Each of the fifteen stories in Danish writer Dorthe Nors’ first English-language collection Karate Chop (Graywolf 2014) are short enough to inhabit territory of an entirely new genre: concise as flash, but incisive and expansive as any great short story. Narrative economy allows Nors to deliver moments of surprising shock and revelation—the title story hinges on a brutal act of retribution and the strange, dissociative poetry of its final sentence—and many of these darkly comic stories depend for their effect on the threat of violence (real or imagined) that hangs over them, as in “Female Killers” where a man spends late nights perusing the Internet for details about the gruesome deeds of famous female serial killers while his partner sleeps soundly upstairs. In the best of these stories (“Mutual Destruction,” “Duckling,” and “The Heron”) Nors explores the violence that subtends the human heart and recalls Flannery O’Connor at her damned best: mordant, unflinching, even scathing.
Dorthe Nors, Karate Chop: Stories. Translated by Martin Aitken. Published by Graywolf Press (2014). 112 pages.