Our hosts are Lauren and Drew and they want to talk about Karl Ove Knausgaard. Or rather, they want to talk around Knausgaard. Or to talk through Knausgaard, towards the sense of what the Knausgaard phenomenon means. Or, it sometimes seems, they want to talk about everything but Knausgaard — cigarettes, Constance Garnett, the history of literary criticism, to what extent hotness is a function of tallness, Clarice Lispector, media hype, backlash, cancel culture, sneakers, Gen X, how Geoff Dyer got where he did — until the only territory left uncovered by the conversation is...

Our hosts are Lauren and Drew and they want to talk about Karl Ove Knausgaard. Or rather, they want to talk around Knausgaard. Or to talk through Knausgaard, towards the sense of what the Knausgaard phenomenon means. Or, it sometimes seems, they want to talk about everything but Knausgaard — cigarettes, Constance Garnett, the history of literary criticism, to what extent hotness is a function of tallness, Clarice Lispector, media hype, backlash, cancel culture, sneakers, Gen X, how Geoff Dyer got where he did — until the only territory left uncovered by the conversation is Knausgaard himself, described only through omission, in negative outline, raising yet another cigarette to his smoldering, craggy face.

Lauren and Drew are the hosts of Our Struggle, a paratextual, parasocial and occasionally somewhat parasexual podcast about the experience of reading the Norwegian author’s six-book memoir-cum-novel-cum-lawsuit-magnet, My Struggle. It goes without saying that the show is itself a Knausgaardian enterprise, some 20 hours in now, with no end, or even structure, in sight. Unlike in Knausgaard though, there’s a twist: Our Struggle has become the breakout podcast hit of the year in transatlantic literary circles. Even more surprising, it’s great: hip, amicable, funny, the worst idea for a podcast ever conceived, spun out, somehow, as an absurdist performance of itself.

The standout episodes tend to be those featuring guests drawn from the world of literary criticism, some of whom are voluble and self-deprecating, some of whom are laconic and collected, some of whom are gossipy and self-involved. I admit that my tolerance for literary gossip is higher than that of the average punter, but for now I’ll name no names. Listening, I’ve learnt about which readings Karl Ove looked best at (he is extremely good-looking), how to pronounce his name (which can’t be transliterated), Henry James’s theory of the novel. I’m not really sure I’ve learnt anything about Knausgaard that I didn’t already know: tall, full of shame, writes a lot, smokes a lot, possibly a towering genius, hates Sweden, writes books that you can’t put down about shame, writing, smoking and hating the Swedes, sometimes all at once.

Yes, it’s rambling — and then some. The temptation is to retort ‘that’s the point’ —though to do so wouldn’t be in the spirit of Our Struggle, which conducts its lengthy digressions with a genial unconcern for either the task at hand or what anyone might think about it. I think of it as occupying a space between an ultra-chic art world and politics podcast like Red Scare and a long coffee with well-read friends you wish you saw more often. Perhaps, at worst, you might find it a little pointedly cool, and it sometimes feels that way from tweedy England. Some people might tune out, thinking disconsolately: ‘If the digression’s too long, then I must be too old.’ But why do that when you could just be cool. Turn on, tune in, talk trash about the Swedes.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the World edition here.