Our Struggle
Longing, Death, Form (Season 1 Sparknotes: Themes and Motifs)

Longing, Death, Form (Season 1 Sparknotes: Themes and Motifs)

June 9, 2021

In the wake of their newfangled fame, Lauren and Drew look back at the themes and characters of Season 1 and attend to correspondence from fans and detractors. 

Sample of Drew’s “intricate notes”: 

-Cold open w/Drew’s senioritis suicide note 

-game of pricks 

--season 1 finale montage badinage 

--things we can’t talk about; a final solution for goldendoodles; reddit pedants; lit critic lothario 

--We respond to a subterranean missive from an anti- fan with extremist prose style

--Unmentionable word leads into discussion re non-rhotic safe space of dunkin donuts

--Lauren bans disquisitions then proceeds to deliver a disquisition on Shakespearean pedophile code Little Rascals (1994)

--Drew: Shakespearean endings make me feel eerie 

--Closing: Lauren hopes for laced lidocaine,  Buzzcocks “why can’t I touch it” 


SEND OBSCURELY INCENSED MISSIVES: teixeira.lauren@gmail.com; deohringer@gmail.com


Sheepdog Brain (ft. Dean Kissick)

Sheepdog Brain (ft. Dean Kissick)

June 4, 2021

Surely one of our most Knausgaardian episodes yet - we spent four hours last Sunday afternoon - a rainy, unseasonably cold day in the mid-Atlantic - chatting with brilliant art critic and prolific croissant eater Dean Kissick. Manhattan traffic hummed outside of Dean's window, we took a yogurt break followed by a coffee break, there was a brief drama involving an overheated MacBook computer, and we of course witnessed Dean don and doff his Argyle sweater no less than three times (although we did not catch a glimpse of his supposed abs). This was the last episode recorded before we became boldface names in Vanity Fair so treasure it - we fully plan to go whole-hog on vacuous literary world prestige mongering in coming episodes!

TECHNICAL NOTE: You will notice a whirring sound around one hour ten but it gets fixed after a few minutes (Dean cools off his computer) so if you're one of those audio freaks who always complains about sound quality just push through, or alternatively, get a life

cheat sheet:

0:00 - A namecheck of the Dominique Ansel bakery (sponsor of the pod) somehow leads into a discussion of LinkedIn stalking and how LinkedIn is in fact the most Knausgaardian of the social networks.

19:15 - Dean, a hardcore strugglehead, recounts his initiation into the word of Knausgaard and explains how the books changed his life. We try to figure out what Knausgaard means by "form" (all literature "must submit to form"? but why does MS not seem to submit to anything) and meanwhile uncover a barnyard motif in this passage involving sheep, sheepdogs, ducks and more. Also: some inside baseball on the secret affinity between alt-lit and raw milk.

1:09:00 - We begin talking about what is probably the most important idea in the My Struggle series (or at least the first two books), a concept Knausgaard most often refers to as "longing" but is often associated or synonymous with "inexhaustibility," "boundlessness," "the unmentionable." What is the Longing? What does it have to do with death, with art, with basement jackoff parlors (of the sort so vividly detailed in this passage)?

1:24:00 - Touching off from Knausgaard's famous passage about the Constable sketch of the clouds, Dean brilliantly articulates Knausgaard's particular taste in art and explains why he thinks Knausgaard is one of the best art critics today. What does Knausgaard have that art criticism in general has lost? And what does his predilection for "naive" objective realist landscapes have to do with his own writing project?

2:06:00 - Dean takes us through what we believe to be the culmination of the passage, Knausgaard's meditation on discovery and exploration. The whole world has been "experienced" through representations, making it seem smaller, and thus enclosed, unenchanted, incestuous. How has the endless flood of images stunted art and literature? Is there anything left outside of the algorithm? Dean has some optimistic answers!

2:25:00 - We plan our upcoming live struggle session in Koreatown and Dean gives a glowing review of our upcoming t-shirts

Thank you for listening!! As always you can reach out to us (but please be more deferential now that we're Vanity Fair stars) at teixeira.lauren@gmail.com or deohringer@gmail.com.  We love hearing from listeners!



