What do you do with the ghosts who won’t let up? Katherine McCord bears witness, bears her burdens, and bares her wounds to fashion this deceptively slim, riveting series of prose poems from the dreams, the internal conversations–some of them one-sided, some not–in which she struggles to come to terms with absence and grief.
All night I flew, turned somersaults. Annie, you shouted, “I’m with you! You’re so high!” And then my limbs became soft, I grew an outer shell, rode with nothingness, landed on the fragrant yard, pushed off, the dresses of the dream billowing.
Michael Martone, choosing Katherine McCord’s RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE as the winner of Autumn House Press’ Creative Nonfiction Prize, calls the literary memoir “brilliant,” “extraordinary,” “a book’s BOOK. A map more detailed than the thing it represents . . . with goddamn gumption and infinite grace.” Katherine McCord hilariously and poignantly captures living, as a writer/person/mother/ professor/wife . . . that is, as anyone, overly aware and stunned by the time we are in, this often fascinating but, especially at this moment, very difficult age.
"McCord’s short entries string together, given a sense of propulsion precisely by her own breathless quest for honesty, confiding in the reader that she can’t quite find the thing she means to say and so she returns on each page with another angle, refracting and pursuing the quickening edge of life and consciousness itself."
—Sonya Huber, Brevity, April 2017
"This is RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE: a literary memoir with eyes. Her eyes, readers’ eyes, memory’s eye, her sister’s, daughters’, husband’s, dead friend’s eyes, all to witness, through the lens she holds to her whirring mind, a glimpse of the fresh hell that is storming through memory and life, through the act of creating the very book being read. Then, while we’re tucked in close and properly entrenched in McCord’s web, she flexes that lens, and the result is dazzling.”
—Ashley Miller, Atticus Review, May 2017
"To ‘READ’ (and yes I am using all that graphic punctuation with intent!) this extraordinary memoir, RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE, I had to employ a ZIP Extractor to extract (from the brain-like folds of the CLOUD) this gorgeously convoluted and original origamied textual text of the not so transparent text of this bookish book. That is to say, embedded in this message is the message that this mean medium is the message (a blast from the past!) and what a divine mess of a message it is. Too often, it seems to me, we construct our books as if they are mere transcriptions of oral tales, desiring to invoke a waking dream in the reader while disguising the scaffolding of the narrative delivery device (the book itself), suppressing, consciously, the self-conscious consideration of self-consciousness. McCord, in RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE, reignites the curious rotary engine of curiosity, the spirographic folding back, that ululation, as a great storyteller confronting the unique high-techery of the book. Believe me, this book cannot, ever, be made into a movie or binge TV series or streamed video. No, it is a book’s BOOK. A map more detailed than the thing it represents. It confronts the BOOK and does what only the BOOK can do and does it with goddamn gumption and infinite grace. Katherine McCord’s life here is an open book book, and the fine instrument of that opening is the story of that story."
“Katherine McCord has changed the terms of engagement from labyrinth to chambered nautilus. She explores―with searing insight and humility and sensitive intelligence―the movement through terrible forms of solitude into the blessed difficulties of summoning her beloved ones, past and present, for a new dance. Madness and aloneness and despair and shame echo through RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE, but the whole effect is the unforgettable release of the human cry freed to roam the world.”
—Kevin McIlvoy, author of 57 Octaves Below Middle C,
The Complete History of New Mexico, Hyssop, and other books
“Sculpted brilliantly. Impacts like ‘Howl’ and ‘Caged Bird.’ A word journey of Scherezade. In RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE, McCord's early life through CIA stations and intrigue from Nepal and undisclosed places finally lands back in Langley USA country. Coming of age details show the sisterhood bonding that survives alcoholism, blended gloriously with marriage, daughters, professorship, a suicide, and everyday life felt from the inside out. Like a hologram seen in the right light, the words and images from these pages reflect wit and humor, understanding, soft genius, and large creativity. Together they add to your life, change your life and make you want to know more about life as this gifted storyteller tells it.”
