Posts by Darryl Joel Berger

Darryl Joel Berger is the author of two collections of short stories––Punishing Ugly Children (2010) and Dark All Day (2013). His fiction and illustrations have appeared in many magazines. Punishing Ugly Children won the 2007 David Adams Richards Prize and was short-listed for the 2011 ReLit Awards. His short story "Scissors" was a finalist in the 2007 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. He works in graphic design and painting. You can find his visual work at

summer is murder // cigar-tin stories number 96

I had a cold on the weekend. It was murder. Of course summer is murder anyway (ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET? NO WHY NOT) but summer colds are the worst: they combine all the most miserable elements of summer (OH MY GOD IT’S GORGEOUS OUT HERE LIKE ANGELS VOMITING SUNSHINE OH LOOK A KITTY) with the most dreadful aspects of being sick (the bleariness dear, and thin sweats, and gluey glaciers of mucous, and solid bouts of one’s tongue sticking to the roof of one’s mouth while definitely not breathing). At least the weather lent a hand and made it quite dark and raining for most of it. I got a day off, so to speak. I had a nap. I read a book about ghosts on a spaceship.

And instead of my usual musings on robot uprisings and vampire wars, I started to think about what months are worst for having a cold. And so I ranked them.


12. February. Getting a cold in February is like getting left for dead in Mexico––nobody wants it to happen but nobody’s surprised when it does. Comes with the territory. The freezing, charmless, completely hideous and utterly irredeemable territory. Worst month of the year! A virus is just accent lighting.

11. October. I love Fall. And getting a cold in the Fall is God’s way of saying, Don’t get your hopes up, Punchy––whatever you may want, I may sweep away.

10. May. Spring. Birds. Love. A sense of expectation and even deliverance. Do piles of encrusted Kleenex go with this? Maybe, maybe not.

9. January. New Year’s is already morally bankrupt and about as likeable as people who “work” in real estate. Oh, did you start the new year with a cold? Who fucking cares!

8. March. Second worst month of the year. Little to recommend itself except perhaps some binge watching on HBO. Psychically, people are completely shell shocked. They probably wouldn’t notice if you walked around with your head on fire.

7. November. Winter gets a foot in the door, and his buddy Cold Season is waiting in the hall, silently passing gas. Also, this is the month where every so many years the Americans go to the polls and blow their brains out.

6. April. Easter is a thing, right? Jesus might sympathize with your cold. Or perhaps he (He?) would tell you that suffering is some kind of enlightenment. Were viruses collected for the Ark? Why was God always hiding behind burning bushes, anyway?

5. August. Ah, the ass end of summer. People are flaked out. Grown men are dressing like five year-olds. The creepy ones wear mirrored sun glasses. And nobody is washing their hands.

4. September. Wow, everybody did absolutely nothing all summer and now it’s a fucking shitshow of panic to get everything done all at once! I need this thing now now now! What do you mean you’re sick? How about getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?

3. June. Summer’s here! At last! The promised land. Everyone’s mood is looking up! Except yours. Because you have a fucking cold. Smooth move, ex-lax.

2. December. Ah, to be sick at Christmas. Don’t ruin Christmas! It’s the most magical time of the year! Surely some eggnog will help with that congestion? No? How about loads of sweets? Come on, everyone’s here! At least come out and say hello to everyone! OH MY GOD YOU’RE RUINING CHRISTMAS AGAIN.

1. July. School’s out. Most people take their pathetic vacations in July! It’s the height of summer. Everything about July says shirtless and barbecue and bad outdoor music and people willing to sit in anything called a patio no matter how dirty and choked with exhaust. It matches December for its stupidity, but has the upper hand in terms of sheer belligerence. I mean, it wants to be stupid. It’s taking its stupidity out on the street. In front of Tim Horton’s. With its dog. Don’t worry, he’s friendly! What, you don’t feel good? You don’t like this music? I love Paint It Black, man.

And that’s it. A programming note: I’m taking a break from the Tinyletter business for summer, but will return sometime in mid-August. Also, I’ll be closing my online store for large slots of time, because I’m sick of Canada Post and it’s sick of me.

