Fjords Reviews

HOME | BOOK REVIEWS | Wandering Time by Luis Alberto Urrea
Wandering Time by Luis Alberto Urrea
Share Button

 

Fjords Review, Wandering Time -  Luis Alberto Urrea

Nonfiction
WANDERING TIME
BY LUIS ALBERTO URREA

The University of Arizona Press, 2015
130 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8165-0282-0

 

by Hector Duarte Jr.

 

Luis Alberto Urrea went through one of the most visceral, real things someone could go through. After splitting with his wife, he set off for the American Southwest and kept track of all the unusual spots visited, odd characters encountered, and existential knowledge gained.

He is a fan of writer’s journals: “I am more drawn to Cheever’s journals, for example, than to his fine stories…I think writing students can learn 100 times more about writing from a writer’s diary than from a writer’s Pulitzer Prize novel.”

There was reticence on my part going into reading his own journal Wandering Time. Writer’s notebooks can sometimes feel self-indulgent and far too abstract. That reticence quickly faded about fifteen pages in when I realized he was pulling off a clever double time, indulging in musings on nature, travel, and the people he met along the way but also providing incredibly useful writing advice: “It seems to me that a good writer must excel at two things: poking around and paying attention. The whole world is your filing cabinet.”

From the start, Urrea gives us the goods. He's gone through a tough divorce and decided to pull a Christopher Candless/Alexander Supertramp, making off for the southwest. He picks up a stray cat he names Rest Stop after the spot he found her. She joins him in the car and across many states, only to be ironically snatched off his front porch once back home in Tucson. That is the metaphorical theme to the book. Once he is back home, things become foreign and strange. He is bored because at his very core he is a wanderlust.

“I like to keep moving,” he writes. “Running streams can't get stagnant. I hope.” Urrea is a shark, chronicling every step, focusing on and embracing even the smallest things his domestic life seems to have distracted him from. If he stops moving, he ceases to exist.

His attention is most rapt by aspens:

Even if you’re just walking around the park. Even if your wild country drive is merely the Express Bus or the subway. Even if you’re just soaking in the tub after a long day of work. If you listen, you’ll hear the aspens—they may be drunk; then again, they may be praying.

Urrea balances the book with writing advice, musings on nature, and encounters—sometimes very disturbing ones—with regular, every day people. Like this diamond from Ben Frank’s restaurant in Hollywood:

I sat at the counter. When she put down my silverware, it was covered in frost. “Maam?” I said. “Is this fork frozen?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I put it in the freezer.”
“Why?”
She leaned over the counter and breathed, “I just wanted to watch it stick to your lips.”

Wandering Time is split into five sections, spring through winter, with an extra spring thrown in at the end. It’s interesting to see how Urrea’s excitement and energy peak and wane in time with each season. So, for example in spring and summer he is at his most energetic and explorative but once fall comes he starts, by necessity, to slow down.

Fittingly, it’s the winter section that provides the most insight into Urrea’s writing practice because it is then that he, “must be part marmot: winter comes and [he] burrows in, barely writes, eats chili and stares at televangelists, wondering when the next snowstorm is coming.”

This is where Urrea really delves into that feel of a writing notebook. Hunkered down for the winter, he writes about all his heroes, dispenses literary advice, as if to keep his mind agile, to prevent boredom.

Wandering Time pays homage to Urrea’s literary heroes from Basho to Brautigan and Bukowski. It provides a great balance of stream of consciousness, slice-of-life anecdotes, and valuable writing advice. None of which come across self-indulgent or pedantic. He is not trying to be overly clever or astute. He is just trying to be, and write. As a reader, it’s fun to poke around his thoughts and find the flashes of genius scattered throughout.

Archives

Dear Everyone by Matt Shears

Magic City Gospel by Ashley M. Jones

Intimacy by Stanley Crawford

Lunch Poems by Deborah Kuan

The Best American Poetry 2016

One with the Tiger by Steven Church

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

The King of White Collar Boxing by David Lawrence

They Were Coming for Him by Berta Vias-Mahou

Verse for the Averse: a Review of Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry

That Other Me by Maha Gargash

Simone by Eduardo Lalo

Swimming by Karl Luntt

Ghost/ Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher

Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Bad Light by Carlos Castán

Diaboliques by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly

Staying Alive by Laura Sims

Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Fireflies by John Leland

Maze of Blood by Marly Youmans

Tender the Maker by Christina Hutchkins

Little Anodynes by Jon Pineda

Conjuror by Holly Sullivan McClure

Someone's Trying To Find You by Marc Augé

The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza

Now You Have Many Legs to Stand On by Ashley-Elizabeth Best

The Knowledge by Robert Peake

The Darling by Lorraine M. López

How To Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

Watershed Days: Adventures (A Little Thorny and Familiar) in the Home Range by Thorpe Moeckel

[INSERT] BOY by Danez Smith

Demigods on Speedway by Aurelie Sheehan

Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg

Singing Bones by Kate Schmitt

Knuckleball by Tom Pitts

Teaching a Man to Unstick His Tail by Ralph Hamilton

Domenica Martinello: The Abject in the Interzones

Control Bird Alt Delete by Alexandria Peary

Twelve Clocks by Julie Sophia Paegle

Love You To a Pulp by C.S. DeWildt

Even Though I Don’t Miss You by Chelsea Martin

Women by Chloe Caldwell

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

ESSAY 2:12 A.M. by Kat Meads

Revising The Storm by Geffrey Davis

American Neolithic by Terence Hawkins

Quality Snacks by Andy Mozina

Midnight in Siberia by David Greene

Strings Attached by Diane Decillis

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging by Joshua Dolezal

The New Testament by Jericho Brown

You Don't Know Me by James Nolan

Phoning Home: Essays by Jacob M. Appel

Words We Might One Day Say by Holly Karapetkova

Murder by Danielle Collobert

Sorrow by Catherine Gammon

The Americans by David Roderick

Put Your Hands In by Chris Hosea

I Think I Am in Friends-Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa

Third Wife by Jiri Klobouk

box of blue horses by Lisa Graley

Review of Hilary Plum’s They Dragged Them Through the Streets

The Sleep of Reason by Morri Creech

The Hush before the Animals Attack by Carol Matos

Regina Derieva, In Memoriam by Frederick Smock

Review of The House Began to Pitch by Kelly Whiddon

Hill William by Scott McClanahan

Seamus Heaney Aloft

The Bounteous World by Frederick Smock

Review of The Tide King by Jen Michalski

Going Down by Chris Campanioni

Review of Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade by Rob Cook

Review of The Day Judge Spencer Learned the Power of Metaphor

Review of The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish

Review of Life Cycle Poems by Dena Rash Guzman

Review of Saint X by Kirk Nesset

Review of Jessica Treadway's Please Come Back to Me

Eve Asks by Christine Redman-Waldeyer