How to impress me:
- Do something new.
- Do something unexpected.
- Break with convention.
- Do it well.
Andrew Zornoza‘s photo novel, Where I Stay, does all of these things and more, so, needless to say, I’m very impressed with it. In a nutshell, the book is about an unnamed wanderer traveling through the Great American West. To say it’s “about” a wanderer, however, is to belie the book’s complexity. As with Cesca Janece Waterfield’s Bartab, Where I Stay leaves to the reader much of the work of stitching together a narrative. Throughout the proceedings, Zornoza provides the reader with snatches from the wanderer’s life — a day on the road, for example, or a moment shared with a stranger — along with a series of photographs and their captions. Sometimes the photos complement the text. Other times, the connection may not be so apparent. The end result is that the reader is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the book, and each successive reading has the potential to carry with it new meaning.
As haunting as it is gritty, Where I Stay has the feel of an impressionist watercolor and underscores the value of the small press in literary culture. Indeed, I hesitate to simply call it a book; its ambitions, beautifully realized, make it a hybrid of textual and visual arts. Like all of my favorite works of art, Where I Stay has the capacity to evoke something akin to an out of body experience, to propel the reader into unfamiliar territory and, in so doing, to make the quotidian world new again upon the reader’s return. To put it more plainly, Zornoza’s talent is to take us out of our day to day lives and to show us the world from a new perspective that allows us to see our own lives in a new, ever-shifting light.
If I have one suggestion for Zornoza, it’s to implore his publisher, Tarpaulin Sky Press, to come out with a deluxe edition of this book. While the photographs that appear throughout the current edition are certainly compelling, I can only imagine what a glossy, high-resolution edition might look like. Yes, the volume may be a bit pricey, but this is art we’re talking about. And who can put a price on that?*
*In all fairness to Tarpaulin Sky, a book like this would likely be cost-prohibitive. But wouldn’t it be nice if small presses everywhere had the resources to sink into such projects?