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. Adrian brings lofty ideas — questions of attention and meaning, of the troubling permeability between inside and outside, of reality itself — down to the meat-and-feeling human level. The book ends up being about not just what it means to read Knausgaard’s work, but 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
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June 2, 2019

Dear Knausgaard,

Again, it’s cold! June, and everything still feels brittle. Damp. At least my friend Julie is here. She arrived yesterday, and is working in the bedroom upstairs right now. I can occasionally hear her up there humming little snippets and walking around in her clogs. Maybe she’s pacing as she thinks. She’s a composer. She’s writing the music for an opera for which I’ve written the libretto. My job is to be a kind of sounding board and make any changes to the text she might need as she goes along. But most of the time I don’t have a lot to do.

Of course I brought up a bunch of books to read, but once I got here none of them seemed very appealing, so last night Julie lent me her copy of Christa Wolf’s The Quest for Christa T., which I started before going to bed. There’s an interesting line in the second chapter that made me think of you. Christa T. has recently died and the narrator, her friend, has wound up in possession of her childhood diary. On the cover of this diary, Christa T. wrote a long time ago, “I would like to write poems and I like stories too.” The narrator ponders this phrase:
Write poems, ‘dichten,’ condensare, make dense, tighten; language helps. What did she want to make tight, and against what did it have to be resistant?
I understand this impulse to tighten and make resistant. It’s a common inclination. Writers everywhere seek to do exactly this in order to convey the essence of things, and it’s a much–admired quality when done well. But you seek to do just the opposite. Instead of tightening, you loosen. Instead of reducing, you expand, open things up. “Open,” in fact, is a favorite word of yours—an almost sacred touchstone. But what exactly do you mean by “open,” I’ve often wondered? Something that isn’t closed, I suppose. That’s clear enough. But what does that mean? Something like a mouth, perhaps, or an eye? Or something full of pores, like our skin? In other words, something that lacks a definitive inside and a clear-cut outside, something permeable? Or do you mean something more straightforward, like a door swinging on its hinges?

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