If I had a coffee table, I would put Andrew Zornoza’s Where I Stay out on it. Beyond being a beautiful, odd object, it contains much more than the small breadth of its pages. In massively tight and tiny paragraphs that fill one page, basked with odd photographs from locations across the States, Zornoza is able to capture something about movement, about the strange vertices and intersections caused in certain sections of our nation’s roadmaps, and the curtains of strange, frightened, roaming people that fill it up.
Because Zornoza’s book is one of those that leaves you feeling much wider than you were before you touched it, I wanted, when I was done, to ask Andrew all about the process of his making, and ended up getting deeply engrossed in the way he speaks about his art, his process, his life. The following is a discussion we had over email across a couple weeks:
Where I Stay feels to me like it must have been a long time in the making, if not tactically, from head to paper, then at least in the consummation of it brewing in you. It spans a hell of a lot of life in a very tight economy of text and image. I wonder if you could start then maybe by telling about where the book began inside your mind, and how it was that you found the ways to bring it out of your onto the paper.
Yes, it took about 14 years. I think the first words I wrote were “The earth is black and buckled…” Though, when people hear it took that much time they think I am obsessive, fixated. But — people are just now publishing stories that I wrote 10 years ago. It takes me about four years to get anything right and the publishers seem to be ten years behind in picking them up. It can be frustrating at times because you are so far removed from your own work. I wrote a story about a chef who is consumed with creating the best food. He rips the small oyster meat out of a roast chicken and throws the rest onto the curb behind the restaurant. He builds special carburetors to blow a vapor of milk to be infused with cookies. Well, that’s more or less Ferran Adrià. I wrote it long before El Bulli became the institution it is today. Wouldn’t reading my book have saved him a lot of trouble? Given him some comfort? Couldn’t “Where I Stay” have come out before Sean Penn discovered Into the Wild? Of course, there’s a tremendous amount of arrogance and presumption and stupidity packed in those type of thoughts, but it can be frustrating when you see the shape of something looming on the horizon… and by the time your work gets out there the shape is sitting on top of us. On the other hand, I think the literary world has entered a zone of almost paralytic self-consciousness — similar to the art world when photography came on the scene. Books are trying to compete with the immediacy of TV, movies, and specifically, the flooding text of the Internet. I think, in my own self-defense, that the novel has an advantage in its lack of immediacy. A book that takes years to write… it takes a set of feelings and thoughts and silences that have profoundly evolved over time. Some people would have you believe that the novel is in trouble as an art form. The novel isn’t in trouble — making money off the novel is in trouble.