Waft III

If you ever read a review of Wafts I and II, you'll find that "weird", "strange", or "odd" are the words most often used to describe them, and Waft III owns the same reputation with current book reviewers. Well I politely, but wholeheartedly disagree. The books in the Waft series are not weird at all. But they are not "normal". Waft is car culture. Like, actual, honest-to-goodness car culture. It is not a collection, not a photography project, and not an opus to a certain brand. It is not a history book. It is not a memoir. And according to the writers, it's certainly not a "bookazine."

"WAFT is totally independent and free from publicity or periodicity. But we aim for three issues a year. Or two. Or four."

What WAFT is, is two people in love--with the automobile, and with each other. The company is a narrative, its chapters made of love letters bearing the titles of these books. Waft... Spada... Bart Lenaerts and Lies de Mol communicate with the reader the way buddies communicate over beer and the smell of motor oil in the garage. There's no taint of the sterility found in other publications, where writers talk at you about cars through the thick filter of their journalism degree. Not saying that the writing is informal, or flawed. To be sure, there are no typos or glaring grammatical mistakes, but the writing is...personable. By the 4th or 5th story you're pretty sure you could tell Bart's easygoing tone anywhere--should you suddenly need to identify him via an unsigned post-it note as a matter of life or death. Two parts elegant, flowing sentence to one part short, clipped phrases. Very Franco-Germanic. Sprinkle generously with similes. Sprinkle them everywhere and for every thing. The great thing about getting all Bart all the time is that it makes Waft easy to read, like a singular narrative. There's no jarring change in speech patterns and language like a typical periodical, yet it never gets tiring. Unsurprisingly, Waft III is hard to put down, and it's even harder not to send an email after every story in an effort to continue the conversation about the subject or add to the love story.

Bart & Lies explore Detroit's urban ruins in a Cadillac CTS-V wagon--a car that reminds us all that the heart of the automotive world is coming out of hibernation. Viva Motown.

That's the other thing Waft is. It's a conversation, where instead of writing about what some content editor says needs to be covered, or whatever press release copy has been sent to their office--everything that Lies (through her pictures) and Bart is telling us comes from a personal interest. The entire publication feels like catching up with a buddy while he paints a picture of his latest automotive adventure for you. An adventure where he drove his car to a new location or to an interesting person's home and let them be the story instead of himself. It's the opposite of today's Instagram-ified "look at this cool thing I did" brand of enthusiasm.

Like this review, Waft III is a long read. It took all of a week to finish even as I set other reading aside. (Ok yes, I gave 10 hours up to Netflix's Making a Murderer. Who didn't?) Though there is a LOT of content, the time it took is due more to the beauty of the book than the length of its paragraphs. I could allocate an extra second or two per page turn as the thickness of the paper convinced me over and over that I was actually flipping two pages rather than one. And I should have run a stopwatch to document the long pauses as I revisited pages to once again admire the beautiful pictures Lies, Dieter Klein, and Jochen Paesen have taken. Even though the latter two only share their work for one story each, I can't imagine this volume without the designer sketches Jochen gathered while on Kiska's designer's rally. Or that sad, rusty 356 in the woods--its racing number just barely visible through Klein's lens.

Buy this love letter. Understand it for what it is. Maybe don't fight the urge to email Bart and Lies as hard as I did. Get used to the idea that not all car books have to be car books.

A Bentley splashes its way through some rough Death Valley weather.