The Ilonka Reader

Notes on the Books I Have Read

Month: January, 2017

Wasting Time on the Internet

By Kenneth Goldsmith.

I stumbled across this book in Kinokuniya across from Town Hall in Sydney. It has an adorable picture of a cat on its cover and I picked it up, jokingly suggesting to Silas this is a book for him. But in the first pages Goldsmith won me over with his detailed description of a moment in which he wastes time on the internet and then questions what about those activities were wasteful, reflects on his experience as a poet to suggest that all this wasted time can result in strong human connections that he doesn’t see as worthless.

I bought it for myself.

Goldsmith actually spends much time on conceptual art and how the internet interacts with it, can be its subject, at times appears to be a precise reflection of earlier surrealist conceptual art movements except we the average users are mostly not artists, which was sometimes the point of the art. But I wanted him to reflect more on how the internet can connect us, why it is okay to miss a sunset to text with your friend, how browsing Facebook can be taken as productive, or in what ways the experiences in his class Wasting Time on the Internet became intensely intimate. There were parts of this, but I wanted more.

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My Struggle, Book 1

By Karl Ove Knausgaard.

I was unsure what an autobiographical novel would be. I’ve decided it’s when you want to write a novel but it ends up just being about your life.

My Struggle starts with Knausgaard musing about death in perhaps current times. He also muses about raising his children. But we quickly cut back to an experience of his as a young child that focuses a lot on his tense relationship with his father. The majority of the book ends up being about his experience as a teenager and again his father features heavily, often as a background figure. Towards the end of the book, Knuasgaard mostly relives the experience of his father dying when he is in adulthood.

Knausgaard is a master of weaving together his memories, going into a memory from a memory, often pages long, and then coming back out again, like coming up for air. It’s strangely addicting, though the book has no strong narrative arc to speak of there is the theme of his father and of coming of age and how those two intertwine. Mostly, though, the book seems to me to be about how our extensive details impact these tiny moments, that these tiny moments in our life cannot be understood without tracking through the past. For instance, in moments he spends with his brother while dealing with their father’s death, Knausgaard takes on a whirlwind tour of his relationship with his brother, which despite being 300 pages into the book we have yet to really delve into. This tour then ends by returning on the original scene of a particular moment in dealing with their father’s death, that moment now laden with much more meaning.

The writing is plain, the kind that gets out of the way; it’s so good I don’t notice it.

I’m intrigued to read more of the books, mostly to see what he does with them. Are they mostly themed? Which other parts of his life does he explore? Is the idea to explore them all?