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Archive for the ‘Karl Ove Knausgaard’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Siboney Club, Toronto, ON (November 17, 1988).

I thought I had listened to every show on Rheostatics Live and then I saw today that Daron had posted this new (very old) show.  This show is from before they released their second album Melville.  Most of these songs would appear on Melville, but a couple wouldn’t be released until their third album Whale Music.

This is a live cassette recording of Rheostatics at The Siboney club in Toronto November 17 1988 provided by Tom Parry. It is the earliest live versions I’ve heard so far of Christopher, RBC, The Royal Albert, Greensprouts, Horses, Chanson, What’s Going On, Queer and a one off song which I’m not even sure what it is called. Something about Space? The sound quality is rough but it is an interesting document due to the early nature of these songs – Queer in particular.

This show starts off with a TV show (I guess) about the history of hockey with a story that Bobby Hull has signed a contract with the new World Hockey Association and then a clip of Canada v Russia.  I can’t tell if the reaction to the Canadian goal is from the TV or the people in the room.  It goes for about three minutes and then the ripping guitars come in to start “Christopher.”  The first part of the guitar solo is very different from the sound that Martin would eventually get–although the second half of it is pretty raging.

“RBC” is quick and to the point.  Someone (Dave?) starts the intro to “Dope Fiends” but Tim slaps some bass as Dave says they’re going to play “The Royal Albert (Joey 2)” which I didn’t think was written for a few years.

“Dope Fiends” feels faster than usual.  In fact the whole show feels kind of fast.  Is the tape sped up or did they just play faster back then?

Martin starts playing the Green Sprouts Theme Dong with a crazy hopped up vibrato which actually sounds like munchkins.

Dave: Welcome folks!  Hot dogs only $1.75 Dijon mustard is an extra 30 cents.  It’s hand carved by Dave’s Irish grandmother.

I don’t love the song “Ditch Pigs” (from Greatest Hits) but I always like when they play it because by now it’s such a novelty.   There’s a jamming end section in which someone (Bidini?) is singing about the good food “I want an egg salads sandwich and a box of popcorn”.

DB: It’s poetry time from Clark.  Will it be a winsome poem or a lonesome poem.
Clark: It’s not necessarily a poem.  This is more of a lyric than a poem.  I wrote for a friend and it about if you’ve ever worked for somebody who is kinda dumb and they’re mean to you because they feel threatened by you when you just want to be their friend.

It begins: Don’t call me pal or buddy when your not really my friend…

“Horses” is remarkably slow with a thumping bass.  The chorus is almost painfully slow.  But the ending is really intense.  Martin does some great soloing as Dave screams the end, but there’s very little in the way of horse sounds.

“Chanson Les Ruelles” is loose and fun–Tim’s “French” is quite good.   Dave rambles about some kind of voodoo that he put on the Baltimore Orioles pitcher.  And it worked!

Then out comes Tim with the accordion for “What’s Going On Around Here.”  It all sounds quite good even though the tape is sounding worse.

The last three songs sounds pretty bad (in quality).  The song that Daron says he doesn’t know sounds like Dave calls it “Space Arm.”  It’s a stomping heavy song with some ripping guitars.  Wonder whatever happened to it.

“Queer” sounds very different in so many ways.  It has a really long introduction and a decidedly honky-tonk/country feel to the verses.  The verses end with a kind of old-timey rock n roll bah-bah-bah-bah.  And there’s no ending part.  I’m so glad they fixed it up.

The final song is cut off.  It’s a slow song that I recognize but can’t place called “Seems Like.”  I see that it was only ever released on a Green Sprouts music compilation.

This is a great find–one of their earliest shows where you can hear what their new sound is going to be like.

[READ: May 8, 2019] So Much Longing in So Little Space

Karl Ove Knausgaard just never stops writing.  And he never stops exploring the world around him–through words or, in this case, art.

This book is divided into three parts, although unlike his massive tomes, this one is only 233 pages (with pictures).  Before the parts, he offers a little introduction about how he sees art and how he has always been moved by an (admittedly) simple painting by Edvard Munch called Cabbage Field.

