The first work to be translated into English by Danish author Dorthe Nors is a slim collection of brief, surprising stories exploring everything from a teenager losing her virginity to a retired husband's secret obsession with female murderers. These are slippery tales — just as you're starting to get a grasp on where they're headed, they shift, they swell. Norse's writing is wonderfully unrestrained yet manages to capture our innermost fears and desires and hang-ups at record speed. A pointed, powerful read. Recommended By Renee P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The first book in English by an acclaimed Danish writer: “beautiful, faceted, haunting stories...[from] a rising star” (Junot Díaz)
Karate Chop, Dorthe Nors's acclaimed story collection, is the debut book in the collaboration between Graywolf Press and A Public Space. These fifteen compact stories are meticulously observed glimpses of everyday life that expose the ominous lurking under the ordinary. While his wife sleeps, a husband prowls the Internet, obsessed with female serial killers; a bureaucrat tries to reinvent himself, exposing goodness as artifice when he converts to Buddhism in search of power; a woman sits on the edge of the bed where her lover lies, attempting to locate a motive for his violence within her own self-doubt. Shifting between moments of violence (real and imagined) and mundane contemporary life, these stories encompass the complexity of human emotions, our capacity for cruelty as well as compassion. Not so much minimalist as stealthy, Karate Chop delivers its blows with an understatement that shows a master at work.
"These very short works (most are no more than three pages, the longest is roughly eight) are as sharp-edged, destructive, and intentionally made as the title suggests. Nowhere here is a word out of place. Imagine Grace Paley with more than a little of Mary Gaitskill's keen eye for the despair and violence of sex, mixed with an otherness that's unsettlingly odd and vivid. The sentences are brightly visual and attuned to the weird details of each character's inner world. In 'Janus,' protagonist Louise lies in bed after losing her virginity. She follows her thoughts to an afternoon spent licking envelopes at her father's office, where she had an intimate daydream about one addressee. 'There he had lain under his white linen, smelling of duvet, and Louise had wanted to cry.' Nors's stories (most like Paley in this way) have multiple stories within them, holding hands with each other. In 'Female Killers,' Nors writes, 'Maybe that's why she opens doors in the mind. Doors, stairwells, pantries.' Each of these pages contains a trapdoor, a side entrance, and, at times, they feel like dispatches from an alien world (or maybe the basement). Nors's writing doesn't just observe the details of life online searches, laundry, fantasies, conversations with semi-strangers, compulsions it offers a marvelous, truthful take on how these details illustrate our souls." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Readers of Norss stories are reminded of the thrills and dangers of living: never are we far from the dark undercurrent—nor exempt from the demands—of routine existence. Memories, laughter, a gesture: everything casts a shadow, meaningful or mysterious. These stories prove that no loss is too small, and each moment counts.” Yiyun Li
"Unsettling and poetic....Some pieces, like one about a four-pound tomato, are oddly beautiful; others are brilliantly disturbing." The New York Times Book Review
"The short-stories in Danish sensation Dorthe Nors's slim, potent collection, Karate Chop...evoke the weirdness and wonder of relating in the digital age." Vogue
"Precisely crafted and melancholy stories....Karate Chop displays admirable willingness to take on difficult stories, and Dorthe Nors tells these difficult stories very well." New York Journal of Books
"These stores are swift and unexpected and bruising....In the span of two pages, [Nors] is able to both build and unmake a character, achieving the same complexity that other writers require entire novels to establish....[Everyone should] indulge in the subversive delight of [Karate Chop]." Booklist
"Arresting....These amuse-bouches are a fine introduction to [Nors's] work." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Dorthe Nors is the author of five novels and the recipient of the Danish Arts Agencys Three Year Grant for “her unusual and extraordinary talent.” Her stories have appeared in Agni, A Public Space, Boston Review, Ecotone, and Fence.