Lost Girls tells the story of the adult selves of Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Wendy from Peter Pan, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, who find themselves guests at a little Austrian hotel at the brink of World War I. The three become lovers, and retell their fairy-tale origin-stories, showing how each might be an allegory for a much darker, pornographic life-history.
This is a remarkable trilogy. It's by turns filthier than a Penthouse Letter, erotic as Anais Nin, and beautiful and provocative as the best of graphic novels. The fine artwork and writing are beautifully matched, even seeming at times to vie for attention -- each trying to outdo the other for virtuosity.
The meta-story of the three heroines of Lost Girls is fascinating. JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, suffered such terrible emotional abuse as a boy that he developed something called "psychogenic dwarfism," which caused him never to go through puberty. Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), took chaste-but-creepy photos of naked little girls.
L Frank Baum based Dorothy on a downtrodden and abused girl he met as a Kansas schoolteacher. (see update below) Previous authors have made the link between these girls, their authors, and the buried dark erotic sub-currents in their stories -- see, for example, Geoff Ryman's World Fantasy Award-winning novel WAS, about L Frank Baum and Dorothy.
But as fine as those attempts have been, none can touch Lost Girls for unflinching, unabashed depraved eros. This book wallows in the porn that Victorians like Dodgson and Barrie could only drop frustrated hints at, transgressing every boundary of taste and sense, plunging the reader into something steamy, uncomfortable, and beautiful.
One final note about the physical object -- this is a fantastically well-designed and well-made artifact. The three oversized volumes, their slipcase, and their dustjackets are handsome, solid, and well-thought through. This would make the kind of gift that causes jaws to drop. Link (Thanks, Olga!)
Update 2: Eric sez, "There is absolutely no truth to the story of Baum basing Dorothy
on an abused student he met when he was a teacher. This is an incident
that was created entirely for the novel 'Was'."
Update 3: Jason sez,
The statement that J. M. Barrie never went through puberty is simply untrue. Your source (Robert Sapolsky) might be a great lecturer and a competent endocrinologist, but he apparently can't be bothered to check the facts about the people he uses as historical examples to see if the diagnosis actually fits.
In an article based on the lecture you recommend, Sapolsky writes: "In the 1850's there was an eight year old boy growing up in Victorian England. One day he sees his beloved twelve year old brother killed in front of him in a horrible accident. This accident destroyed the family. There were no other siblings, and the older boy was the mother's favorite child." In the audio version he instead says "1870's".
But both are incorrect; JMB was born in *1860*, and lived in *Scotland*. His brother David died just before his *14th* birthday, when JMB was *6*. They had *six* other surviving siblings. (It is true, however, that Queen Victoria was on the throne, and that David was his mother's favorite.) Sapolsky talks about the mother shutting down for the rest of her life, and never talking about anything but David, which will come as a surprise to anyone who has read JMB's biography of her (a bestseller in its day). How can you believe his conclusions, when so many of his basic "facts" are wrong?
Sapolsky continues the misinformation, getting into the diagnostic particulars: "He lived to be 60 years old and 4'10". It was confirmed in his autopsy that he never reached puberty." He claims that JMB's balls never even dropped.
Where does he get this garbage? Barrie died at the age of *77*. His passport listed his height as *5 ft 3.5in* which is short but not abnormally so. And every existing photo of him shows a man with a big bushy mustache. I'm no endocrinologist, but I'm pretty sure you need to go through puberty to pull that off. Confirming (or rather, refuting) these basic "facts" is trivially easy.
Sapolsky goes on to says that JMB repeatedly got in trouble with the law for molesting little boys, which is complete and utter fiction. It's the kind of made-up crap that you read (or hear, apparently) on the internet. I don't know if JMB did anything (I suspect not), but there is no record that anyone ever actually accused him of it. The mother of the Llewelyn Davies boys even trusted him enough to leave them in his care when she died, and they each denied to their deaths the gossip that came along later that he'd ever done anything inappropriate. Sapolsky appears to have pulled this directly from his ass.
This smacks of intellectual dishonesty, plain and simple. Sapolsky wants a famous example to spice up his lecture, and apparently there are none, so he finds someone who kinda sorta comes close, fudges the facts, tosses in a few turds of complete fiction to confirm his diagnosis, and he's finished. Which certainly doesn't deserve your endorsement.