There is a longing in this painting of the cabbage field, a longing to disappear and become one with the world.  And that longing…fulfilled the painting for him.  That is why the painting is so good, what disappears re-emerges in what comes into being as he finished the painting, it is still represented in the picture, which fills us again and again with its emptiness.

In Part One he gives a brief biography of Munch.  Everyone knows The Scream of course, but that represented only one brief phase of Munch’s life-long career as a painter.  Indeed, he started painting when he was a teenager, making small pictures of potted plants and interiors and he continued painting until he was eighty years old.

The years are divided somewhat into phases.  First was the apprentice years during which he painted his first masterpiece, The Sick Child, when he was twenty-two.  In the second phase he was searching and trying many styles–from realistic harbor scenes to Impressionist street scenes.   Then comes the period for which he is most famous (The Scream and more).  The final phase was less abstract and more painterly. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: THE RADIO DEPT.-Clinging to a Scheme (2010).

In this final book, Karl Ove mentions buying a record on a whim by The Radio Dept.  Given the timing of the book, I assume it’s this record.  So I’m going to give it a listen too.

I really enjoyed this record which has a feeling of a delicate My Bloody Valentine fronted by The Stone Roses.  The key word in all of this is delicate.  It’s a very soft and gentle record (except for one song).  It hits all the buttons of 90s Britpop and to me is just infectious.

“Domestic Scene” opens the disc with pretty guitars intertwining with an electronic thumping.  After the first listen I was sure the whole record was synthy, but this track has no synths at all, just like five or six guitar lines overdubbing–each opener just as pretty as the others.  The voice sound a lot the guys from The Stone Roses on the more delicate tracks.

“Heaven’s on Fire” opens with bouncy synths and a sampled (from where?) exchange:

People see rock n roll as youth culture.  When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business what are the youth to do.  Do you have any idea?
I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.

Then come the jangling guitars and the introduction of synths.

“This Time Around” has a cool high bass line (and what sounds like a second bass line). I love the overlapping instruments on this record.  I couldn’t decide if it was a solo album or a huge group, so I was surprised to find it’s a trio.

“Never Follow Suit” continues this style but in the middle it adds a recorded voice of someone speaking about writing.

“A Token of Gratitude” has some lovely guitars swirling around and a percussion that sounds like a ping-pong ball or a tap dancer.   The last half of the song is a soothing gentle My Bloody Valentine-sque series of washes and melody.

“The Video Dept.” is full of jangly guitars and gentle blurry vocals while “Memory Loss” has some muted guitar notes pizzicatoing along and then what sounds like a muted melodica.

David is the one song that sounds different from the rest.  It has strings and synth stabs and drums that are way too loud.  Most of the songs don’t have drums at all, but these are deliberately recorded too loud and are almost painful.

The final two songs include “Four Months in the Shade” which is an instrumental.  It is just under 2 minutes of pulsing electronics that segues into the delicate album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.”  This song continues with the melody and gentleness of the previous songs and concludes the album perfectly.

I really enjoyed this record a lot.  It’s not groundbreaking at all, but it melds some genres and styles into a remarkably enjoyable collection.

[READ: September and October 2018] My Struggle Book Six

Here is the final book in this massive series.  It was funny to think that it was anticlimactic because it’s not like anything else was climactic in the series either.  But just like the other books, I absolutely could not put this down (possibly because I knew it was due back at the library soon).

I found this book to be very much like the others in that I really loved when he was talking conversationally, but I found his philosophical musings to be a bit slower going–and sometimes quite dull.

But the inexplicable center of this book is a 400 plus page musing on Hitler.  I’ll mention that more later, but I found the whole section absolutely fascinating because he dared to actually read Mein Kampf and to talk about it at length.  I’m sure this is because he named his series the same name in Norwegian.  He tangentially compares Hitler to himself as well–but only in the way that a failed person could do unspeakable things.

But in this essay, he humanizes Hitler without making him any less of an evil man.  His whole point is that in order to fully appreciate/understand Hitler’s evil, you have to realize that he was once an ordinary person.  A teenager who had dreams about becoming an artist, a boy who was afraid of sex and germs.  If you try to make him the inherent embodiment of evil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a child, a teen, a young man who was not always evil.

