The Great Outdoors: From Your Backyard to a Garden in Japan


I find my bliss in Japanese gardens, and books about this refined and evolving form of art keep coming and coming. Sophie Walker’s THE JAPANESE GARDEN is an ambitious survey, set in a framework that’s both historical and thematic (“Death, Tea and the Garden,” for instance, which sounds like something Thomas Mann would have enjoyed). Its elegant photographs are accompanied by impressively eccentric essays. In one of my favorites, the architect John Pawson writes about the ability to “feel an intimate connection with boundless landscape — as though it is passing through you and you through it” — in the smallest of the Kyoto gardens that entranced him. He captures, exquisitely, the balance and rhythm of moving through these rigorously controlled spaces. The sculptor Anish Kapoor weighs in with thoughts about gardens that don’t just reveal meaning but instead “come into” meaning. And the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy gets really far out with the power of fractals in those ferns and rocks so carefully set in the Japanese garden — all of this tied to the Pixar classic “Up.” I wish this book could be three times as long and as large.