Paul Stokes' Review of Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees


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Port Orchard, WA
I'm happy to announce that a review of my book just appeared on It is the first independent review that I know of since the book has been available.

Shortly after Paul started recently, he contacted me to ask if he could write a review to post on the site. Not knowing Paul, but admiring the history of the previous sites he was involved with, I agreed, with the single proviso that he actually read the book first, not merely base the review on the photos or a casual skimming of the text. He agreed, and I sent him a promo copy of the book, and let him know that I would also send him some representative photos or page spreads of his choice once he'd read the book and knew what he wanted. I was careful to refrain from any pressure as to what I hoped or expected him to write or post.

After a while, Paul sent me a rough draft of the text of his review and an expected date of publication. Other than that there was no back and forth correspondence or attempt to influence the review: I had wanted an honest review from an impartial person. I believe Paul achieved that quite nicely. I am also happy, of course, that his review was very complimentary of the book, but mostly I am happy that his review captured the essence of work quite well, and I thank him for that.


Spuds Moyogi
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Fairfax Va.
I just got the book. Wow. This one is a landmark (like Bill V's National Exhibition book) for American bonsai, I think. Besides the wonderful photos, Dan's book (at least IMO) defines that intangible thing that is "American Bonsai" --even though Dan Robinson apparently hates such factionalism.

Comparing Mr. R's trees to Japanese (And even European) bonsai is like comparing a wild, unbroken mustang to domesticated show horses. They embody wild, wooly and sometimes fierce spirit and IMO outdo Kimura's more refined abstract trees.

Attila Soos

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Los Angeles (Altadena), CA
...IMO outdo Kimura's more refined abstract trees.

Come to think of it, the term "Zen" is expressed much better with Dan's trees, than it is, with today's Japanese trees, where the origins of Zen can be found.

Or take the term Wabi-Sabi. Isn't what Dan's trees are all about?

It's funny how a truly American bonsaist can express the pinnacle of Japanese aesthetics better than the Japanese themseves.....and all this while Dan wants nothing to do with the Japanese.

By the above logic, it would be easy to conlude that Dan's bonsai is more Japanese than what the Japanese do these days. But, of course, this is not true. This just shows the universality of these concepts, and that no nation can claim exclusive rights to them.
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