Why Karl Ove does this is a bit of a mystery especially contextually, but it was still a fascinating read especially when you see how many things gibe with trump and how he acts and behaves–especially his use of propaganda.  It’s easy to see how people could be swayed by evil ideas (and this was written before trump was even a candidate). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 7 of 13 (November 16, 2003).

 This was the all ages Sunday afternoon 7th show of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

This is the final concert available on Rheostatics Live for the 2013 Fall Nationals.  It was an all-ages show and as such was a bit more delicate than some of the other shows.

Hip Lingo opened the night. And then the band begins with a sweet mostly acoustic version of “Song of the Garden.”  Then Tim says, “This song “Loving Arms” was written by Dot, our good friend.

Once again, during “Aliens,” at the “distraction” line, someone starts playing the guitar melody from “When Winter Comes” and it does serve as a kind of distraction–they flub the song a bit.   Later, in the quiet part Tim starts playing the melody for “Artenings Made of Gold” on the bass.

“Tarleks” is described as the second in the Alien trilogy.  Mike asks if Martin has another yet to come.  Martin says, “I got a pack of em.”  They miss the segue to the middle but just play one more measure and catch up.

Tim says “we brought some spongy earplugs down if anyone needs them.”  (They’re so nice).

Dave has a question for the kids in the audience.  “Ozzy Osbourne funny or scary?”  Kids:  funny.  Martin:  funny and sad.  Dave says this is a song about the twilight of Ozzy’s career (Martin: and his awareness).

“King of the Past” is a quieter version.  You can really hear Martin doing great backing vocals.

They acknowledge Maureen at the craft table–it’s make your own DVD night.  Martin: She’ll give you a dirty look ’cause shes really mean.

A pretty “Northern Wish” and then a gentle “PIN.”  After the song, Martin plays the riff to PIN one more time.  Mike says: always time to practice.  And then a lovely “Mumbletypeg.”

There’s some joking and then someone says, “By the end of this run we hope to have beautifully constructed spice rack. There’s one shot of Mike on the DVD where mike looks like this.  We call it building the spice rack.  When you can’t come up with any more intense ideas at the end of a song so you just end up pounding the wall.”

This is a song about a girl.  “Claire.”  Was she a girl or a hallucination?  Or was she a really fast car?

For “Take Me In Your Hand,” it’s Mike and Martin singing gently with acoustic guitar.

During a pause Dave says, in case anyone is interested, Edmonton is beating Montreal 24-21 in the 3rd quarter of the Grey Cup.  Good game, jeez, we should get this over with.  Just kidding.  Strangely here’s a song about the CFL [“Palomar”].  We’re trying to get Tim to stop writing songs about football but he can’t.  It’s like a virus with him.  It’s quiet with some great backing vocals especially at the end.

“Here’s a song about nutrition.  More bands should write about nutrition.  A song about nutrition with a political sensibility.”  They start “Brea, Meat, Peas and Rice.”  Dave gets excited: “Really.  A clapping crowd, eh?”

He says Hi to his daughter Cecilia and then says “My dad is here.  Do you wanna watch the Grey Cup?  It’s on in the dressing room.”  Mike says, “Supportive father, extra supportive son.”

Before the next song, Martin says, “This is the actual Fender Strat that Jimi Hendrix ate at Mariposa.  See there’s the bandage.   He used to put pastrami in his sweatband so he could get nourishment while he was playing.”  It’s a beautiful “Here Comes the Image” with a special thanks to MPW on keys.

“Little Bird” starts very quietly with percussion in the form of “shhs” but it gets big by the middle.

Introducing “Stolen Car,” Martin says, “This is a song about stealing really expensive stuff… or dreaming about stealing it.”
Dave: “Sort of like The Bob Newhart show.  It was all a dream.”
Martin: “Really? the last Bob Newhart?  How old is Bob Newhart?  He must be like 95 [he was 74!].  He’s been going forever.  He looks the same.  He was on the TV.”
Dave: “Wow he’s going places if he’s on that thing.  Although I don’t think it will supplant the radio.”

