Drift by Caroline Bergvall


Green Apple Books (San Francisco)


Trying to navigate Caroline Bergvall’s Drift is an exercise in getting lost. It is also a welcome experimental voyage and one which provides an immersive, challenging and ultimately fulfilling reading experience that few authors are able to achieve so effortlessly.

The conceit of Drift draws its inspiration from the anonymously written 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem “Seafarer” which Bergvall dissects and studies by weaving together multiple languages and doing away with traditional punctuation. Readers with a penchant for investigating the form and function of language will marvel at Bergvall’s masterful hand. In a recent interview, she states that, “by juxtaposing languages, you sort of question the stability of a language. So you question its authenticity, its originality.” Bergvall highlights the inherent plasticity of language by stretching it and pulling it in different directions, opening it up to question and multi-layered meanings. Each section of this innovative text is paired beautifully with pages of restrained visual content, which serve as conceptual parentheses and offer the reader a deeper and more visceral experience.

I was initially concerned about finding a point of entry into Drift but was pleasantly surprised by its accessibility. The eighth section, aptly titled “Log,” functions like a captain’s log or a series of diary entries, offering a rare glimpse into the artistic process and the personal challenges Bergvall faced while creating Drift. She writes, “I come home and find that I have lost my sense of home. I come home to find that I have left my home. No rest, no refuge.” This sense of directionlessness—the Vikings called it hafvilla: not knowing where one is on the sea—is the singular thread that ties the book together. Engaging with Drift allowed me to throw away my compass, revel in the sensation of being lost and experience true hafvilla. It is an experience I highly recommend.


Drift is published by Nightboat Books and distributed by UPNE & SPD. 

$19.95   PB   190 pages with approx. 45 bw illustrations   ISBN: 978-1-937658-20-5   Pub date: May 2014


Burn the Diaries by Moyra Davey


Green Apple Books (San Francisco)


Not so long ago I was discussing with a friend the anxieties that arise from keeping a diary. She admitted that out of the blue one day the idea of her own mortality came upon her like a bolt of lightning and she phoned her mother with these instructions: “Burn my diaries.” Her mother acquiesced but didn’t act quickly enough. My friend’s fear that her diaries be read—and these details of her life revealed, from the mundane to the sordid—filled her with so much horror that she flew home to complete the task herself. Instead of burning them, however, she used a paper shredder to render years of writings on her life unreadable.

Davey, on the other hand, says, “I think of burning, but I prefer the image of burial and water, as either of these seems slightly less absolute.” Meanwhile, her estranged best friend Susan, who takes up a lot of space in the book and whose funeral Davey did not attend, “made a bonfire of all her diaries.” If we are so afraid to be unmasked, why then do we bother to record at all? But record Davey does, beginning, and perhaps ending, with her somewhat inexplicable fascination with, and at times disdain for, the works of Jean Genet, and her more tangible admiration for Violette Leduc, who she finds “vastly more compelling” than Genet. Then why is Genet the star here? That is a question that Alison Strayer’s contribution, which comprises the latter half of the book, tries to answer.

I wandered through Davey’s book in a bit of a trance, and indeed it is written in a dream-like, fragmentary style, and interspersed with images of Davey’s own photographs. Burn the Diaries is about how we are changed by the books that we read, and how the books that we read change the way that we write, and even the way that we process our lives. Davey has presented to us her own diary, and in order to do so she could not burn it.


Burn the Diaries is published by Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania / Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna Dancing Foxes Press and distributed by DAP/Artbook.com.

$27   PB   104 pages with 38 color illustrations  ISBN: 978-0-985337-72-8   Pub date: August 2014


On Onions by Elad Lassry


Green Apple Books (San Francisco)


At first glance, the title of Elad Lassry’s first artist book appears to be disarmingly literal: flip through the first few pages of On Onions and your eyes will find crisp, clinical photographs of the most commonly found types of onions. Alone, these images, while beautifully rendered, do not seem spectacular enough to hold attention for long. But the pairing of them with Angie Keefer’s essay on the act of crying quickly illustrates the value and power in combining image and text to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Keefer’s text might be best described as tangential, moving from the science of crying to The Velveteen Rabbit to Douglas Sirk’s melodramas, all in just a few short paragraphs. Still, her ability to carefully draw these ideas together to form a cohesive narrative should not be underestimated. Keefer’s writing, while cold, is surprisingly moving, and when read in conjunction with Lassry’s images, which begin to repeat themselves, offers an experience that borders on hypnotic.

Although it is easy—and certainly satisfying—to consume On Onions in a single sitting, its layers are only truly revealed upon revision. Through their respective mediums, Lassry and Keefer have managed to create a dialogue that is surprisingly dense, asking the reader to contemplate not just the act of crying, or onions, but how they relate to the concept of “realness.”


On Onions is published by Primary Information and distributed by DAP/Artbook.com.

$30   PB   240 pages with 30 color illustrations   ISBN: 978-0-9851-3641-3   Pub date: October 2012