my full time job. Someday it will be my full time job. Of this I’m completely sure. But right now it’s not.

This morning I woke up and prepared mate. First I poured a bit of the leaves into my gourd, and then poured room temperature water over the leaves several times, not drinking it but rather spitting it into the sink to get the powder out.  The powder’s a result of the leaves being in packaging and getting ground into a fine dust; too much powder means an upset stomach. While I was doing this I heated the water, close to a boil but not quite, and then sat in the living room sipping the delicious, barn-flavored tea.

While I was sitting there I began to think about my upcoming trip to Lima. I’m staying in an Airbnb for $10 a night in a neighborhood called Magdalena del Mar, near San Ysidro, near Miraflores. Whenever I’ve gone to Lima I’ve essentially gone to the same places, i.e. Miraflores. This is where almost all tourists go. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, right on the top of the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You feel like you’re in Santa Monica, or Venice, or San Clemente, or Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz, or Pismo, or Marina del Rey, or San Onofre. But you definitely don’t feel like you’re in El Segundo.

But this time I’d like to see more of Lima. Would I like to see more of Lima? Actually, I might be pretty content just staying between Magdalena del Mar and Miraflores. My Airbnb is two blocks from the boardwalk. I envision myself taking walks every morning on the way to a cafe, smelling the Pacific Ocean.

R’s talking about how she’s thinking about buying some KOK, aka Karl Ove Knausgaard, aka the author you should be reading right now, and I said, “Have you ever read him?”

“No,” she said.

“Christ, R,” I said. “Start now.”

“Where should I start?” she said.

“Book 1.”

I think the frappuccino I just drank has started to kick in, because I feel a little jittery and a little excited. In approximately two hours I’ll feel the opposite. Is it worth is? Absolutely. Because when I get home I’ll just have a little more mate.

“I just ordered it on Amazon,” R says.

“Mother of God,” I responded.

I hope R likes his books as much as I do, though that might be impossible. I think the only who likes KOK as much as I do might be Zadie Smith, who once said, “I need his next volume like I need crack.”

Not that Zadie Smith has ever smoked crack. But you get the idea.

Top 5 Norwegian Books Containing the Word “Struggle”


5. My Struggle: Book 3 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

This is the worst book of the My Struggle series, which means it’s still better than 99.4% of all books ever written. It’s the worst because it’s about Karl Ove’s childhood, which essentially means it’s less about girls, one of KOK’s best subjects. Also, since it’s about his youth, it seems more obviously novelized, which might detract from the reading experience. That said, it’s one of the few My Struggle books I’ve only read once, so maybe it’ll be more impactful the second time around.

4. My Struggle: Book 2: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

For awhile this was my favorite KOK book, but as I slip deeper into my love for the My Struggle series, this book has floated to the surface. For its shallowness? No. The thing is, Book 1 remains strong because of Karl Ove’s descriptions of his father. And Book 4 seems great because I just read it. And Book 5 is obviously the best. So that leaves nowhere else for Book 4 but here.

3. My Struggle: Book 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Like I said, I just finished (re) reading Book 4, in which Karl Ove spends a year teaching in northern Norway, just north of the Lofoten Islands (pictured above). In 2012, after finishing a Masters Program at the University of Washington, I went to the Lofoten Islands (and nothern Norway). I spent $1,000 dollars in four days. I ate whale tacos with a girl named Madeleine. And on my last night I had some kind of bizarre fever where I spent the whole night shivering and waiting for the ferry to the mainland.

But Book 4. It’s good.

2. My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I still remember my first brushes with Book 1 and thus my first brushes with Karl Ove Knausgaard. I was in Elliott Bay Books in Seattle and had read about a series by a Norwegian author that was apparently incredible. So I picked it up, started reading, and then after 15 minutes put it down again. I didn’t touch the book for awhile, and forgot about it. Then one day I picked it up again, and this time made it to about page 30. The rest is history.

1. My Struggle: Book 5: Some Rain Must Fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I’ve read this book three times. The reason I’ve read if three times is because it has a beautiful narrative arc and in the end hits you in the sternum like a bag of unmixed cement. Your soul feels like it’s simultaneously crying and on fire. And you think, “My God, give me Book 6, and give it to me now!” But Book 6 doesn’t come out till Fall of 2018. Unless you want to read it in German.