For anyone who enjoys the pleasure of a thoughtfully-conceived and beautifully-made book, for anyone who delights in the play of ideas, let me recommend Leonard Koren's newly published which aesthetics do you mean? ten definitions. Koren has a history of producing spare texts in the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi, which he defined in an earlier book on the subject as "a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional." In this small book, he surprises us gently with the deliberate juxtaposition of word and image as he defines and illustrates his "ten definitions" of aesthetics. The definitions range easily from the "modest" to the esoteric, taking us from pistachio ice cream to the philosophy of Kant. Their elegance and simplicity makes of the book a reading pleasure; their intellectual ramifications offer a not easily exhaustible challenge to the mind.
These are pages from which the reader is well-advised to sip, as from the delicate cup in a ritual Japanese tea ceremony. Gulping will feel impolite and prove unsatisfying. There are playful subtleties here that hover in the mind like an evanescent smile, there are conundrums with which the mind will have to wrestle. A believer, myself, in the value of both brevity and the elegance of language, I understand that these qualities are earned often only as the result of years of work and thought--a process of distillation that makes for the kind of refinement that Koren achieves here. Along with words, he offers us the space and silence in which to contemplate their meaning. Imbued with the mystery of the koan and the precise imagery of the haiku, it's a rarefied pleasure for those ready to appreciate its rewards.