ERIC WERT Still Life Richard Speer, Shawn Vandor, Eric Wert (Illustrator) Pomegranate (SEPTEMBER) Hardcover $35 (128pp) 978-0-7649-8190-6
Artists lean toward the eccentric, it’s true—each artist in their own way. When asked about his early decision to exclusively paint still lifes of flowers and fruit, Eric Wert had this to say: “Because I’m not very social, and really have no desire to learn how to be social, I chose a discipline that almost no one else was interested in. The result is that the only people I’m really in dialogue with, day in and day out, are artists … whom have been dead for hundreds of years.”
Which qualifies Wert as a true Renaissance man.
But his hyperrealistic, voluptuous use of color and wry willingness to include slugs, ants, and other humble critters of the field in his compositions is utterly unique—and incomparable, even to the best work of fifteenth and sixteenth century European masters.
In his quest to paint at the highest level, Wert taught himself to “see” very slowly, but constantly, until the perceived becomes almost unrecognizable and, thus, new. “It is a ‘seeing’ whose aesthetic signification shines beyond nature, beyond technique, beyond even imagination, while at the same time incorporating all three,” explains Shawn Vandor, one of the essayists (along with art critic and curator Richard Speer) chosen to detail Wert’s evolution as a still life artist and place his work within an academic and cultural context in Eric Wert: Still Life —along with reproductions of one hundred of Wert’s stunning oil paintings and the artist’s own descriptions of his meticulous technique.
CARL LLEWELLYN WESCHCKE Pioneer and Publisher of Body, Mind & Spirit Melanie Marquis, Llewellyn Worldwide (SEPTEMBER) Hardcover $26.99 (336pp), 978-0-7387-5327-0
A New Age is upon us. Thankfully, a handful of publishers have stepped in to provide the esoteric materials needed to spread the mindbody-spirit word, initiate the Wiccan masses, introduce the magick leaders, starry-eye the astrologers, and power the occult’s supernatural endeavors. Without a doubt, most of the book-publishing credit belongs to Llewellyn Publications and its longtime president, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, considered by many to be the father of the New Age.
Weschcke died in 2016. His friend and fellow Wiccan Melanie Marquis, founder of the United Witches global coven, took it upon herself to write this definitive biography, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke: Pioneer and Publisher of Body, Mind & Spirit. Weschcke’s large American life and counterculture passions make for fascinating reading.
PAPER DOLLS Hormazd Narielwalla, Sylph Editions (AUGUST) Softcover $50 (80pp), 978-1-909631-30-4
What the world needs is more whimsy. More collage with colored paper, pussy bows, peacock feathers, and sticky tape to keep the whole together. Yes, whimsy—in this case, in a picture book shape, featuring a preening poet playing make believe. But
The physique I inhabit is solid, large-boned, stocky, chunky and hairy Let there be no mistake, I’m still a FAIRY.
He longs to be something else, and then
A striking WOMAN walks past my plate. I am intrigued by her equanimity. SHE IS extraordinary. Everything my ego aspires to be. Part GEISHA, part HUMAN, part DOLL — A magical creature in her entirety.
A master puppeteer, specializing in abstract collage designs on vintage sewing patterns, Hormazd Narielwalla lives in London. This illustrated extravaganza collects thirty eight of his unforgettable works, guided along by self-portraits in prose.
HUMDINGER Michael A. Malpass, Chicken Man Media (JUNE) Hardcover $49.95 (160pp), 978-0-692-95584-0
Brush, charcoal, chisel, file, lathe, and potter’s wheel, yes, but what is it about artists’ tools like the chainsaw and welding torch that fail to impress so many art lovers and critics—as if real art can’t possibly come from such a blue-collar, rough-and-tumble background?
In the case of Michael Malpass’s sculptures—many featuring hundreds of pieces of scrap metal and weighing several thousand pounds––it is impossible not to recognize his innovations in the craft of welding and blacksmithing as anything other than genius. A master of the sphere, Malpass would sometimes work on the inside of massive sea buoys that had been cut in half. He would literally climb in, weld the intricate pieces together, drag the work out of the buoy, invert it, join the two halves, and painstakingly grind away the welding seams.
Other spheres were more modestly sized but mindbogglingly detailed, even delicate in their spiky assembled parts appearing to explode from the center. General Electric commissioned his work, as did Exxonmobil, Ford Foundation, Pfizer Pharmaceutical, the state of New Jersey, and dozens of other notable entities. At forty-four and at the peak of his career, Malpass died unexpectedly. Authored by his son, Humdinger is a compelling photographic journey of this extraordinary artist’s life, his work, and techniques.