Minutt for Minutt

Minutt for Minutt

May 19, 2021

WE ARE BACK! After a dire situation earlier this month, Our Struggle returns, as lo-fi and perfunctory as ever! It's just us boys again this ep but be assured we have some VERY prestigious and intellectual guests on the horizon, so if you're one of those dweebs who listens to our show for so-called "literary criticism" and "thoughtful discussion of the work of Karl Ove Knausgaard" just hold on a little longer. 

MAJOR shout out to "The financial times of Norway" DAGENS NAERINGSLIV AKA DN which recently published a write-up of Our Struggle that really captured the essence of our podcast. We love our new Norwegian listeners and hope to be flown out to your beautiful country someday for a North Sea oil wealth-funded panel.

HOUSEKEEPING: I forgot to mention this on the pod but we are collecting voicemails at our google voice number for our eventual (1st anniversary?) call-in show: 443-584-6486

cheat sheet:

0:00 - Lauren and Drew velkommen our new Norwegian listeners and discuss their newfound Norwegian notoriety.

8:20 - A digression about Elvis Costello turns into a full-blown music segment in which we listen to Costello, Belle & Sebastian and Jonathan Richman and reflect on the richness of the Scottish indie pop tradition.

19:08 - We struggle through the first five or so pages of part two of book one. Karl Ove is writing in his studio in Stockholm and sees Jesus in the parquet, takes a cigarette break and observes the morning rush; does he feel a part of the city or detached from it? 

57:00 - Lauren and Drew lose their minds imagining Karl Ove engaging with nostalgia bait memes

1:08:40 - Huge thank you to 6'4" Norwegian alpha male friend of the pod Robert Rust for linguistic coaching!

Thank you for listening! As always, feel free to write in with your thoughts, questions and Norwegian memes to Lauren (teixeira.lauren@gmail.com) and/or Drew (deohringer@gmail.com). We love hearing from you!


Seersucker Semiotics (Trauma Processing Special)

Seersucker Semiotics (Trauma Processing Special)

April 27, 2021

After a run of well-received episodes with prestigious guests and a Bookforum mention we are ready for our slow decline! It's just us boys on this pod, testing out our new mics and recording software, beginning to drift imperceptibly away from our lo-fi roots & thus our scruffy charm and ultimately, our integrity. But for now we're talking about trauma! As listeners who follow us on so-called Twitter probably know, Lauren was attacked on the Metro by a mentally ill man a couple weeks ago and wrote a very famous 4000 word essay about  it in the style of Knausgaard, kind of. ALSO: We finally return to the Book and finish Part One, a miracle praise Adonai.

HOUSEKEEPING: We have a google voice number now for you to leave messages for our eventual call-in episode.  It is 443-584-6486

cheat sheet:

0:00 - Lauren is eating a gluten free snickerdoodle; Drew reflects on his appreciation of the Steppe and its peoples.

9:30 - The trauma unpacking begins; Lauren ever so briefly lets down her defenses, reveals a crack in her facade or a chink in her armor, or is it a soft underbelly? At any rate vulnerability is definitely momentarily glimpsed. Drew interviews Lauren about her anti-trauma-essay and Lauren uses the phrase "brain colonized by X" about 8,000,000 times.

40:00 - Drew reflects on his recent trauma of being initiated into the "dripping wound" that is Twitter. We try to probe what exactly makes Twitter so alienating and upsetting - why is it not a utopian collaborative literary exercise? Something to do maybe with commodification or narcissism, two intimately linked phenomena of course....

57:00 - We have our first struggle session in a long time (bless me Father for I have sinned); Karl Ove takes Hanne to the DSA meeting; springtime arrives but not in an annoying way; Karl Ove attends his father's weird divorced Midsommar-like party/ritual and Part One ends. What a ride!

Thanks so much for listening! As always feel free to reach out with your questions, comments, and expressions of concern/solidarity at teixeira.lauren@gmail.com or deohringer@gmail.com. And do stay tuned for a special guest next week......

