Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Like Blood in water


Like Blood in Water
Five Mininovels

by Yuriy Tarnawsky

Quality Paper
2007
Price: $17.95 s

E Book
2008
Price: $14.36

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Yuriy Tarnawsky's collection of mininovels is a surrealist account of the creative and destructive arts. Taking inspiration from music and the visual arts, Tarnawsky crafts a dense work of allusive prose and simple storytelling. The author interweaves reality with dreams and fragmentary thoughts, diffusing the elements of lives that are anything but mundane.

Like the imagery of the title, the prose creates a sense of permutation; the mininovels spread and converge into one another. His musicians, actors, and doctors reside in oddly formed apartments, abandoned churches, eerie sets. While they work, they find themselves in states of literal and figurative dismemberment, thinking of violence, blood, quick satiations of desire, burning loss. For these characters, nothing is stable. Time dissolves, ghosts come back, memories become labyrinthine vortexes through which they must struggle. Everywhere are archetypal imaginings, distorted perceptions, a deceptive past. The disconnections seem obvious, yet the synaptic lapses are ones that readers will eagerly navigate on their own.

Both comic and frightening, the mininovels reveal the human tendency to experiment with whatever is given. Tarnawsky's language is elegant and careful, and his studied concentration of rhythm allows his work to transcend prose, nestling somewhere within the realm of musical composition. Reminiscent of Andre Breton, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Dostoyevsky, this collection exemplifies Tarnawksy's claim: "The common thing about life is its uncommonness."

"There is much to be savored—and indeed learned—from this wonderfully opaque, yet at times surprisingly lucid and tender, collection of lapidary absurdities from Planet Tarnawsky."—Mad Hatters' Review

"Tarnawsky's are the second opinions we seek, almost recognize, then do, for they are made of the sounds, power sources, bizarre jobs, people coming our way, fitted together both by us and a culture by turns demanding and uncaring if we sleepwalkers notice or not: alarming, intelligent, caught again and again in the grasp of the author's surprise and yearning." —Joseph McElroy


"Tarnawsky is the real artist. Like Blood in Water carries his experiment deeper into the American night, with work that is bright and moving and original. Everyone needs to taste these works of one of our most daring and powerful writers." —Steve Katz


"When I get rich I'll get a pied-a-terre on Yuriy Tarnawsky's planet. It's very wild on the surface and cool and calm in the interior. The palm fronds don't decay." —Andrei Codrescu


Excerpt


1. the church


As Roark crossed the street and continued walking along the sidewalk, in this block flanked on the right by a tall iron fence overgrown with ivy, he heard a loud noise coming from the building on the other side and immediately labeled it as a scream of a large group of people united in an uncontrolled, limitless feeling of despair. Intrigued, his heart beating with excitement, he stopped without turning his head in the direction of the building, his ear cocked so that it could best catch the sounds coming from it, and listened. The noise lasted another six or seven seconds, abruptly stopped, and then started up again to last about the same amount of time, in other words some ten seconds.

Even while keeping his head straight while listening, by shifting his eyes right, Roark saw that the building the noise was coming from was a church and when silence followed the third wave of screaming he turned his head right and saw the top of the tall brown stone walls punctuated at regular intervals by the narrow ogival arches of the windows, the gray slate roof reaching desperately upward, and the small, rudimentary spires, undeveloped like limbs of thaliDomide babies, on the background of the darkening evening sky, the color of brown-tinted car window glass.

He recalled then he had seen the facade of the church as he was crossing the street which was readily visible from that side, since the fence in front of it was much shorter than on the side, but had not paid any attention to it, being absorbed in his thoughts. He had not seen the church before, having never been in that part of town.

An uncontrollable urge whose nature was unknown to him, like an invisible thread, jerked him and he quickly turned around, walked back to the corner of the street he had just crossed, turned left, and headed toward the gate in the fence opposite the main door of the church. He had to see what was going on inside.

The screaming resumed as Roark closed the front gate and was walking toward the church and he quickened his step, afraid it would stop before he had a chance to get inside. The door was wide and tall, appropriately bright red like a badly inflamed throat, and to Roark's relief opened obligingly before him; he was afraid it was locked.

The first scream ended and the second one began when Roark entered the church. It was brightly lit, so that Roark had to squint, and he realized he hadn't seen the light from the outside because the windows in the church were all boarded up. The church was also stripped bare of all religious trappings, its space completely empty. Roark remembered then he hadn't seen any crosses on the outside of the church—the facade or the roof—which had surprised him although he hadn't become aware of it at the time. The building had obviously been acquired by some secular entity and was used for non-religious purposes.

Before him, stretched out on their backs on the floor, each on his/her own mat of the type used by the yoga crowd, lay some fifty to sixty people, their heads turned toward the wall against which the altar once stood and their feet toward him. They were arranged more or less in rows, but in front of them, like the leader of a band or a military formation, lay a man, clearly the lead person of the group. The scream filled the vast space of the church, stopped for a brief period, and then was repeated for the third time. No direction came from the man in front—the group was obviously adept at what it was doing.

The screaming then stopped and everyone got up as if on command. The session was over. The man in charge was dressed in a pair of overalls soiled with brown dirt, and the same kind of dirt was visible on his hands and face, especially the forehead. Next to the man's mat on the floor lay a big shovel, its tip likewise caked with dirt, which the man picked up as he was getting ready to leave. All of this made Roark think of a grave digger and he was puzzled. Did the man rush in straight from his grave-digger's job and had no time to change? But then why the shovel? At the same time Roark tried to figure out what the group was. He remembered hearing about a school of therapy called "the primal scream." Was this what the group was practicing? But he hadn't heard about that approach for years and thought it had gone out of style. He didn't know what to think.