Author: Tupko, Michelle
Date published: October 1, 2011
Yuriy Tarnawsky. Short Tails. Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2011. 338 pp. Paper: $17.95.
At the heart of Yuriy Tarnawsky's most recent collection of short prose pieces is a human heart, slowly shrinking into a nugget of dried skin, left behind by what was once a man ... all this on a perfectly ordinary day in an average city, somewhere. Tarnawsky is a master of the brief, potent, surreal mystery tale. His direct, unadorned prose relates stories whose outer form is that of the absurd-events that seem to arise out of nowhere and unfold beyond the grasp of human reason; but beneath the skin of these stories, Tarnawsky forces his reader to touch the deepest longings, neuroses, fantasies, and terrors of a human being. Many of the stories in Short Tails follow a pattern, one that cannot be exhausted by its telling since it is the very pattern of life, beginning with a character plagued by that vague desire to find something, to feel, to "experience." This desire sets a process in motion (a process which, once begun, cannot possibly be reversed), and from there an utter mystery unfolds itself. By the close of the story, hardly a resolution but merely a possible place to end, even if that end is death itself, both the main character (if he even remains) and the reader are left precisely, artfully, and surprisingly smack-dab in the middle of nothing. A single needle drops to the floor of a concert hall after the bodies of the musicians, conductor, and audience have been eaten away by holes, the sound ofthat single remainder only making the emptiness resound more fully. Short Tails puts its reader face to face with the ineffable ambiguity in the center of every mundane afternoon- a breach in the order of things, a tear in the fabric of the real, a doorway we always knew was there, that cathartic scream we've been waiting to release, from a mouth that is gradually disappearing- and the scream, too, will soon be gone. [Michelle Tupko]