When I heard that Anthony Louis was writing a follow-up to Tarot: Plain and Simple, I was ecstatic. Although Plain and Simple’s title is quite descriptive and accurate, I generally read it in conjunction with Robert Wang’s exquisite The Qabalistic Tarot and have found the combination more than complementary. Louis’s language is descriptive, thorough, and forthright and really speaks to me (especially in contrast to Wang and the Golden Dawn's hesitation to nail a card down).
Although I find his new work a quality entry into modern tarot literature, it is not a beginner’s book, and for those who are not already familiar with not only tarot but also its history, this book could cause much more confusion than enlightenment to be sure. There is a balance between historicity, research, and personal opinion that is appealing and readable, and I know in time, I will go back and reread the chapters on astrological influence and correspondence. If for nothing else, this work is worth the money for the author’s arrangement of Appendix A.
I will say that I repeatedly thought of Paul Huson’s book Mystical Origins of the Tarot, not because Louis mentions it (and he does), but because the books do remind me of each other in the sources they have in common. The difference, and it is a great one, is that Huson’s work is a very straightforward (almost dry) look at how the cards came to be from a definite historical perspective while Louis’s book, keeping history in mind, proceeds from a user-focused perspective. Another difference that sprang immediately to mind is that while Huson does tell his reader what astrological decan is associated with the card, Louis gives the reader Agrippa’s description of what images are associated with said decan. I quickly pulled out the Liber T: Tarot of the Stars Eternal deck and began to examine the images in comparison to the Agrippa text. Though it doesn’t explain everything going on in Andrea Serio’s mind during the conception of that deck (Harris’s Thoth images notwithstanding), it certainly makes the deck more usable to me.
His chapter on the elemental personalities of the court cards will also need to be reread. The associations that are made between combinations and ratios of wet/dry and hot/cold are dizzying and arcane. In contrast, his chapter on the Major Arcana was a breath of fresh air on a subject that has been written about extensively over the years. He makes mythological and social connections to the trumps that were not only enjoyable but also enlightening. Granted, these associations seem personal at times, but they also felt very natural especially in relation to his extensive astrological background (the example of “Virgo holding Libra, which in turn becomes Scorpio” is the one that occurs to me). All of this, together with examples of readings that he has performed over time, combines to form something of real and lasting value. Personally, I love to read about readings themselves (perhaps not always to the extent of Richard Roberts’s The Original Tarot and You), and Louis’s descriptions, mental or intuitive leaps, deductions, and inferences sound so genuine…so familiar.
If there are some drawbacks to the book, I can only say that the organization of the book seems a bit haphazard. Though the author’s effort is obvious, the chapters each feel like small books that do not necessarily follow one another in a coherent or logical way. It sometimes feels that he is writing to answer questions that he has been asked (or that he has asked himself) rather than writing to create one book. And of those chapters, I think I expected more astrological explanations of the tarot itself. Certainly, the reader can look in the appendix or one of the charts in the book to see what Louis is talking about when he references those associations as he describes a reading, but aside from a few examples, the more extensive explanation that I was expecting wasn't there. Perhaps, not having a great astrological bent, I simply didn't get it.
Although definitely a sequel to a beginner’s book, this is a warm, informative, personal book that I would recommend to anyone.