I really enjoyed seeing Whitehorse live. I would absolutely see them live again. I was delighted then that their album was also fantastic (I didn’t think it could match their live show…and it doesn’t but it is great in a different way). In a very short time I became a big fan of the band.
THey havea new song, “Pins and Needles” and a Kickstarter campaign. The song begins with Melissa McClelland’s voice singing in it beautiful way–there’s guitar in the right ear and bass in the left ear. Then Luke Doucet comes in for verse two. And when their voices fill the bridge it feels so complete. Until they get to the chorus when they push it even further and it sounds amazing.
They sing so well together. Her voice has a slight country twang, and his is a low baritone. Their harmonies are superb as they sing the compelling chorus: “Fake Your Death and I’ll Fake Mine”
Lyrics are certainly interesting for the band. How many times do you hear a woman singing a line like: “I’m the villain in this piece And back when I was a thief, I broke hearts like they were teeth.”
I love this song. And it may or may not end up on the new album for which there is a Kickstarter campaign.
And I’m in. I’m a little unclear about exactly what they aim to do with the money they raise. They say quite plainly that there will be an album regardless of whether they raise the funds. And their label, Six Shooter, is totally behind the band.
Rather seems to be a way to raise some money and some attention for the band. And, apparently it will give fans a glimpse of the album as it is being made–a sort of behind the scenes featurette that comes before the disc itself. The prizes are varied and moderate–from a download, to the CD, to a T shirt, to sheet music (all for reasonable donations), all the way to the grand prize–for $8,000 they will play a private show for you.
I’m in for a CD, and I’m happy to pay regular ticket price when they come around again.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign for more details where you can also hear “Pins and Needles.”
[READ: April 24, 2014] My Struggle Book Two
I read an excerpt of Book Two in Harper’s well over a year ago. So when I got to that section again (it’s the end of the book) I was trying to remember why it sounded so familiar–an accident during a soccer match that leaves Karl Ove with a broken collarbone and an unhappy girlfriend (who will be looking after three kids without him), and then I remembered the excerpt that started it all.
The translation of Book Two by Don Bartlett is fantastic, just as in the first book–I can only assume the original Norwegian is just as compelling. Book one was 430 pages and now book two was 573, so I’m in to Karl Ove’s life for 1003 pages, and there’s four more books due (Book Three comes out next month).
As I mentioned for Book One, this series has caused some controversy because it is given the same title as Hitler’s Mein Kampf (Min Kamp in Norwegian), and also because he says some pretty mean stuff about people who are still alive. Book One was about the death of his father. It was pretty dark. Book Two is about his first daughter and about falling in love with Linda, his children’s mom (although not yet his wife). And it is also pretty dark.
I was trying to figure out why I like this series so much. Not a lot happens, Karl Ove is not a very nice person and he seems to be pissed off most of the time. And I think what I realized is that I share a lot of opinions as him, but he takes everything to the extreme. And he is kind of an asshole. I mean, anyone who writes a six part autobiography called “My Struggle” (okay, really it’s called My Head) is kind of an asshole. But so when I see things that I would only think in my deepest recesses of my mind printed on a page, it’s strangely visceral to me. I realize this means that I’m kind of an asshole too, but the key difference is that I don’t act on the things that I think, nor do I write 4,000 pages about them.
I told Sarah that she might laugh at some of the opinions that he lists but that she would not enjoy reading the books. Indeed, this book, this series, is not for many, I’m sure. But to me there is something strangely engaging about him and his strange life and his writing style. And I really flew through this book, finishing it in about a week.
So this book begins (started in July 2008) with Karl Ove being pissed off. He talks about finishing the first part of the novel (which I have to assume is Book One, given when this was written and how this book ends) just last month (in other words he is really churning this stuff out!). He and Linda have been fighting (as the book opens they have three children, Vanja, Heidi and John–it’s also hard to believe that his children are young enough to not really know much about this series). The tension is high between them–glares, comments, nasty sniping. Karl Ove says that he is afraid to say things around her because he knows how she’ll react. But at the same time, some of things he desires are simply not defensible in a relationship or when you are parent. And the main conflict seems to be that Karl Ove is selfish and Linda is (at least according to him) mildly suicidal and possibly bipolar). And mind you, at the time of his writing this, I think they are still together…. (I could look that up, but it seems kind of fun not exactly knowing).
