IN THE ROOM WHERE I WRITE
I have many collections in the room where I write. They must inspire me because a lot of it has made its way into my writing in one way or another. I do tend to write about objects a lot, what they mean to us, how they define us. Whether it’s the weird, kitschy stuff that pops up in my first novel SECOND HAND, the obsolete and decaying objects from THE LEISURE SEEKER, the record albums in my third novel BEAUTIFUL MUSIC, or the vintage objects and forgotten tiki palaces that appear in my new novel THE NARCISSISM OF SMALL DIFFERENCES, you can pretty much find most of it in my writing room in one form or another.
Probably the only collection that is actually meant to “inspire” me is the grouping of photos over my writing desk. It’s a little shrine to all my heroes: the writers, painters, photographers, musicians and artists whose work I love. I’ve had a collection of these over my desk for at least twenty years. Occasionally, I will add new ones or take some down, but this is the current line up, along with two thirds of our cat collection, Pickles on the left and Junebug on the right. Cheeto, our third cat is shy. Left side bottom to top: Franz Kafka (He’s behind Pickles’ head), Nina Simone, Dawn Powell (whose books inspired my new novel), F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andy Warhol, Raymond Carver, Walker Percy, Thelonius Monk, Paul Bowles. Top left to right: Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, Man Ray, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Katherine Hepburn, Frank Lloyd Wright, Lenny Bruce, John Coltrane. Right side top to bottom: Groucho Marx, a group shot of Jean Genet, William Burroughs & Allen Ginsburg, John Lee Hooker, Albert Camus, (Pickles is also obscuring a copy of Camus’ THE PLAGUE, worth revisiting at the pestilent moment), Miles Davis, Charles Bukowski, John Cheever, Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera, Henry Gregor Felsen and Billie Holliday are tucked under the desk. (It’s just good to know they’re there.)
There’s something kind of strange and intimate and vulnerable about revealing one’s bookshelves, but I guess that’s part of the voyeuristic pleasure of it. This is the bookshelf directly to the left of my desk. Top shelf is novel overflow and the two beneath it are all short story collections. Then there’s my car collection. I’ve lived in Detroit all my life, so I’ve always loved cars, not the mechanical aspect of them, but their design. Second shelf left to right: Papier Mache car from Spain, a 40’s tin toy, a clay model of a 50s American car from Havana, a teeny toy car with house trailer from the 60s (a gift from a friend after my second novel THE LEISURE SEEKER came out) and a tiny clay Mexican car. Third shelf left to right: another clay car from Oaxaca, Mexico, a 70s Avon bottle replica of a 50s Studebaker and a colorful ceramic convertible which I bought in Arizona.
I do have a collection of Mexican Dias de los Muertos figures, coffins and dioramas (They also appeared in SECOND HAND), which are perfect for displaying on bookshelves. But my study is also filled with photographs, many of them by my late father Norman Zadoorian who was an industrial photographer for Detroit Edison for 35 years. My favorites of his are his Detroit street scenes from the forties, fifties and sixties. Many of his photos appear in both SECOND HAND and THE LEISURE SEEKER. Photography is something that makes its way into a lot of my work.
There are photographs from other photographers as well: Tom Drew, John Roe, Robert Shimmin and the incredible Leni Sinclair. At the top left is one of my favorites of hers: Detroit blues legend Bobo Jenkins from 1981. Beneath it is an illustrated review of the Italian translation of SECOND HAND by Marco Petrella. The books beneath it are vintage paperbacks of old hot rod novels and my father’s collection of James Bond paperbacks from the sixties.
This bookshelf has oversize art, design and tiki books on the top. Bottom shelves are mostly crime and noir fiction, with a smattering of urban folklore books. It’s also where I display my vintage camera collection. The Brownies are my favorite. The tiny camera on the top shelf right side is actually a lighter. If they look dusty, it’s because they are. That’s the problem with collecting. Luckily, I’m a believer in Picasso’s dictum: “Dust protects.”
Scattered around, there are more Leni Sinclair photographs, her iconic MC5 shots, as well as collage art from my friend Doug Blanchard. The print over the bookshelf is by Glenn Barr, who did the cover of my story collection, THE LOST TIKI PALACES OF DETROIT. The Egg chair is good for reading and meditating while sheltering in place.
Michael Zadoorian is the author of the novels Second Hand, Leisure Seeker, Beautiful Music and the short story collection The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. His latest novel The Narcissism of Small Differences will be officially released by Akashic Books on 5/05/20.