Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest, edited by Ryan Thompson and Phil Orr


Skylight Books (Los Angeles)


The Petrified Forest was established in Northeast Arizona in 1906 to preserve and protect a significant deposit of petrified wood dating back approximately 200 million years. In a concerted effort to protect the rocks, the National Parks Service has employed a powerful campaign of superstition, resulting in a growing archive of “conscience letters” (sent with returned rocks) often explaining in detail the bad luck that befell the thieves. 

In Bad Luck, Hot Rocks, these letters are paired side-by-side with photographs of rocks from the “conscience pile” (returned rocks cannot be scattered back into the forest and are instead collected in a pile along a service road). The reader of these letters sits on the priest’s side of a confessional booth—a non-denominational one, sanctioned by the Parks Service. This offers a distinct and fascinating perspective: throw your problems next to something 200 million years old, step back, and take a look. As you read these painstakingly handwritten confessions, it is possible to see the thieves’ cancers and kidney stones in beautiful lumps of rock, trace broken marriages along cracks that were once tree rings, and feel something hard for fleeting moments…a funny thing. This book is timeless, as deep or as shallow as you want it to be.

Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest is published by The Ice Plant and distributed by DAP/

$32.50   PB   144 pages with 140 color photographs   ISBN: 978-0-9897859-1-4   Pub date: November 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/

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