Lyrics and Scores

Composer Morton Feldman (1926—87) was a crucial figure in the post-war New York art world, using elements of chance composition to construct exquisite, quietly powerful scores that produce wonderfully varied interpretations. In Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman, Feldman reflects on his own work and ideas, as well as on those of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank O'Hara, John Cage and many others. If "Silence is my substitute for counterpoint," these occasional articulations give us a way into it. (Exact Change [], $15.95 paper 256p ISBN 1-878972-31-6; May) Cruelly dumped, the songwriter storms into his or her studio, slams the door and writes a heartbreaking platinum hit. According to Pamela Phillips Oland, one of the most prolific songwriters in the nation, this is no melodramatic fantasy. Oland's songs have been recorded by Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Selena and Frank Sinatra and featured on Xena: Warrior Princess and The Sopranos. She has worked in nearly every popular genre: rock, country, gospel, R & B, theater, alternative rock, blues and jazz, and she shares dozens of the tricks of her much-envied trade in The Art of Writing Great Lyrics, a revised version of her 1989 book You Can Write Great Lyrics. She even has the honesty to include an exegesis of a failed attempt: the first song she ever wrote. (Allworth, $18.95 paper 224p ISBN 1-58115-0938; June)

Stone Free

Although the ornamental has, in mainstream art-history circles, become "acceptable again" after long-running modernist attacks, its "rehabilitation is far from complete," laments James Trilling (Ornament), former curator at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. The Language of Ornament, a visual and historical study with 246 illustrations (68 in color), begins in the Paleolithic era (an English hand-ax) and ends with Matisse—and a back-to-the-future look at one of the oldest forms of ornament: tattoos. Trilling's unabashed apologia for the beleaguered art form will speed its recovery. (Thames &Hudson, $14.95 paper 224p ISBN 0-500-20343-1; June 25) Making its case right from the title, Henry Moore: Sculpting the 20th Century argues for the popular English sculptor's continued primacy. Edited by Dallas Museum of Art curator Dorothy Kosinski, and serving as the catalogue for an exhibition currently touring the U.S., the book covers the artist's entire career, from his early primitivism to his 1930s surrealism to his post-war public art. Photos of over 120 of Moore's suggestively abstract plasters, carvings, bronzes and drawings grace the pages of the book, along with scholarly essays from Moore proponents. (Yale Univ., $50 324p ISBN 0-300-08992-9; June) At the end of the last Ice Age (over 12,000 years ago), artists throughout Africa produced stunning work that survives to this day—on boulders and cliffs, and in caves. In African Rock Art: Paintings and Engravings on Stone, Alec Campbell (founder and first director of the National Museum and Art Gallery of Botswana) and photographer David Coulson (coauthor, Namib, The Lost World of the Kalahari) survey the genre with more than 200 color photos and 178 line drawings that detail elements of these complex compositions. From 20-foot giraffes carved into stone in Niger's Aïr Mountains to a (probably) 6,000-year-old Libyan painting of a hairdressing scene, the photos are hauntingly beautiful. In addition to its considerable contributions to art history—and human history—the book, with its foreword by the late star paleontologist Mary Leakey, should raise public awareness of the plight of these masterpieces, now endangered by erosion and vandalism. (Abrams, $60 256p ISBN 0-8109-4363-8; June)

Nature, Culture and Kitsch

From Siena's 1330s frescoes depicting good and bad government to a photo of Catherine Malfitano's suicidal leap in a TV version of Tosca,Italy: The Enduring Culture examines literature, art history, opera, television, architecture, film, economics, sexuality, the mob and demographics in Italy, from the rise of commerce and cities in Dante's time to the present. Jonathan White, a literature lecturer at the University of Essex, also explores the effect of Italian emigration on urban culture—what exactly is "Italian" about the espresso bars that blanket the globe? (Continuum, $29.95 320p ISBN 0-7185-0257-4; July) A hot-dog joint shaped like a puppy, an antique store replicating a Japanese temple, Van de Kamp's windmill-shaped bakeries, houses resembling beached boats—these are just a few of the architectural curiosities featured in Jim Heimann's California Crazy & Beyond: Roadside Vernacular Architecture, an expanded edition, including 386 color and b&w illustrations, of his California Crazy of nearly 20 years ago. SoCal pop culture devotee Heimann (Sins of the City, May I Take Your Order?), a graphic designer and historian, has tracked down more examples of the "California Crazy concept" from all over the country. He maintains, however, that it originated—and still exists mainly in—Southern California. (Chronicle, $18.95 paper 180p ISBN 0-8118-3018-7; June) Unflappable NPR correspondent Doug Lansky (ed., There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled) intrepidly ventured from the peak of Kilimanjaro to Berlin's erotic Kit Kat Club to Sweden's 100 guest-capacity Ice Hotel (rebuilt each winter just north of the Arctic Circle) to a Texas cattle auction where the auctioneers "talk more and say less than a room full of presidential candidates"—and lived to write Last Trout in Venice: The Far-Flung Escapades of an Accidental Adventurer. Some of his destinations are truly strange and, evidently for good reason, truly obscure—though readers will definitely get a laugh from Lansky's tenure (one day) as a bellboy in Jules' Undersea Lodge (scuba access only—capacity: four guests), 20 feet underwater. (Travelers' Tales, $14.95 paper 286p ISBN 1-885211-63-5; June) In Discovering Natural Israel: From the Coral Reefs of Eilat to the Emerald Crown of Mount Carmel, Michal Strutin (Places of Grace) shows travelers natural wonders often obscured by political realities: Makhtesh Ramon, Israel's Grand Canyon; the hot springs of Gader and numerous other spectacular landscapes. The wildlife is fantastically varied. Strutin encounters two-foot long parrot fish grazing on coral in the Red Sea; wafer-thin, often motionless gazelle camouflaged in the Negev Desert; colonies of griffon vultures in the Golan; skinks; fringe-toed lizards; hyraxes and countless other mythic-seeming beasts. (Jonathan David, $24.95 352p ISBN 0-8246-0413-X; June 2)