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An Illustrated Alphabet for the Illiterate by Rudolf Kurz and Elizabeth Kurz  

‘Sin creates [ an inclination ] to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgement of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root.’

-- Para. 1865, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994.

A wood stork faces adversity in the form of a ramshackle ladder leading to a nest that has seen better days, in a tree that is certainly rotten and laden with uncertain promise. A clearly pregnant child of the Woodstock generation flagellates an elderly bookish butler with the stamens of an Easter lily.

Encompassing as it does, in twenty-six short epistles, all of the seven capital sins, An Illustrated Alphabet for the Illiterate is encyclopaedic in its reach and catholic in its taste. An exposition of the food chains of various ecosystems is interspersed with a fanciful bestiary of toucans and dragons, faeries and a unicorn and even includes a sympathetic depiction of polycystic ovary syndrome sure to strike a chord with the afflicted.

Review quote

An Illustrated Alphabet for the Illiterate is a fun little book that is playfully written by a talented author and his talented daughter. The glimpses of stories on each page may not deliver a moral or a point, in fact, many seem to hardly even make sense. But they do make sense, if only in that they simply celebrate the experience of writing. And in turn, they encourage Kurz’s ever present theme of perception. This book won’t teach you how to lose weight, make a million dollars, or become a better person, it won’t even teach you how to spell correctly. The authors of the book don’t make any claims or promises, and in failing to do so, are able to offer a book that reminds its readers of writing’s most important purpose: to entertain.’

—Phillippa Scowcroft, lucidforge

Author comments

The work of two illiterate elephants in the china shop of letters and language, An Illustrated Alphabet for the Illiterate attempts to be no more than what it is -- a bizarre and entertaining little book, fun to look at and fun to read! Rudolf (the artist) studied the letters of the alphabet from the point-of-view of an illiterate, unspoiled child and saw surprising shapes in them.

Then Rudolf and his daughter Elizabeth (who had just turned sixteen at the time) each wrote thirteen short vignettes, stories and poems to accompany the twenty-six letters. Their two voices are easy to distinguish: the old voice is silly and nonsensical whereas the teenaged girl sounds brooding, mysterious and melancholy.

Description for reader

An ‘artist’s book’ for everyone, An Illustrated Alphabet for the Illiterate is a surrealist’s bonfire of language, and has all the makings of a cult hit. Think of it as another kids’ book for teenagers and adults à la Mother Goose Eggs: sunnyside up. A weird kids’ book for arty teenagers and odd adults. Remedial reading for the Junior High School level.


Rudolf trained as a medical doctor in Germany, graduating in 1978, then relocated to New York City to study at the Art Students’ League forsix months in 1980. In 1983 he married and moved to the Orangeville (Ontario) area.

Rudolf was elected to the Ontario Society of Artists in 1994 which led to exhibitions at Painted City and J. Alfred Prufrock in Toronto, Circle Arts in Tobermory and Gallery House Sol in Georgetown. He also exhibits each year in Toronto at the One of a Kind Show and the Toronto Outdoors Art Exhibition.

Rudolf’s carefully detailed, often bizarre and darkly humorous etchings and paintings are inspired by surrealism and the art of Medieval and Renaissance Northern Europe. A children’s book, The Rats Came Back, (Annick Press), was shortlisted for the Mr Christie Book Award (1995).


Elizabeth Kurz is Rudolf’s daughter and co-conspirator. She was sixteen years old at the time of writing An Alphabet for the Illiterate.

Elizabeth attended high school in the Orangeville area. She enjoys listening to the Velvet Underground, reading Daniel Clowes, and watching films about drug abuse. She hopes to pursue a career in the publishing business, or else travel in a caravan through the dark forests of Transylvania reading tarot cards and playing tambourines around bonfires.

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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ART / Individual Artists / General

ART / Canadian

ISBN-13: 9780889842786

Publication Date: 2006-01-30

Dimensions: 8.50 in x 5.50 in

Pages: 64

Price: $19.95