Lost Girls Collected Hardcover – Sep 12 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Neil GaimanAlmost 10 years before his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen took many of the figures of Victorian popular fiction on a remarkable romp, Alan Moore, in collaboration with underground artist Melinda Gebbie, began Lost Girls, with a similar, although less fantastical, conceit: that the three women whose adventures in girlhood may have inspired respectively, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Wendy and the Wizard of Oz, meet in a Swiss hotel shortly before the first World War. Wendy, Dorothy and Alice, three very different women—one jaded and old; one trapped in a frigid adulthood; the last a spunky but innocent young American good-time girl—provide each other with the liberation they need, while also providing very different (and, for this is a pornography, very sexual) versions of the stories we associate with them. We go with the girls, in memory, to the incidents that became the Rabbit Hole, Oz and Neverland. As a formal exercise in pure comics, Lost Girls is as good as anything Moore has written. (One of my favorite moments: a husband and wife trapped in a frozen, loveless, sexless relationship, conduct a stiff conversation, laced with unconscious puns and wordplay, moving into positions that cause their shadows to appear to copulate wildly, finding the physical passion that the people are denied.) In addition to being a master-class in comics technique, Lost Girls is also an education in Edwardian smut—Gebbie and Moore pastiche the pornography of the period, taking in everything from The Oyster to the Venus and Tannhauser period work of Aubrey BeardsleyMelinda Gebbie was a strange and inspired choice as collaborator for Moore. She draws real people, with none of the exaggerated bodies usual to superhero or porno comics. Gebbie's people, drawn for the most part in gentle crayons, have human bodies,.Lost Girls is a bittersweet, beautiful, exhaustive, problematic, occasionally exhausting work. It succeeded for me wonderfully as a true graphic novel. If it failed for me, it was as smut. The book, at least in large black-and-white photocopy form, was not a one-handed read. It was too heady and strange to appreciate or to experience on a visceral level. (Your mileage may vary; porn is, after all, personal.)Top Shelf has chosen to package it elegantly and expensively, presenting it to the world not as pornography, but as erotica. It is one of the tropes of pure pornography that events are without consequence. No babies, no STDs, no trauma, no memories best left unexamined. Lost Girls parts company from pure porn in precisely that place: it's all about consequences, not to mention war, music, love, lust, repression and memory. (Aug.)Neil Gaiman is the author of the bestsellers Anansi Boys and American Gods. Films based on his books Stardust and Coraline are due in 2007and 2008, respectively.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Although Moore (Watchmen, 1987; From Hell, 2000) is arguably comics' most popular writer, many fans and more libraries may be scared off from his latest project, an unabashedly porno graphic novel in which Wonderland's Alice, Oz's Dorothy, and Neverland's Wendy reveal their carnal natures by relating their past sexual encounters and coupling in the present, especially with one another. While explicit sex, including incest, is on virtually every page, Moore has an agenda beyond titillation. The work voices an impassioned defense of artistic freedom that stresses that fiction and fantasies aren't the same as actual events and behavior. "Only madmen and magistrates cannot discriminate between them," one character proclaims. Gebbie's delicate, painted style, rife with art nouveau references, somewhat mitigates the sensational subject matter. She and Moore have labored on Lost Girls since 1991, and the book's lavish production (three oversize, hardcover volumes in a slipcase) monumentalizes their dedication and adds a high price tag to the red-flag contents to put off all but readers and collections highly tolerant of the transgressive. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
We are introduced to Alice through a looking glass. We are introduced to Dorothy via her luxurious shoes. And we are introduced to Wendy by floating downwards from the top of the hotel, the main setting for this. Each woman has a story to tell. The hotel has a story to tell. The "bibles" lain around the hotel have a story to tell.
