Beer & Book #15

Knausgaard
Last night’s beer: Trois Pistoles
Last night’s book: A Time for Everything by Karl Ove Knausgaard

So, this Knausgaard fellow—perhaps you’ve heard of him? The Norwegian’s now famous for My Struggle, his three-volume (so far) novel-but-not-really-but-don’t-call-it-a-memoir that’s entranced the literati worldwide. The UGA Main Library doesn’t have any volumes of My Struggle in stock, though I bet that’ll change with ever more magazine profiles on him. (I bought a copy of vol. 1 in a Washington, DC, bookstore. That brick glowers at me from the study bookshelf.) UGA does have, however, Knausgaard’s second novel, A Time for Everything. Jesus, how to explain it? Well, start with Jesus, for the novel largely concerns him and the religion, mythology, world, and visions swirling around the Jewish carpenter. Knausgaard explores and reimagines the myriad ways in which angels have visited and besieged Earth in the name of the Lord, pulling from medieval spiritual memoirs, private correspondence, “recorded” miracles, canonical texts, and ostensible works of history. In case you need to be reminded, Knausgaard conveys vividly how fucking terrifying angels actually are. Their mysteries befuddle and unsettle anyone who comes in their way, and they are earth-rattling creatures who—in the author’s hands—have a clinical disinterest in human affairs, or at least humans are incapable of understanding the angels’ interest in us. This supposed neutrality of the angels can lead to savagery—ask Noah, ask Lot, ask Cain. Knausgaard does, imagining the interior lives of the people who—so says the Bible, anyway—came into direct contact with God’s emissaries. Which gets me, and I think Knausgaard, too, to wondering: If God’s emissaries work so violently on behalf of God, and with so little disregard for God’s creation (that would be us), what does this say about how God sees and loves (and perhaps hates) the creation God made in His form? These are heady questions, and Knausgaard’s novel is as much an extended theological essay as it is a fiction. But that makes it sound like it’s staid, like it’s not headlong propulsive and vigorous with its every sentence. Knausgaard’s prose—thorny, staccato, conversational, visceral, eerily beautiful in its descriptions of flesh and thought alike—is a wonder. His voice compels so much that the theological considerations feel as vital, and as pungent, as a character’s walk in the scary night woods, or Cain’s churning thoughts just before he raises his blade. Oh, the beer: Lindsy Lawrence introduced me to Trois Pistoles years ago but I’m just getting around to revisiting it. Athens is a superb beer town, and it’s easy to get lost in the bottles. A dark, thick ale with a creamy, chocolatey head, Trois Pistoles feels like spiced silk slipping through my lips.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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