Then Dave tells a story about his friend who had two interesting concepts:

what if the telephone followed the internet and people thought wow I can finally actually talk to someone!

But even better: what if when you farted it was colored.  It would make life way more interesting–Stand at the top of the CN tower and watch all the colors.  At night the CN Tower would be gorgeous.”

Martin says, “This is a very serious song.”
Dave: “It wouldn’t be very serious if you did it in Donald Duck voice.  It would have a whole new feel.”
Martin: “I can’t do Donald Duck voice.”
Dave: “Ala George Jones.  He talked in Donald Duck voice for a year.  My friend saw him play in the States and he did five songs in Donald Duck voice and that was it.  And they loved it.”
Martin: “Was he bitter or is he really funny?”
Dave: “I think he just liked the voice.”
Martin: “That’s a pretty high commitment.”

Even though the song is serious, when he sings he build a fence for all his friends, he throws in “all two of them.”

During the encore, Dave thanks everyone under 18 who came out.

Then comes “Harvest,” sung by Dave’s daughter or son (it sounds like he says Hi Sessi.  She/he is adorable (four/six years old depending).  She says “Harvest by Neil Young.”  How’s it feel to be onstage?  Good.  She does a really good job.  And then it’s over and she says over and over “I wanna do it again, Can I?”  he starts crying a bit, Dave says, “We’ll do one next year a longer one next year.  Your father needs to sing some now.”  “NO!”

They play a boppy version of “Home Again,” in which Martin mutters something about “living in the ass of an uncaring god.”  And they end with a romping version of “Legal Age Life at Variety Store”

[READ: February 10, 2017] Self-Control 

Did I pick up this book by Stig Sæterbakken because his name is Stig and his last name has a character I can’t pronounce?  Yes.  But also because I had heard about Stig from Karl Ove, my favorite Norwegian writer.  He had raved about Stig (and is blurbed on this book).

This book is evidently the second book in the “S” trilogy.  Although as I understand it they are only loosely connected–same characters but the stories aren’t directly sequential.

Andreas Feldt is a conflicted man–primarily internally conflicted.  I’m not sure if book one tells us about this, but as this book opens we learn that Andreas hasn’t seen his adult daughters in many years–talked to one of them, but not seen her.  He is meeting her for lunch.

The talk is awkward, certainly, and eventually he blurts out “Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”  Her reaction is fairly flat.  And later we learn that it is not even true–he just said it. (more…)

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  karlove5SOUNDTRACK: RAGA ROCKERS-“Slakt” [“Slaughter”] (1988), “Hun er Fri” [“She is Free”] (1988) and “Noen å hate” [“Someone to hate”] (1990).

ragaKarl Ove mentions many bands in his books.  Raga Rockers appeared twice in this one.  I can’t find a ton about them online, because they never really made it beyond Norway, but the Google translated version of their website says:

Raga Rockers is an ingenious rock ‘n roll band that has existed since 1982.

Today the band consists of: Michael Krohn (vocals, lyrics), Hugo Alvar Stein (keyboards / guitar), Eivind Staxrud (guitar), Arne Sæther (keys), Livio Aiello (bass) and Jan Kristiansen (drums).

The band came out of the punk community in the early eighties, but became such a “poppy” large parts of the Norwegian people have founded acquaintance with them.  Songs like “She is free” and “Someone to hate” is almost singalong classics! Their greatest triumph came perhaps in 1999 when they played for thousands of ecstatic Norwegians at the yellow stage at Roskilde Festival. (Reviews of the show by Dagbladet (which Karl Ove wrote for) and Dagsavisen–both are in English.

Despite their punk roots and the rather violent song titles, the songs are almost poppy–heavy guitars but simple chords and a singer who doesn’t sound angry at all.  In fact, if I didn’t read about their punk roots, I’d swear these songs are kinda goofy.

“Slakt” is a simple song, opening with a 4/4 drum and splashes of guitar.  The middle is a bluesy riff with a chorus of “ah ha ha”  The lead singer’s voice is mostly kind of deep–not quite what I expected from the heavy guitars.