OUTRO: The Stranglers- Golden Brown

Roast Chicken Feedback (ft. Leo Robson)

Roast Chicken Feedback (ft. Leo Robson)

April 17, 2021

Critic Leo Robson is our erudite and eloquent guide as we lose ourselves in the estuaries and marshes of Henry James’s sinuous “blue river of truth.” We begin in the archives of Leo’s G-chat and Whatsapp messages, where he first heard--and ignored--whispers of KOK’s boundless literary project. His indifference breaks down, however, after he and friend of the pod Christian Lorentzen take a desultory post-stag-party walk through Barcelona. A lugubrious Leo, sick of John Berger’s Marxist reading of Picasso, opens his Blackberry to find that James Wood has written an essay on Perr Petersen, which makes him think of that other Norwegian, the one with the endless maybe-novel underway, which leads him back to Lauren and Drew, who discover their friendship is coterminous with My Struggle’s publication history: they met, devoted listeners will know, over a drunken discussion about The Queen is Dead in summer 2010, just after Volume 1 had appeared on American Shores. Where are they now,  in their actual reading of My Struggle itself? Leo asks. “I don’t fucking know,” says Lauren. 

Leo’s self-described “big data” survey of Knausgaardiana elicits comparisons between chronological expansions and contractions in My Struggle and Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”--are these examples of “big data” narratives? Richard Brody will soon be coming on the pod soon to anatomize Linklater’s use of time.  

Leo suggests that Harold Brodkey and Adam Mars-Jones might be seen as Knausgaard’s precursors in the aesthetic tradition of what Wood lyrically deemed “autopsied minutiae” and “psycho-pointillism” (Lauren jeers at the latter term).  Drew takes this opportunity to proclaim Brodkey his “hero.” Drew and Leo discuss a near-mythical public conversation between James Wood and Brodkey, held in London in 1991. Link: https://sounds.bl.uk/Arts-literature-and-performance/ICA-talks/024M-C0095X0801XX-0100V0

We then embark on a disorderly Odyssey into Knausgaard’s reception in the anglosphere--and, somehow, into the history of realism and its discontents. For Schylla and Charybdis, we have David Shields and V.S. Pritchett (or something like that). Along the way, Sheila Heti, Ben Lerner and Frederick Jameson help us pick apart the itemized thinginess ("choisisme") of Knausgaard’s project: are things differentiated? Are things merely commodified, or, in their very banality, redeemed? Robbe-Grillet and his New Novelists provide an obsessively textural counterpoint to Knausgaard’s seemingly blank litanies of objects and products. 

Geoff Dyer takes a break from writing a blurb for Lauren’s eponymous Easter roast chicken to serve as another formal model for My Struggle and its reverberations. Like Brodkey and Mars-Jones, in his work, “nothing happens in a really a big way.” Here Drew invokes sensuous sun worshipper John Updike who, via a review of The Adventures of a Photographer in Los Platas by Adolfo Bioy Cesares, provides us with these weirdly apt sentences: “The novel arrests our attention and wins our respect by the things it disdains to do: it does not overdramatize or moralize, it denies events a deeper meaning. A clean if desolate flatness results”

Does KoK fit into David Shields’ anti-novelistic canon of Reality Hunger? Lauren and Leo get into some narratological weeds: is Karl Ove an ironized character, or a source of Shields-approved wisdom writing? 

Things are rambling along nicely until Drew “artlessly opens a can of worms.” Defending the so-called novelistic tradition against Shields’ claims of lifeless conventionality and formal tidiness, he brandishes a long quotation from V.S. Pritchett’s essay on Dead Souls (first collected in In My Good Books, 1942) : 

“The modern novel has reached such a pitch of competence and shapeliness that we are shocked at the disorderliness of the masterpieces. In the modern novel we are looking at a neatly barbered suburban garden; in the standard works how often do we have the impression of bowling through the magnificent gateway of a demesne only to find the house and gardens are unfinished or patched up anyhow, as if the owner had tired of his money in the first few weeks and after that had passed his life in a daydream of projects for ever put off. We feel the force of a great power which is never entirely spent, but which cannot be bothered to fulfill itself. In short, we are up against the carelessness, the lethargy, the enormous bad taste of genius, its slovenly and majestic conceit that anything will do” 

Pritchett inspires Leo  to give us an intricate tour of the history of tensions between form and chaos in the novel: the wet and the dry, the tidy and baggy. “We’ve conspired to mention every writer in the Western canon,” Leo says. “There’s the mess and the chaos--but there’s also the art.” 

