The Lost Girls
First let me express condolences to any Brits who find this post, hungry for information about The Lost Girls because they cannot buy their own countryman's work until after the new year. My deepest sympathies. Because you're missing something good.
WB had only to tell me The Lost Girls was written by Alan Moore, and I knew I would love it. I've read enough of his work to know that I genuinely love the way his mind works: he thinks in grand scale, bringing layers of meaning (and irony) to his stories that are of way above average quality. One of the ways he's done this is through literariness: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I can ask while Hyde fucks the invisible man to death, or while V bathes in "classical" pop culture (and then tortures Evey into his mold). Another way Moore does this is with a slippery sense of metafiction (laid down with the lightest touch): you read the vast semi-fiction From Hell and then you read the footnotes that seem to make it less fictional -- and then you read the short cartoon (which being at the very end gets the power of the final word) that unravels the whole thing into not just fiction, but folly born of chaos.
So then there's The Lost Girls. Of all the Moore books I've read, I like this artist the best. She and he are sexually involved and spent 17 years working together on this story -- before I'd even read that bit o' trivia, I felt something sort of wetly personal in the illustrations which are (mostly) brightly colored (chalk? pencil?), gleeful arranged pornographies. In the first book these are mostly playful and mild. By the last book we have an orgy in which there is much talk (and image!) of sex with children and incest (all while a pornographer defends pornography: "these are not real children" he says, then reveals that we have been watching him fuck a 13 year-old -- of course he, and she, is a cartoon too, but disturbing? Of course!) We have one chapter that repeats itself visually but gives us different people's dialogue the second time around -- one of my favorite techniques; I love how it deepens a moment in time.
There are a few ways you can look at how Moore uses these "girls" (Alice, Dorothy, Wendy) from children's literature to develop adult themes. First, we do this all the time. I've read tons of interpretations of these very stories (Wonderland, Oz, Peter Pan) that interpret them as symbols of things in the adult world, and sexual things, too. We just don't tend to draw pictures or use the words "rodger" and "quim." So one can see this as exploiting these stories (as porn is wont to do, "Shaving Ryan's Privates," etc.) as a stage for sex -- which is what Moore claims he's doing in interviews -- or we can see this as mining the stories for their subterranean sexual content. The books must be good, because they convinced me they are doing the latter.
Boys rarely notice that girls in children's stories tend to be surrounded by boys. The only other woman in Alice's Wonderland is the Queen. The only other women in Dorothy's Oz are witches -- mostly "wicked" ones. The only other woman in Wendy's Neverland is Tinkerbell. And in every case it's an antagonistic relationship. (Even Glenda the "good" witch could have told Dorothy to click her heels from the start if she hadn't wanted to screw with her!) Boys might not notice this, and that is their privilege, but to a girl, seeing these little helpless maidens surrounded by all that maleness, there's clearly something going on there. So when the white rabbit becomes a friend of her father who furtively gets her drunk and abuses her, when the straw man, tin man, and cowardly lion become the farmhands ol' "permanently-ready" Dorothy down on the farm likes to fuck, when the talking garden of flowers becomes the many girls Alice "explores" while she's in boarding school, this all has a certain naturalness -- and feels less like exploitation of the stories than revelation of the stories. Although clearly it's a little of both.
Lastly, my one complaint. In the story, Alice is the cultured, moneyed, experienced grande dame of sex. Dorothy is young, hot, and eager for anything. And Wendy is painfully repressed. This dynamic didn't bother me until the last book, when we learn that Dorothy was being used by her biological father for sex (long past the point where she enjoyed it -- and she initially did, feeling as though she were with the great and powerful man...), Alice was drugged and raped and drugged and raped and used and rented out and so on by her Red Queen (she refers to herself as a drug-addicted lesbian prostitute, despited the moneyed world in which she dwells), and finally loses all sense of herself and winds up in an institution... And Wendy. Wendy does something amazing.
Wendy's tale of childhood sexual exploits differs from the others' only in that she never has sexual contact with an adult. She only goes to hidden part of the park and has sex with the street urchins there, especially Peter and his sister Anabel. But there is a dark presence strolling through this childhood sexual paradise: the Captain (whose hand is deformed into a hook) who is a predator, looking for children to use sexually. He is terrifying, and Wendy fantasizes about him. When Anabel is raped in the park, Wendy is drawn to the same spot, and when the Captain is there, and he pursues her, she thinks, "I deserve this, because I've fantasized about it..." Then, in a marvelous turn, she faces him, and realizes, "I can think what I want!" -- that her fantasies do not make her "deserve" anything. She confronts him with her hairy pubes and full breasts, says that she's too much a woman for him, that he is scared of women and pursues children because they won't know how inadequate he is... thus vanquishing her foe. The illustration shows the Captain being devoured by an alligator-cum-vagina. My heart cheers for Wendy's sexual triumph, her self-possession, the power of her womanhood, and the fact that she's kept her childhood sexual explorations from being tainted by the world of adults.
So my complaint: how come Wendy has to be the one who's miserable and repressed in adulthood? I'm not sure that rings remotely true.
Overall, though, I loved this story, and think everyone should read it, the disturbing parts and all. Just, uh, when you buy it, don't buy it "used" -- ;-)