That Place Between Sleep and Awake

February 15, 2013 § 15 Comments

I normally try not to address my WordPress Google search term users directly, because it could very well be interpreted as snark. Some do: take, for instance, Amy @ Lucy’s Football , who responds about once a month to the strangest search terms used to find her blog, and attempts to answer questions therein in hopes that whoever searched it once will search again, and find her answer. It’s hilarious, check it out.

I’ve thought about doing it before, but haven’t except now…one thing that is quite close to my heart keeps popping up, ALL THE TIME.

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

Search terms used:

“Place between sleep and awake barrie quote”

“where in Peter Pan does it say place between sleep and awake”

“jm barrie place thats where ill always love you peter”

and on and on and on since the beginning of this blog.

And I have just one thing I’d like to say about these search terms: NO. NO NO NO NO no. « Read the rest of this entry »

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Halloween, the Hollow Queen, Princess of Doing What You Please, and Night’s Best Girl

October 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

…Or so September’s shadow has become, in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, since being cruelly sliced from September’s side and taken down to Fairyland Below in the first book of the series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Now September has returned to Fairyland to find that her shadow, Halloween, has caused a panic in Fairyland-Above by stealing everyone’s shadows (the source of their magic) to join her in her nightly revels in Fairyland-Below, with the help of the mysterious Alleyman. September must stand up to her impish and impulsive shadow, resist the temptations of constant, unbridled magic-making, and find a way to restore balance to Fairyland.

In Fell Beneath Fairyland, September is a slightly older, and more emotionally muddled, heroine—now a budding teenager, September’s heart is a bit more aching, and her instincts are a bit more honed. Her shadow is still the spitting image of the September who saved Fairyland in the last book, missing shoe and all—a couple of years younger, and so much more impulsive. Halloween is very much September’s Id, the child-self that growing September is leaving behind, and it’s this contrast that Fell Beneath Fairyland seeks to explore: what happens to a child heroine once she’s no longer such a child? Does a one-time savior of Fairyland get to enjoy the magical fruits of her labor and let untapped wishes loose, or is a heroine’s work dependent on balance? « Read the rest of this entry »

Voldemort Versus Mount Olympus: London’s Tribute to Great Children’s Lit

July 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

I an think of nothing better to jolt me out of a bleak blogging block than the sight of JK Rowling reading JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, live, to the entire world (except the USA, who saw it four hours later).

Many have criticized (or backhandedly praised) London’s Olympian bash as pushing whimsy more than ceremony. Even I watched the first twenty minutes and thought the whole thing seemed a little Masterpiece Theatre-ish, and that Masterpiece Theatre really does belong on the small screen, and not live, in front of thousands. Just doesn’t quite fit, thematically, in a stadium.

But as the night wore on, I realized that London’s show was largely a philological one, for better or worse: a show that, rather than depicting the uniformity of its mindset and citizens as China did, attempted to catalog and define its greatest contributions to the world of information and literature, from Shakespeare to the world wide web. The biggest–and most nonsensical stop, for those who weren’t sure what they were looking at–was in the realm of children’s literature, which owes British writers…well, pretty much everything. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, and A Lament, by Me.

February 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

When I read something of Catherynne M. Valente’s (which I’ve tried to do as often as possible since dying a thousand glorious times over Deathless), I experience two overwhelming reactions.

One: I revel.

Her sentence-level writing, plot development, characters, narrative voice, etc. all thrill me—not only because she’s very good at all of them, but also because she takes every opportunity to surprise and delight and to reach into collective memory and yank on something meaningful while doing it. Valente holds no punches–her character meets her own Death, and sings it a lullabye!–and I worship her for it.

Two: I despair.

There is nothing left to write. Catherynne M. Valente has written all the words–her character meets her own Death, and sings it a lullabye, you guys.

Seriously, why try to write in a wry, self-aware narrative voice (which I spent much of my MFA trying to do, not always successfully)? Catherynne M. Valente does it with more aplomb.

