Tag Archives: Short Stories

Are You Ready to be Lucky?

This book falls somewhere between a novel-in-stories and an interconnected short story collection. At the outset, the editor described the structure as something like a pinball machine. You never know exactly which character you’re going to get, as they pop up and then disappear, in a relentless pursuit of happiness, trying again and again to get it right. The three male silhouettes on the circular bumpers represent the men Roslyn ricochets between: Harold, Duncan, and Floyd.

One of the stories (called “In Which Floyd’s Speedometer Surpasses the Million Kilometer Mark and Friends and Acquaintances Reduce Their Clutter”) even shares pinball game terms in the footnotes. For your delight and education:

Thwacker: A funnel-shaped device where the ball enters at the wide top and spins to the narrow bottom. 

The backbox: The backbox portion of the table serves two purposes:  to hold the main electronics of the game.  And to attract players. 

Nudge: A method of trying to control the ball by moving the machine.   

After many hours and coins spent on “research,” my arcade illustration was declared unduly frivolous — a far too literal depiction of “luck.” So it was GAME OVER for me. (Couldn’t resist.)


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People Who Disappear

You already indulged my artistic ego by reading my cover design eulogy for Alex Leslie‘s poetic short fiction debut. After seeing the finished book in tangible form, I am done complaining. The approved design exhibits subtle colour shifts and whispery, barely-there type that really fits with the words, which have been described by reviewers as smoky, ominous, and surreal.

I created the ghostly display type by printing the title page (set in Freight Sans by Joshua Darden of GarageFonts) and photographing it out of focus.

The page numbers slowly migrate down the bottom margin, like a flip book, so that the final few folios disappear off the page. The printer thought it was a mistake and paused the job, of course.


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Not Anyone’s Anything


(Click for detail of the jacket.)

There are three sets of three stories, with three of those stories further divided into thirds. 

Ian’s work is very experimental. The text is embedded with Korean flash cards, musical notations, literal basements, and divided/dual narratives.

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Strange Days

Ted Ferguson revisits dozens of stories from the ’20s — accounts of frivolous fads, shocking crimes, and the political and social changes that yanked Canada out of the 19th century and into the modern age. Subject matter includes: a British war hero who becomes a religious cult leader and turns his enclave in British Columbia into a hotbed of sadomasochistic orgies, a national baby derby, and some futile train/bank robberies.

The cover image hopefully relays the zany spirit permeating our so-called Jazz-age: hip flasks, the fox trot, and knee-high skirts, oh my. (Courtesy of the William James Collection, City of Toronto Archives.) And if you are still wondering, she is getting a perm.

The jacket was printed on 80-lb Mohawk Via Vellum in Ivory. It’s a very yellow paper that really intensified the colours.

With the era in mind, I used Frederic Goudy’s Kennerley, some old 84 pt. letraset for Algerian.

This was my first attempt at setting something in this lyrical but very quirky typeface, supplied unedited by the Lanston foundry. Let’s just say it was an elaborate exercise in kerning. Bringhurst describes this face as Goudy’s first successful attempt at type design, with the “flavour” and “homey unpretentiousness” of Caslon. I chose it because it exemplifies the era, especially when paired with my dry transferrable cover letterin’ companion.

(I also designed Ted’s last book, Back Roads.)

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The Doctrine of Affections

From the perfectly honed decrescendo of a symphony’s string section to the down-home chord progressions at a late-night kitchen party, Headrick’s stories question the subtle differences between hearing and listening, communicating and understanding.
The phrase Doctrine of Affections refers to the baroque ideal that music embodies the most profound emotions and that a single musical movement should arouse a single emotion in the sensitive listener. Staff lines on the flyleaf. The serif face is Linotype Janson Text, released in 1985 and based on the baroque typeface design by Miklós Kis originally completed in the late 17th century. Bits and pieces from the start of the title block that were cut out of some light green, 70’s-era composition paper.
I initially presented three cover concepts: (1) An old photo of some distressed sheet music that I took with my first SLR (a little Pentax MZ6). Scanning the dusty black+white negative brought out a lovely red/orange tinge that I accentuated afterwards. (2) A mandatory accessory on any long walk, complete with the tangled cord. I like the interaction and awkwardness of the type in this one. (3) A simple, graphic approach influenced by some retro composition paper I found.
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Blazers & Boleros:

another phase in my ongoing mission to make the backs of books more interesting. Bookstore frequenters should be drawn to the back side as much as the front side because while a nice smile is great, a nice backside closes the deal. A slightly inappropriate analogy, but you get the point. (Click for jacket for detail.)

The artwork is by Canadian photographer Nathalie Daoust (very envious that she gets to spell her name with an ‘h’). It’s called “Pilatus” and is part of her “Frozen in Time, Switzerland” series. Amazing work. The photo captures the themes of nostalgia, landscape and absurdity that are apparent in Robert’s magic realist-ish tales.

The off-kilter title amplifies the sense of awkwardness and absurdity in the cover image and Gray’s stories. I continued this shifted-baseline motif throughout the interior.

Crisp took part in some hearty Atlantic-themed cover rivalry, provoked by Salty Ink blogger Chad Pelley. The jacket came in second place in the 2010 Judge-a-book-by-its-cover competition.

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