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Monday, Oct. 25, 2010

‘Wordcatcher’ Phil Cousineau at Boswell

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Phil Cousineau, the San Francisco-based writer, world traveler and documentary filmmaker, will hold forth at Boswell Book Co. this Friday, Oct. 29. He’s well worth catching, no matter what subjects his latest books are addressing. He’s a compelling raconteur who never fails to regale a roomful of listeners.

When I accompanied my friend Antler out West to see his first book published by City Lights, we worked with Cousineau on a house-painting crew in San Francisco 1980-82. We could tell by the heavy-duty books he read on his lunch breaks and conversations we had with him in a pub at the end of each workday that this fellow aspiring writer from the Midwest (raised just outside Detroit) was destined for bigger things than painting Victorian houses.

His breakthrough occurred when he worked on The Hero’s Journey, the feature-length documentary about renowned world mythologies scholar Joseph Campbell that came out in 1987, a year before Bill Moyers’ Power of Myth PBS series of Campbell interviews. In recent years Cousineau has assisted the venerable world religions scholar Huston Smith.

Other documentaries he’s worked on include the Oscar-nominated Forever Activists, about Americans who fought against Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War, and The Peyote Road, about the American-Indian religion in which peyote is a sacrament comparable to the Eucharist. The latter film helped the Indians preserve their legal right to partake of this ritual under the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion.

Cousineau’s books include the companion book to The Hero’s Journey film and The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred. And he assisted Doors drummer John Densmore in writing his book Riders on the Storm. When he appeared at Boswell Book Co. last fall, the books he was touring to promote were Stoking the Creative Fires: 9 Ways to Rekindle Passion and Imagination and The Meaning of Tea. This time in Milwaukee the two new books he’ll be talking about are The Oldest Story in the World and Wordcatcher: An Odyssey Into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words.

Phil Cousineau visits Boswell Book Co. (2559 N. Downer Ave.) 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29.