Thursday, July 10, 2008

Review: Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Lost Girls
Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Published by Top Shelf Comix

Reviewed by Karl Barry


Originally released in the US in 2006, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s oversized three-part graphic novel LOST GIRLS has this year been released in the UK. The book imagines the fantastical meeting of three of literature’s most enduring young female characters: Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy Gale from Kansas and Wendy from Peter Pan. It’s because of the inclusion of JM Barrie’s characters that the books release has been delayed (as the copyright to Peter Pan lapsed at the end of 2007).

The year is 1913 and the now adult “girls” meet by chance at an expensive Austrian hotel, the Hotel Himmelgarten. Alice is a middle-aged overtly-lesbian lady of society; Wendy is a withdrawn wife living in a passionless marriage; and Dorothy a sexually intrepid young lady out to see the world. Over several days, the women have a number of erotic adventures with each other, as well as with the other guests and staff of the hotel. Amidst uninhibited sexual sessions, the women retell stories of their adolescence reimagining the events from the original children’s books tales as instances of profound and dramatic sexual awakening. Their stories fearlessly, unashamedly explore the variegated depths of sexuality in lushly rendered graphic detail.

Involving beloved children’s books characters frankly and explicitly in situations involving homosexuality, S&M, rape, incest and bestiality is understandably controversial. Far from depicting such activities for shock value, Moore and Gebbie treat their central female characters with deep sympathy, presenting them as intensely real individuals who recount their sexual histories and impulsively act on their physical desires to explore the many depths and complexities of female sexuality. The stories also draw upon the rich history of erotic literature, presenting pastiches of some famous pornographic works in an imaginary collection entitled The White Book conveniently included in each guest’s hotel room.

Each woman’s frank confessions allow her to confront the meaning and impact of her erotic awakening as well as stir the others to a frenzy of sexual excitement. They are then able to plunder the previously unexplored depths of their desires. In particular, Alice’s determined exploration of her adolescent experiences in an all-girls school and subservience to the headmistress (a re-imagined queen of hearts) with her Sapphic group of married society ladies lead her to assert herself as a now confident (if slightly predatory) lesbian.

The women’s sensuous exploration of each other’s bodies lead to a multitude of delights and exciting discoveries. Though focusing specifically on female sexuality, the book doesn’t neglect to include a good dose of male-on-male action. Wendy’s stuffy husband has an intense encounter with a foot-fetishist soldier who Dorothy is having an affair with. Peter Pan rents himself to a fearsome Captain Hook. Bell boys toss each other off.

It’s the authors’ intention to raise the artistic and literary quality of pornography. Told over three books with a surprisingly sober ending, LOST GIRLS manages to dare you out of your comfort zones and make you really think about sexuality in a complex way. Richly designed and lavishly rendered, this expensive book is a treasure which boldly, intelligently and radically plunders the darkest corners of desire to produce a space where everything is allowed and everything has important consequences.

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