Karl Ove Knausgaard – The Way I Should Be in the World – Think Again - a Big Think Podcast #132
If your vision is clear, everything is revelatory. The author of "My Struggle" on writing his way into life.
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Wherever you are right now, take a look around you. Let your eyes rest on the first thing that catches your attention. For me, while writing this, it’s a bowl in Big Think’s offices. Highly polished, assembled, it seems, from curved, stained strips of wood. If I kept going, I might get to a particular wooden coffee table of my childhood. Its reassuring warmth and sturdiness. How I turned it into a fort and camped out under there, watching Saturday Night Live. All the abuse it took over the years from me and my sister, without complaint. And how unaware and ungrateful we were for its patient suffering.
My guest today, Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard, has taken this kind of unflinching observation, association, and insight to a level few of us can imagine doing, writing a six-volume series about his life and world called MY STRUGGLE. He followed this 2500 page, addictively readable masterpiece with a seasonal series of vignettes. The newest book, WINTER, has short meditations on everything from toothbrushes to Owls to alcoholism, and it’s one of the wisest, saddest, and most beautiful things I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:
About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.
You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.
In Egypt, comedy can be a matter of life and death. But life in America's no cakewalk either. Political satirist Bassem Youssef on reinventing yourself, crossing cultural lines, and the future of space exploration.
My grandmother used to tell a story about coming to America from Poland. How she sang God Bless America to cheer up all the grownups on the ship. She was 5 or 6 years old, traveling alone with her mom. For her, it must have been a big adventure. I can hardly imagine what it was like for her mom— my great grandmother — how bad things must have been for Jews in their home town of Bialystok for her to pick up and leave like that, without her husband, heading toward some distant cousin in the undiscovered country of Vineland, New Jersey.
When you’re a Hasidic woman in Borough Park, Brooklyn, starting an ambulance corps is a radical act. Documentary filmmaker Paula Eiselt on the push-pull of identity and cultural change in her film 93Queen.
When I started college at New York University in 1990, nobody lived in Brooklyn. Brooklyn was the dark side of the moon. At least that's how we NYU students thought about it. Lots of people lived in Brooklyn, of course. Just not us. It's 2018, and Brooklyn has become an international brand, synonymous with artisanal pickles, gastropubs, and luxury condos. It's the place even former NYU students can't afford to live anymore.
On hallucinating a teensy Virgin Mary in a water fountain, our weird relationship to fame, her stint as an elf-hunting camp counselor, and more in what feels like a 4 am college conversation with the inimitable Parker Posey.
The impulse to make art is with us from childhood. It's the desire to play. To say “hey! Look what I made!" It's the wild fun of making a big mess that's nobody else's but your own—and not having to clean it up. Above all else, art is wild. It's independent. It's free. And that's one reason why the art industry is a very weird thing. In order to make money “at scale" as the Silicon Valley kids like to say, movie studios, fancy galleries, and concert promoters have to quantify, systematize, and package that sense of freedom. If it sounds like a paradox, that's because it is. I'm just gonna say it: the more money at stake, the less breathing space for everything that draws us to art in the first place.
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