Clyde Fans

A comic book by Seth.


Twenty years in the making, Clyde Fans peels back the optimism of mid-20th century capitalism. Legendary Canadian cartoonist Seth lovingly shows the rituals, hopes and delusions of a middle-class that has long ceased to exist in North America — garrulous men in wool suits extolling the virtues of the wares to taciturn shopkeepers with an eye on the door. Much like the myth of an ever-growing economy, the Clyde Fans family unit is a fraud — the patriarch has abandoned the business to mismatched sons, one who strives to keep the business afloat and the other who retreats into the arms of the remaining parent.

Abe and Simon Matchcard are brothers, the second generation struggling to save their archaic family business of selling oscillating fans in a world switching to air conditioning. At Clyde Fans' centre is Simon, who flirts with becoming a salesman as a last-ditch effort to leave the protective walls of the family home, but is ultimately unable to escape Abe's critical voice in his head. As the business crumbles so does any remaining relationship between the two men, both of whom choose very different life paths but still end up utterly unhappy.

Seth's intimate storytelling and gorgeous art allow urban landscapes and detailed period objects to tell their own stories as the brothers struggle to find themselves suffocating in an airless city home. An epic time capsule of a storyline that begs rereading. (From Drawn & Quarterly)

Clyde Fans is on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Seth, who hails from Guelph, Ont., has contributed to publications like The New Yorker and New York Times Magazine. He has twice won the Doug Wright Award for best book.

From the book

An excerpt from Clyde Fans by Seth. (Seth/Drawn & Quarterly)

Why Seth wrote Clyde Fans

"There used to be an actual business called Clyde Fans. It was at King and Sherbourne Street in Toronto. It was an old storefront and had a nice hand-lettered window with the big letters on it, just the way I've drawn it. I walked by it often and I didn't pay a tremendous amount of attention to it. One day, for some reason, I looked more closely into the office. I think they were already out of business by this point. I looked in and could see inside the office, which was dark and very dated. It had a few desks, a counter, some typewriters, rotary phones and a couple of fans. On the back wall, there were two photographs: two portraits of two men.

There used to be an actual business called Clyde Fans. It was at King and Sherbourne Street in Toronto.- Seth

"I can't remember what those photographs look like anymore, but they were standard black and white business portraits, which I assumed were the owners. That struck me as an evocative image and that floated around in my head. Eventually I thought it would be interesting to make up the lives of these two."

Read more in his interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with Seth

The world according to cartoonist Seth

28 years ago
Duration 4:44
The cartoonist known as Seth talks about his comic work, his obsession with the 1930s, and the origin of his "pretentious" pseudonym.
CBC Radio's Nora Young sits down for an extensive interview with Seth to discuss his career, his daily life, his favourite comics as a kid, and the current state of comics.


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