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Where I Stay

af Andrew Zornoza

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832,198,632 (4.33)Ingen
Fiction. In the process of constantly disappearing, the unhinged, unmoored and unnamed narrator of WHERE I STAY travels through a cracked North America, stalked by his own future self and the whispers of a distant love. From Arco, Idaho, to Mexico City, he flees along the highways and dirt roads of a landscape filled with characters in transition: squatters, survivalists, prostitutes, drug runners, skinheads, border guards and con-men. WHERE I STAY is a meditation on desperation, identity, geography, memory, and love--a story about endurance, about the empty spaces in ourselves, about the new possibilities we find only after we have lost everything. "Refreshing, pitch-perfect kind of steering that is innovative not only for the genre it might get called into, but for experiential and language-focused texts of every stripe"--Blake Butler. "A gifted journey through borderlands between text and image, glassy prose and suggestively indirect prose poem, facts and fictions, sanity and the other thing"--Lance Olsen.… (mere)
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After a first reading, I wasn't sure; upon a second reading, I was won over completely by Andrew Zornoza's "novel" Where I Stay. "Novel" in quotes because I believe that to be the author's preference, although to my mind the book is much more indeterminate than such a label suggests. It could easily be a series of prose poems. Perhaps the book qualifies as a novel because there is a single, unique point of view, a narrator who is also the protagonist throughout. While, in disarray & dishevelment, he knocks about from one location & encounter to another, the plot, if there is one, drifts. In essence this is the tale of a drifter drifting. He is young; his sexuality is ambiguous; his destinations determined accidentally, based on who picks him up or who answers his phone calls, or on a memory of a place or person he once knew. In one of the most desolate scenes, the "hero" confesses, "My phone numbers have all gone old, everyone is moving, everyone is gone." Ostensibly, he is searching for (or on his way to meet up with) his sister, who is introduced early on as suicidal, hospitalized. Categorized near the end as a letter to explain to "you . . . . how it was with me," the book unfolds as a road map or series of journal entries, each with a date, a location & a photograph. The photographs are half the story. Their captions often read as a parallel narrative; occasionally they simply amplify the episodic fragment on the facing page. The landscape traveled through is that of the American West, not West of West Coast particularly, although Los Angeles, Tijuana & Portland pass by, but rather more that of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona & Northern Mexico. This is a parched & fissured land & the characters who traverse it (it is hard to believe in any of them having a permanent home anywhere) are as broken & patched back together as the place itself. Not an empty place, however, but one where "I found people in the cracks."
In any case, the narrator doesn't stay any one place for any length of time. He works short term jobs; he shacks up in truck cabs, beds down outside dormitories & Forest Service trailers, inhabits temporarily abandoned vehicles & broken down shacks; he's taken home by strangers. He passes through jail, homeless shelters & rehab centers at times. Ultimately, Where I Stay is a stunningly sad & beautiful tale. A yearning in words for what can't be put into words (or images). Connection is tender & tenuous, at times no more than a temporally disjunctive juxtaposition, an inscription discovered in a resting place returned to: "I had put a flower on the ceiling and they had put a second flower next to it." Toward the end of the book, the narrator returns to the same place or another one: "I tape the drawing and words to the side of the cave and push the flower into a small map of lichen on the ceiling." Love letter. Note in a bottle. Cry for help. Or simply the necessary expression of being alive. Here. Now. In this place. After you. Before you. With you or without you. At the end of the day or of the journey, the conclusion is? "There was nowhere to go, as long as I was myself."

( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
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 through 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. ( )
  BlackSheepDances | Jun 2, 2010 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Andrew Zornoza's Where I Stay bills itself as a "photo novel," meaning that text and images are combined here to produce one unified fictional narrative tale. And I have to say, although I found the written part only so-so (a sort of rambling Jack-Kerouac-meets-Studs-Turkel tale about the freaks and losers who populate the great rural areas of the US), as a publication I found it one of the greatest little basement-press photography books I've ever seen, which just by itself earns this book a decent score and recommendation. It's almost a case study of what smart yet cash-challenged publishers can do with a little forethought and some good design skills, something to be studied by fellow photographers as much as it is to be simply enjoyed.

Out of 10: 8.3 ( )
  jasonpettus | Feb 11, 2010 |
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Fiction. In the process of constantly disappearing, the unhinged, unmoored and unnamed narrator of WHERE I STAY travels through a cracked North America, stalked by his own future self and the whispers of a distant love. From Arco, Idaho, to Mexico City, he flees along the highways and dirt roads of a landscape filled with characters in transition: squatters, survivalists, prostitutes, drug runners, skinheads, border guards and con-men. WHERE I STAY is a meditation on desperation, identity, geography, memory, and love--a story about endurance, about the empty spaces in ourselves, about the new possibilities we find only after we have lost everything. "Refreshing, pitch-perfect kind of steering that is innovative not only for the genre it might get called into, but for experiential and language-focused texts of every stripe"--Blake Butler. "A gifted journey through borderlands between text and image, glassy prose and suggestively indirect prose poem, facts and fictions, sanity and the other thing"--Lance Olsen.

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