“Hun Er Fri” is quite different from the others songs.  It’s only 90 seconds long and features a piano.  The chords are still simple the piano may be playing single notes in fact).  The lyrics are pretty much nonstop and kind of fast.  It seems like a silly pop trifle and I can see why it’s popular among their fans.  The first time I listened to it, I was surprised it ended when it did.  This bootleg live version is certainly fun.

rocknrollThese two songs came from their 1988 album Forbudte følelser [Prohibited feelings]

“Noen å hate” has a bit more of a metal sound, but is essentially the same kind of heavy rock with simple chord progressions.  There’s a good solo at the end.  A black metal band called Vreid has done a cover of this song (which really only sounds different because the Vreid singer is more growly).

This song comes from their 1990 album Rock n’ Roll Party.

And yes, they are still around.  They took a hiatus in the 2000s but came back with three albums 2007’s Übermensch, 2010’s Shit Happens and 2013’s Faktor X.

[READ: May 1, 2016] My Struggle Book Five

karlove 5ukI realized as I read this fifth book that I should have been keeping a vague sense of the timeline of these books.  Specifically, because he opens this book with this: “The fourteen years I lived in Bergen from 1988 to 2002 are long gone.”  So if he was born in 1968, this book covers roughly ages 19-33.

So my general outline for the other volumes:
Book Five: 1988-2002 (19-33)
Book Four: 1987 (18)
Book Three: 1968-1981  (1-13)
Book Two: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to meeting his second wife in 2003 or so)
Book One: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to his father’s death in 1998 or so)

What era could Book Six possibly be about?

We’ll find out next year in what is said to be the 1,200 page final volume.

So as I mentioned above, Karl Ove talks about the fourteen years he lived in Bergen.  And it made me laugh that he says:

The fourteen years I lived in Bergen, from 1988 to 2002, are long gone, no traces of them are left, other than as incidents a few people might remember, a flash of recollection here, a flash of recollection there, and of course whatever exists in my own memory of that time.  But there is surprisingly little.

And then he proceeds to write 600+ pages about that time. (more…)

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karlove SOUNDTRACK: ESPERANZA SPALDING-Tiny Desk Concert #110 (February 12, 2011).

esperanzaI didn’t know who Esperanza Spalding was before this show.  But she defied my expectations by being a fairly tiny woman who sings while playing an upright bass (not a very common combination for anyone).

For the first song, “Little Fly,” she plays a kind of jazzy bass, but has a string accompaniment–violins, guitars etc.  But it’s clear that the bass is the star.   And while her playing is very good (she has some great vibrato), it’s her voice that is mesmerizing–she’s hunched over playing the bass and still manages to sound strong and powerful.  “Little Fly”‘s lyrics come from a poem by William Blake.

“Midnight Sun” is a solo performance–just her voice and bass.  I loved the beginning where she sang notes along with what she played.  Then when the lyrics come in she sings in a very jazz voice (with eyes closed the whole time).  Turns out this is a Lionel Hampton song that only appears on the Japanese release of her album which make explain her singing style.

Because on the final song she sounds very different.  “Apple Blossom” is her own composition.  It’s her singing with the string section playing along (there’s no bass).  The song is lovely, but I prefer it when she plays bass in the song, too.

I enjoyed this performance and how delightful Spalding was.

[READ: January 9, 2016] “My Saga: Part Two”

Speaking of not finishing multi part essays, I ended my post about Part One of this essay by saying I couldn’t wait for part two.  And then apparently I forgot all about it because here it is almost a year later before I read part two (which was published two weeks later).

In this second half of Karl Ove’s journey he spends most of his time realizing that he hasn’t really learned very much for his assignment.  I can’t imagine anyone else being able to write endlessly about how he has nothing to write about (and still make it strangely compelling–his stress produces good sentences).