Be real, and don’t get a cold,

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.


cigar-tin stories number ninety five / / trespassers

I didn’t want to get up today. Getting up isn’t difficult––you just throw off the covers and say, “Alright!”––but I still didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to go through the whole morning routine of coffee and shower and waiting for the ting! of the toaster oven and speaking like Judge Judy to my kid when she complains about everything while I wash grape tomatoes for her lunch and then the small scale marine drill of just getting out the door and I want you to wear a hat and morning traffic in Kingston which can only be described as graceless and resentful at best. I didn’t want to do all this just to arrive at work to find the place roaring with giant fans and inexplicable heat, mostly deserted and ransacked of reason. I didn’t want to go there just to have to leave again in two or three hours because it’s 34 degrees with a humidex of 40.

I’m funny that way.

It’s this thing about disorder and chaos. Like most men, I don’t mind a little anarchy here and there. As a group, our reputation for rule-breaking is well deserved: most systems are stupid, and badly designed, and their weaknesses should be exploited. This is why we cheat at cards and lie on all sorts of official forms.

But no one likes anarchy all the time. It feels too much like losing. Like nothing matters. What’s the point of stealing paper clips on a sinking ship?

The only people who enjoy continuous states of confusion and meaninglessness are con men and grifters. And certain badly tanned presidents. And any reasonable person would say that this is what’s happening in America right now. And it’s making all sorts of people very, very anxious.

Especially women. Because women like rights and rules and order. They like to see things get done, especially with regards to fairness and justice. I cannot tell you how many times my wife has acted as legal counsel to my eight year-old.

But ladies and gentlemen, justice is not coming. Not anytime soon, anyway. The world is going in a certain direction right now. It’s a time for bluffers and swindlers and crimps and crooks and the smudges of history. These guys are not going to be deterred––even if some kind of justice came, do you think they would accept it?

Also, as Canadians, we are hardly better (see: Doug Ford). This all goes back to the financial crisis, and heaping money on another brand of pirate, instead of putting those guys in jail.

So I guess we’re just going to have to keep going to work. We all have things to do, and projects which give our lives meaning. I think. Even if it’s done to the music of giant, roaring fans.

Don’t despair, everyone,

Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. The featured image is Guy Pène du Bois––The Confidence Man. My own painting on borders and brigands and criminal gangs (Americans love a good western!) can be seen here.




mixed media on cradled wood panel

12 x 16 x 1.5 inches

originally this was a series of ink drawings on found (and tinted) paper, all done as a group; it then occurred to me that they should be ganged up as a single image

villains; a gang; characters of the frontier; brigands of the hinterlands; culprits; thieves; outlaws; trespassers in every sense

drawing plus painting plus found paper plus collage plus wax monotypes plus colour-infused gel, all of it sealed with varnish

a great gift for the lover of westerns

“Lay not that flattering unction to your soul, That not your trespass but my madness speaks.”

~ William Shakespeare

“Alas, the vices of man, as horrifying as they are presumed to be, contain proof (if only in their infinite expansiveness!) of his bent for the infinite.”

~ Charles Baudelaire

“Virtue!–to be good and just–

Every heart, when sifted well,

Is a clot of warmer dust,

Mix’d with cunning sparks of hell.”

~ Alfred Tennyson

“There is a terrible garrulousness in most American writing, legacy of the old Frontier. ~ Gore Vidal

fitted with a wire hanger in back; ready to hang

perfect for a bedroom or an office or a den

shipped with care––with masonite or other board (please read my reviews)

everything from my store comes with an extra art surprise

Give yourself the gift of original, affordable art, and escape from the dreaming planet.


at this point, we are alarmed


my advice is don’t; mixed media, canvas board, 7 x 9.5 inches.


that was it, that was everything, we just ran out of time; mixed media, canvas board, 7 x 9.5 inches.

