THE ENVIOUS SIBLINGS AND OTHER MORBID NURSERY RHYMES by 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
“Good grief, Landis, this is a bit gruesome.”
—Eddie Campbell, artist of From Hell
Eddie Campbell is a Scottish comics artist and writer now living in Chicago. Probably best known as the illustrator of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), Campbell is also the creator of the semi-autobiographical Alec stories collected in Alec: The Years Have Pants, and Bacchus, a wry adventure series about some of the Greek gods surviving to the present day. The Fate of the Artist, in which the author investigates his own murder, and The Lovely Horrible Stuff, an investigation of our relationship with money, are also among his graphic novels. A Disease of Language is a collaboration with Alan Moore, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain is with Neil Gaiman and in the upcoming Bizarre Romance Eddie turns the short stories of his wife, Audrey Niffenegger, into comics. Eddie is also a historian of cartooning and comics; the Goat Getters is his first large scale work in this field.