He does make some interesting connections though. (more…)

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ageSOUNDTRACK: GENEVIEVE-Tiny Desk Concert #446 (June 1, 2015).

genevieveI enjoy that the opening of this Tiny Desk Concert shows Genevieve “creating” her backup singers.  So that when she gets to the chorus and taps that loop pedal her harmonies really shine.

Genevieve is a poppy singer with a sometimes raspy but often really clean singing style.  She has a great voice and vibrant personality (and hair color).  Even though she is from Chicago, I hear some tinges of Bjõrk and maybe even Tori Amos in her voice.

Evidently she normally plays with a full band, but for this concert, she is accompanied only by Chris Faller who “plays all of the instruments.”

The first song “Colors” is played only with keyboards (and feels like it could use a little but more music–although her voice is powerful enough and that chorus is super catchy as is).  “The Enemy” is accompanied by an acoustic guitar and is a suitably mellower–a kind of sad ballad–which shows how powerful her voice is even in this more quiet setting (she has a lovely range).

The final song “Authority” feels like it might be a big raver (she adds hand claps that seem like the kind that might get the crowd going, but the claps are quiet and subtle here).  The chorus is big with lots of long-held notes and is super catchy.

Genevieve would probably be too pop for me in general, but the Tiny Desk Concerts tend to remove a lot of gloss and leave the heart of the musician.

[READ: May 15, 2015] An Age of License

I enjoyed Knisley’s Relish, so when I saw this in the library I decided to check it out.

Unlike Relish, which was about food, this book is about her travels outside of the country.  But like Relish, this book is another memoir/journal/autobiography.

Since I have been having a major Norway kick (thanks to Karl Ove Knausgaard and some great sites on Instagram) I was pretty excited to see that her travels began in Norway.  Her itinerary is short but very busy.  Fly into Iceland than immediately to Norway (for the Raptus Comics Fest in Bergen).  Then it’s off to Sweden (to visit a guy she knows in Stockholm).  Then to Berlin to join her friends on their honeymoon (which is not as tacky as it sounds). Then it’s off to France to visit her friend in Beaune, and then to hang out with her mom and her friends on Royan.  Finally a day in Paris before flying back home.  I’m exhausted just writing it all.

Knisley also has the headache of dealing with a breakup (to the nice guy who has been in her previous books) although he is kind enough  to babysit her cat while she is gone.

Every few pages has colored (watercolor I assume) drawings which add a nice touch to the otherwise black and white story.

Starting Sept 8th, she arrives in Norway.  We see the flight and other people on the flight.  We see a nice meal that she eats (Pinnekjott–someday I hope to get to the Scandinavian countries and eat food that I cannot pronounce).  Norway is fun–she goes to the Fest (where she gets to draw with Ethan Nicolle of “Axe Cop” (presumably his five-year old brother stayed home).  She shows students how to draw (her friend is a teacher), although she declines to eat Lutefisk (which she illustrates as Fish + Lye.  Lye??).  She also mentions that she was not only stalked, but that the boys who stalked her then made and published (and had it available at the following year’s Raptus Fest) a comic about stalking her–creepy! (more…)

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 dancingSOUNDTRACK: deLILLOS-“Forelsket” (1987).

delilloKarl Ove mentions many bands in this book, but the deLillos are the only Norwegian band that he plays.  They sing in Norwegian and play sprightly, jangly guitar pop–they would fit in very well with some of the lighter alt bands from the late 80s and early 90s.

I have no idea what they’re singing about (well, the title translates to “love” so I guess I know what they are singing about.

The singer has a high, delicate voice and there’s some interesting harmonies.  I really like the way the song transitions from verse to chorus with the picked guitar notes–very catchy.

It comes from their second album, Før var det morsomt med sne  (Before it was fun in the snow), which along with their first was quite popular and was reissued with a bonus disc in the 90s.  Having said that I see that Amazon has one copy of the disc and no album cover listed.  Worse yet, I can’t find many other songs online (Spotify lists the album, but I can’t get it to play).

Sorry, deLillos (even searching for you gives us more Don DeLillo than you guys).

