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Karl Ove Knausgaard is wrong writers should own dogs

The author blames his dog for the fact that he was blocked for two years. But pets provide a vital emotional lifeline for anybody who spends time alone

In an essay for the New Yorker, Karl Ove Knausgaard has detailed two difficult years of owning adog, wondering if its presence in his home was connected to the fact that he did not write aline of literary prose during that period. (Merely essays and articles, he notes.) It was such aproblem for him, he writes, that his six-volume autobiographical series, My Struggle, was originally called The Dog. Has asingle good author ever owned adog? he asksdrily.

The essay is not an indictment of dog ownership, as such. Knausgaard admits that the dog was barely trained, that he saw too much of himself in the animal and that the failings were his own. He ended up giving it to afamily, he says, that knew how dogs should betreated.

But Ernest Hemingway had dogs, as did, to name just afew others, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, EBWhite, John Cheever, PGWodehouse and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. For writers who are not struggling to get down six volumes of painfully detailed autobiography or freelancers without fixed hours, or anyone who works from home, or anyone who lives alone having apet can be asalve. Agood dog is good company, less demanding than another person and far more devoted, in exchange for ear scratches. Ihave found that isolation feels muted with an animal around, even if the only things you have said that morning are: Was that you? and What have you beeneating?

Crucially, adog forces you into the world. If you have aproblem to solve, time away from ascreen in the fresh air makes you think differently. Before having adog, if Ihad abusy week, Icould stay indoors for longer than is healthy. Without exercising social skills, its incredible how quickly they start to collapse. Dogs take you outside, they make you walk and move, they train you in the art of polite chat with strangers. Dogs make the world seem less cold and less alien. Isnt that the point of the best writing, too?

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