THE U BOOK by Nathan Preston Pierce


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An ambitious travelogue gets bogged down in poetry and metaphysics.

The book is divided into two unequal parts: The majority details a lengthy trip to India, while a biking trip through Colorado serves as a sort of coda. Interspersed with the diary-esque accounts are photos and poems, the two often layered over each other, almost inevitably accompanied by a scriptural citation. Pierce is prone to overwriting, describing one wind as no less than “wet wild wonderfully whipped,” and to using alternately clichéd and bizarre metaphors, one minute comparing mountains to proud warriors and the next a waterfall’s spray to “Japanese love kittens with bowls of shaved ice particles to tickle your skin.” Still, Pierce is an adventurous traveler in backpacker mode–he travels a disorganized route, routinely staying with just-met strangers–and if his observations on the perils of being a white tourist besieged by the Indian poor or about mountain climbing aren’t original, they have sufficient variety and colorful enough details to keep them interesting. His biking trip, however, is little more than a series of paeans to nature’s majesty alternated with disgruntled snide remarks at anyone who would dare do anything as profane as drive. But the poems are the book’s biggest misstep–they are often laid out in impossible-to-read fashion over pixilated photos, and Pierce attempts a number of different styles and methods without succeeding at any of them. A common trick is the juxtaposition of two homonyms without any dialectic between the two (“Selfish–cell fish”). Nods to hip-hop are common (“My feelings, how to describe them? / I took a hint from Eminem / and picked up a pen”), as well as a variety of traditional meters, but no amount of inadequate pseudo-dexterity can conceal the empty hippie platitudes and exhortations (“Peace’s in the whole of your soul”).

These quasi-spiritual observations increasingly come to dominate the book, taking away from Pierce’s lively voice as a hardy traveler.

Well-meaning but muddled.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-9777318-5-5
Program: Kirkus Indie
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