Uncountry: A Mythology
Those patriarchs and matriarchs of Genesis wander through the tales of creation as if creation has never stopped, Abram still seeking that singular God in another land, his faith making him a nomad; Sarah still watching her son Isaac walk away with his father to Mount Moriah, a sacrifice in the making. Such stories—like the myths and fairy tales so easily excluded from the reality of the world they are bedrock to—tend to be kept in the airtight container of holy into which the imagination gazes but from which the mouth never takes a breath. The ease of such approach is—thankfully, fearfully, gracefully—not the case in Yanara Friedland’s beautiful book, Uncountry. Deep in the ethical vision of these prose pieces (each so dreamlike it seems the dream itself is dreaming) arrives the suggestion that the events of history—the heart-nulling wars, the Holocaust, the refugees broken by their own resistence; but also the personal fact, the harm of being anyone—reach back into the ancient tales and refuse them their pre-ordained eternity. The vision is reciprocal. Into the particular lives that fill this book, in wanders Lilith, Isaac, Ishmael, Esther, all the ancestors, nomads in the blood, nomads in the nerves, so that “I” am also the ancient tribe. I want to say these words are homesick for beginnings, but the vision invokes a truer nostalgia, one in which any given life is riddled by the old sources, identity succumbing to broader forms of being, where through history’s very wounds, wander the elders. It is not exactly healing they offer. Just a realization that all that feels solid in life is not so, and even when standing still, you are never still, but like all the nomads, some rumored elsewhere guides you—just as do these pages guide—away from yourself to get you home.
As a descendent of Chantal Akerman and Unica Zürn—among others—Friedland reimagines the origin myth. Friedland’s permeable pages allow the reader entryway into a “mirror [that] becomes an open door,” a door through which we hear the echo of Ana Mendieta telling us “There is no original past to redeem: there is the void.” Uncountry is an invitation to that void, and Friedland serves as dream guide through this blend of the personal, political, and stunningly poetic.
Yanara Friedland is a German-American writer, translator, and teacher. She holds a PhD from the University of Denver and is the recipient of a 2016 DAAD research grant at the B/ORDERS in Motion Institute. She is author of the novel Uncountry: A Mythology, the 2015 winner of the Noemi Fiction Prize. Abraq ad Habra: I will create as I speak, a digital chapbook, is available from Essay Press. She is a member of the poets’ theater group GASP: Girls Assembling Something Perpetual and of the POG board of directors, a poetry reading series in Tucson, Arizona.
Reviews and News
The editors of Noemi Press are excited to announce the winners, finalists, and semi finalists for the 2016 Noemi Press Book Award in Fiction.
Winner: The Ladies by Sara Veglahn
Finalist: The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, A Haven by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint
There Are Other People In The Dark, Though by Michael Shelichach
TSK by Caroline Picard
Partners And Strangers by Michael Don
Trouble Will Save You by David Crouse
Polyester Vocabulary by jill darling
The Perception of Partially Occluded Objects by Stephen Tuttle
The Moon Below by Nathan Oates
When The Time Came by Gabriel Houck
Strike a Prose: Memoirs of a Lit Diva Extraordinaire by Tim Jones-Yelvington
The hybridity of Starlight in Two Million lends itself at least in part to assisting in Catanzano’s depiction of 4th person narration. In particular, her poetry (“U+F+O+L+A+N+G+U+A+G+E”) suggests a sense of malleability and nonspecificity, power in disruption and deviation from the linear hierarchy. Take for a specific and more focused example, the TAZ (temporary autonomous zone) located “where the poetic imagination is free to reign.” The site of poetry is a catalyst for a chain reaction that moves outward, uncoiling, asking questions that produce yet more questions. Inquiry expands into infinite space and non-linear time: “In TAZ the practice of framing a rule as a ruin makes even more ruins, as anyone familiar with the latest studies has been informed.” The prose form overlaps with the poetic, the hybridity presenting scientific inquiry within a framework of imaginative speculation and the powerful disruptive force of deviation from traditional form.
