A page, 1.5 line spacing, possibly even 2.0, with large font, no smaller than 12pt, the sort that quickly fills up space – a book-load of space – on which is written: ‘An empty bar, possibly not even open, with a single table, no bigger than a small round table, but high, the sort you lean against – there are no stools – while you stand and drink.’ Geoff Dyer starts at the start and continues in chronological order in this hugely digressive summary of Stalker, Andrei Tarkovksy’s 1979 film about three men –Writer and Professor, guided by Stalker – on a journey through the magical, if potentially perilous Zone in search of the Room, a place where your innermost wishes come true.
Zona is an intensely idiosyncratic book. There are few authors who could have written it, fewer still who could have gotten it published. With the exception of But Beautiful, there are no Geoff Dyer books currently in print that aren’t in some way or another autobiographical. ‘An account of watchings, remembering and forgettings,’ Zona is no exception. As Dyer progresses through the plot of the film, he makes constant personal digressions in plain text, parenthesis and extended footnotes. Some of these digressions are inconsequential and often a little annoying – we could do without the numerous reminders that Dyer’s father was an extremely frugal. But many of them are amongst the best passages in the book.
In one such footnoted meditation concerning the relationship between youth and cinema, Dyer writes that ‘it is rare for anyone to see their – what they consider to be the – greatest film after the age of thirty. After forty it’s extremely unlikely. After fifty, impossible.’ How fortunate it is, then, that we have Dyer-as-Stalker to direct us – me, anyway – toward films like Stalker before suddenly it’s all too late.
Words: Kevin Breathnach