Book Reviews - Marc Peter Keane / by Gwil Evans

Marc Peter Keane is a scholar of Japanese culture, writer, garden designer, and artist. We first met Marc at a gathering of the International Association of Japanese Gardens in Portland more than 30 years ago. He was a presenter on Japanese garden design. We saw and heard him speak again in San Diego in 2000, where he guided workers in stone setting for a new area of the garden in Balboa Park. He recently presented at the Portland Japanese Garden to promote his newest book, also reviewed in this post.


Marc’s writing has been a major source of authentic information for my pursuit of Japanese garden design guidelines. When I’m asked what one book I might recommend for those interested in learning about authentic Japanese garden design I always suggest Marc’s book Japanese Garden Design, 1996. It is clear, organized, and sets the standard for authentic design practices.


While researching, before building our tea house, Marc’s book The Japanese Tea Garden, 2009, was instrumental in ensuring we would be building an authentic spaces. Visitors who appreciate authenticity acknowledge the layout and execution of our design.


His Songs in the Garden, 2012, is a comprehensive history and analysis of Japanese poetry (particularly the poetic form tonka) and its role as the model of written daily communication in early Japan. The section where he identifies particular words and articulates their double meanings when used in poetry brings new life and meaning to all written poetic gems of Japan.


Quite different from the rest of his work is his book of short stories, Moss, 2015, that clearly illustrates his narrative gift. The stories are engaging and always contain a surprise twist or two for the reader (may cause you to gasp!).


His newest book, Japanese Garden Notes, 2017,  is an association of garden images and meaning, where he adds context for what one is seeing. It is a tool to improve your own ability to “see” Japanese gardens for their many layers and historic references.

Find these books on Marc Peter Keane's own Amazon page and deepen your Japanese culture knowledge while enjoying some entertaining and meaningful reading this fall and winter!