Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where I Stay, Andrew Zornoza

This is an cryptic collection of random thoughts, experiences, and photographs of the author's fictional journey through the Western US and Mexico.  This definitely isn't the scenic route:  Zornoza's travels take him to the edge of urban life, mainly concentrating on the rough roads and deserted highways that have been left in the past by time and progress.  The landscape is grey, gritty, and jagged:  much like the words he chooses to describe his interactions and his reactions to it all.

His observations are sometimes funny, sometimes tense, and often a bit obscure.  You get the impression that he has x-ray vision and sees beneath the surface of the locations, as well as the hardened exteriors of the people he meets.  He encounters the most diverse group of people imaginable, all lingering on the outskirts of city and suburban life, some intentionally and some without choice.  The black and white photographs heighten the sense of distance and reminded me of a Dust Bowl migration.  There's sadness within it all, yet the traveller continues.  Much like an epic quest, he keeps pursuing that which he cannot identify.

"There are cracks in the country-in its families and highways, houses and rivers, factories, cellar windows, truck stops, in the sounds of chattering televisions, in the plexiglass booths of pay phones by bus stations, in the crushed glass of parking lots..."

"The prairie was my cellar door.  I had removed everyone I knew or the people had removed themselves.  I replaced them all with a vast plateau, then mountains, dry desert, broken pieces of landscape that didn't quite fit together.  I found people in the cracks."

Zornoza's gift in this collection is the little surprises he throws out amid the descriptions of the raw landcape.  In his diary-like entries, he may explain what happened and where, but he may also throw out a mysterious phrase: "because if someone was making a movie of her, the movie would not be good.  She was a bad actress, but there was no movie, there was no acting."  I really enjoyed the photographs but more the pictures his words composed.  Sparse, with no unnecessary details or dialogue.  An excellent collection....It reminded me somewhat of Sam Shepherd's Day Out of Days.

Special thanks to Tarpaulin Sky Press for the Review Copy.

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