Color Bars

By Alban Fischer

Color Bars Header


Recently, I was asked by Jacob S. Knabb to write a bi-weekly column for the Curbside blog on book design. But just what is book design, beyond choosing a nice font and some sweet cover art? Which is to say, what does the process of turning a manuscript into a tangible, printed thing entail exactly? What makes ''good design?'' Can that even be answered? Oddly enough, it's this area of not-knowing that may ultimately serve as the ideal platform to explore design's central concerns--and the area I'll be focusing on in this column. I want to say, however, that this isn't going to be a regular series of tutorials. Nor is it going to be an ongoing exegesis on what "good design" is. My aim here is purely subjective--to talk about how I came to design the books I have, talk a bit about the process that went into those designs, rave about my enthusiasms and influences, and, hopefully, along the way offer a little help and insight to those involved in this, at times, crazy and deeply fulfilling endeavor.

* * *

It seems appropriate to start this column off by talking about the first design I created for Curbside Splendor: Amber Sparks' excellent short story collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies.

Amber wanted a retro feel for the book, à la the pulp and sci-fi paperbacks of the 1950s and 60s. I immediately agreed that such a slant could provide a striking graphic analogue to the prose-atlas of fabulist sub-worlds that May We Shed These Human Bodies is.

Amber also had in mind the work of UK artist Matthew Lyons for a possible cover image. Though Lyons is a hugely talented artist, I felt in the end that his work might be a bit too sci-fi, a bit too cartoony. It can be tricky to try to represent an array of stories with a single image that's germane to the overall tone of a book.

Curbside Sounds - Scott Garson

By Jacob S. Knabb

In Curbside Sounds we feature authors we dig reading their work or telling a story while sitting on a curb or their favorite bench, at a bar in the middle of a lazy afternoon, and sometimes even at a recording studio. For this installment we've got Missouri-based writer Scott Garson reading his flash fiction "Note To Dickwad Ex-Stepdad" outside of Wayne's Cleaners at 575 Roger Williams Avenue in Highland Park, Illinois.



-Video by Jacob S. Knabb

Scott Garson is the author of American Gymnopédies, a collection of microfictions (Lit Pub Books). He has stories in or coming from The Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, Hobart, Conjunctions, New York Tyrant and others. He edits Wigleaf.

"Note To Dickwad Ex-Stepdad" first appeared in Ping Pong, and was reprinted in also in Garson's recently published collection of short stories Is That You, John Wayne? 

Wannabe - 7

By Chris Prunckle

chris prunckle


Wannabe is a blog series by Chicago area artist Chris Prunckle, author of our serial graphic story Asylum Doors, documenting his trials and tribulations as a wannabe artist.  Check back next week for a new posting.

See the previous installment of Asylum Doors here.  Stay tuned for the next installment coming soon, but now on a monthly basis with fuller stories.


Chris Prunckle is a graphic designer, illustrator and comic book artist banished to the suburbs of Chicago. Though an advertising industry minion by day, he slaves his nights away creating a mad little world.  He’s previously worked on the comics Fisted, Bonesetter, and The Scarab.  Follow him at @midjipress.

There's A Sucker Born Every Minute

By Barry Graham

P.T. Barnum was many things: a showman, politician, philanthropist, entertainer, and creator of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, but most notably, he was a con-man, scam-artist, charlatan, and big money hustler. His big top reputation as the fun loving, business savvy father of the modern day circus is marred by tales of fraud and deception; even his most notorious catch phrase, "there's a sucker born every minute," is often attributed to folks around him, but never Barnum himself. So who is this mystery man? Who was the real P.T. Barnum? Well, I'm not gonna tell you and I'm not sure I even give a shit. Like Jack the Ripper or Robin Hood or Achilles, I love the legends. Even if Truth existed, it is irrelevant. I prefer the outdated and overexaggerated stories of deformed freaks and human monsters with hideous mutations that make my skin crawl and my eyeballs and heart hurt simultaneously; the black and white photos of conjoined twins, giants and midgets, camel girls and bearded ladies,  scaly men with multiple penises and the women who adore them. I love it all.

But even the second-most overrated American poet of the 20th century gets it right a time or two, "Nothing gold can stay." Indeed, Bobby Frost, everything falls victim to erosion. The unfortunate watering down and softening of American society, especially our youth and their culture at the hands of "political-correctness" zealots and guilt-ridden single parents hell bent on turning America into a country of lazy, spoiled, pill popping, instant gratification seeking pussies, is well underway. It is in this new spirit of America that we can best test the resolve of the American circus sideshow performer. Lawmakers, at the behest of "concerned citizens" have passed legislation outlawing almost every means for a circus sideshow performer to earn a living, thus stripping them of their primary means of self-reliance, of comfort, of security, of living and working in a community where they are accepted and understood. Yet in spite of this, the show must go on. And it does. I'm gonna paraphrase badly here, but Darwin said something like, it isn't the strongest or the most intelligent of a species who will survive; it is the one most capable of adapting.

Karaoke Idol Chicago!

By Jacob S. Knabb

Curbside Splendor Publishing, Another Chicago Magazine, and Quimby's Bookstore present the May installment of Karaoke Idol Chicago, a monthly fundraising series at Beauty Bar Chicago. Starting at 8pm on Thursday May 23rd, cultural and community oriented organizations 826Chicago, Chicago Adventure Therapy, Found Objects Theater Group, Mental Graffiti, and *RETURNING CHAMPS* Inspiration Corporation will battle it out for karaoke glory and a share of the door money.  A jambassador from each of the orgs and one from the crowd will battle for the Idol crown and a lion's share of the loot. Judges will select one person from the hour-long audience audition at the beginning of the night to compete as the sixth contestant so come early and sing. Offical competition begins at 9:30. Open-mic karaoke throughout the evening until close.


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