I think I'll start a little set of five-minute book reviews; I have piles of books I'm supposed to review on this blog, but very little time in which to do it. So, I'll set my timer for 5 minutes every now and then, write my first thoughts about the book, and share them with you. Enjoy!
Refractions by Makoto Fujimura
This little book is lovely in every way: the paper is good, the cover gorgeous, the writing poetic, the artistic and theological insights delicately profound. In short, this book is like its author’s visual work, and is liberally sprinkled with little reproductions of some of his images. As I read it, I had the feeling that I was getting a taste of a culture—Japanese culture, or Japanese-American culture—into which I have rarely dipped. And I loved it. Sweet, subtle, but powerful. Cherry blossoms and cherry wood.
It strikes me as unfair that one of the greatest living painters is also such a good writer. Not necessarily on the surface; his writing is scattered with little grammatical errors and occasional nonstandard uses. But that hardly matters. Indeed, it matters not at all in the face of his great matter: his skill in description and analogy rival that of our best living poets. He turns an image into words as he turns it into shape, color, and spatial depth in his paintings.
His method of painting is slow and careful: he uses an ancient technique of grinding and applying minerals, in their naturally vibrant colors, into abstract shapes and rarer representative figures. His works glow with real gold and platinum. And they change over time, taking the passage of the earth’s age into themselves.
His writing draws together the ancient and the contemporary, all together into his much-beloved Lower Manhattan. He takes the smoking skyscrapers, the fallen towers, the dust of death on the leaves of the maples, and reveals them in the light of the Lord’s redemption. His son barely escapes school alive on 9/11, then makes his first Communion the following Sunday. The family survives and reunites, then Makoto gives of his time to save a colleague’s art from the destructive dust in the air.
In short, this is a profound and beautiful book. I highly recommend it.