SURREAL BOUNCE is… the name that writer Robert Eringer and artist Thomas Van Stein have given to their six-year odyssey in search of creativity and madness.
The resulting Book Art is a funny, poignant, insightful and stylishly written celebration of art, motion and lunacy—travel narrative meets New Age esotericism.
Newly settled in Montecito, California, the author meets Thomas Van Stein, a plein air artist who specializes in nocturnes.
Artist and writer launch themselves to Iceland in darkest winter, beneath a full moon, to define berserk (the Vikings’ only contribution to the English language). Here they conquer the runtur (a late night pub crawl) and discover surrealism-squared.
The experience leads them to Arles and St. Remy, Provence, in pursuit of Vincent van Gogh’s spirit—and his severed ear. The artist identifies go-figurism, while the writer experiences a strange haunting.
Their luna-seeking travels at this juncture are based around the opening of the Bedlam Bar in London, whose mural depicts the history of insanity and those who played a role in it through the ages. (The bar’s mottos are “We gladly suffer fools” and “Don’t suffer mental illness, enjoy it.”)
The trail twists to Gheel, Belgium, and the relics of Saint Dymphna, patron saint of lunatics. The story of how Dymphna’s father slew her after she refused to marry him is told here, along with how the whole town of Gheel grew from that tragic event in 621 A.D. into the world’s most progressive (open air) mental hospital.
A brief pilgrimage to Las Vegas—the “suicide capital of the United States”—is necessary to examine suicide through the ages and its connection to mental illness.
Then it’s onto Dali country i.e. the turf of surrealist master Salvador Dali: Catalonia, Spain. Was he as mad as his appearance and art suggested—or was it a put on?
The path from surrealism leads to minimalist Marfa, Texas—encompassing the mystical Marfa Lights—and the conception of Who-carism.
Then it’s back to Europe—to the Machiavelli family estate in San Casciano, near Florence, where madness cannot be shaken and a couple of renaissance mysteries are uncovered and solved, one involving Leonardo de Vinci, with whom Machiavelli worked during the first few years of the sixteenth century.
With angels and devils having entered the picture while in Tuscany, writer and artist find themselves sidetracked to Sedona, Arizona, a New Age Mecca where God apparently resides--and where a summons from Friedrich Nietzsche, through metaphysical shock treatment, draws them to the mad German philosopher’s place of inspiration: Sils Maria, Switzerland.
Around this time, the author is confronted by a revelation that is both unexpected and awe-inspiring.
Finally, a stroll into the wild: Alaska—and with it, self-realization.
In the best tradition of Joseph Campbell, this is a true writer/artist journey.