Elena Senechal-Becker on “The End, By Anna” by Adam Zachary

The End, By Anna is Adam Zachary’s stunning fiction debut. Vibrant and experimental, it is a true success in fiction writing by a self-proclaimed poet, whose work addresses the fundamental question: What does it mean to make good art?

The End, By Anna, published in November 2016 by Montreal’s Metatron press, is a pocket-sized booklet, and its appearance is more reminiscent of an art book than a book of short fiction. The book’s cover is as remarkably casual as it is eye-catching. Its simple yet aesthetically pleasing composition, complete with a turquoise spine and back cover makes it pop out from any stack. The cover design, as I later learned, was a collaboration between the author and photographer Adam Zivo. When I first picked it up and flipped through the pages, I could already tell I was about to read something that had been delicately crafted, edited and designed with attention and care.

The book’s namesake, Anna, is a young artist whose main priority and obsession is a project ending in her own death, aptly named The End.

She plans to let herself die of exposure and starvation via a live broadcast, to be viewed by as many people as possible. This organized suicide becomes her one and only goal, even though she is a successful artist with a seemingly bright future. Instead, however, Anna falls from a balcony and dies without having accomplished her final performance.

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Written in the first person, the story feels eerily personal, at times blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. The narrator is a close friend of Anna’s, and they recount her story with tangible emotion and tenderness. The book begins with a description by Anna, where she details her plan and her intentions, before switching to the narrator’s point of view. From then on, the reader is witness to the elegant, composed yet still vulnerable tone of a valiant friend who recounts Anna’s erratically charming behaviour in the hope that her death will not have been in vain.

What makes Anna’s story so captivating is how unapologetic she is. The narrator describes her through short anecdotes, where their relationship is accentuated, featuring Anna as the impulsive virtuoso, the narrator as a cautious but passionate friend.

“‘A poem should burn a house down,’ she said. I said fine, burn a house down, see how it goes. I hadn’t meant it literally, but a few Saturdays later, she pulled up in her parent’s car with a can of gasoline.”

This small book contains a remarkably varied array of situations; love triangles, sexual tension and second-degree murder are all present here, though I won’t say exactly how.

The book ends with a “catalogue of known artworks” by Anna, presented in the form of medium description (such as: other ideas, 39 digital text works; unnumbered prints, various sizes, January 2013-2014) and blurbs on these pieces:

The artist created a website, updated about two times a month for seventeen months, to display a series of stylized digital text pieces that were presented as ideas for potential performances. Some, such as the popular ‘ FEEL NOTHING BUT LOVE FOR MYSELF ALL DAY IN A DARK ROOM WITH NO ONE AROUND TO KNOW’ seem to fall in the tradition of performance texts (or ‘event scores) first made by artists such as John Cage and Yoko Ono.
The artist sold inexpensive, unsigned prints of these works online and in local stores.

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This section felt like an interactive and intimate way of saying a final goodbye to the fictional Anna.

Although I could’ve easily kept on reading, The End, By Anna was the perfect length for a lively, attentive read, and my attention was held until the end. This short book blends poetry and prose beautifully, hypnotizes, draws us in closer. It is a perfect example of the dynamic energy and talent emerging from independent presses today.

Adam is a poet and editor based in Toronto. They have previously published a poetry chapbook, Bodies vs. (words(on)pages press, 2016) and they currently co-run their own micropress, Abrahams and Zachary.

(Metatron, Fiction, Paperback, November 2016)

ELENA SENECHAL-BECKER is an all-around writer and artist who has yet to graduate high school in Canada’s capital. She’s mostly into high-waisted jeans and poetry. Some of her written work/photography has been published in print and online. She also makes films, occasionally. She is on twitter @elenaLNA and on Instagram @elenasenechal. You can probably google her.

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Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.

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