Publisher: Graywolf. June 21, 2016.
Genre: Literary Fiction
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Dorthe Nors follows up her acclaimed story collection Karate Chop with a pair of novellas that playfully chart the aftermath of two very twenty-first-century romances. In "Days," a woman in her late thirties records her life in a series of lists, giving shape to the tumult of her days--one moment she is eating an apple, the next she is on the floor, howling like a dog. As the details accumulate, we experience with her the full range of emotions: anger, loneliness, regret, pain, and also joy, as the lists become a way to understand, connect to, and rebuild her life.
In "Minna Needs Rehearsal Space," a novella told in headlines, an avant-garde musician is dumped via text message. Fleeing the indignity of the breakup and friends who flaunt their achievements in life, career, and family, Minna unfriends people on Facebook, listens to Bach, and reads Ingmar Bergman, then decamps to an island near Sweden, "well suited to mental catharsis." -Goodreads
Ever since reading her collection of stark short stories, Karate Chop, I've been looking forward to more of Danish author Dorthe Nors' work being translated to English. And So Much for That Winter is beyond exciting, because it's two longer pieces that both specifically highlight the magic that Nors can create in her terse sentence styling. She accomplishes so much while saying so little and it never ceases to stun me. So on to the two novellas that make up this collection (if two of something makes a collections, that is).
MINNA NEEDS REHEARSAL SPACE
Minna and Karin took a class together.
Karin latched onto Minna.
Minna is somewhat of a host species.
First of all, I don't think I've ever related to a sentence more than I have that last one. Anyway, that's beside the point. Minna Needs Rehearsal Space is my favorite of the two novellas -- I loved it. I loved it so much that I feel comfortable saying just read this one, you don't even need to read Days. But more on that later.
Grown-ups are kids who have lots to hide.
This story is written in a series of headlines, because the man who just broke Minna's heart is a reporter. And it's brilliant. It sounds like it would be dull to read, but it's both incredibly readable and it commits extraordinary acts of beauty. Narrator, Minna, breaks modern day life and love into small simplistic bits that will make you laugh and tear up and be amazed at how Nors has managed to capture how it feels to be a human today. Constantly clever and moving, this novella carries a strong plot with memorable (needy, horrible) characters you've most likely seen before in your life.
If you're a fan of Jenny Offill's Dept of Speculation or Edouard Leve's Suicide, seek this one out.
Jette calls her boyfriends lovers.
Jette's boyfriends are married to other women.
I love Nors and I want to love everything she ever does and I don't want to say anything bad about any part of So Much for That Winter, but I didn't love Days. Though similarly written, this time in the form of lists, it was the opposite in that it did not feel as compulsively readable. I mean it was easy to read, but I didn't want to read it that badly. The main character is a writer who doesn't actually seem to have a job who is going through some vague struggle and we get to see her day to day actions and thoughts. If at any point I was given a reason to care about the main character, it may have been interesting. But for the most part I was just wondering if I would figure out what was going on and then was disappointed when I didn't really.
1. Woke an hour early
2. made instant coffee,
3. drank it,
4. stood by my kitchen window the same way I stood by my kitchen window when I lived on the island of Fanø and went down to the beach every day and crushed razor shells underfoot: Why do I live here? I’d wondered
5. and couldn’t have known that one day I would stand in a flat in Valby and look at the crooked tulips in the backyard and wonder the same thing.
There are definitely good moments in it. I enjoyed some of the narrator's thoughts. But I also wished the lists could have been focused and actually functioned as lists or had some sort of visible reasoning. But some of the lists, unlike the one shared above, didn't have any sort of verb so it wasn't like a list of each thing she did. I don't know. I was just unclear about the whole thing the whole way through. So much for that novella, right?
Maybe there's something I just didn't pick up on, but I personally recommend Minna Needs Rehearsal Space (luckily the longer of the two) and can give only give a shrug and an "it was ok I guess" to Days.
I think So Much for That Winter is worth getting just for Minna, I feel that strongly about the novella.