Etsy will soon raise the transaction fee on every sale from 3.5 to 5%. It’s getting a little corporate over there, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

summer, and still working


cigar-tin story, Ending 79. a cigar-tin story is a mixed media artwork –– an empty dessert cigar tin that has been repurposed as an art object, with an original painting on the cover and a short story inside (this piece is the ending of a revenge story).


this is the third time that i am coming to you; mixed media on masonite panel, 12 x 8.5 inches.


cigar-tin story, Super Moon Active Aggressor. the story in this one is about memory, haunting, and perception. it’s a bit of a horror story.


just trying to get ahold of my slippery self; art print from an original pen line drawing, digital print on photo stock, 8 x 10 inches, 200 g/m2, 53 lb • 9 mil

Summer is here but I’m still working. In fact, I’m trying to lean into June to get as much done as possible, then let go for the rest of summer. Things quickly go sideways in July and August anyway; Canadians might embrace everything that winter throws at them, but in their sticky red hearts they long for summer the way little kids used to dream of Christmas. And it will be a million degrees in my studio.

Many people commented on how downcast yesterday’s Tinyletter sounded. I really didn’t mean it to. This happens to me quite a lot, whether it’s the seriousness of my face or my tone. Perhaps I do write a bit grey. Regardless, I do not intend to be so glum––especially when the sun is so glorious in the morning.

cigar-tin stories ninety-two / / pictures came and broke your heart

I don’t know what to write about in this week’s Tinyletter.

I went to bed early last night because I was tired. And I would have slept in, too, but the Siamese started coughing and coughing and I thought, Well, that’s it.

I would write about the provincial election but it’s all about the parties just trying to scare everyone into not voting for the other guy. The government has been in forever and can hardly keep their eyes open at this point, it’s one little sneaky scandal after another, but they are very clever, too, and quite slick about things, especially when it comes to planting tiny tiny hopes and fears but in the end they know (and pray, I think) that they are going to crash and burn here. And the party that is supposed to win (by default, it seems) is run by a guy who reminds me of someone who might sell you tons of insurance and then not honour it, saying that it was you who was trying to hit that meteor and maybe the meteor will sue you if you’re not careful and yes, you always had that space rock in your head and fine, let’s see you prove otherwise in court. And then the third party seems a bit watery and somewhat reasonable but then the other two parties say, No way, they’re communists! and they’ll ruin everything and remember Rae Days? And people do remember Rae Days even though it was a jillion years ago and they still get crazy about it because it has a pretty catchy name.

I would write about summer but Sunday was the first day that I thought it was really here.

I would write about work but please. Yesterday it was 27 degrees Celsius in there. And the floors are still filthy. Today I’m dressed like an unemployed tennis pro. But I still have a good view from my window so they say we’ll be moving down into the basement soon.

And I would write about art but at this point I think I’m just making it for myself. I mean, yes, I still sell work and it makes me quite happy to see the different places it lands but there’s certainly no stable money from it, I’m always just counting how many months of studio rent I have left, and anyway these things I make come from images and stories and dreams and ideas that are like little rivers of thought that I follow who knows where and even I only half understand most of the time. And even this newsletter I just write for free. Some kind of weekly exercise in something.

So, yeah, this week I’m at a loss. Let me know if you think of anything.

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone,

Draw thing, paint things, write things, make things.

p.s. If you run your election by trying to scare people, then you will get bad results (see: Brexit, Trump). Don’t listen to any of it; vote how you like.

Also, this is a version of my Tinyletter, which you can subscribe to here.

art is a house that tries to be haunted

That’s a quote by Emily Dickinson…
“Nature is a haunted house––but Art––is a house that tries to be haunted.”
…which I probably only half understand. I mean, my degree was in Political Science, and I barely got that.

But I like the idea that art is both spiritual and invented, something natural but designed. It certainly is that way with me, in that anything I accomplish is at least half luck or accident.

The image above is from a hand-pressed monoprint; this is printing an image to an unstable receiver (such as wax) and then pressing that to photo-weight paper. It’s completely uncontrollable and you’ll never get the same image twice.

You can see the entire image here.