Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Lost Girls

Lost Girls (Lost Girls, #1-3)Alan Moore (author)
Melinda Gebbie (artist)
Knockabout / Top Shelf

For more than a century, Alice, Wendy and Dorothy have been our guides through the Wonderland, Neverland and Land of Oz of our childhoods. Now like us, these three lost girls have grown up and are ready to guide us again, this time through the realms of our sexual awakening and fulfillment. Through their familiar fairytales they share with us their most intimate revelations of desire in its many forms, revelations that shine out radiantly through the dark clouds of war gathering around a luxury Austrian hotel. 
Drawing on the rich heritage of erotica, Lost Girls is the rediscovery of the power of ecstatic writing and art in a sublime union that only the medium of comics can achieve. Exquisite, thoughtful, and human, Lost Girls is a work of breathtaking scope that challenges the very notion of art fettered by convention. This is erotic fiction at its finest.

On the eve of the first World War three remarkable women meet at a hotel in Austria.  Alice, the Lady Fairfax, Wendy Potter and Dorothy Gale.  The three are immediately drawn together in the heady sexualised surroundings of the Hotel Himmelgarten and over one summer relate to each other the stories of their lives.

What Moore and Gebbie have created here is a tour de force of erotic fiction (for the prudish) or pornography (for the specific).  They have taken three beloved characters from 'classic' literature and reimagined their stories as a series of sexual experiences; Dorothy's Kansas farm as OZ, Wendy's London park Neverland and Alice's Wonderland of English high society.  Each characters story is seamlessly transported from their respective books as locations and characters become mundane (even if the events do not) and each adventure is given a splash page coda that provides a single easily understood direct reference to the apposite chapter of the source material.

Moore is, of course, the consummate storyteller and as such the book is a joy to read.  Through their actions, their conversations and their reactions to the stories told by those around them the central characters grow and evolve and we are allowed deeper insights into the lives of these three generations of women.

The art is provided by American artist Melinda Gebbie who displays a style grown out of the US underground comix scene and I can see elements of both the Crumbs (Aline Kominsky- and Robert), Spain and more in her art which at times means it feels an odd fit with the style and setting of the story but this doesn't detract from the fact that it is utterly beautiful.  It's never going to be to everyone's taste but I am a long time fan of the artists I mentioned and so to my eyes it's spectacular.  It becomes even more so when she pastiches the styles of other, period, artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, and the frankly stunning level of skill on display is breathtaking.

As a book 'Lost Girls' was problematic from the start and the time between the story's original appearance and it's completion was quite considerable.  It's eventual publication in 2006 was accompanied by an article by Moore (in Arthur magazine and reprinted by Harry N. Abrams as a hardback book entitled '25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom') that is very much a continuation of the dialogue he is having in 'Lost Girls' which makes for a vivid and bold discussion on the very nature of pornography and the roles it plays and also on both personal freedom and repression.  The stories and behaviour of the three women and the supporting cast are presented without judgement.  Those characters who indulge and those who with-hold are treated equally so it's left up to the reader to make of the events what they will.  For myself I found it to be a beautiful and poignant read that, as Moore has been want to do throughout his career, challenged, intrigued and entertained in equal measure.

Buy it here -  Lost Girls

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