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Fabulous Fictions and Peculiar Practices



A look inside the original livre d'artiste
constructed by Tony Calzetta
with Dieter Grund of Presswerk Editions

The Fabulous Fictions project began with an unusual idea. Artist TONY CALZETTA and his friend DIETER GRUND at Presswerk Editions were looking for a project they could work on together. Tony suggested they involve Governor General's Award-winning novelist LEON ROOKE to collaborate on a proposed limited edition livre d'artiste. One twist to the project was that, instead of the customary practice of the artist illustrating the writer's text, they would approach the project the other way round.


Each piece of the cover had to be painstakingly
cut out and organized.

Tony presented Leon with a number of small drawings. Leon wrote sketches for nineteen of the images, which artist and author then winnowed down to a select nine "Fabulous Fictions". Tony reworked the original drawings and combined them with Leon's texts using media that included intaglio, woodcut and digital printing. In addition, one of the drawings and its text, "How God Talks in His Sleep", was re-imagined as an interactive paper sculpture and attached to the front of the slip case. The ten "out takes" were published as a series of complementary broadsides entitled "Peculiar Practices". Forty-five copies of the matched set were painstakingly produced (2009) with the assistance of master printer Dieter Grund and bookbinder Keith Felton, each of which retailed for US $6,500.

The stages

The "stages" that form the basis of the interactive paper sculpture attached
to the front of the slip case.

Art critic Robert Enright, of Border Crossings (Winnipeg) has suggested that this ...

"... collaboration was made with heaven and hell equally in mind; it is full of madnesses and deceptions, serendipities and generosities; it smells of sulphur and vanilla. (Did I mention that it exudes the brightness of Mondrian's palette?) It is riddled with foibles and rampant with felix culpas. It is worth saying, over and over again, that their having worked together was a most fortunate fall into the world of the livre d'artiste."

The current iteration of the "Fabulous Fictions" journey came out of a studio visit a year ago at which Tony Calzetta presented his boxed extravaganza to curator Tom Smart who quickly identified the theatrical possibilities and called in director David Ferry who concurred with Tom's vision, particularly if the Porcupine's Quill could be persuaded to entertain the parallel notion of a so-called "trade" edition of the work.

The gauntlet was dropped, and the challenge accepted.

The book

The completed book, with the stage folded neatly away.

Enright continues ...

"I think of Rooke and Calzetta as the Brother Grim and the Brother Grin. In their drawn and written incarnations, these fabulous fictions put on the degree of perversity and exuberance necessary to their telling. They are full of knowing innocence and an elusive jouissance. They occupy the terrain of the fairy tale, the allegory and the folk tale, all literary forms of deceptive simplicity."

In the fullness of time, publisher Tim Inkster commissioned Tom Smart to write a feature on Tony Calzetta's printmaking for the Devil's Artisan; and the Porcupine's Quill leveraged its existing relationship with Marc Glassman's TINARS reading series into a featured role in the inaugural Pages Festival + Conference (March 2014). Over drinks at the Victory Cafe after the first night of the Pages Festival, Tim Inkster seized an opportunity to show Marc Glassman Tony Calzetta's Fabulous Fictions website, on an iPhone that happened to be handy.

The Porcupine's Quill is committed to begin again with Rooke's nineteen texts, together with Calzetta's drawings, intaglio, woodcuts, digital images and his prodigious visual wit, and to reassemble the whole into a popularly-priced "trade" edition that will lean heavily on the book production expertise of the Porcupine's Quill of Erin Village and the book design skills of Tim Inkster.

Bank foldout

Bank President's Address to Minions
on the Eve of the Release of the Annual Financial Report
Showing Profits Heretofore Unseen in the World.



Read on: The Theatrical Production »

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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Fabulous Fictions Cover