—Dianne Lancaster, author of Anger and the Indigo Child and
Destiny and Purpose of the Authentic Self
"The most poetic account of a woman coming to terms with her childhood being raised in a CIA household . . . Ms. McCord is a charming writer, and I was knocked out by my My CIA. There is a mix here of the normal and ordinary life, and of the very exotic if now existentially threatening previous life . . . She's a stylist well capable of blending the banal and the scary."
—Sarah Lee Fox, The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities,
where My CIA was named a top ten book for 2012 and “Reviewer’s Choice"
"Lies and secrecy are just everyday things when you live so close to the CIA. My CIA is a memoir from Katherine McCord who shares her stories of growing up so close to the CIA, as her father's missions kept them in the dark about his actions and fate, and an odd air of uncertainty even as they lived in the quiet Midwest. A familial tale of being so close to the CIA."
—Midwest Book Review "Reviewer's Choice"
"You'll want to read My CIA in one go, like I did, greedily, ready for every twist and in-breath that comes from the intricate layers of this expressionist tale. The poetic suspense of My CIA is a bit like Our Man in Havana colliding with Ariel, with deadpan humor and a poetic wit that cuts through the interstices between personal and public history. The family McCord creates, itself a kind of secret agency, operates like a postmodern dollhouse family with the banal-going-on-mysterious behaviors of Mother, Sisters, the Girls and the Father juxtaposed with genuine enigmas. What family espionage is revealed during a conversation between the Sisters where one holds the phone to the washing machine and the other responds, "But you wash everything"? There are hints of underhand influence and Who is the manipulator? floats above the pages making the reader want to investigate anyone's daily reality; but McCord's language is true blue. My CIA is at once smooth and complex, a comedy of manners and ghostly politics played on the stage of the Cold War, anticipating the epilogue of the 21st century. Best enjoyed with a martini, shaken not stirred.
author of Summer of the Sub-Comandante and Water Witching
"Katherine McCord's heartbreaking lyric memoir, My CIA, is a fine example of a literary work in which the artist has found the perfect form to contain the content, a shapely vessel to hold shards of memory and loss. Just as the life and identity of a CIA agent (the author's father) is provisional, the persona narrating this story of a family fractured by a mysterious father's absences is a shape-shifter: now knowing, now child-like, now elegaic, now funny, now deeply compassionate and forgiving, and always wise and razor-sharp. Whether McCord is writing about getting on a plane in the middle of the night as a child to go to Nepal or about driving over curbs after a run to the grocery store, talking to her children or mother or sister, or packing up the house to take her family and the dog on vacation in Maine, her voice sings. This memoir is haunting, disturbing, beautiful, and resonant. I could not put it down."
—Natalia Rachel Singer,
author of Scraping by in the Big Eighties
“My CIA is an informative and curious read.”
—Midwest Book Review
"Katherine McCord's moving sequence of prose poems, Living Room, expresses truthfully and with poignant, even painful clarity the trials and triumphs of a life claimed by conflicting loves: love of writing, love of husband and children. She gives us a year of this life, and it is a privilege to experience it through her evocative, passionate language."
—Kelly Cherry, author of Rising Venus: Poems
"Sometimes from dry ground some of the most important and exciting poetry springs. From the saturated reds and greens of New Mexico comes the moving lyric of a life told in poems. Katherine McCord's poems captured me from the first line . . . and carried me through her autobiography in poems. I knew it was a book I had to pay attention to and it's a collection I am proud to have had some small part in bringing to the public. It's the big emptiness of the desert sky crying out to be filled that pulls these lines from the poet's heart. It's a cool cloth on the dying man's brow, the only comfort for miles and the only comfort needed."
"[Katherine McCord] is a remarkable poet whose work is certain and hesitant at once, compressed and expansive. She wants silence to speak as carefully as her words. She sees poetry in the purest sense, working toward pieces where important things aren't merely described or reported but transformed. Katherine McCord is an artist, through and through, taking aspects of ordinary life and finding fear and wonder in them."
"The pared inscription, as well as the delicacy and discretion, of Katherine McCord's debut collection, Island, are always deeply compelling and often breathtaking. The honorable simplicity of this work rewards us time and time again with both wisdom and delight. Quietly elegant, and as intimate as a whisper, this is a book to hold close in the silence of night."
— David St. John