Wednesday, October 12, 2016

IN THE JAPANESE GARDEN, a beautiful object about a beautiful subject



IN THE JAPANESE GARDEN
ELIZABETH BIBB (photos by Michael Yamashita)

out of print; available at all online booksellers

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Celebrates the elegant 1,300-year-old art form of Japanese gardening, providing gardeners with the basic concepts for including aspects of the Japanese garden in their own landscape plans.

My Review: This book was such a joy to find, to buy, to read...it has been a perfect experience. It's the Fulcrum Publishing edition in paperback of a book done by Starwood in 1991. As it's a paperback, my local Salvation Armani charged me 49 cents for it. It's in *perfect* condition. Rapture!

Then there is the gorgeousness of the book...photographs that are almost lit from within, they are so lovely. The printing job is adequate, but a little heavy on the cyan, making all the blues intense but the greens a little squishy. Very, very small quibble.

Above all else, though, is the subject matter...the gardens...the aesthetic of accepting nature's gifts of color, shape, and form, and designing the living landscape to make every angle and vista a reflection of this aesthetic, inviting meditation on the nature of life's seasons and the seasons of life...well. It is a restorative draught for my wearied, nibbled-at soul.

The Shinto spirituality of the gardens is not neglected in Ms. Bibb's essays on the gardens and their various histories. It is telling that the origins of this most Japanese-identified of landscaping modalities is a direct lift by the ancient Japanese from Chinese culture's gardening traditions. The borrowing went on until the 18th century, in fact, with the Ming/Qing garden trend that emphasized greenery and stonery at the expense of Western gardening's obsession with blooming things. It is one reason I so love Japanese gardens: they are not awash in messy, purposeless FLOWERFLOWERFLOWER plant FLOWERFLOWERFLOWER stuff.

I would recommend this book to anyone who feels hemmed in, pecked at, torn, or simply needs a respite from daily life. The book is presently out of print, but copies are well worth searching up!

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