[READ: June 24, 2014] My Struggle Book Four

struggle4I started including the British edition page numbers because at my work we received both editions of the book, and I received the British one first so I grabbed it and started reading.  I noticed the page numbers were quite different (the British book is taller and the print is quite bigger, although this doesn’t explain why the previous books have fewer pages).

I had been interested in the differences between editions from the get go.  I had enjoyed the American editions, but I enjoyed reading this British edition more (bigger print?).  But when I noticed on one of the pages that the word “realise” was spelled as I typed it, it made me wonder if the American edition changed that to the American spelling.  [Actually, I see that Don Bartlett lives in Virginia, so perhaps he translates it into American first].  While I wasn’t about to go into a deep inspection of the topic, when I saw the American edition on a shelf at work, I had to do a little comparison.

And what I found out was that even though Don Bartlett is the (amazing) translator for both editions, someone (perhaps Bartlett himself?) is translating the American into British (or vice versa).  I looked at a couple of pages and noticed these changes from British to American:

  • BRITISH EDITION = AMERICAN EDITION
  • Pack it in, now = Give it up, now
  • roll-up = rollie [about hand rolled cigarettes]
  • looked daggers at = gave her a dirty look
  • a complete prat = completely useless
  • is that possible? = really?
  • to cook and wash up = cooking and doing the dishes
  • I had got = I’d gotten
  • had penned = had written
  • and yes, realised = realized.

Other than select phrases, every word is exactly the same.  So somebody goes through the books and changes them to British english idioms and spellings.  That’s fascinating.

I also see that this is the first book I had not read an excerpt from first.  Not that it would have made any difference as to whether I read the fourth one.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

So book four is set in Håfjord, a town in Northern Norway near Finnsnes (a five hour flight away–okay I had no idea Norway was so big!).  Karl Ove is 18 and has decided to become a grade school teacher there for one year.  The tax breaks are great if you teach, and he plans to teach and write his masterpieces and then get out.  He has no interest in teaching, but the town is small (most grades are 3-7 students), so he figures it can’t be too hard.

As in most of Karl Ove’s books, the stories jump around and flash back and do not stay all in this one time, but it is largely set in this locale.

My first thought was that I have never read a story with as much semen (both nocturnal emission and premature ejaculation) in my life.  It is a strange take away from the book, but there it is.  Karl Ove is 18 and really wants to have sex for the first time.  About 3/4 of the way through the book he reveals that he never masturbated (it just never occurred to him, apparently, and at 18 he’s too old to start–what!?).  As such, he seems to have wet dreams every night.  And every time he gets near a woman, he has an orgasm too soon.  He is horny all the time–it’s a bit disconcerting.

And since I mentioned that, I don’t know if Karl Ove’s life is typical of Norway, but I am shocked by the number of women who take their clothes off around him (he may have never had sex, but he was about to on at least a half-dozen occasions).  And he says that all through school (from around age 13 and up) it was common place for the boys to lift up the girls’ shirts and kiss and or fondle their breasts.  It is mind-boggling to me.  And the 16 year olds all seem to be having sex all the time–this may be skewed from Karl Ove’s perspective, but that’s what I now believe happens in Norway.

But while sex is the main theme of the book–sex, sex sex, there is more to it.

Karl Ove’s parents have split up and his father has started drinking in earnest.  The dad has remarried and has just had a baby.  Incidentally, I was also shocked to read that Karl Ove’s father, who is an abusive stodgy old man who is cranky and mean and abusive and all the stuff that we read about in the other volumes was only 43 at the time that Karl Ove was 18.  So the old man who I pictured as a gray-haired curmudgeon in this book is actually younger than me.  Great.

In Håfjord, Karl Ove is teaching kids who range from age 13 to 16.  It’s disconcerting to read about him thinking lustful thoughts about his students, until he reminds us that for most of the students, he is only 2 years older than them.  I am pleased to say that he behaves himself (except in his mind) with all of the students.  There’s even a really interesting flash forward to eleven years later when he runs into two of them again.

He proves to be a pretty decent teacher it seems.  The kids mostly like him (the girls all think he is hot) and he is young and tries to make it fun (he himself hated school and everything about it).  He even seems to help out an awkward boy (although that is never resolved).  We see him teaching, trying to interact with the kids and generally being a pretty good guy.