Whereas the first book was about his father’s death, this book is all about his children. I suspect that if you don’t have children, this book may not fully appeal. Just as if you didn;t have a parent die, the first one may not be that gripping. [Karl Ove and I are almost the same age]. I found that so much of it was strangely familiar–if not in my own life then at least in friend’s lives. Karl Ove and Linda are living in Malmö, Sweden caring for their children and getting on with their careers. The first scene is of them playing with their kids in a park. Karl Ove’s temper is evident when the children misbehave but he doesn’t act on anything (thank goodness). And then he talks about their preschool. It is a collective preschool where parents work a few hours a month. Of course all the parents know all the kids, so they are all invited over and to birthday parties.
So they head to a birthday party. And that, including a flashback to another party when Linda was locked in a bathroom and Karl Ove felt emasculated because he couldn’t help her, takes up the first 60 or so pages.
We really start to see the pent up rage that Karl Ove has–at his wife and, mostly, at Sweden and Swedish culture. He describes how the kids get goodie bags–the kids throw a fishing line over a sheet and an adult attaches the goodie bag to it (fun!). But his comment is that usually it is sweets or a small toy, but “in this family they would probably fill it with peas or artichokes” (58) and then later: “As I thought. Ecological goodies. Must have come from the shop that just opened in the mall opposite our building. A selection of chocolate-covered nuts in various colors. Candied sugar. Some raisin-like sweets” (65). He also comments on the the birthday cake which “was too dry, and there was far too little sugar in the cream, but with a mouthful of coffee it wasn’t too bad” (58). When they get home, the house is a bit of a mess because Heidi, the younger daughter, has a fever. He looks at the piles of dirty dishes on the side and in the sink:
“Looks like a hell of a mess here,” I said.
Then after a brief argument about whether or not the kids should go to sleep, Linda says she will put the kids to bed
“So I’m supposed to do the dishes, right?”
“What are you talking about? Do what you like. I’ve had Heidi here the whole time, if you really want to know. She was ill and grumbly and–”
“I’ll go out for a smoke.”
Not exactly the happiest situation. And you can see he may have a point about the mess but he is totally unfair about what she had to deal with.
Then we flashback to Karl Ove and Linda’ life in Stockholm, when the first had Vanja. We see him taking Vanja to a Rhythm Time class. The description of the class is very funny (and reminded me of music classes we took our kids to), but again, he is an asshole about it–he finds it terribly emasculating to go and to sing songs with his daughter. “I found it hard to take the feminized aspect of [the fathers’] actions” (75). And he says he will never go back.
So what’s up with their childcare situation? Linda watched Vanja for the first few months while Karl Ove wrote hsi book (he had already had success with his first big novel). Then, when he finished, Linda would go back to drama school for a year and Karl Ove would watch Vanja. The difference was that he made the condition that he
would have an hour on my own own in the afternoon, and even though Linda considered it unfair since she’d never had an hour to herself like that, she agreed. The reason she’d never had an hour, I assumed, was that she hadn’t thought if it. And the reason she hadn’t thought of it was, I also assumed, that she would rather be with us than alone. But that wasn’t how I felt. (88)
And there lies the crux of their problem–Karl Ove wants to be alone and Linda wants to be together. Nearly every problem they have arises from this conflict of Karl Ove seeking some alone time.
And yet, Karl Ove is also self aware and wants to do better: “I had to apply myself harder. Forget everything around me and just concentrate on Vanja during the day. Give Linda all she needed. Be a good person. For Christ’s sake, being a good person, was that beyond me?” (92). For all of his bitching, he seems to be a pretty good dad when he is around, though.
Some other characters in the book include their drunken Russian neighbor, who might be a prostitute–she blasts music at all hours of the night and then complains about their stroller in the hall. Indeed, this lady proves to be a constant source of stress and a thing that pulls them together. Many of Linda’s friends (who Karl Ove mostly doesn’t like) appear and some of Karl Ove’s friends, like his oldest friend Geir take up many pages. He and Geir were born in the same year outside of Arendal (on the islands of Hisøya and Tromøya respectively) although they met in Bergen when they were in college. They were friendly but not close and then 11 years later Geir sent him a copy of his first book The Aesthetics of a Broken Nose (see the Geir Angell Øygarden page).
