Effective travel writing – like good fiction – creates an experience that is shared by the reader. The fourth issue of Divide, themed “Travel and Enlightenment,” is brimming with experiences and reflection.
Effective travel writing – like good fiction – creates an experience that is shared by the reader. The fourth issue of Divide, themed “Travel and Enlightenment,” is brimming with experiences and reflection. The balanced collection of essays, fiction, poetry and photography produced by the University of Colorado reminds me of The Sun: there is a sensitivity to the human condition and our place within the natural world. In the opening piece, “Portrait of the Traveler as a Young Man,” Stephen Benz reproaches the young, ignorant, Central-American traveler he once was and simultaneously criticizes the homogenization of travel: “Because guidebooks and guides constantly intervened, we never really encountered the place directly […] a safe but diluted approach to the travel experience.” A lot of the prose in Divide flows like travel, sometimes slow and building, sometimes awesome and shocking. Several pieces stand out: a couple trying to salvage a doomed marriage by vacationing to Dominica in Tara L. Masih’s “Champagne Water”; John Volkmer’s ruminations on why we (and he) make pilgrimages to places of the massacred dead in “The Mark of Cain”; Aaron Gwyn’s eerily calm “Drive,” wherein a mismatched couple go on an unexplained killing spree; Alyce Miller’s “An Act of Kindness,” where the do-good narrator unnerves the teenage (if even that old) Bangkok whore she was trying to protect. Dark elements infuse the selections in Divide but there is a lightness – something like enlightenment – coming out of each experience.