Why even attempt to write knowledgeable folklore retellings? Catherynne M. Valente has, or is in all likelihood about to; I mean, the woman is prolific. Anything I might be thinking of writing right now, she has probably already written, or has in her head to write, oh, sometime this afternoon. Just look at the woman’s list of publications, all within the last seven years.

No really, click on the link. I’ll wait. « Read the rest of this entry »

“Not My Mother”: SyFy’s Neverland and J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan, Part Two

December 14, 2011 § 11 Comments

In Part One of my response to SyFy Channel’s latest offering, Neverland, I left you with one of my favorite quotes from J.M. Barrie’s original novel, Peter and Wendy. Need a refresher? Here:

“You are so queer,” [Peter] said [to Wendy], frankly puzzled, “and Tiger Lily is just the same. There is something she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.”

“No, indeed, it is not,” Wendy replied with frightful emphasis.

And there are those who think children’s literature is sweet and uncomplicated.

In my last post, I wrote a ton (I know, these posts are getting long…) about the stakes for each character in Peter Pan: what they want, what they have to lose. Creative Writing 101. In SyFy’s Neverland, I concluded, the stakes for both Peter and Hook are never clearly defined, though they have much to do with power, pixie dust, and proving oneself. But if you were to look back at Barrie’s novel, you’d find that the stakes are, as I said last time, more personal and emotional, and no one has more defined stakes than Wendy—even if the most apt words used to describe them are “something…but not my mother.”

In a little-known but beautiful musical version (not the one Mary Martin made famous, I mean less known, musical theatre trivia fans) composed by Leonard Bernstein, he of West Side Story and Candide, Peter is, as is traditional, played by a girl, but that doesn’t stop Wendy from coming right out with it, in the catchiest little way:

Peter, Peter, you’ve got a smudge on your face/

Allow me, Peter, Peter, to wipe it away/

I know it’s just an old excuse to feel your touch/

But I want to feel your touch!

Make no mistake: Wendy’s experiencing her first love. « Read the rest of this entry »

SyFy’s Neverland and My Own Obsession with the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Part One: Bad Form

December 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m pretty surprised that I have not written about Peter Pan yet. Granted, this blog is still young. But I have a lot to say. So much, in fact, that this post has to be split in two, for sanity’s sake. Here in Part One, I give an overview of SyFy’s “prequel” to Peter Pan, Neverland, and some background into my own love for all things Peter Pan. In Part Two, to be posted later, I’ll look more closely at the character of Peter himself, J.M. Barrie’s quest for his own lost childhood, and I will make A SHOCKING CONFESSION. So stay tuned.

Several years ago, I was sitting on a plane with an issue of The New Yorker that I had stolen from my dad’s bathroom (where all the good reading material goes). Inside was an article about the playwright and author J.M. Barrie—probably because the release of Finding Neverland was imminent—and the lamentable personal life that in all likelihood led to the writing of the play Peter Pan, or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. I had loved Peter Pan—as a book, as a concept—for a long time, in part because my version is illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, who is my fave, and more so because it’s just so delightfully sad.

Yes, I said sad. Cathartically, brilliantly full of child-sadness, something that most of my favorite authors seem to have in common. Peter Pan: sad, strange, and endlessly interpretable.

But reading this New Yorker article was a horse of a different color, turning what was, in my mind, a sweetly sad book into a diatribe on loss and frustration and futile escapism. James Barrie himself was such a strange man, stunted as a child because of the death of his brother David, who would never get to grow up, and the subsequent depression of his mother Margaret, who, in her grief, seemed to almost forget who James was. I became so choked up that I had to wash my face in the tiny plane bathroom—and this was very soon after 9-11, when anyone oddly emotional or out of their seat was subject to several suspicious and slightly nasty looks by their fellow travelers. I cried in the airplane bathroom for a good five minutes after reading that, over thirty years after Barrie’s own tragedy-ridden life had ended, in 1960, just before the 50th anniversary of Barrie’s book Peter and Wendy, Peter Llewelyn-Davies, the character’s namesake, threw himself in front of a train pulling into a London platform. He called the book “that terrible masterpiece.”

I’ve never gotten over it. « Read the rest of this entry »

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