Sunday, July 25, 2004

Kidd covers design, murder in 'Learners'
By Whitney Matheson, USA TODAY

Kidd's new piece of fiction, The Learners, makes its debut today as part of's Open Book series. A new chapter of his exclusive, seven-part novella will be published online each Thursday at

The Learners serves as a sequel of sorts to Kidd's first novel, 2001's The Cheese Monkeys (Perennial, $13.95). Set in the early 1960s, The Learners follows a young graphic designer who decides to answer the first newspaper ad he creates.

What follows is "a murder mystery about a killing that may never have taken place," Kidd says.

Not only does Kidd draw on his graphic-design background for the narrative, but he also incorporates it into the text. Typography plays a crucial role in The Learners; font size and design pull readers into the action.

A few lessons from Kidd's college psychology classes also are thrown in: A central character in The Learners is real-life social psychologist Stanley Milgram, whose experiments during the 1960s still incite controversy.

Kidd plans to expand his novella into a full-length book, tentatively set for release in 2006.

"This really is the story I've been wanting to tell all along," says the author, who took a month-long break from his design job at Knopf to write The Learners at Bogliasco, Italy's Liguria Study Center.

Kidd also is working with book publisher Rizzoli to develop "a definitive coffee table book" of his designs. He also is an editor at large for Pantheon's graphic novels division. And then, of course, there are more book covers: "Designing is so rewarding in a way that writing isn't."

Look for Kidd's work on titles by Augusten Burroughs and John Updike in coming months — and, a couple years from now, on Kidd's next novel. - Kidd covers design, murder in 'Learners'

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