Ninepin Press' 'The Family Arcana' Kickstarter Paints a Novel onto Playing Cards


You've never seen a "book" — if it can even be called that — like Ninepin Press' The Family Arcana by Jedediah Berry. It's filled by oddball characters and secrets, but that's not what makes it unique; The Family Arcana is printed entirely on a deck of playing cards. Ninepin Press and Berry designed the "book" so that readers could shuffle up the cards and read the story in whatever order they choose or is chosen for them. The Kickstarter for the unique literary project already raised almost 10 times its modest projected goal of $2,800, pulling in more than $24,000. This is the debut project for Ninepin Press and it's safe to say that it's already a success.

Each card in the deck of The Family Arcana cards tells a short, surreal story that can stand on its own. Together, the stories complement each other in all sorts of ways. And the cards are illustrated with correspondingly odd illustrations by Eben Kling. The family stories are told by the dark, vindictive children, who talk about their strange family members including the heartbroken Father, sleepwalking Mother, bitter old Grandfather, loopy Grandmother, and "a jittery flock of suspicious aunts, uncles, and cousins."

Berry came up with this unique means of storytelling over the course of writing his novel the traditional way. To come up with characters and plotlines, every piece of the story, the author would write down the ideas on index cards, allowing himself only one side of a card to write what he needed to say. When he started reading his story aloud to audiences, he would ask members of the audience to "cut the deck" and choose where he started the story. And so, the deck of cards idea was born.

And the story idea? It came to him, as all the best ideas do, in the middle of the night:

It started about three years ago, when I woke one night with a voice in my head. Except is was more like a dozen voices, all trying to tell their stories at once. Like me, these folks were in an old farmhouse at the edge of town. They were trying to tell me about something terrible that had happened, or about something terrible that was going to happen. I got up, went to my desk, and opened a pack of index cards. I started writing. I wrote until the sun came up.

For only $12, readers (or avid poker players) can purchase a full deck of The Family Arcana. Anyone who donates $100 will get copies of the decks as well as a print of the burning house illustration. And for $300, Berry will write a new, custom card just for you to include in your deck.

Images: Ninepin Press/Facebook