Karate Chop, and Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors
|Karate Chop, and Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors|
|Category: Short Stories|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Some obviously inventive work in this debut translation, but if the style doesn't disappoint I can see the brevity and off-kilter emotion might.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 176||Date: February 2015|
|Publisher: Pushkin Press|
|External links: Author's website|
The reviewer picks up the book.
The book is called Minna Needs Rehearsal Space.
The book is entirely made out of one-sentence paragraphs.
The one-sentence paragraphs are very seldom poetic, but normally are grammatically correct sentences.
The one-sentence paragraphs on the whole have just one verb, unless regarding that from reported or unreported speech.
The book concerns a middle-aged musician and composer who does indeed need rehearsal space.
The book concerns a woman who suddenly gets more space than she wants when her boyfriend leaves her.
The boyfriend's departure causes a lot of people crowding around Minna, which causes a problem.
The problem might be resolved by a trip away from her city flat.
The title of the book might be ironic.
OK, I'll leave it there, for bad parody is not really what this website is about. It has to be said however that with such a divisive style to this piece it really might help to sample and to think long and hard about reading 90 pages of the stuff. It's distinctive on the page, it's distinctive to read it, and the fashion allows the clarity of every blunt and solid statement to be given equal weight, so I can see how the work might be wearisome to others. To me it was pretty enjoyable – there is a social comedy with the unfortunate 'help' Minna gets, and the relative exotica of the remote parts of Denmark the book touches on was pleasurable too. The book doesn't come across as perfect, and I think I was expected to see more humour than I did, but in following on from the tiny scads of modern Scandinavian and Nordic modernism I have come across in my reviewing career (the likes of Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad) I could definitely get a flavour of the author's unusual intentions and processes, and enjoyed the story she provided.
This piece would get four stars from me, on its own, and the relevant words there are 'on its own', for it isn't. Some of my one-line sentences above aren't strictly true, for with the publication of Minna comes the opportunity to read an earlier collection of short stories by the same author, packaged upside-down and starting at the other end of the self-same volume. These date from the days of 2008, and while the author and her translator have been flooding the North American journal market with various samples of the contents since, we have the full thing for the first time. To me they weren't full enough however – they are so strongly designed to create an unsettling mood, provide unlikely and unexpected characters, and are all over so quickly (the longest is nine whole sides of the page) they seemed like scenes – effective scenes yes, but not fully resolved shorts.
They certainly bring out the moodiness of the Danish dark side, if there is one – here are disabled people accepting being conned, a woman facing at least emotional isolation and abuse in the marriage bed, the musings of a woman in the hairdresser's about how little she knows a neighbour, lads seeing their dads as imperfect for the first time, and people obsessing with female serial killers. One is even called 'She Frequented Cemeteries' which says it all. A couple of the pieces picked themselves off the page and presented themselves in a better light, but on the whole they were about the premise and emotion more than the plot and the event. Three stars for these pieces – none of which bear anything like the inventive telling of the other half to the volume – meaning this as a whole is a fair-to-middling shop window for an evidently thoughtful and creative, if not utterly enjoyable, young author.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Prime in my world for short stories ever since I read it has been Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and Stephen Snyder (translator). As remedy to the Danish doom and gloom, might I suggest A Piece of Danish Happiness by Sharmi Albrechtsen.
You can read more book reviews or buy Karate Chop, and Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Karate Chop, and Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors at Amazon.com.
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