Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Sempé Fi: The Long and Winding Road

Filed under: Sempé Fi   Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

1-18-10 Frank Viva Great Expectations.JPG

Pollux writes:

A young man glides eagerly through the dark streets of the city. He’s hunched forward for maximum speed. He speeds past an apartment building with largely darkened windows save one, and a closed store named “Minx.” Where will this road lead him?

Frank Viva’s cover for the January 18, 2010 issue of The New Yorker strikes me as being a cross between a Valentine’s Day cover and a Christmas cover.

This may or may not have been the illustrator’s intent, but mid-January is when we begin to see Valentine’s Day gifts and paraphernalia in the stores, as well as Christmas trees lying sadly in alleyways and dumpsters. We are like the Roman god Janus, with two heads looking in opposite directions at the past and the future.

Viva’s cover, called “Great Expectations,” depicts a young man on a bicycle bearing gifts in a shoulder bag. There is a tube and a box wrapped in shiny, red wrapping paper. His canine companion, bearing a tag and a bouquet of flowers in its mouth, sits in the bicycle’s basket. The cyclist, depicted in an elongated, paper-cutout style, sits on a delightfully whimsical, mechanically impossible bicycle.

I was curious about how the image was created, so I contacted Mr. Viva directly. The final artwork for “Great Expectations” is digital, but the work began as a pencil sketch. On his blog, Oliver Yaphe writes that Viva’s style is “modern and distinct and gaining serious momentum.”

We can see some of Viva’s sketches here, where you’ll find some similarly styled bicycles.

We may be like the two-headed Janus, but Viva’s cyclist looks only forward: perhaps the cyclist is on his way to declare his love to a current or hoped-for girlfriend; the dog itself may be a gift. The young man expects great, crowning success. The night is gloomy, but the young man’s great expectations illuminate his face and create a cheerful scene.

This is Viva’s first cover for The New Yorker. According to his website, “when The New Yorker called, Frank jumped up and bumped his head (rather badly) on the desk lamp. It didn’t hurt a bit.”

Viva is an illustrator, writer, graphic designer, and children’s book author. “Great Expectations” is, according to his website, inspired by his forthcoming children’s picture book, Along a Long Road, which features a young boy on a cycling adventure through his city.

Viva’s cyclist for this New Yorker cover seeks not only adventure but also romance. The road takes him to someone’s door. Hope propels him forward. We cheer him on.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree