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Paperback Originals

December 29, 1985|JONATHAN KIRSCH

Titles reviewed in Paperback Originals have been published in softcover only or in simultaneous softcover and clothbound editions.

Despite the exertions of Masters and Johnson, the Playboy Adviser, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and countless other sexual gurus, the quest for meaning and satisfaction in love and marriage is still an uncertain struggle. Indeed, the so-called sexual revolution only aggravated the problem--now we must contend with herpes and AIDS as well as loneliness and alienation. Provoked by what he calls "my sadness about the forces of disintegration that have overwhelmed so many couples today," San Francisco clinical psychologist Jon Welwood now gives us Challenge of the Heart: Love, Sex and Intimacy in Changing Times (Shambala/Random House: $9.95), a spiritual balm for the walking wounded of the war between men and women.

The essays collected in "Challenge of the Heart" are the byproduct of Welwood's wide-ranging exploration of what he calls "the literature of love." His selections are eclectic, but always insightful and intriguing. We find Alan Watts on falling in love as "a particularly virulent and dangerous form of divine madness," and orgasm as "not a deed but a gift and a grace." Jungian analyst Robert Johnson ponders what he calls "stirring-the-oatmeal love"--"It represents a willingness to share ordinary human life, to find meaning in the simple, unromantic tasks . . . to find the relatedness, the value, even the beauty in simple and ordinary things." And Italian philosopher Julius Evola asserts that "it is sex alone which, even if only in the rapture of an instant, leads to some opening through and beyond the conditionalities of merely individual existence."

From these and other pronouncements--the writings of D. H. Lawrence, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Rainer Maria Rilke and a congregation of contemporary (and often California-based) therapists--Welwood succeeds in fashioning a sturdy, realistic but not unromantic approach to sex, love and conjugal relationships. "We have to learn to become 'warriors of the heart,' " he writes, "approaching the challenges of intimacy in this time of uncertainty with bravery, gentleness, and, above all, a willingness to open to love's teachings by risking, and perhaps failing, again and again."

Carry It On! by Pete Seeger and Bob Reiser (Simon & Schuster: $10.95) is styled as "A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America." The subtitle is a bit overstated, I'm afraid--the sketchy text and captionless black-and-white photographs seldom explain or expand upon the songs--but, as a treasury of early and authentic "protest" songs, "Carry It On!" is a useful and interesting addition to Seeger's earlier songbooks. And the authors succeed in tapping the wellsprings of anger and passion that make these songs so meaningful. Perhaps the liveliest and most accessible aspects of "Carry It On!" are the little asides from Seeger himself, the advice of a singer and songwriter for whom a tune is both a tool of social change and a celebration of the human spirit. "Sing it high," he comments on a traditional Indian chant, "with a good lung full of air to push it out."

The power of black-and-white photography--at once stark and deeply evocative--is captured in several new books that range from the hospices of urban India to the hollows of rural Appalachia. Photographs of Mother Theresa's Missions of Charity in Calcutta by Mary Ellen Mark (Friends of Photography, Sunset Center, P.O. Box 500, Carmel 93921: $18) is a spare but often overwhelming photo essay that places the saintly Nobel Prize winner in context; we see the orphans and the street-dwellers, the retarded and the homeless, the sick and dying souls to whom she ministers. A different sort of lost soul is depicted in Rich and Poor by Jim Goldberg (Random House: $15.95), a startling juxtaposition of flophouse residents and the very rich, each devastating portrait accompanied by the self-revelatory handwritten comments of its subject. And Wendy Ewald's Portraits and Dreams (Writers and Readers/Norton: $9.95) allows us to glimpse life (and death) in contemporary Appalachia through the eyes of schoolchildren who set out with Instamatics and returned with an extraordinary social document.

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