Hot in Translation (ft. Benjamin Moser, winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

Hot in Translation (ft. Benjamin Moser, winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

April 7, 2021

We did it folks. We somehow got a Pulitzer Prize winner to go on the pod. And can I just say? Not only is my close personal friend Ben (as I call him, because of how tight we are) a Pulitzer Prize winner, he is also a PERFECT 10 (google image search him). If you don't feel like googling him let me briefly list his credentials: he wrote the DEFINITIVE biography of my soul sister (and possible friend/lover of my grandfather?? we'll get into that one next time) Clarice Lispector and translated many of her works from Portuguese into English, spurring a resurgence of interest in Lispector in the English speaking world. He also recently published the DEFINITIVE biography of Susan Sontag for which - and I would like to emphasize this again - he was awarded none other than the Pulitzer Prize. Heard of it?? 

Drew and I spent two hours chatting with Ben, who was calling in from his home in the French countryside (!!), and let me say it was one of our funnest recording sessions yet. I think you will like this one, listener!

cheat sheet:

0:00 - Opening remarks: Drew is moving to New York City (lol); Ben was initially confused about Drew's gender; Lauren opens up about her passion for Adidas

29:20 - Ben outlines his theory of hot people in literature. How important is being hot when it comes to writing (and more importantly, getting published)? Can you tell if a hot person wrote a certain text in a blind test? How did being extremely hot benefit Lispector and Sontag? Also: Lauren and Ben bond over their shared appreciation of Knausgaard's hotness (this is the closest we get to discussing My Struggle in this episode sorry not sorry).

1:03:03 - We have a very interesting discussion about literary translation using Ben's experience translating Lispector and also one page of Lauren's grandfather's novel "Antonio" as examples. We tackle some thorny questions at the heart of translation/translation studies, most of which boil down to: is translation an art or a craft? Ben comes down on the latter side and pushes back against "tenure-track mystifications" of the work of the translation, which argues is actually pretty straightforward*. Also: some spicy takes on Sapir-Whorf.

1:37:10 - Ben encourages Drew to implement a rigorous traditional canon for his high school English class. What follows is an arch-reactionary discussion of the Canon and how good it is. Also Ben says he would cast me as the Wife of Bathe in The Canterbury Tales and I don't know whether to be offended or not because I can't remember anything that happened in there.

Thank you for listening! Ben is pretty easy to find on Google and on Instagram (where he's a Beowulf influencer) but I also highly recommend his substack which I am obsessed with. It is the only substack I actually read every issue of. Impossibly erudite but also funny and accessible. 

As always you can reach out to me (teixeira.lauren@gmail.com) or Drew (deohringer@gmail.com) with your questions comments and concerns. Happy to hear from you!

*Here is the Iris Murdoch quote from The Sovereignty of the Good Over Other Concepts that I botched:

If I am learning, for instance, Russian, I am confronted by an authoritative structure which commands my respect. The task is difficult and the goal is distant and perhaps never entirely attainable. My work is a progressive revelation of something which exists independently of me. Attention is rewarded by knowledge of reality. Love of Russian leads me away from myself towards something alien to me, something which my consciousness cannot take over, swallow up, deny or make unreal. The honesty and humility required of the student -- not to pretend to know what one does not know--is the preparation for the honesty and humility of the scholar who does not even feel tempted to suppress the fact which damns his theory.

First of the gang to struggle

First of the gang to struggle

March 22, 2021

Performed and recorded by Andrew Ohringer in his mother's basement

Johnson’s Johnson (ft. James Griffiths)

Johnson’s Johnson (ft. James Griffiths)

March 19, 2021

IT'S THE RETURN OF THE WELSH WARRIOR! The Duke of Cardiff himself, prestigious CNN journalist James Griffiths is back on the pod and folks?? We got a little off topic!! But who gives a shit, you don't pay for this (yet) and what is a Knausgaard podcast without copious digression (the imitative fallacy can fuck right off)!! 

