Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Knausgaard and the A-Changin' Times

This series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.


Daniel: Take this lesson to heart as an aspiring author: “Don’t stand in the doorway/don’t block up the hall.” Have something to say and communicate it well. And if you don’t’ have anything to say, get the hell out of the way and make room for the people striving to have their art noticed.

Also, audiences change, technology upgrades, and writers evolve. Don’t waste the reader’s time by rehashing old ideas and characters because “your old road is rapidly agin’.” We need more rule breakers and less marketing plans.  Don’t worry about the advance, the movie rights, or your book’s positioning in a bookstore. You’ve got one job as a writer: Making your prose as great as it can possibly be. If it is, all the rest will fall into place.  

Dave: Soooo my post about this song is going to be way less inspirational and “go got ‘em” than Daniel’s. I’ve never really regarded this song as the 1960s civil rights movement anthem it was intended to be. To me “The Times Are A-Changin’” is a cautionary tale about life, ideas, and growth. Dylan sings about change as a quickly building flood of water, engulfing and encompassing everything. You’re only way out is to join it and float above it. When you’re walking about civil rights or suffrage or peace that flood seems righteous and necessary, and you sit safely in the ark of justification. But change is not always unequivocally good or right; and it isn’t always dangerous and evil either. Sometimes change is a new job, significant other, city, or maybe a whole new life. What is significant about change is that it is almost as universal as death. Everything changes, always. Some things change slower than other, some in small almost unnoticeable ways, but nothing escapes entirely. So what of it then, Dave? What to do about an inescapable force. Well you join it, naturally, if you want to survive that is. If you don’t, you surely will sink like a stone. Get moving it, get with it, wo/man up; the times are a-changin’.


Daniel: Author David Joy has been on me for weeks to try Elmer T. Lee. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a bottle yet, however, I was inspired to re-double my efforts after witnessing the dedication shown by author Brian Panowich in the tweet below.

Dave: We haven’t really touched upon Booker’s yet, but it’s time has come. Booker’s is one of Jim Beam’s small patch premium bourbons. It has the highest alcohol content of any of Jim Beam’s other products (between 60.5 percent and 65.30 percent alcohol by volume depending on the barrel). It’s basically some pretty hard kicking uncut booze. I never developed a taste for it as much as my older brother and some of bourbon lovers I know. For me this bourbon’s taste is a little but overpowered by its strength, but it’ll kick you off your seat for sure, and I always appreciate a spirit like that. Be prepared to spend a little bit more than you might hope because of the high alcohol content, but I’d say a good chunk of that cash is worth it.


Dave: I was turned onto Karl Ove Knausgaard and the first of a six (yeah, I said six!)-part novel entitled My Struggle (one can only assume Knausgaard is more than aware of history of this title and is toying with its seriousness is erudite ways I’m not sure I totally understand). The book is an autobiographical fiction narrative, encompassing true people and true events under the veil of fiction. I was sold right there. Any writer of fiction loves the loose and ambiguous pathway between reality and imagination. It reads a bit like the longest essay you have ever read, but his attention to detail and pace lead me to believe this novel stays very true to its ambiguous device. Knausgaard is witty and serious and damned deep all the time all at once. His prose is readable but careful and precise. His flow and pace is uncanny. I think the book is so well wrought that despite a discernable plot or climax, I’m still enjoying nearly every page and will be picking up Book 2 in the very near future. Like other colossal prose writers like David Foster Wallace or James Joyce, there is some lag time before you really pick up on Knausgaard’s style. But once you’ve trained yourself on his tics and quirks and wonderful asides, his prose really shines. I’d hate to make an overly glowing review, but I honest can’t say anything entirely bad about him or this work. It’s not for everyone, and if you’re big on plot or characters I’d say borrow don’t buy, but if you like good writing (and good translating—really well done by Don Bartlett) then you must give it a look.

For more Bruce/Bob, Bourbon, and Books, check out our full archive.