Ben Lerner reviews My Struggle in the LRB, and says:
But Knausgaard isn’t really quotable. There’s too much lengthy digression and extremely – at times almost absurdly – detailed description; one would have to excerpt pages and pages, not a sentence or paragraph, to give an accurate sense of the effect. Most critics attempt to demonstrate a novelist’s perceptiveness by providing examples of his eye for the significant detail. But part of what makes Knausgaard’s writing unusual is that he seems barely to adjudicate significance [...]
I'm not sure he's right. This is from somewhere in the last fifth of A Man in Love.
A roughly five-centimetre layer of snow covered the streets and roofs. The sky above us was leaden grey with glimmers of light in places. There were not many people up and about, naturally enough, it was a Sunday morning. The odd party-goer wending his way home, the odd pensioner walking a dog and as we approached the station the odd prospective passenger trundling a bag. A young man sat on the platform and slept with his chin resting on his chest. Behind him a crow was pecking at a rubbish bin.
This passage is concise and without being particularly special it is still evocative. But this is not a water-cannon of detail, it is not everything that happened and there are many choices Knausgaard makes about what he describes. He could have written about many other things: the texture of the roof under the snow; a glowing vending machine; the colour of the strip-lights under the canopy compared to the colour of the sunlight; someone reading in a passing train. He has made choices, and he makes choices throughout the novels. He has said the novels are 20%-30% truth and obviously he is not just writing everything that happened, that would be absurd. He is being true to the feeling of the time and place, and to his reactions. These are the truths that matter, not whether or not there really was a young man asleep on the platform, or even that Knausgaard went there at all on the day in question. When he describes the food at a dinner party it may well not be what he actually ate when he had those particular friends over, and it doesn't have to be. He doesn't claim to have a photographic memory. He is mostly writing fiction, and doing that at all means making choices, and he makes them very well.