Almost 10 years before his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen took many of the figures of Victorian popular fiction on a remarkable romp, Alan Moore, in collaboration with underground artist Melinda Gebbie, began Lost Girls, with a similar, although less fantastical, conceit: that the three women whose adventures in girlhood may have inspired respectively, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Wendy and the Wizard of Oz, meet in a Swiss hotel shortly before the first World War. Wendy, Dorothy and Alice, three very different women-one jaded and old; one trapped in a frigid adulthood; the last a spunky but innocent young American good-time girl-provide each other with the liberation they need, while also providing very different (and, for this is a pornography, very sexual) versions of the stories we associate with them. We go with the girls, in memory, to the incidents that became the Rabbit Hole, Oz and Neverland. As a formal exercise in pure comics, Lost Girls is as good as anything Moore has written. (One of my favorite moments: a husband and wife trapped in a frozen, loveless, sexless relationship, conduct a stiff conversation, laced with unconscious puns and wordplay, moving into positions that cause their shadows to appear to copulate wildly, finding the physical passion that the people are denied.) In addition to being a master-class in comics technique, Lost Girls is also an education in Edwardian smut-Gebbie and Moore pastiche the pornography of the period, taking in everything from The Oyster to the Venus and Tannhauser period work of Aubrey Beardsley Melinda Gebbie was a strange and inspired choice as collaborator for Moore. She draws real people, with none of the exaggerated bodies usual to superhero or porno comics. Gebbie's people, drawn for the most part in gentle crayons, have human bodies,. Lost Girls is a bittersweet, beautiful, exhaustive, problematic, occasionally exhausting work. It succeeded for me wonderfully as a true graphic novel. If it failed for me, it was as smut. The book, at least in large black-and-white photocopy form, was not a one-handed read. It was too heady and strange to appreciate or to experience on a visceral level. (Your mileage may vary; porn is, after all, personal.) Top Shelf has chosen to package it elegantly and expensively, presenting it to the world not as pornography, but as erotica. It is one of the tropes of pure pornography that events are without consequence. No babies, no STDs, no trauma, no memories best left unexamined. Lost Girls parts company from pure porn in precisely that place: it's all about consequences, not to mention war, music, love, lust, repression and memory. (Aug.) Neil Gaiman is the author of the bestsellers Anansi Boys and American Gods. Films based on his books Stardust and Coraline are due in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A league of extraordinary gentlewomen: Alice of Wonderland, Dorothy of Oz, and Wendy of Never-Neverland, now grown. In a "reality" behind the fantasies, the three meet by chance in 1914 in an Austrian border hotel and exchange sexual coming-of-age stories: Alice fondled by a family friend; Dorothy discovering masturbation in a traumatic windstorm and then seducing the farmhands; Wendy and brothers drawn into adolescent group activities with a charismatic gutter lad. Sharing stories and sexuality together (and with others at the hotel), they come to understand and coalesce with their lost childhood selves. At the triumphant yet sad ending, they are no longer "lost girls," for they have found themselves and each other-even as World War I brings the end of our collective cultural innocence. Isn't violence the true pornography? Moore's writing is clever, insightful, and layered with winning characterizations of aristocratic Alice, hoyden Dorothy, and repressed bourgeois Wendy. But his prose is matched by Gebbie's sumptuous art, with Matisse-like color and design that simultaneously suggest childhood and the fantasy elements of adult sexuality. This lavish confection is intellectually, aesthetically, and erotically intriguing, with no holds barred (including youth-adult sex and incest). For adult collections only.-M.C. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.