July 7, 2015

The Swedish Man Project

I know, "The Disease of Manhood" sounds like about half the thinkpieces on The Good Men Project, but Dan Duray's review of the Swedish director Ruben Ostlund's film Force Majeure and My Struggle is a solidly interesting discussion of contemporary [i.e., Scandinavian] notions of dadhood AND probably the easiest way to get parenting tips out of Norwegian lit-hipster god Karl Ove Knausgaard's six or whatever-volume memoir:

The Swedes and their priggishness about reproductive relationships are a source of amusement and frustration for that self-loathing (and self-celebrating) Norwegian. Karl Ove leaves his first wife at the beginning of My Struggle Book Two (ominously sub-titled A Man in Love), moves to Stockholm, gets a haircut (a reference to Swann, in Knausgaard's avowed inspiration, getting one when Odette's spell is finally broken?), and reconnects with the Swedish Linda, the woman of his dreams. He'd met her years prior in a writing program. She rejected him then, and in response he methodically cut his own face with shards of glass. They go on to have four children.

This means that Karl Ove, who elsewhere details the baroque abuses of his own father, must now navigate the hazards of parenthood himself. He has to mingle with parents at nurturing Swedish birthday parties where the kids couldn't care less about the elaborate games and sugarless cake. He wants to leave the country for a soccer match, but much as he'd like to he can't leave a week after the birth, explaining to his friends, "We're not men from the 1950s." He joins in singalongs at the library with his daughter while dreaming of bedding the woman with the guitar. "As a result," he narrates, pushing a stroller, "I walked around Stockholm's streets, modern and feminized, with a furious nineteenth-century man inside me."

If you want that kind of thing, of course. I can't even finish that guy's NYT Magazine articles.

"Force Majeure," Karl Ove Knausgaard, and the Disease of Manhood [bookforum]

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