flapped paperback

It Lasts Forever and Then It's Over

Anne de Marcken

Published 7 March 2024
French paperback with flaps, 132 pages

PART I.

“We’re stories telling stories, nothing.”
— Fernando Pessoa

 

I lost my left arm today. It came off clean at the shoulder. Janice 2 picked it up and brought it back to the hotel. I would have thought it would affect my balance more than it has. It is like getting a haircut. The air moving differently around the remaining parts of me. Also by turns a sense of newness and lessness—free me, undead me, don’t look at me.

Isn’t it strange that I never knew a single living Janice and now I know three?

 

I stay in bed all day. If I lie on my right side, I can keep the arm balanced as if it is still part of me. Or I can pretend it is your arm and that you are in bed with me. I think about how we used to take a blanket into the dunes and wrap up together. Wake with sand in our hair and in the corners of our eyes. Sound of the ocean big as the sky. I miss sleep. I miss you.

 

Mitchem says I’m in denial. That I am depressed because I am indulging in a sense of loss instead of wonder. “Embrace your new existence,” he says. I picture myself trying to do this with one arm.
    When I was alive, I imagined something redemptive about the end of the world. I thought it would be a kind of purification. Or at least a simplification. Rectification through reduction. I could picture the empty cities, the reclaimed land.
    That was the future. This is now.
    The end of the world looks exactly the way you remember. Don’t try to picture the apocalypse. Everything is the same.

 

Mitchem says it is important to do small, ordinary tasks when you’re depressed. That even if I don’t do anything else all day, I should make the bed. This morning he came in and opened the curtains. He stood over me, that half-moon head of his backlit by the window. He picked up the arm from where it was lying on the floor and held it out like something I needed to account for. He said, “You’ve experienced a significant loss.” He said, “It isn’t just your arm.” He said, “You’re grieving your life.” Since he broke off his penis he’s Mr. Wisdom. When he left, I closed the curtains again. A glow creeps under my room door from the hallway where the lights are always on.

 

Yesterday Mitchem preached in the lobby. Today he set up on the roof. He stands on a side table from one of the rooms. Afterward I saw Bob following him around wearing a rain poncho like the one Mitchem wears. Uh oh.

 

Tried to make a harness for the arm. It is too heavy. Dead weight. Ha ha.

 

Found a shirt today with cuffs that button. It is red. I stuffed in the arm and buttoned myself in with it. The fit isn’t good. The arm slides down bare up to the elbow and flops forward in my way. Like the dislocated limb of a mannequin. It gets turned around in the sleeve and elbows me in the side. It is strange to see it like this. My hand. My wrist. The fingernails.

 

Smoke has settled down in the sound. Sunrises and sets have been dull and angry. The full moon dark red. Even inside the hotel it is hazy. Exit signs are dim irony at the ends of the long hallways. Wildfire, back-burn, blitz. Any way you look at it, a blaze we set.
    Mitchem preached on the roof again tonight. Only the undead can truly understand the meaning of life, he said. There is no meaning, he said. Bob was there. He seems to have been promoted. Now he carries the side table around and stands nearby when Mitchem is up there. Which comes first, a believer or a religion? Others are showing up now, too. I can’t describe how strange it is. Someone puts her hands up in the air and then the others do it. Someone moans, and the others moan. You can see how this will go. There is talk of a revival.

 

That’s another thing—most of us can’t remember who we are...were...are. We are character actors to ourselves— people we recognize but can’t name.
    It really bothers some of the hotel guests. They always have the troubled, distracted look of a person trying to remember something simple. They are attracted to one another. They sit together saying one name after another hoping if they hear their own name they will know it.

 

They write names on the walls, in the elevator, on the air exchange unit on the roof, in the dust the dust the dust that covers everything. You can take a name for yourself. You can leave one for someone else. But why choose the name Janice when someone else is already using it? And who chooses the name Bob?

(...)

