32 Following


Currently reading

Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis
Norman Rush
The Unknown University
Roberto Bolaño, Laura Healy
Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 (20/21)
Amy Hungerford
The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
James Wood
Kensington Gardens - Natasha Wimmer, Rodrigo Fresán

Remember the magic of Peter Pan? Not the bullshit Disney version, rather one written by J.M. Barrie, or, as in my case, the Mary Martin black-and-white version we saw as kids (no need for the knowing looks, one to another, enabling the intuitive questions of gender confusion—I’m all over that already). Among the many things I never knew about Barrie and his novel and play, was the extent to which much of it arose from early childhood trauma and an almost bizarre childhood. {{{{{{read this book}}}}}}

Some know, some, perhaps, do not know, that Barrie took his inspiration for the character of Peter Pan from the real-life Llewelyn Davies children; for most, if they know the names at all, the Llewelyn Davieses might be known only through the unfortunate Johnny Depp movie, Finding Neverland. In fact, they were a family of five boys and their parents, Arthur and Sylvia. A family, which, while enjoying the largesse Barrie graced them with, came to harbor their own frustrations and concerns. A family plagued by their own tragedies. Tragedies which would haunt survivors, as well as, Barrie. {{{{{{Read the book}}}}}}}

In Kensington Gardens, Fresán relates the intertwined stories of Barrie and the Llewelyn Davieses through the slow, deliberate voice of a famous children’s author, Peter Hook. A man plagued by his own tragic past. An acclaimed author with his own children’s book hero. An author with numerous parallels to the life of Barrie and the LDs. An author with a sinister plan. The Anti-Barrie. Who tells his story over the course of a single night to a hostage. As Barrie was prisoner of his own inner child, Peter Hook takes prisoner of another child, Keiko Kai. {{{{{{Read the book}}}}}}

Michael Llewelyn Davies as Peter Pan



J.M. Barrie with Michael Llewelyn Davies


I don’t want to mislead anyone. This is not, exactly, a fun novel. There are aspects that are fun: phrases from Beatle lyrics scattered throughout the text (Hook’s parents hated The Beatles), cameos by Henry James, Bob Dylan, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, among numerous other celebrities, the heavily coincidental natures of all the principal characters (a tendency Hook has been told is Dickensian), but the overarching sense of the ominous is enough to make the novel challenging, easy to set aside.

It may also be mentioned, Fresán and Bolaño were good friends. One of RB’s poems recounts Fresán’s kindness ( [b:The Unknown University|16241798|The Unknown University|Roberto Bolaño|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358745168s/16241798.jpg|611656] ), and the long conversations with Fresán are mentioned numerous times in [b:Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003|9550623|Between Parentheses Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003|Roberto Bolaño|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328008358s/9550623.jpg|1332036]. Perhaps this association leads me to value this one even more. I can live with that.

Every once in a while I buy rock magazines. I like to read them, I like to find that I don‘t recognize anyone except the people I knew during my childhood. I like to see the wrinkled pictures of Bob “Forever Young” Dylan and Paul “When I’m Sixty Four” McCartney and Pete “My Generation” Townsend and Mick “Time Is on My Side” Jagger—pictures of old people more or less surprised to be old, and clinging to their electric guitars like canes.
Parents, as we know, are the invention of their children. It’s the children who turn them into parents, and therefore become their creators…Children begin as footnotes to their parents, and parents end up being footnotes to their children. That’s life.
To be a writer is to be someone who didn’t choose but was chosen by the no-return vocation of the socially acceptable madman. Someone who spends five, nine, twelve hours a day shut up in a room hearing voices that only he can understand, and who consoles himself thinking that once there was a way that would take him back to Kensington Gardens, and sleep, little darling do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby, because, boy, you’ll be carrying that weight for a long time.

Enough. 4. 5 stars, rounded down because Fresán succeeded in creating the vile. {{{{{{Read the book}}}}}}