Knots is a superb title for a group of quick tales. In any other case, essentially the most that may be stated for Gunnhild Øyehaug’s slim guide, which was first revealed in Norwegian in 2004, is that it should lose some allure in translation. Her tales are corny and high-minded, written in a repetitive and runny prose, filled with dinkuses and exclamation marks and clumsy name-checks of Charles Baudelaire, Arvo Pärt, Andrei Tarkovsky, Roland Barthes, and Ted Hughes. However they are often conceptually fascinating. Take, for instance, “Small Knot,” whose protagonist, Kåre, stays linked to his mom by an umbilical wire into maturity; the opening story, “Good And Gentle,” during which ideas race by way of the narrator’s head as he enters an Ikea to purchase some blinds for his son’s bed room; “Overtures,” a few younger pianist who actually must pee (one of many higher tales, truly); or “Transcend” and “An Complete Household Disappears,” each of that are written as stage instructions. Øyehaug’s tales are quick (there are 26 in Knots’ 164 pages), most of them chopped up into elliptical sections a paragraph or so lengthy, and her willful banality, brevity, and experimentation-for-experimentation’s-sake typically brings to thoughts Lydia Davis—who it, seems, likes Øyehaug’s prose sufficient to be blurbed on the again cowl. (So is Stuart Dybek.)
However she lacks Davis’ obsessiveness, and past a couple of small exceptions—say, the page-long “The Deer At The Edge Of The Forest,” which ends in a pithy punchline—can’t appear to meet an concept. Learn collectively, the tales in Knots retreat into repeated motifs: racket sports activities; characters (usually males) frozen by private crises; allusions to the lifetime of the poet Arthur Rimbaud; college-curriculum references that illuminate nothing besides the author’s personal restricted tastes; and touches of surrealism and slapstick blended with makes an attempt at depicting middle-class household life that come throughout as hokey and bogus, as if written by somebody who had solely seen wedding ceremony receptions or parent-child relationships on TV. As rendered by Kari Dickson, who’s greatest identified for her translations of Norwegian crime writers, Øyehaug’s prose fashion reads like lit-fiction hackwork. The template holds from story to story: She writes in brief, flat sentences in an try and mimic both the mundane or the fabulistic, however each time she has to simulate some sort of feeling, adopts a waterfall-of-commas strategy of the “rain dribbles on the windshield, and Jørn imagines himself crashing into the following automobile, and loss of life, and remembers what Rimbaud wrote, or possibly it wasn’t Rimbaud” selection. (Observe: This isn’t an precise quote, however you get the image.)
Often, Øyehaug’s writing tosses out such memorable groaners as “her start line was Nick Cave’s tune ‘(Are You) The One That I’ve Been Ready For’”; “he knew nothing about Arvo Pärt, he had simply selected impulse to enter the music store that was open late, and immediately discovered himself staring on the mild inexperienced CD cowl with a reputation on it that appealed to him, with out him with the ability to clarify why, ARVO PÄRT,” which one presumes is supposed to be learn to the tune of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft”; and “it was I, Julio Cortázar, who was floating towards him.” (The final two are from the identical story, “Blanchot Slips Below A Bridge,” whose protagonist is, sure, the French literary theorist Maurice Blanchot.) All of that is, after all, meant to be postmodern and humorous, which it’s typically. However any reader who appears to be like past the conceptual gimmickry and obfuscation will discover a author who can’t join one paragraph to the following and who closes tales abruptly on notes which can be stunning principally as a result of they’re facile or unexpectedly sappy. Endings matter quite a bit in brief fiction, however all Øyehaug—who has discovered some success as a poet and prose author in Norway—has to supply are beginnings. At the least it makes for some fascinating titles. “The Object Assumes An Exalted Place In The Discourse” is an effective one.