Due what I am self diagnosing as fatigue from the J&J vaccine I am too tired to write a full fledged recap but some things we covered in this were: Drew's guide to seduction by email; being Eskimo brothers with Jonathan Safran Foer; Elif Batuman and ill-fated campus romances; the disappointing lack of defecation scenes in My Struggle; Morrissey's solo career; and of course Robert Caro's LBJ biography which James has been reading recently and in which he has found some interesting Knausgaard parallels.

OUTRO: First of the Gang to Die - Morrissey (cover by Andrew Ohringer)


On Whale Steaks and Quinoa (ft. Alicia Kennedy)

On Whale Steaks and Quinoa (ft. Alicia Kennedy)

March 4, 2021

If you have listened to even one episode of this show you know that we are obsessed with Karl Ove's meals, from the open sandwiches and rissoles of his youth to the smug quinoa salads he avoids as an adult in Stockholm. Well guess what? We somehow got prestigious food writer (and KOK superfan) Alicia Kennedy to agree to come on the pod to talk spreads in My Struggle. This was truly one of our funnest episodes yet - enjoy!

cheat sheet:

14:40 - We tackle one of the most perplexing paradoxes of My Struggle: Karl Ove repeatedly professing indifference to food ("I couldn't give a rat's ass about food") while at the same time giving us lengthy, detailed accounts of his meals, such as the gourmet lobster dinner (Jamie Oliver's recipe) he cooks for the New Year's Eve dinner party in Book 2. And how do his kitchen exploits track with his feelings about his respective ex-wives?

25:30 - In the beginning of book 2, Karl Ove famously lays into the Swedes for believing they can "eat their way into being a better person" with quinoa and bean salads. Alicia, who advocates for veganism and vegetarianism in her writing, tells us her thoughts on these tirades (spoiler: she is pro-Knausgaard). Also: some self-hating Millennial bashing. Why can't Millennials just make normal meals?? Why does everything have to be an elaborate Instagram-worthy concoction or a viral TikTok pasta??

50:00 - We talk about a passage in which Karl Ove professes nostalgia for whale steaks and lung mash and the complicated matter of balancing nostalgia against ethics in our own eating lives. Alicia also talks about how she prefers Karl Ove's food writing over that of professional food writers, as he writes about food in a way that's matter of fact and mundane rather than fetishistic.

Thank you to Alicia for joining us! You can find her excellent newsletter here. Also: the Jonathan Nunn piece she recommended.

As always feel free to write in to me at teixeira.lauren@gmail.com or Drew at deohringer@gmail.com. What are some great moments of food writing in literature? I couldn't think of any on the pod bc my brain has been at 60% lately although of course as soon as we ended the call I thought of Murakami and pasta....

The Power of Lo-OVE

The Power of Lo-OVE

February 24, 2021

Our Struggle returns, and this time it's "just us boys"! This is a vibes-packed episode that is sure to alienate any new so-called intellectual listeners we may have gained via our show with esteemed Gen X critic Christian L but who gives a shit, we're vibing out like it's the first weekend of 1985 and Dad has left us a basket of fresh shrimp and a 500 krone note while he's away at a seminar.

The passage we cover starts at 141 in Kindle, not sure what it is in paper sorry

cheat sheet:

12:54 - One of our most ghastly segments yet as Karl Ove consumes liver pate on toast while lying about eating shrimp in aspic at the NYE party. CW: GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF SHRIMP IN ASPIC

37:15 - A truly inscrutable passage involving a visit to Grandma and Grandpa and a tablecloth 

51:06 - Dad is away at a seminar, thus kicking off a remarkably and delightfully 80s teen movie segment of My Struggle (and one of Lauren and Drew's favorites)

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS: I have created an Our Struggle playlist on Spotify to help you achieve maximum vibeage after the episode. Listen and let yourself be transported to a sunny Saturday morning in Kristiansand, Norway in 1985, you’re walking around town as faces flash by and the world is full of possibility…..

As always, we would love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out at teixeira.lauren@gmail.com or deohringer@gmail.com




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