So Much for That Winter is a special joint edition of Nors’ two novellas Days (Dage, 2010) and Minna Needs Rehearsal Space (Minna mangler et øvelokale, 2013). It was published by Graywolf Press in the US and by Gyldendal in Denmark in June 2016.
Days is a quiet story about a woman who has lost the person with whom she has fallen deeply in love. In order to work through her grief, she writes lists. Unraveling over the course of these lists is her story, which spans from earlry spring to late summer in Copenhagen. She takes walks, rides her bike, visits the dentist, paints her nails, and eats pasta Bolognese. The lists deal with both the big and the small and are a way for her to create stability in an increasingly unstable reality.
Nors has written a small big novel about a life unfolding through lists that, through their arrangement, create a pattern, a movement and a rhythm that makes a deep impression on the reader and is, yet again, proof of the fact that, in the hands of the expert Nors, few words are needed to tell a complex and deeply human story.
MINNA NEEDS REHEARSAL SPACE
Minna is a composer and not a day over forty. She is writing a sonata, but she is having trouble getting the tone right because she doesn’t have a rehearsal space. Actually, there are a lot of things that Minna doesn’t have. Children, for one. Or a life purpose. Or a voice that is properly heard. Minna is in love with the digitally-savvy Lars, but Lars has other plans. There are a number of women haunting Minna. There is Jette, the erotic harpist. Self-indulgent Karin uses Minna as an ear into which she catalogues her many pleasures. Her sister Elisabet is self-righteous and needy. And, in an absurd twist, Minna’s mom is blogging about geraniums. Minna has become a receptacle for everyone else’s needs and demands, and there is very little room left for her. Until now. Because she has made a decision: she is going to learn to sort. Minna is going to develop an asshole-filter.
Minna Needs Rehearsal Space is a subtle and playful account of a woman who needs to break free from the lives of others in order to make room for her own. Written in one-line paragraphs, this short novel is characterized by Nors’s distinctive edgy humor and linguistic precision. Minna Needs Rehearsal Space is a delightful burst of energy that makes you laugh at first, and then turn the existential spotlight on your own life.
“Danish writer Dorthe Nors covers the emotional spectrum of the experience in the two playfully experimental novellas of ‘So Much for That Winter’, finding as much material in the comedy of rejection as in its humiliations and heartbreak. […] The delightful ‘Minna Needs Rehearsal Space’ begins as a young Copenhagen composer is dropped by her boyfriend via text message in favor of a sexy pop musician. In a brisk translation by Misha Hoekstra, the novella charts Minna’s disequilibrium—and her annoyance with a noise-sensitive neighbor—in hundreds of single-sentence paragraphs that pile up like towers of stacked plates. […] It’s here that Ms. Nors’s impish wit stands out.”
Wall Street Journal (US)
“In addition to Nors’ poetic flair, the thing that separates these stories from other contemporary tales of woe and redemption is the forms they take to match. The first novella, ‘Minna Needs Rehearsal Space’, is told in status-update-sized chunks and the second, ‘Days,’ is written in listicles. […] Like Minna, we also may never be able fully break away from the new ways we’re learning to communicate. Try as we might, we never can shake it. But if we are resistant to Nors’ style, it’s probably because we’re inundated with and exhausted by this form of language every day—and that’s exactly why we should read it.”
“Each novella nods to a distinctly contemporary cultural shorthand — status updates, listicles — while exploding the potential for narrative within formal limits. Thematically tied, they are equally inventive but disparate in structure and effect. […] Nors’ writing is by turns witty, gut wrenching, stark and lyrical. Her characters seesaw between longing for human connection and the space in which to lick their wounds. That she achieves all this while experimenting with form is something of an impossible feat. […] Isolation, rejection, cutting ties — Nors has a talent for rendering disconnection without sentimentality. Her observations are brutal, funny or both. […] ‘So Much for That Winter’ may be avant-garde, but it also deals in the fundamentals of being human. Who hasn’t been dumped or felt bewildered by the passage of time? Two riffs on a shared theme, these novellas do invite comparison to one another, but they bolster one another too. Paired as a single volume, Nors has created an exciting and artful literary diptych.”
Los Angeles Times (US)
“Dorthe Nors’ fiction mixes a dark-humored wisdom with gleams of pain. Along these lines, Karate Chop, her collection of stories from 2014, was one of the wisest, funniest, and most painful books of that year. […] I’ve been waiting to hear from her ever since. […] Nors is characteristically unsparing and hilarious.”
“They are as stark and unusual in form as they are bleak in mood. […] The result of these startling, experimental novellas is both somber and playful, the themes of romantic disappointment and creative blocks heightened by the minimalist style. So Much for That Winter is a compelling investigation of form and emotion.”
Shelf Awareness (US)
“Dorthe Nors returns with two refreshingly inventive novellas. […] The juxtaposition of mundane chores like laundry and shopping with moments of unexpected insight (“there isn’t anything the heart fears more than people who listen to it of their own free will”) creates a disorienting storm of strained beauty. Nors, brilliant and with a growing stateside readership, leaves readers wanting more.”
“[Dorthe Nors] experiments with form as a means to explore the rich inner lives of her characters. There’s great humor and unflinching pathos in her examination of modern life in all of its absurdity and loneliness.”
Bomb Magazine (US)
“What I find the most refreshing about Dorthe Nors’s So Much for That Winter is how both novellas concern themselves only with the bones of narrative. […] I often felt like I was reading two very different diaries, both written by lonesome people who are terrified by the passage of time, who lend meaning to their days by parsing them out into the smallest of moments, each one worthy of record because there isn’t a second that goes by when the characters aren’t thinking. And if free thought doesn’t make time meaningful, what does?”
The Paris Review (US)
“The pacing and voice in ‘Minna Needs Rehearsal Space’ are exactly what I would want from a Danish, lousily-dumped conceptual musician. Smart, dark, snide (but perfect), and funny in a way that is funny only to those of us who’ve been accused of being smart, dark and snide. […] The second novella’s title, ’Days’, directs the reader how to take on the work. […] Each segment is a poem with the same premise, but with a renewed potential. Patterns emerge: feeling at odds with the masses, running, visits to the cemetery, a certain distant reflection. There are steps forward and back, as is the way these things go. The entries become less concrete and more lyric. The days are lovely in their thick sadness.”
Entropy Mag (US)
“If forever more we are obliged to think in headlines and status updates, let us sound like Dorthe Nors.”
“One of the speediest and most intriguing of this year’s summer books. […] Her innovative novellas hold a mirror to our disjointed times.”
“Nors adresses crucial questions of contemporary existence with great humor and humanity. […] Nors’ gaze is intimate and unflinching as she examines the isolation that arises from a plugged-in world.”
Sycamore Review (US)
“These two novellas present an edgy evocation of contemporary life. Nors is a creator of small spaces; her fiction is relentless, edgy, brief. […] The idea is to deconstruct, or rewire, narrative by stripping away excess detail in favor of something closer to pure consciousness. Yet lest this sounds off-putting or difficult, it couldn’t be more accessible.”
Kirkus Reviews (US)
“In [So Much for That Winter] there is inventiveness and motion, angst and loss, puzzles and minor epiphanies. […] Nors packs much into her telegraphic works. […] [The novellas] contain despair, grief, family conflicts, aesthetic pursuits, and the mundane; the two narrators are present, flesh, bone, heart, and spirit.”
Numero Cinq (US)
“Minna Needs Rehearsal Space shows Nors’s economy and perceptiveness.”
Publishers Weekly (US)