Dear Knausgaard

Dear Knausgaard
Fiction Advocate, 2020
In a series of warm and often funny letters, Kim Adrian delivers a compelling feminist critique of the 6-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle, by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. The letters begin as a witty and entertaining response to a seminal work and transform over time into a fierce and powerful interrogation of the darker social and cultural forces informing Knausgaard’s project. Through its careful examination of the curious operations of intimacy demanded by all great literature, Dear Knausgaard ultimately provides a heartfelt celebration of the act of reading itself.
An SPD (Small Press Distribution) bestseller. Dear Knausgaard was published by Fiction Advocate in the US in August 2020 and will be released in the UK by Boiler House Press in August 2022.

“On display is a rigorous mind, a fiery intellect, a curious and engaged reader. . . . The book ends up being about . . . what it means to read, to think, to allow oneself to be not just moved by a piece of art, but altered by it in 'the special kind of communion that’s sometimes possible through the medium of text.'” —The Boston Globe

“Intriguing . . . Adrian ruthlessly interrogates the work and the literary world at large, especially the misogyny that she finds in both places. . . . [Her] dynamic work of both literary and self-analysis will appeal to those passionate readers who have vacillated between adoring certain authors and wanting to throw their books across the room.” —Publisher's Weekly

“Adrian [takes] on a daunting task: responding to the entirety of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. If you’re seeking a heady, thoughtful response to a heady, thoughtful multi-volume work — well, we have a recommendation for you.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“If she’s borrowing a form, Adrian returns it, so far as I can tell, utterly unrecognizable, either dissolved or reinvented in that fancy Benjaminian sense . . . I don’t know how she does it.” —Essay Daily

"Kim Adrian's loving struggle with Knausgaard is the kind of criticism I most enjoy — personal, wonderfully engaged, intense but somehow simultaneously light-footed, and extremely intelligent. The brilliance of her feminist critique is that it acutely exposes vulnerabilities in Knausgaard's male universalism while affectionately acknowledging the scope and appeal of his inevitably gendered voice. A delight from start to finish." —James Wood, literary critic for The New Yorker
excerpt ▼
April 29, 2019

Dear Knausgaard,

I just spent the last 30 minutes watching YouTube videos of kids reacting to strange foods (nato, escargot, stargazy pie). There’s a word for that in Sanskrit: prajnaparadha. “Crimes against wisdom.”

It’s Monday. Mondays are often hard for me to focus. I fall off the horse over the weekend and it takes all day for me to climb back on. This past weekend I sat at my desk just once and that was to print out something for my father, who was in town for the day. I made him a special dinner: pasta with shrimp cooked in cream. He kept me company while I was at the stove, offering bits of unsolicited advice (more salt in the water, less cream in the sauce). It made me nervous, and the dish didn’t come out as good as it usually does. On Sunday, Jonah had the flu and needed many little ministrations while Nina, who’s in college, had a minor crisis that had to be dealt with long distance. So I didn’t write all weekend, which is usually the case, but I did manage to read a book. The Fifth Child, by Doris Lessing. It was okay. I didn’t love it.

Have you by any chance read Javier Cercas’s book The Blind Spot: An Essay on the Novel? It came out in English translation last year. I had it on preorder weeks before its release on the basis of the title alone, and devoured it upon its arrival. It is a smart and graceful little book, the thesis of which argues that certain kinds of novels (those belonging to just one of the two strands that constitute, according to Milan Kundera, the bifurcated literary tradition we call “the novel”) can be characterized as having at their center, always, a “blind spot.” That’s to say, a question, something unknown, a kind of void through which the entire novel pours itself, illuminating every aspect of that question, that unknown thing, but without ever answering it. Blind-spot novels, in other words, operate less by way of plot than by paradox: the questions these kinds of novels pose remain unanswered precisely because they are unanswerable. Or, as Cercas puts it, “The answer is the very quest for an answer, the question itself, the book itself. The answer is a blind spot.”

I liked The Blind Spot very much—and yet I also hated it. Why? Because I’m a woman. Why? Because Cercas, although clearly an admirable thinker, is also a bit of a shit. Why? Because of the dozens of novels he investigates to support his elegant thesis, there is not a single novel by a woman. Why?

continue reading online at Public Books 


Published by Boiler House Press (2022)

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