A Life Worthy Of An Adult

Knausgaard_ADeathintheFamily

As a whole these volumes work not by synecdoche or metaphor, beauty or drama, or even storytelling. What’s notable is Karl Ove’s ability, rare these days, to be fully present in and mindful of his own existence. Every detail is put down without apparent vanity or decoration, as if the writing and the living are happening simultaneously. There shouldn’t be anything remarkable about any of it except for the fact that it immerses you totally. You live his life with him.

…a life filled with practically nothing, if you are fully present in and mindful of it, can be a beautiful struggle. In America we are perhaps more accustomed to art that enacts the boredom of life with a side order of that (by now) overfamiliar Warholian nihilism.

My “struggle”! The overweening absurdity of Karl Ove’s title is a bad joke that keeps coming back to you as you try to construct a life worthy of an adult. How to be more present, more mindful? Of ourselves, of others? For others?

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there…. That’s being a person…. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty.

That’s the comedian Louis C.K., practicing his comedy-cum-art-cum-philosophy, reminding us that we’ll all one day become corpses. His aim, in that skit, was to rid us of our smart phones, or at least get us to use the damn things a little less (“You never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your products, and then you die”), and it went viral, and many people smiled sadly at it and thought how correct it was and how everybody (except them) should really maybe switch off their smart phones, and spend more time with live people offline because everybody (except them) was really going to die one day, and be dead forever, and shouldn’t a person live—truly live, a real life—while they’re alive?

–Zadie Smith on Karl Ove Knausgaard in The New York Review of Books

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