The heroine of the spare and haunting It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over is voraciously alive in the afterlife. Adrift yet keenly aware, she notes every bizarre detail of her new reality. And even if she has forgotten her name and much of what connects her to her humanity, she remembers with an implacable and nearly unbearable longing the place where she knew herself and was known—where she loved and was loved. Traveling across the landscapes of time and of space, heading always west, and carrying a dead but laconically opinionated crow in her chest, our undead narrator encounters and loses parts of her body and her self in one terrifying, hilarious, and heartbreaking situation after another. A tale for our dispossessed times, and one of the sharpest and funniest novels of recent years, It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over plumbs mortality and how it changes everything, except possibly love.

‘[A] soul-stirringly expansive novel, It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over, classic dramatic structures – introduction, rise, climax, fall, resolution – are distended, and linger after the curtains close.… By resisting endings, de Marcken’s deeply imaginative novel reflects that world – our collective story.’
Kate Simpson, Telegraph

‘It is simply glorious. Zombie existence has its poetics; it critiques its own definitions…. [And] these zombies genuinely try to communicate with one another: their conversations are relayed with an almost Beckettian skill, and are very funny – very bathetic, very heartbreaking – indeed. Anne de Marcken’s success has been to write a zombie novel that is not in any sense about zombies as we’ve previously given them permission to be. Here they are struggling, just like us, to reject the cultural baggage and separate what is really happening from what is not. They are working to own themselves and be proud. As a sly tour of the slow-motion disaster of the Anthropocene, It Lasts Forever and Then It’s Over captures and concentrates the energies of all of us listeners at the zombie hotel.’
M. John Harrison, Times Literary Supplement

‘Astounding, inventive, and utterly original, Anne de Marcken has written a freakish classic with wisdom to spare about life, death, and the eerily vast space between. I was absolute putty in this book’s hands.’
— Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun

It Lasts Forever is sad, shocking, funny, prophetic, visceral, and deeply human. From amid the dislocations, the lacerations, a profound meditation arises. Highly recommended.’
— Jeff VanderMeer, author of Dead Astronauts

‘[T]he prose is exquisite and the form is inventive, and there is plenty of white space between fragments of text and a handful of doodles. It’s wry and moving and very beautiful.’
Susie Mesure, Spectator

‘De Marcken’s novella is a zombie story, adapting this overused popular trope and making it anew. It is an accomplished debut novel from the American writer that follows the meditative wanderings of a zombie who can’t remember her name…. [I]t is, surprisingly, full of tender moments and sustained throughout by a love that persists even in de Marcken’s post-apocalyptic world.’
Brooke Boland, Sydney Morning Herald

‘[A] strange, haunting novel by Anne de Marcken, whose acerbic voice breathes new life into the fictional possibilities of the undead.’
Joshua Rees, Buzz

‘Long and short, it’s hard to imagine a more erudite zombie story. This is de Marcken’s central trope — and her triumph. She seizes the gut-smeared cliches of The Walking Dead and recomposes them as a philosophical odyssey. Better yet, despite her fiction’s core seriousness, its quest for the Real, her undead stumble through a Grand Guignol farce.’
— ​​John Domini, Brooklyn Rail

Praise for The Accident

‘Crepuscular and gradual, minimal and tender, the words and photographic poems in Anne de Marcken’s The Accident are filled with measured, continuous, indestructible longing.... she has a quiet way of making you surrender, ecologically and aesthetically, through her account’s transient, fugitive beauty and explicit interlacing dormant fragility.’
— Vi Khi Nao, author of Human Tetris

The Accident takes place in that gap between seeing and feeling, feeling and knowing, ‘a bird trapped inside your head’ and ‘something brighter than fear.’ Lunar in its hold and its hope, this is a book that reaches through trauma to uncover memory as an end and a beginning. With its deft shifts in perspective, its images at once soothingly atmospheric and hauntingly specific, The Accident gestures toward a dream where intimate claustrophobia gives way to a landscape that shifts with the imagination.’
— Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author of Sketchtasy

Anne de Marcken lives in the United States on unceded land of the Coast Salish people. She is the founding editor and publisher of The 3rd Thing.