Until the booze comes out.

For in addition to semen, this book is chock full of alcohol.  Before graduating from gymnas (high school), Karl Ove basically stopped caring about anything.  He spent most of his time drunk.  It is astonishing the amount of drinking he does–it’s practically like an Amish Rumspringa how crazy he goes.  But even in this retrospective look, he talks about how much he likes it, how it loosens him up and makes him less nervous.

But really he just spends most of his time drunk, hungover or sick. He even got into the hash scene for a while.  He was living with his mom at the time and she was appalled at the way he acted–especially when he threw a party which trashed their house.   She even kicked him out for a time.

He seemed to be over the drink in Håfjord, but it turns out that there’s precious little else to do except drink up there, especially when it grows dark for most of the day.  So there is much drinking–he only misses class once or twice because of it but he comes very close a lot.

The irony that he is appalled at his father’s drinking, while drinking so much himself, is apparently lost on him.

The other main preoccupation with Karl Ove is music.   He talks a lot about his great taste in music (he reminds me of me–a little insufferable).  Back when he was in gymnas, he spent a lot of time discussing his favorite bands and favorite songs.  He got a job (at 16) writing reviews for a local paper (holy crap, jealous!) and then later gets a job writing a column for another paper.  For the previous book I listed a lot of the bands he mentioned, and I wish I had written them down for this one.  U2 features prominently (this is 1987, so I’m guessing Joshua Tree), but also Talking Heads, a Scottish post-punk/new wave band The Associates and their album Sulk which he describes as “an utterly insane LP.”  he and his brother really like The Church and Simple Minds (before they got so commercial).  He also has a whole thread in which he makes connections with albums:

Briano Eno, for example, started in Roxy Music, released solo records, produced U2 and worked with Jon Hassell, David Byrne, David Bowie, and Robert Fripp; Robert Fripp played on Bowie’s Scary Monsters; Bowie produced Lou Reed, who came from Velvet Underground, and Iggy Pop, who came from the Stooges, while David Byrne was in Talking Heads, who on their best record, Remain in Light, used the guitarist Adrian Belew, who in turn played on several of Bowie’s records and was his favorite live guitarist for years. (64).

He also specifically raves about “The Great Curve” from the Talking Heads album, and of course, he raves about the first Led Zeppelin album as well.

Music is a huge part of his life (and he dresses accordingly too).  It’s unclear whether the kids think this is awesome or not, but he may be a bit too much for some of the locals.  The locals are mostly fishermen (which makes sense), and Karl Ove is a bit intimidated that he is so wimpy compared to them–one of the women even teases him about his tiny arms.

But his main focus is writing.  He writes a few shorts stories (to my knowledge he has never published any of them).  We see some excerpts and they seem fine–he fancies himself Hemingway.  But he also mentions a bunch of Norwegian authors (I love when he does that).  Sadly again, not too many of them have been translated into English.  [I really hope that some mega fan creates a database of all of the bands and authors he mentions].  He also talks briefly about his first novel which alludes to his time teaching here.  I happened to read a small summary of said novel (Out of the World) and feared that it spoiled what was going to happen.  But, in fact there does appear to be a difference between his fiction and non-fiction.

The book moves very quickly–from party to party, from failed sexual attempt to the next, even from his staying up all night long trying to write.  And most of the time he comes off as kind of a dick–he is also very self-critical, which somehow tempers that dickishness.

As with the other books I cannot figure out exactly why I am so addicted to his writing.  I brought the book home on Thursday night and finished it (all 548 pages of it) Monday night.  This really completes the picture of himself as he moved from childhood to adulthood and really lays the foundation for whatever is to come next.   Early in the book he talks about the books that he loved at that age, books that talk about the move from childhood to adulthood.  And thus, this book becomes something of a bildungsroman as well.  Although whether or not Karl Ove actually grew up at the end of this book will have to wait until volume 5 (which I have to assume is still another year away as there is no information about it online at all!).

For ease of searching, I include: Hafjord, For var det morsomt med sne.

 

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