Stuff I’ve Been Reading

A Monthly Column

by Nick Hornby

BOOKS BOUGHT:

  • Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of “ The Great Gatsby—Sarah Churchwell
  • Detroit: An American Autopsy —Charlie LeDuff
  • The Fever—Megan Abbott
  • My Salinger Year—Joanna Rakoff
  • Swing Low: A Life—Miriam Toews
  • The Blue Room—Hanne Ørstavik

BOOKS READ:

  • A Man in Love—Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • Traveling Sprinkler—Nicholson Baker
  • My Salinger Year—Joanna Rakoff
  • Crooked Heart—Lissa Evans

I am a father, so I know something about the pain of childbirth: it didn’t look too bad to me. Reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series, however, is an act of heroism, and only those who have been through the experience are really entitled to talk about it. I bought A Man in Love, the second book in the series, pretty much the moment I’d finished the first, A Death in the Family, but after a couple of months of reading shorter, less intimidating, and, frankly, much more fictional novels—Knausgaard doesn’t make stuff up, and you know that if he spends three pages describing the peeling, cutting, and frying of an onion, that onion actually was fried, in real life—I began to wonder whether I had another Knausgaard in me.

I was lured back partly because I missed the sound of Knausgaard’s voice, and partly by the title of this second volume. I wanted to know about his marriage, partly out of prurience: how many novelists are prepared to offer up every single narrative beat of a relationship in an attempt to make sense of it? A recent piece entitled “How We End Up Marrying the Wrong People” in the Philosophers’ Mail, an online newspaper set up by the writer Alain de Botton, suggested that “a standard question on any early dinner date should be quite simply: ‘And how are you mad?’” What we normally do, of course, is reveal our own madness and discover the madness in our spouses over a period of years, by which time the information isn’t as much help to us as it might have been in the first flush of romance.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Nick Hornby is the author of six novels, the most recent of which is Juliet, Naked, and a memoir, Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for music criticism, and editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. His screenplay for An Education was nominated for an Academy Award. He lives in North London.

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