Essays | Short Stories
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Is a body of water a place where water is held in, or is it what holds the water in?
(from “bodies of boys vs. bodies of water”)
With these words, Adam Zachary brings the reader into his chapbook collection of fiction that cannot be defined as either short story nor flash fiction. Instead, Bodies Vs. presents bite-sized snippets of reality with no false pretense of knowing something the reader does not. Whether it is playing Pokémon or dealing with love, each of the short works utilize a lyrical style that makes one question where prose ends and poetry begins. Despite initial assumptions, Bodies Vs. deals with much more than just the human body in relation to the pleasant and unpleasant. The collection manages to give a physical form to the difficulties and pains we so readily try to discard, making them easier to challenge.
The greatest strength of the collection is the way wit is used to supplement the emotionally heavy thoughts and topics. There is no forced dark humor. Every exaggeration or clever remark is carefully placed, skillfully coexisting on the same page as the heavier, more naked truths. Take the piece “Science!” for instance, which demonstrates this best. The childhood fascination with nature and ourselves is certainly familiar, yet the careful balance in the narrative is truly admirable, the fact that lines such as the following:
You have wondered, will [an action] hurt? (Usually, yes.) Is this pain more or less intense than [a point of reference]?
exist side by side with the more spontaneous and emotionally triggering lines, such as:
Fish suicide, Mom, you’ll say. I couldn’t believe it either! It seemed so happy.
Of all the ‘fragments,’ this was the most narratively cohesive and nostalgic one, although if you spend a couple minutes pondering each piece, you will realize that it doesn’t matter if it’s the three-line long “lovers vs. winter” or the thought provoking “celestial bodies vs. city dwellers” — What unifies them is a sense of brokenness. The cracks may be less visible, and it might take you some time to grasp just how conflicted the narrator is, but that is what makes this collection so real.
There is a slight break in the unity of the work that occurs with “an exercise in coping” and “vs. the spirit, its restlessness,” that causes a momentary halt in the smooth transitions characteristic of the preceding pieces. I spent the most amount of time with these two, trying to make sense of them and understanding how they fit in with the general body of work. The topics of “an exercise” and “vs. the spirit” are heavier and lack the same kind of witty voice. However, I found that their purpose was more to catch the reader off guard, to act as a reminder that it isn’t always easy to make jokes or attach a quirky personal anecdote to lighten the mood. Even with the heavier and more personal “vs. the spirit,” there were lines that made me stop reading and question the nature of this pain, such as:
Seeds and spores brought in by the wind took root in my tissues, sprouted white flowers and fungi to cover up the cuts.
Bodies Vs. is a touching tribute to every aspect of our emotional and physical lives, and although it covers only the surface, it certainly does not feel that way while reading. Its intimate and understanding voice evokes empathy and interest, like some kindred spirit you didn’t know you were missing until the moment you picked up the book, and one that will stay with you long after the physical words themselves.