Book Shorts

This book is an omnibus of delightfully scary Landis Blair cartoons

The devoted follower of Edward Gorey has proved himself a worthy disciple

Landis Blair, The Malicious Playground (2019) © Landis Blair

Landis Blair makes no secret of his admiration of and inspiration by Edward Gorey, the American “Gothic” cartoonist. Like Gorey, Blair’s drawn world is populated by lost children, monsters, mad sisters, homicidal parents and the like. Absurd and macabre, his “nursery rhymes” are reminiscent of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children (1907), although Blair’s prosody is not as sure or as accomplished as Belloc’s. For example, in the tale of “The Malicious Playground”, he offers, “A swing set is a giddy place / To find a good kick in the face” (shown here) scans a bit awkwardly and there are similar slips throughout. The final chapter, “Danse Macabre” has a surprise ending worthy of an O. Henry short story. The line drawings are, nevertheless, dark and ghoulish and mischievous and will no doubt enthral adults and maybe even some children.

  • Landis Blair, The Envious Siblings and Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes, W.W. Norton and Company, 248pp, £9.99 (pb)