Monday, April 15, 2019

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/13/19

One book this week -- a book of illustrated stories coming in October from Norton.

It's called The Envious Siblings and Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes, it's by Landis Blair, and it's more than a little influenced by Edward Gorey.

(Tangent: why is that a big deal? Well, our artistic culture seems to be just fine with the thousandth genre entry -- write a book about a stableboy who turns out to be the lost prince and see if every review uses the same comparison -- but comes down hard on the second. To my mind, that's backward: the second creator is still trailblazing, turning one person's specific style into something closer to a genre, and making room for more work in that genre. I complained about this a lot when Elizabeth Willey's novels were coming out, since she was the only person who tried to do Amberesque novels other than Roger Zelazny. And I expect Landis Blair will be my new example for the same argument.)

So Envious Siblings has eight stories, all told in rhyming verse underneath full-page illustrations in precise pen-and-ink with more than a little crosshatching, all about nasty and/or tormented young people in scenes that tend to look more Victorian than modern.

I haven't done more than scan it, so I can't say how well Blair's writing handles this style. His art looks nice, carefully posed in that way that implies action but looks static. And I'm always in favor of more grisly dark humor. So I want to like this, and I'm happy to see it has quotes from Emil Ferris and Eddie Campbell. If you've been a bit out of sorts since Gorey died, you'll want to at least glance at Envious Siblings when it hits stores this fall.

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