Bad reading

Today seemed like the perfect day to read Kjartan Fløgstad’s Det 7. klima (1986), which has an episode based at Wittgenstein’s cabin at Skjolden; my son has been away playing with friends all day, and I have no other commitments. I dutifully sat down with the novel this morning and attempted to read it. I simply couldn’t.

Now, I think of myself as a fairly patient and sophisticated reader, able to process a wide variety of discourses, literary styles, and narrative structures after years of working as a literary scholar. I’ve read a fair amount of postmodernist literature, and have often found such texts interesting, thought provoking, and sometimes even aesthetically satisfying. I have to admit that Det 7. klima is hands down the most unreadable novel I’ve ever attempted (granted, I haven’t tried to read any Pynchon or Finnegan’s Wake, and I gave up on Infinite Jest about 100 pages in. But that I was attempting to read for pleasure. Word has it the book starts to click after about 150-200 pages, so I do hope to return to it someday, as I really like the other things I’ve read by David Foster Wallace…). Eventually, I had to resort to simply turning pages, skimming each until I arrived at the Skjolden episode, which finally commenced on page 227.

Now, again as a literary scholar, I think what I did today is total crap. That’s not what a “real” literature scholar should do. But in this particular case, I simply had to find out if the Skjolden reference relates at all to the work that I’m analyzing (and which I’ve indeed read quite carefully). Unfortunately, there are some resonances there than I may need to make reference to in my discussion of Steinsamlere. And that in turn means that I’m probably going to have to read all of Det 7. klima. The episode is even preceded by a seter sequence, which is pretty hilarious.The good news is that the narrative is much more readable toward the middle of the book than it is in the opening 50 pages, which gives me hope that I may be able to get through it. This isn’t anything pressing though, and I have a bunch of tasks relating to chapter five to get through before I have to turn back to Fløgstad.

My plan for this week (assuming that I actually can work–part of the university is on strike and there’s yet another national [religious] holiday tomorrow) is to draft the sections on Steinsamlere and Munnen i gresset, and to read the other novels that may be relevant to this chapter. I also need to make a decision as to whether Nærum’s Døde menn går på ski and Pål Øie’s Villmark are still going to be a part of the chapter. And finally, I should finish watching Mona Hoel’s Når nettene blir lange, which I still feel is going to be important.

A word on the Fruen fra havet article: I have officially set it aside, with no concrete plans to work on it. If it happens, great, but I just can’t deal with the distraction and stress it was causing. In the big picture, that one article is not going to make or break my career. I’m having a hard time letting go of it, but I know it’s for the best. I need to focus all my attention on this complicated and challenging last book chapter, which is morphing right before my eyes into something totally different than what I had originally conceived. Very exciting!


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