In Conversation: A.M. Homes and Dorthe Nors
Tuesday February 11, 2014
Photo credit: Marion Ettlinger | Photo credit: Simon Klein Knudsen
Dorthe Nors and AM Homes came together to discuss their latest books, Karate Chop (Nors) and May We Be Forgiven (Homes). The event was moderated by Brigid Hughes.
About Karate Chop (Graywolf Paperback)
From the dark imagination of Danish writer Dorthe Nors come fifteen raw and unflinching stories about the twists and turns of contemporary life and the complexities of human emotions. While his wife sleeps, a husband prowls the Internet, obsessed with female serial killers. A bureaucrat tries to reinvent himself, exposing goodness as artifice when he converts to Buddhism in search of power. A woman sits on the edge of the bed where her lover lies, attempting to locate a motive for his violence within her own self-doubt. The stories in Karate Chop are compact, urgent, and bold, and will demand the attention of readers who love daring writers like Renata Adler, Sheila Heti, and Rachel Kushner. Graywolf is proud to publish Karate Chop as the first book in our collaboration with esteemed literary journal A Public Space, which first introduced Nors’s fiction to US readers in 2011.
About May We Be Forgiven (Penguin Books)
A.M. Homes has won acclaim as one of the most daring voices of her generation, renowned for her powerful imagination, her provocative and witty voice, and for the emotional intensity of her storytelling. The winner of The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013, May We Be Forgiven is a darkly comic look at twenty-first century domestic life: at individual lives spinning out of control, and the story of how one deeply fractured family might begin to pull itself back together.
Harold Silver is a 48 year old Nixon scholar in a childless cold marriage, stuck in both his personal and his professional life. He has always dwelled in the shadow of his younger, more successful brother George, a man with a murderously volatile temper. As the novel opens, George loses control in a shocking act of violence which completely undoes both brothers’ lives, leaving Harold living alone in his bother’s suburban Westchester home, with full responsibility for his brother’s two adolescent children. At first, Harold loses himself as he tumbles hilariously down the rabbit hole of internet sex and George’s prescription medications. But when confronted by his own mortality, he begins to open up to the world around him, to let go of the past and begin taking some risks, including learning to parent his brother’s two children, Ashley and Nate. As his relationships change to something deeper and more emotionally satisfying, Harold establishes a new closeness with his niece and nephew, who reveal themselves to be far more complex than anyone has ever noticed. And even as Harold’s academic career comes to an unexpected end, he flourishes, his passion for his subject renewed when he’s hired to edit the previously undiscovered short stories of Richard M. Nixon, whose shadowy presence pervades the novel as it does contemporary American life.
Little by little, Harold, never having realized he was lost, begins to find himself as he creates a new life and an expanded new family that eventually comes to include an 8 year old orphaned boy and the elderly parents of one of his girlfriends. There is a visit to South Africa for Nate’s Bar Mitzvah where issues of faith, race, class and gender come into stark focus and Harry and the children undergo life-changing transformations, both as individuals and as an untraditional family, not of biology but of choice.
In this rollicking, tender-hearted and redemptive novel, her first work of fiction in six years, Homes digs deeply into the themes of the American family, the near biblical intensity of fraternal relationships, our need to make sense of things, our craving for connection, and the power within each of us to transform our lives. May We Be Forgiven is an unnerving and funny tale of unexpected intimacies that forces us to think about the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny by either compelling us to repeat our errors or becoming the catalyst for change.
Dorthe Nors is the author of five novels, and the recipient of the Danish Arts Agency’s Three Year Grant for her “unusual and extraordinary talent.” Her stories have appeared in AGNI, A Public Space, Boston Review, Ecotone, and FENCE. Karate Chop is her first book to be published in English. She lives in Copenhagen.
AM Homes is the author of the memoir The Mistress’s Daughter and the novels May We Be Forgiven (Winner of The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013), This Book Will Change Your Life, Music for Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the story collections The Safety of Objects and Things You Should Know and the travel book Los Angeles: People, Places, and the Castle on the Hill. Her books have been translated into twenty-two languages. The recipient of numerous awards, she has published fiction and essays in The New Yorker, Granta, Harpers, McSweeney’s, One Story, The New York Times and Vanity Fair, where she is a Contributing Editor. She lives in New York City.