And then there is the character of Sweden. Karl Ove really hates Sweden. He is from Norway where they are apparently more real, more prone to expressing themselves, less concerned about proper behavior. Sweden is all politically correct and equal and he hates it. He hates the language and he hates how nobody understands him. So why did he move to Sweden?
Well, when he left his first wife, Tonje, he says he had to get away quickly. He chose Stockholm because Geir was there. Geir put him up and helped him get settled (their meeting in the train station takes some 30 pages).
Then he meets Linda. Through circuitous routes and misunderstandings–she likes one of his friends better, she tells him she likes him a lot but in Swedish, which he misunderstands as likes as friends. And don’t forget he is still married. But they finally come together. And then for many many pages Karl Ove is in love. And his writing really reflects that. He is happy for about six months. But then he starts wanting his freedom in small bits–Saturday morning to go for a walk or to read a paper by himself But she doesn’t want that. When he wants to take a trip to London with his brother, she freaks out. He hasn’t seen his brother in some time so he agreed to go without asking her. She gets super mad. He says that he has spends all his time with her friends but never sees his friends. It’s a stupid ,petty fight, and its hard to know who is at fault, really.
They make up. Until he says he needs time to work. Which leads to more fighting.
“Don’t you want to be with me anymore?” she asked.
“Yes, of course I do.” I said.
“But we aren’t together. We don’t see each other.”
“Yes, but I have to work. Surely you understand that.”
“Well, not that you have to work at night. I love you, so I want to be with you.”
“But I have to work.” I repeated.
“OK,” she said. “If yo keep doing this, it’s over.”
“You can’t mean that.”
She eyed me.
“Damn well do. Just you trust me.”
“You can’t control me like that.” I said. (235)
Later he wonders, “Was I cold? Did I only think of myself?” (238).
And then despite the wishes of the reader, and even Karl Ove, who tries to run away but is detained because his friend is visiting, he stays with her and then Linda gets pregnant. And they are both very happy. Very happy. We get a lengthy description of her labor (8 hours and about 20 pages). And Vanja is born and they are very happy. Until the routine returns (and we see the above argument about childcare).
This book introduces us to Linda’s family (who can’t be too happy to be in this book). And throughout, we spend a lot of time with Geir. Geir proves to have sussed out Karl Ove pretty well. He calls Karl Ove a saint, which is not a good thing–that he cannot enjoy anything and worries too much about people who don’t matter.
And I don’t want it to seem like Karl Ove is just a jerk. He gives thoughts on things he likes: Friedrich Hölderlin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich
Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Norwegian writer Kjartan Fløgstad, whose book Fire and Flame Karl Ove says is one of the few worthwhile books to come out of Norway. And I did smile at some of his snide comments, like the idea that all of the fathers in Sweden shaved ther heads to hide hair loss. And he certainly keeps the book and music industry afloat. One of the constants in the book is the amount of books and CDs that Karl Ove buys (either his memory is incredibly sharp or he keeps all of his receipts). FYI 100 kronor = about $18 USD.
By the end of the book there is real dramatic moment when someone is drinking in their house. It could be Linda while she is pregnant, but that seems very unlikely. Perhaps it is Linda’s mother who is watching Vanja? There is real tension in this scene. And there is a conflict and resolution. Unlike scenes where it seems there could be tension/resolution: Vanja is on the floor of the kitchen while Linda’s mother is boiling water–a scene that is told in such detail that you are sure the water is going to end up on the poor child–especially if you have read David Foster Wallace–but no, nothing happens. Karl Ove is just full of details.
So much of this book is taken up with Vanja as a baby and toddler that Heidi must feel short shrfited that she barely gets a few mentions. And poor John is kind of an afterthought–perhaps they both get more attention in later books. The very end of the book talks bout that soccer incident but also Karl Ove’s mother who has taken ill. It would seem like book three will be about her, although I see now that the title is Boyhood Island, so it may go in an entirely different direction.
Regardless, I’ll be there to read it. Although, as with Books One and Two, I don’t have to read it right away. Perhaps I’ll even wait until next spring…? (although at only 432 pages, it’s a trifle).
For ease of searching, I include: Malmo, Hisoya, Tromoya, Geir Angell Oygarden, Kjartan Flogstad,