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WANDERING TIME by Luis Alberto Urrea


The Western Notebooks

by Luis Alberto Urrea

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8165-1866-1
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona

A disjointed, gushing collection of musings on and descriptions of a yearlong road trip cum walking tour of Rocky Mountain National Park. After his difficult marriage came apart, Urrea (By the Lake of Sleeping Children, 1996, etc.) embarked on a trip along the flanks of the Rockies in an attempt to bring new openness to his heart and live a more soulful life. The journal he kept during his wanderings says surprisingly little about the broken marriage that provoked them. Instead, it records Urrea’s thoughts on the sights he sees—broken cars, playful butterflies—and the people he meets as he drives and walks his way through the parks and cities of Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. Urrea has an endearing talent for noticing the small things in nature (mouse tracks, slow and fast ants, baby snakes), and his enthusiasm for getting to know people from all walks of life (bishops, mechanics, homeboys, neo-Nazis, nature-lovers, evangelists, hippies, rednecks, Mexican laborers) is a refreshing departure from the studied cynicism of many writers today. But much of Urrea’s writing is marred by a vagueness that can approach absurdity (“Anyone who has ever engaged an aspen in any meaningful dialogue at all recognizes its optimistic and generous nature almost immediately”) and his constant references to other writers (Abbey, Kerouac, Bukowski, Ackerman, and Basho, to name a few) and to his own process of writing a journal fill this book like so much white noise. A disappointing exercise, Urrea’s journals lack the narrative focus and emotional power to keep pulling the reader through his countless tangents.