Starlight in Two Million: A Neo-Scientific Novella is a spacetime ship that travels. Unlike ships of the sea or rockets to outer space, my book moves by warp drive. What this means is that my book achieves travel through space and time by being stationary while moving spacetime around it. This is how ships move when traveling at warp drive in Star Trek, and scientists are now exploring warp drive for travel in our solar system and beyond.
In May 2015 Jace Brittain and Rachel Zavecz interviewed me about my third book, Starlight in Two Million: A Neo-Scientific Novella (Noemi Press, 2014). The book combines narrative fiction — in which three characters, two of whom are named for Greek concepts, join forces to stop a war — with lyric poetry, visual poetry, and memoir. We discuss the book’s cross-genre form, ’pataphysics, quantum poetics, fourth-person narration and the fourth dimension, and more. In addition to talking with me about Starlight in Two Million, Jace and Rachel wrote a collaborative review of the novella for the online arts magazine, Queen Mob’s Teahouse.
The editors of Noemi Press are excited to announce the winners, finalists, and semi finalists for the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award in Fiction. We received about 300 fiction submissions this year and thank all the writers who submitted for trusting us with their work.
Uncountry: A Mythology by Yanara Friedland
A Manual for Nothing by Jessica Anne Chiang
Gary Oldman Is A Building You Must Walk Through by Forrest Roth
Patchwork: Stories by Cynthia Hawkins
Waters to Swim in Before We Die by Meredith Luby
ANSWERING MACHINE: a novel out loud by Edward Herring
The Rolodex Happenings by Dennis James Sweeney
Project MADAM by Evelyn Hampton
A More Active You by Meagan Cass
These Are Our Demands by Matthew Pitt
One of the most fascinating traits of Beilin’s prose is the way that words tumble into each other, dissolving their distinctions into portmanteaus: “‘Just drive,’ Olivia told her mother, and Mrs Knox — who was usually too frail, sick, and tired, to drive, or love — drove.” Elsewhere repetition and assonance causes clotting: “Beth kneels, devout to it, devout to kneeling, but needing reasons.” Descriptions of female anatomy in particular are characterised by a constant drift towards the figurative: Olivia’s hand is “a small splayed bouquet of bones”; a breast is “the weight of bread forgetting itself”; the clitoris is “a rooster’s drip of throat,” “a rodent’s red liver,” “the flower of guts,” “the bedraggled lung of something waterous, a barracuda’s ripped reason for breathing, hanging in the open, with rancid coral hueing.” Like Antigone as a child, rolling around in a park, flashing her underwear, The University of Pennsylvania seems to speak “in a language parallel to language.”
Rachel Gray reviews Caren Beilin’s The University of Pennsylvania at Front Porch:
Beilin creates a mixture of striking and strange imagery. In the The University of Pennsylvania, kidding is “unsexual, sisternal,” the sunset has “ripe red horns,” cum is a serum all the way from London, and the children of doctors sniff cocaine—or perhaps gelatin. Never before had I considered the similarity between violet and violent, but this book asks its readers to ponder the relationship between the two.
Kathleen Rooney reviews Suzanne Scanlon’s Her 37th Year, An Index, in the Chicago Tribune. Here’s a sample:
One of the many brilliant aspects of this book is that the form permits Scanlon to offer a built-in answer. For an index is a guide, an imposition of a pattern on something that does not necessarily suggest that pattern, in this case, the life of Scanlon’s protagonist, who is attempting to catalog her life so far: attending university, being in a mental institution, having affairs, getting married, giving birth to a child and so on. This structure lets Scanlon capitalize on the by-turns fun, wry and melancholy juxtapositions of entries in an index due to the happy accidents of alphabetical order. In this way, she emphasizes how such indices can lead to inadvertent insights merely by letting a reader see one alphabetical name or phrase preceding or following another.
Read the rest at the Chicago Tribune. (Warning: you’ll have to register.)
Amy Catanzano’s Starlight in Two Million: A Neo-Scientific Novella is a mind-full, mine-filled, field of literary, aesthetic, scientific, and imaginative constructs that take forms as collage, cultural allegory, anti-war expression, epistolary conversation, and song-of-joy-in-risk-taking, to list merely a few.
$15 Paperback | Published 2016