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I‘ve just finished Ricker Winsor’s book, Thinking Out Loud, and now I’m going to read it again. Not that I missed anything, but because it is worth reading at least a second time, and immediately. It’s that compelling a read. Ricker Winsor is an American expatriate painter/writer/photographer/poet extraordinary who looks at the world around him and says what he thinks, clearly, intelligently, passionately, and with insights that can only have been obtained through experience and by traveling and living in so many places. Whether he’s talking about fly fishing in the Catskills or racism in Trinidad (and elsewhere) or saving a condemned puppy from a cruel fate in Bali, he knows of what he speaks. I have always admired Hemingway and Jack London because they wrote from experience, and I get the same feeling when I read Ricker Winsor. His views are uncompromising, challenging, and stimulating. As David Kherdian says in his introduction of the book, Ricker Winsor is “a student of life, in particular a directed life that is both used and formed by art.” The subjects that engage his thoughts should be the ones that fill our own, day to day. The unexamined life is a wasted life, and Ricker Winsor has certainly not wasted his.

Who knew that Vincent Van Gogh’s mother used her son’s paintings to plug holes in her chicken coop? This is but one of many surprising things you might learn from reading Ricker Winsor’s book of essays Thinking Out Loud. Even if the essays were not fascinating, which they are, the photos alone would be worth the cost of the book. Included are photos of art world figures such as Willem de Kooning, pictured with fellow Abstract Expressionist painter Herman Cherry, and rarely seen celebrity photos such as an exciting photo of Janis Joplin, which accompanies an essay about the author’s experience with a workshop presented by Ansel Adams.

Ricker Winsor is a painter, a writer, and a blues musician. He has lived all over the world and has known many of the great artists and poets, from the Beats to the afore-mentioned de Kooning and Adams. He writes about a fly fisherman known as Catskill Bill and about living in Indonesia, he ponders the nature and cause of racism and what art is all about, and what he has learned about marriage. His writing is passionate, personal, honest, unstinting and unaffected. There is even a delightful short story about swimming with an otter (the only bit of fiction in the book).

Winsor is a home-spun philosopher in the tradition of Mark Twain. I highly recommend Thinking Out Loud.

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