Overview


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...
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Karate Chop: Stories

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Overview


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.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - V. V. Ganeshananthan
Nors presents a range of voices and offbeat images in these 15 unsettling and poetic stories. Some pieces, like one about a four-pound tomato, are oddly beautiful; others are brilliantly disturbing.
Publishers Weekly
★ 11/11/2013
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. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Karate Chop

 

"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

 

"The intricately crafted stories in Karate Chop, from popular Danish writer Dorthe Nors, focus on ordinary occurrences . . . and then twist them into brilliantly slanted cautionary tales about desire, romance, deception, and dread." —ELLE

 

"In this slim collection of stories, the Danish Nors examines everyday issues with intensity and force." —Marie Claire

 

"Spare and sublime. Author Dorthe Nors knows how to capture the smallest moments and sculpt them into the unforgettable." —Oprah.com

 

"Dorthe Nors illuminates an ominous world of disconnected people trying to make sense of their dislocation. . . . Nors' affectless, matter-of-fact storytelling—crisply translated from the original Danish by Martin Aitken—is the perfect complement to the low-wattage desperation and inertia her characters feel." —Los Angeles Times

 

"Nors's prose is direct . . . a series of uncluttered and voice-driven sentences that achieve their rhythm through careful juxtaposition and build. . . . One hopes Nors's novels are translated into English soon, and that they show as much promise as her short stories." —Chicago Tribune

"Not dissimilar to the melancholic interior scenes painted by Vilhelm Hammershi, numerous films by Thomas Vinterberg, and even the churning sounds of composer Niels Gade, these stories look underneath deceptively quiet surfaces, finding undercurrents that may never fully express themselves but repetitively hint at their constant presence. . . . Peppered with themes of memory, violence, loss, and separation, these pages quietly announce a confident and valuable new voice in translated fiction." —The Daily Beast

"Karate Chop is a collection of brittle, blackly comic, and quietly explosive stories that provide snapshots of modern Danish life and home at daring angles to highlight the quirks, agonies, and vulnerabilities of the human condition." —Star Tribune

"The stories in Karate Chop are as tremendous as they are brief. . . . With each story weighing in at a mere four or five pages, Nors doesn't waste any time delivering a knockout." —Shelf Awareness for Readers, starred review

"Exceptional. . . . Nors is adroit at offering powerful summation at the precise moment with a single cutting phrase or an unexpected observation. These brief stories provide universal insight into an everyday, modern existence." —The Rumpus

"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 very short works . . . 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." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

"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

 

"Dorthe Nors is a writer of moments—quiet, raw portraits of existential mediation, at times dyspeptic, but never unsympathetic." —Justin Alvarez, Paris Review Daily

 

"Beautiful, faceted, haunting stories. . . . Dorthe Nors is fantastic. . . . a rising star of Danish letters." —Junot Diaz, author of This Is How You Lose Her

 

“Readers of Nors’s 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, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl

 

"This collection is a marvel—droll, compassionate, and just really smart. It takes only one story—and really just a paragraph—to note the excellence of this work in its unsentimental and forthright account of people slogging through their lives." —Fiona Maazel, author of Woke Up Lonely

Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-21
The first English publication of this Danish author of five novels consists of 15 oblique, very short stories, many of them about isolated people struggling to connect. A depressed actress abandons the artifice of Copenhagen, searching for authenticity in a remote part of the country to dissipate her psychological fog, but she ends up in a literal one ("The Wadden Sea"). The 35-year-old in "She Frequented Cemeteries" may have met the man of her dreams, or she may be living in a fantasy world; Nors artfully leaves both possibilities open. Annelise, in the title story, makes bad choices with men, ignoring red flags, but her revenge on the sexual sadist Carl Erik is a last-sentence shocker. The disturbed female narrator of "The Heron" has given up on human contact; she would settle for proximity to a tame bird. These stories are, in varying degrees, arresting. "Flight," which contrasts actual and metaphorical space as it sketches a woman after a breakup, is more banal, as is "The Winter Garden": Here, after his parents' divorce, their self-possessed son realizes his dad is the truly needy one. Not all the stories adhere to this isolation/connection model. "The Big Tomato," set in Manhattan, pokes fun at excess. A wealthy Danish couple, expats, receives a 4-pound tomato from their online grocer, to the bemusement of their Mexican cleaner and Albanian laundryman on the other side of the class divide. Another New York story, "Nat Newsom," is much darker. The eponymous Nat, a panhandler, retains his optimism despite physical handicaps and hard knocks. A Columbia professor, researching naïveté, eyes him as a subject, then contemptuously dismisses him as "too odd." It's a chilling look at the academic hustle. Nors is just as mordant in her treatment of a self-aggrandizing charlatan who reinvents himself as a Buddhist to become head of an aid organization, which he then rips off ("The Buddhist"). These amuse-bouches are a fine introduction to the author's work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555970857
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 317,874
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Dorthe Nors is the author of five novels and the recipient of the Danish Arts Agency’s Three Year Grant for “her unusual and extraordinary talent.” Her stories have appeared in Agni, A Public Space, Boston Review, Ecotone, and Fence.
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