Cowan, an Australia-based writer ( Letters from a Wild State ), set out to speak to ``men of knowledge''--the messengers of the title--to learn how to help preserve nature. Unfortunately, though his quest is often very personal, he offers little autobiographical background, the book contains large chunks of contrived dialogue and Cowan's spiritualist style (he claims to recognize the crocodile in the nature of a man whose totem is the crocodile) suggests that this book is aimed mainly at fellow seekers. He divides his travels into three parts. First, he visits the islands of the Torres Strait, between Australia and New Guinea, where a former pearl diver sends him on another quest--to find the people of Mer, who teach him to identify with the mythical First Man. Still seeking ``a state of personal wholeness,'' Cowan journeys to the forests of Borneo, where he learns the Iban people's law of Adat , the harmony of the universe. He winds up among the aborigines of Australia, hears their stories, known as the Dreaming, and feels a oneness with the earth. Cowan's account, however, is short on actual practical advice about how to redeem the environment. Maps not seen by PW. (July)
Cowan has spent a majority of his life exploring the world of traditional peoples and capturing in words their seventh sense of wonder. In his latest book, he journeys to Torres Stait Islands, Borneo, and Australia and through the ancient art of storytelling gathers the spirit entities that exist as objects of veneration as well as subjects of mythology and legend. In his travel to the sea, the forest, and the earth, Cowan seeks out those who can teach him to approach nature in the true spirit of complicity. He observes the development of technological resources undermining the metaphysical world and recognizes nature's sustaining role in the world and the mystery of our role in world preservation. For larger mythological collections.-- L. Kriz, Sioux City P.L., Ia.