COAST CITIES — Many people find solace in the oceans; whether taking to the water and surfing the waves or simply looking upon its immense size, oceans can inspire wonderment and the starting point to making life-changing decisions.
This is the role of the ocean in Nicasio Latasa’s debut novel “Stumbling Upon Mowgli,” (Inkwater Press; 356 pages; $23.95).
Latasa, who earned a bachelor’s degree in literature and writing studies from California State University San Marcos in 2000 and Oceanside resident, has penned his first novel about a man trying to find joy in the prosaic responsibilities of every day life.
“Stumbling Upon Mowgli,” is a story told by Dane, a 30-year-old “writer” who does not write, who is engaged but cannot set a wedding date, and who works in an office-setting job that earns him a paycheck and not much else. He is friends with Cosmo, a free-spirited character and voracious reader. Cosmo has recently lost his uncle J.P. and so plans a memorial trip through Mexico to scatter his uncle’s ashes.
Dane is invited to go, and is encouraged by his fiancée Karana who senses that the trip might restore a zeal for life in him. Dane quits his job at a moment’s notice and embarks on the journey seeking an “absolute destination.” For Dane, his destination is to recapture that joyful, wild and carefree life he remembers seeing in the jungle-boy Mowgli in the animated version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”
Latasa keeps the narrative moving in a straightforward-manner; once the journey begins, the two friends travel through Mexico, camping, surfing and eating in the places that hold special meaning to them and to Cosmo’s late-uncle. Throughout the trip they talk about books, music and how the media destroyed bands like Nirvana.
There are three short dream sequences that may jar the reader from the story line momentarily, though the narrative is quickly picked up again.
The two friends continue their journey through Mexico until finding the ideal spot to scatter the ashes of J.P. — the ocean. On a small boat, the two friends discover what each has been looking for. For Cosmo, he decides he must continue his journey through Mexico. And for Dane, the experiences on his trip have restored his zeal for life, returning to Oceanside, his fiancée Karana and a new life.
Latasa described his writing process as being organic. “I don’t have a process where I have to lay out something in a specific order; I just go by what I’m feeling at the time,” he said.
When Latasa isn’t working at becoming a full-time writer, he teaches surfing and works for a friend’s clothing company.
Latasa’s other works include a self-published collection of original poetry called “Seasons of Silence.” He is at work on a new novel. More information may be found at nicasiolatasa.com.
Latasa will be participating in the Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation, in association with the Oceanside Library’s Write On! Literary Fair, July 24. He will be signing copies of his book and talking to any interested readers from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit ocaf.info for a full schedule.
“Stumbling Upon Mowgli” is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Inkwaterbooks.com.