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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Karate Chop

Dorthe Nors

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To purchase Karate Chop

Title: Karate Chop
Author: Dorthe Nors
Genre: Stories
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 88 pages
Original in: Danish
Availability: Karate Chop - US
Karate Chop - UK
Karate Chop - Canada
Karate Chop - India
Handkantenschlag - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B+ : pitch-perfect; unsettling

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 4/3/2015 John Self
The LA Times . 13/2/2014 Karolina Waclawiak
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/3/2014 V.V.Ganeshananthan
Politiken . 27/9/2008 Lise Garsdal

  From the Reviews:
  • "The stories don’t feel minimalist -- they’re full of life and ripe with death -- but they’re brief because there is no fat on them. This makes them moreish, and if you don’t like one, there will be another along in a minute." - John Self, The Guardian

  • "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, especially in the face of the opposite sex." - Karolina Waclawiak, The Los Angeles Times

  • "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." - V.V.Ganeshananthan, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Jo, der er så afgjort noget at komme efter i Dorthe Nors' noveller. Dog er vi hvad angår originalitet og langtidsvirkende chokeffekt (endnu) ikke på omdrejningshøjde med hverken Adda Djørup (Hvis man begyndte at spørge sig selv) eller Naja Marie Aidt (Bavian) ?" - Lise Garsdal, Politiken

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Karate Chop collects fifteen short stories in less than ninety pages. These compact pieces impress especially with their voice, understated and affectless, which heightens the unease one feels confronted with these situations -- in most of them: an underlying sadness and despair, a threat of violence.
       Typically, perfectly, Nors can sum up what lies behind a person and her actions in the almost banal-sounding:

     What had happened wasn't exactly spectacular. She had met a man. That was all.
       This comes midway through 'She Frequented Cemeteries', the point where the background is filled in, the why behind this protagonist's actions, her frequenting cemeteries. The specter of mortality is, of course, front and center here; nevertheless, it's a story of love, and that feeling of falling and being in love, and an attempt to capture it and hold onto it. The other -- the man she loves -- barely figures here; as in many of these stories, it turns and looks almost entirely inward, the character almost entirely self-centered.
       These characters are islands; others are presences in some of the stories, yet even in actions undertaken together the characters can seem alone, as in 'The Duckling', which concludes:
We buried it together behind the machine shed in a plastic bag, and he let me fill up the hole myself.
       Many of the characters withdraw into themselves. 'The Big Tomato' is an exception: narrated by Raquel, a cleaning woman working for a well-off Danish couple living in Manhattan, she has to deal with an oversized tomato that her employers want returned to the online grocery-delivery company that sent it. The man dispatched to retrieve the tomato, Gabriel -- who works for tips and rides a bicycle without brakes (both of which sound rather unlikely, but then as with the four-pound tomato itself, much about this story seems to be meant to have a slight feel of the whimsical-absurd) --, and Raquel connect, making for a rare joyful story -- something Nors can't pull off quite as convincingly as she does her more melancholy, darker tales.
       The writing in these stories, and Martin Aitken's careful, precise translations that seem to nicely nail the tone, impress greatly. The stories themselves almost all work, and they are quite affecting, with some packing a considerable punch. Still, they are just stories -- finely shaped morsels, which might suffice for many, but personally I prefer things more substantial (and would have much preferred the obviously talented Nors to debut in English with one her novels ...).

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 April 2014

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Karate Chop: Reviews: Dorthe Nors: Other books by Dorthe Nors under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Danish author Dorthe Nors was born in 1970.

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© 2014-2021 the complete review

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