A MAN HAS TROUBLE FALLING ASLEEP AND REFLECTS ON HIS LIFE, MARRIAGE, AND TIME ITSELF
In The River at Night, Kevin Huizenga delves deep into consciousness. What begins as a simple, distracted conversation between husband and wife, Glenn and Wendy Ganges—him reading a library book and her working on her computer—becomes an exploration of being and the passage of time. As they head to bed, Wendy exhausted by a fussy editor and Glenn energized by his reading and no small amount of caffeine, the story begins to fracture.
The River at Night flashes back, first to satirize the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and then to examine the camaraderie of playing first-person shooter video games with work colleagues. Huizenga shifts focus to suggest ways to fall asleep as Glenn ponders what the passage of time feels like to geologists or productivity gurus. The story explores the simple pleasures of a marriage, like lying awake in bed next to a slumbering lover, along with the less cherished moments of disappointment or inadvertent betrayal of trust. Huizenga uses the cartoon medium like a symphony, establishing rhythms and introducing themes that he returns to, adding and subtracting events and thoughts, stretching and compressing time. A walk to the library becomes a meditation on how we understand time, as Huizenga shows the breadth of the comics medium in surprising ways. The River at Night is a modern formalist masterpiece as empathetic, inventive, and funny as anything ever written.
Praise for The River at Night
Glenn Ganges in: The River at Night is perilously philosophical, goofily logical, lovingly wild. In Huizenga’s hands, an ordinary day reveals its acme holes of infinite regress and counterfactual calamity. A wonderful book, to read and read again.
Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances and Little Labours
Unexpectedly poignant and occasionally magical… While Huizenga’s architectural, fine-line style is clearly influenced by Chris Ware… the vast spaciousness of this surreal night flight is all his own. Glenn’s reveries will pull readers into multiple deserved rereadings.
A mix of John McPhee and Richard McGuire’s “Here,” The River at Night is about making the best of life when you know that the world’s been around for billions of years and will go on long after you, too, are gone. How wonderful to spend time with these sweet, gentle characters as they stare straight into the unfeeling universe and decide to make the best of it. A truly beautiful book.
Paul Ford, National Magazine Award-winning Technology Critic
Wow! I was not prepared for this: The River at Night is a surprising, beautifully rendered, mind-expanding, heartwarming exploration of what it means to be human, to have thoughts, to lie in bed all night after guzzling too much coffee, to follow your thoughts on a journey that maps the universe and makes light of the electrical activity of a brilliant mind. Kevin Huizenga is a kind of dreamer who gets us to think, to love what’s in our heads, to love what’s in his. Everybody will dig this book!
THE ENVIOUS SIBLINGS AND OTHER MORBID NURSERY RHYMESby Landis Blair
Landis Blair was the winner of the Best in Adult Books at the Excellence in Graphic Literature awards in 2018. He illustrated Caitlin Doughty’s recently New York Times bestseller From Here to Eternity and is the author of the prize-winning graphic novel The Hunting Accident. Now this award-winning author presents a macabre yet playful book in the tradition of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, with a decidedly twenty-first century sensibility. Landis Blair’s THE ENVIOUS SIBLINGS [W. W. Norton & Company; October 8, 2019; $20.00 hardcover] contains eight nursery rhymes that are both mordant and macabre, as playful as Charles Addams —and every bit as unnerving.
THE ENVIOUS SIBLINGS begins with “The Malicious Playground,” a recognizable landscape of youthful horror. Little fingers get caught in the slats of a rope bridge, sand from the sandbox is kicked into young eyes, while “The jungle gym at best condones / The shattering of all your bones.” This last bit features a stark illustration of a half dozen kids smiling as one of their friends goes sailing off to his or her doom. In the title story, sisters Abbie and Angie fight so viciously that, in the end, the mother is depicted happy and resting on the ground: “Mother, tiring of the fuss,” Landis tells us, “Murdered both and envy thus.” This is the delightful genius of THE ENVIOUS SIBLINGS: every story catches humans at our worst and yet revels gleefully in all of the horrid imperfections.
In “The Awful Underground,” a wordless comic told only through illustration, Landis uses his considerable skill to create a crosshatched and ominous underground landscape where a little girl becomes separated from her mother in a subway station. As this is a common fear of children and guardians alike, the reader is compelled to continue turning the pages, expecting some resolution, some help—and yet the ending, while perhaps unhappy, is both amusing and unexpected. And, in “The Refinement Tree,” Blair narrates the story of a boy who climbs a tree that those who read “The Giving Tree” will relish (a drawing near the end of the story nods to the Silverstein classic). As the boy in the story tumbles down branch by branch, he feels his life falling apart:
With his head now a growing expanse, His shins became known to a branch, The flourish of feet Along with a beat, Young Simon forgot how to dance.
It is the poignancy of these tales, the refusal to look away from human violence and cruelty, yet with an almost sweet optimism that things will work out, that makes THE ENVIOUS SIBLINGS so groundbreaking. Landis Blair has created a book that is both enormously enjoyable and an unexpected balm for readers of all ages in this difficult century.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Landis Blair illustrated the prize-winning graphic novel The Hunting Accident and the New York Times bestseller From Here to Eternity, and has published illustrations in the New York Times, Chicago magazine, and Medium. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
“Landis Blair’s work is a fusion of Grand Guignol horror and delicately layered poignancy that can’t be found elsewhere. He is a singular, morbid talent.”
— Caitlin Doughty, best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity
“Rarely have I seen an artist whose crosshatched phantasms are more evocative or more disturbing. Landis Blair weaves a world of dark discontents that is as disquieting as it is addictive.”
—Emil Ferris, author of My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
“The Envious Siblings gave me the fantods, in the nicest possible way”
—Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Bizarre Romance