Hardcover, 341 pages, bw and colour illustrations, Honolulu 1996, new
For nearly a quarter of a century, Mannikka worked to unravel the logic and symbolism that guided construction of Angkor Wat, the famed 12th-century Hindu temple in Cambodia. Portico by galley by apartment, she links the temple's dimensions to the heavens and to Southeast Asian history. The book, a cross between doctoral dissertation and love letter, has a structure that reflects the temple-as you read the book, you figuratively walk through the building, aided by 209 illustrations (12 in color) and by Mannikka's poetic tributes to the ruin's stones and corridors. The author hopes her book will help form a general paradigm for use in analyzing other temples, but many of her techniques could apply to secular structures whose origins have been obscured by time. Mannikka's growth as a scholar is another subtext, and her honest assessment of what she had to learn to fully appreciate her subject is refreshing ("In 1972," she writes, "my knowledge of astronomy was limited to the shape of the Big Dipper"). Historians, architects and those interested in Eastern religions will compose the main audience for the book, but it is also an object lesson in how to stay with a project for the long haul despite the pressures of a hit-and-run research academy.