THE HISTORY OF KARATE AND THE MASTERS WHO MADE IT Development, Lineages, and Philosophies of Traditional Okinawan and Japanese Karatedo Mark I. Cramer, North Atlantic Books (JULY) Softcover $18.95 (198pp), 978-1-62317-240-4
Due to their isolated position in the East China Sea, the islands of Okinawa developed with strong influences from both China and Japan. But in the years following Japan’s 1609 invasion and a subsequent ban on weapons, Okinawans turned to the “empty hand” fighting/self-defense techniques long practiced in China, which gradually developed into the distinct form of weaponless combat known as karate. After Japan’s defeat in World War II and the country’s move towards pacifism, karate masters drastically toned down the martial/ deadliness aspect and began to teach karate as a competitive sport, as done in the West.
In The History of Karate and the Masters Who Made It, Mark Cramer details all manner of karate history and tradition, sources the different lineages of modern styles and shows how they were influenced by cultural and political events, offers biographies of several of the great karate masters, and generally delivers a highly readable treatise on one of Japan’s most important gifts to the world.
KOREA Where the American Century Began Michael Pembroke, Oneworld Publications (AUGUST) Hardcover $27.99 (368pp), 978-1-78607-473-7
The aftermath of the bloodbath that was World War II did not leave any of the victorious states much reason to be jubilant. Scarred and wary of each other, Russia, China, and the United States all maneuvered geopolitically to advance their interests, and several regions in Europe and Asia gradually emerged as flashpoints of contention between the great powers.
Korea stands out for pitting Stalin and Truman against each other (just days after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan) when the United States abruptly chose to create an artificial division of Korea at the thirty-eighth parallel, and then to occupy the country on the south side of the line. That decision directly led to the disastrous Korean War (involving China) and sixty-plus years of skyhigh tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Michael Pembroke’s Korea: Where the American Century Began is unremitting in detailing the politics at play in Korea’s recent history, as well as in previous centuries when the Korean people distinguished themselves as one of the great cultures of Asia, but this project will be remembered for showcasing how America’s militarism has its roots in the recent Korean conflicts.
THE HANDY LITERATURE ANSWER BOOK An Engaging Guide to Unraveling Symbols, Signs, and Meanings in Great Works Daniel S. Burt, Deborah G. Felder, Visible Ink Press (JULY) Softcover $21.95 (500pp) 978-1-57859-635-5
Am I missing something? Who among us hasn’t whispered those words while piecing together disparate plotlines in a novel, or drew blanks at the use of symbolism and allusion practiced by certain intellectual writers—subtle references to Lucretius, Montaigne’s thoughts on idleness, Jane Austen’s powder room routines, or some other tidbit from literature’s deep well? But good writers employ these tactics because they make the reading experience far richer—for those who can follow along.
The Handy Literature Answer Book: An Engaging Guide to Unraveling Symbols, Signs, and Meanings in Great Works just made that job much easier. Daniel S. Burt and Deborah G. Felder investigate hundreds of important works to showcase the expert use of literary devices by authors throughout history. Equally important, they provide guidance for getting the most out of short stories, poems, memoirs, literary nonfiction, as well as the novel. In a nine-page spread on James Joyce, the authors detail “Joyce’s contributions to the modern short story,” and explain “how the stories in Dubliners operate,” and these are just two examples of extensive Joyce-related fodder that the authors explore. In terms of entertainment, The Handy Literature Answer Guide is an exceptional project to leap about in—from Samuel Beckett to Toni Morrison, Elizabethan drama to why speed reading isn’t recommended, and so much more.
ETHNOPHARMACOLOGIC SEARCH FOR PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS 50 Years of Research (1967 - 2017) Dennis Mckenna (Editor), Synergetic Press (JULY) Hardcover $125 (832pp) 978-0-907791-68-3
Be so kind as to suspend your beliefs about psychoactive plants like ayahuasca and instead consider alternatives: that ayahuasca is “an intelligent entity,” “a gift of nature conveying messages from the biosphere,” “a portal to spiritual dimensions,” or “an agent of cognitive shamanic transformation,” in the words of Brazilian Luis Eduardo Luna, director of the Wasiwaska Research Center for the Study of Psychointegrator Plants, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the ayahuasca plant.
Luna was a presenter at the 2017 50th Anniversary Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs Symposium, along with nearly twenty other experts in chemistry, botany, anthropology, and ethnopharmacology, all gathered to discuss their ethnopharmacology research and other psychoactive ideas collected over the past fifty years since the first symposium.
Much of their discussion centers around the indigenous peoples of the world who have utilized these miraculous psychedelic fungi and plants (even the skin secretions of frogs and toads) in their cultures and religions. Of course, what’s most exciting is the potential for additional therapeutic discoveries, once the substances are better understood.
This exhaustive, necessary two volume set includes all the papers given at both the 1967 and 2017 symposiums.