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On Dorthe Nors’s “Karate Chop”

October 22, 2014 by Daniel Woodrell

To read a Dorthe Nors story is to enter a dream and become subject to its logic. Though her voice is subtly modulated, even cool, cerebral, you immediately feel pulled into a consciousness that is somehow off-kilter and quietly, darkly disturbed. Sometimes her characters seem merely odd, but somewhere along the way the merely is lost and the odd quality becomes stunningly human. Her wonderful collection, Karate Chop, is an exemplar of this compact artistry. You pass through her narrative, often not quite sure of what is really happening, confusion that builds internal tension, and even mystery in the sense of the mystery of existence, the hidden realms to be found within one life. The writer’s voice is bracingly candid, stoic, and yet, like a dream, the forward movement of paragraphs is broken up by perceptions and memories that seem nearly to be non sequiturs, sidebars to the narrative, but that actually hurl the story forward in surprising ways. Ideas and emotions are quick in arriving, equally quick to shift meaning as we read forward. This technique has much in common with aspects of karate; when one arm strikes forward the other draws back, and the arm drawing back is equal in importance to the arm striking forward. Nors knows and understands so much about us; her perceptions frequently shock with their acuity, though within seconds you recognize them as, yes, true.

Read "The Winter Garden" by Dorthe Nors in APS 12 and "Karate Chop" in APS 14.

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