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Posts Tagged ‘borderlands short stories’

The Water Museum: Stories by Luis Alberto Urrea. Little Brown and Co. New York. 2015. 257 pp.

Luis Alberto Urrea’s latest short story collection The Water Museum has a little bit for everyone. As other reviewers have pointed out, there’s drugs and sex and even a little rock n’ roll. I’ve talked about Urrea  and two of his earlier books, Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America (https://wanderwest.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/luis-alberto-urrea-speaks/) and have read the marvelous Into the Beautiful North. I’m a true fan of his novels.

I’ve also read short pieces before, particularly in Orion, where I greeted his places “out west” not “back east” (the Orion staple US landscape) with gladness, and not a little wonderment about what those New England types made of home boys, low riders and alligators. (He did a memorable piece set in Louisiana; granted it’s not the high plains or the Pacific Coast but it sure as heck isn’t western MA.) He now has a column called Wastelander, appropriate for his often blasted out urban landscapes and polluted streams as well as his characters, who possess equally blasted out souls.

WATERMUSEUM2These are the characters that inhabit the short stories in this collection. I don’t think there was one that had a happy ending; and that’s just alright for the folks who populate his world. That can make reading Urrea’s stories bleak at times. But it’s often bleak softened with a sly grin or a wink, especially if the main character is an overlooked, misunderstood “I” who’s trying to get the swing of making it in a tough world.

The most thought-provoking essay for me is the title story: The Water Museum. As much of the West parches, this is a particularly timely allegorical tale about school kids who know water only as it originates from the tank of a water truck. They are taken on a school field trip to “experience the real thing”—even though it’s only a simulation of waterfalls and flowing rivers in a fake children’s “discovery” museum. Their reactions are fascinating, and not a little frightening.

Luis Alberto Urrea is a member of the Latino Writers Hall of Fame and has been inducted by many reviewers into what I consider the Writers Hall of Glowing Reviews. I think he’s a fantastic, unique writer, who inhabits a a space exactly right, carved out by him for himself. At least I haven’t read anybody call him a blue-eyed, red haired Mexican-American Thoreau yet. I guess maybe that’s too much of a stretch, even for reviewers who have been known to get lost in a swamp of superlatives. (Think “magisterial”, “pitch perfect”, “a must read.”)

I thank heavens for that.

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