Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard appears tonight at City Arts & Lectures, in conversation with Daniel Handler, to discuss his six-part epic
My Struggle. San Francisco author K.M. Soehnlein (
You Can Say You Knew Me When,
Robin and Ruby) offered The Exhibitionist this personal reflection on reading Knausgaard's work.
I’m walking down Folsom Street with a 592-page book in my hand. It’s Book 2 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle
. I’ve been reading it for weeks. I’m going to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee and finish the last section. The sun is bright, but this is San Francisco, so there’s a chill in the air.
Then someone calls out to me, “What’s that you’re reading?” and I stop and turn.
The speaker is a weathered-looking man seated cross-legged on a bench outside the closed doors of a restaurant. His creased face has a golden bronze hue. His eyes are pale, almost colorless, and his hair is a wiry shock of white-gray poking out from under a fisherman’s cap. If I had to guess his race I’d say mixed and if I had to guess his age I’d say mid-60s, but he’s hard to read. He’s wearing a hooded sweatshirt, a vaguely tribal rope of large wooden beads, faded jeans, and sandals, and he’s smoking a skinny cigarillo through a plastic filter. He's more bohemian than homeless — the homeless in my neighborhood tend to be quite obviously down-and-out, and rarely do they have this much of a “look” — but I shift my gaze and sure enough, there’s his overstuffed shopping cart containing, among countless items bulging out from under a red blanket, a full-size door, rising several feet above the cart’s rim.