By Sam McManis
This may be the trippiest – and most beautiful – coffee-table book on the market this winter. It’s the combination of Steinbeck’s words (yes, he’s related to that Steinbeck) and the sketches and oil paintings of 77-year-old Santa Barbara artist Ben Brode. The subject is Big Sur, which launched many a tall tale (see Kerouac and Henry Miller). Specifically, it’s about the legend of the “Dark Watchers,” said to be diminutive hominids who haunt the landscape. The only thing haunting are Brode’s gorgeous paintings.