American Canyon by Amarnath Ravva


Green Apple Books, San Francisco


American Canyon is a book that experiments with form, and when I say “experiment,” I mean it in the truest sense of the word. I mean that Ravva approaches past and present with an openness to the possibility of discovery and with a style of writing that is at once evocative and to the point. Ravva is the type of writer who seems to understand the curious magic of empty space—those spaces that allow you to pause, those spaces that allow you to reflect. Ravva blends this less-is-more aesthetic with stills of documentary footage that tell their own stories separate from the text—images of men and women in prayer, children swarming the camera, a river at dusk, an evening sky crisscrossed with wires and antennas—all of which works together to create a deeper understanding of identity, devotion and place.


American Canyon is published by Kaya Press and distributed to the trade by D.A.P./

$23.95   PB   184 pages with 129 color and 5 b/w images   ISBN: 978-1-885030-16-0   Pub date: October 2014




Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of Archives by Susan Howe

Review by Anna Zalokostas

Green Apple Books (San Francisco)

Spontaneous Particulars by Susan Howe at Green Apple Books in SF

Of course this is a book that can be read, but more than anything, Spontaneous Particulars demands to be looked at—and touched. Manuscript fragments, discarded scraps of silk, a pricked pattern, a prescription pad: to run your hand or mind over the affinities and relations Howe stitches together is to understand the quite literal beauty of text that flirts with illegibility. The pleasures of the mind are as sensual as any, and the visual, tactile, and acoustic resonances are as dense with information as the words themselves.

While digital archives open up entire vistas of possibility, Howe’s concern here is with the physical, an encounter that can open up or disrupt time in a different way. “The secret of the poetic art lies in the keeping of time,” writes Howe, quoting Duncan. But isn’t this exactly what libraries gather and guard, what they proffer: time, and the pleasures of time outside an economy of use? As the physical space of our towns and cities is increasingly contested, the library remains a sanctuary, not just a geographical location, but a possible landscape, a place where “a thought may surprise itself at the instant of seeing.” Howe, quoting Williams: “There is a wind or ghost of a wind in all books echoing the life there.”

And I can’t pick up Spontaneous Particulars without remembering entire days I’ve spent in the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room, utterly mesmerized by those majestic ceilings, overwhelmed with the feeling of what is possible. This is where Howe’s ode to libraries and archives, manuscripts and special collections is at its most powerful, when it reminds us of why we begin to read in the first place: because we find ourselves uncovering whole universes of possibility.


Spontaneous Particulars is published by Christine Burgin/New Directions and distributed by W.W. Norton & Company.

$29.95   HB   80 pages with 32 color illustrations   ISBN: 978-0-8112237-5-1   Pub Date: October 2014


Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994, edited by Elizabeth Zuba

Review by John Gibbs

Green Apple Books, San Francisco


Part collage, part letter-exchanging-art-project, part personal writings and amusements, part historical documentation, Not Nothing (which compiles forty years of Ray Johnson's thoughts and many personal messages) is quite simply put the most bizarre thing I've come across this past year. To read Not Nothing is to grapple with the philosophical issue of reading—just how do you read it? The reproduced letters and texts are farcical, experimental, instructive and at times indecipherable; yet all are imbued with personality. I mean “personality” in the sense of love and connection with another human individual, yes, but also “personality” in the simplest sense, as in a typo—a consequence of the now-extinct typewriter which Johnson takes such pleasure in. Perhaps this book’s greatest accomplishment is that it not only clues a reader into the myriad thought processes of an artist like Ray Johnson, but—by way of correspondences—sheds light upon the mindset and artistic leanings of an entire generation of artists and thinkers.

Correspondence art (or mail art) is a niche of the fine arts I possessed little knowledge of prior to my stumbling into this book. I was particularly taken by the range in sentiment of the letters reproduced here. A tone is struck in each that is decidedly different from the one that preceded it, moving from the everyday ("I went to visit Michael McKenna today for the first time and brought as a present a piece of glass I had found on the street.") to the existentially foreboding ("Dear Dick Higgins, I'm sitting here waiting for something to happen.") in a second. There are many ways to read/experience this book. One could quite enjoyably thumb through the tome and stop wherever an image or particular superimposed word catches one's eye. One could read chronologically. One could read the text out loud with a friend, reproducing the very conversations Johnson had with others. All of this is to say, there is no wrong way to read it. Dive in with the knowledge that this book is not nothing but something spectacularly curious.


Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994 is published by Siglio and distributed to the trade by D.A.P./

$45   PB   320 pages with color and bw illustrations throughout   ISBN: 978-1-938221-04-0   Pub date: July 2014