Moore uses the three famous stories of our youths to explore concepts of sex and art and where they meet. Each note-worthy element of the prime-stories is apparent and used to portray the development of the woman. This is a bildungsroman of sexuality and innocence. We watch and listen to the growth of Alice, Dorothy and Wendy as they couple. We are a voyeur. This effect is echoed in the first volume, as the characters take inspiration from the Tijuana bibles in the hotel (of course, they're not named "tijuana" by Moore; although he does in Top Ten).
This is an excellent work of erotic exploration. What can erotica do? What can comics do? What can stories do? These are the questions that Moore asks of the different media. These are the questions he asks with every project. I will follow him with every step as he attempts to puzzle it out.
A note on the physical item. It's far larger than I expected. When it arrived, I was taken aback by the girth of the book. It's huge. About a foot and a half tall, and about a foot wide. The pages are large, allowing for almost microscopic analysis of the art.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I'm sure this puzzles lots of us, but thankfully Alan Moore was puzzled enough to write something about it. Melinda Gebbie nudged the grizzly author into just the right position, and together they got down to business. After sixteen years in production, the world is presented with the fruits of their efforts: Lost Girls.
Lost Girls, you've no doubt heard, is a 240-page, 3 volume story about Lewis Carroll's Alice, L. Frank Baum's Dorothy, and J.M. Barrie's Wendy meeting in 1913 in a curious hotel in Austria near the borders of Switzerland, Germany, and France. To any interested student in European history, this time and place should ring a bell as a geographical ground zero for World War I. Not coincidentally, Moore works with the relationship between sex and violence throughout Lost Girls, arguing beautifully that sex is just a reliable a tool in fiction as anything else.
As always, Moore's writing is beautiful and new. He's one of the great formalists of our time. Lost Girls is told in 30 chapters of eight pages apiece, with intelligent panel work that Moore fans have come to expect. Gebbie's art is gorgeous and colored without computers--you won't see coloring like this in any other comic. To be fair though, there are a few instances in the story where it's noticeable that Gebbie was drawing in overtop of older drawings: in chapter 30 specifically you can see the outline of Alice's mirror through all foreground objects, making the foreground look translucent and ghostlike.
Overlooking that, the art is warm and colorful like a children's book, which gives the narrative a unique (and I mean unique--not better or worse) personality among its graphic novel peers. This book isn't comparable to other comics because it's unlike other comics. Nobody tries to compare Citizen Kane and Eraserhead, after all. It's not even comparable to Moore's other work, because the literary merits of a pornography and of an occult look at the Jack the Ripper story, or a Cold War-era superhero murder mystery, are completely different. At any rate, I like the book.
As a last bit of reviewer's advice: this book is (again, as you know) an unabashed pornography, not a story with some nudity in it. Moore and Gebbie delivered on their promise in every way they could. Men with men, women with women, men with women, masturbation, anal sex, oral sex, pedophilic sex, bestiality, orgies, and more besides. Even if you're ready for this, as I thought I was, be prepared. It's quite a ride. And it's quite a step for Moore, who has enough mainstream popularity to send his idea of free sexual expression in literature straight on til morning.
I read the entire tome in one, four-hour sitting and was not disappointed, but I don't know if I'm ready to call this Moore's masterpiece.
The elements of fact, traditional fiction (the fairy tales and folk stories the work draws on) and Moore's own story are blended together seamlessly. You are challenged to examine your own concepts of that which is truly beautiful, that which is truly perverse, and what is just plain sexy.
While the story is smart and unique, I found that often the dialogue was outshone by the art on the page, and not just because of its explicit nature. The artwork is so beautiful and lovingly crafted that the dialogue seems flat and inadequate in comparison, instead of working with the pictures. I wanted what the characters were saying to match the sparkle and humanity of the overall plot and art.
The greatest testament to the strength of the book, however, is the fact that it stays with you - the parts that didn't excite you, but that challenged, offended or made you feel funny keep coming back to visit you. I will probably be rereading it very soon, after I've had some time to chew on it.
I can understand if you're not willing to pay $75 for a massive porno you're not sure if you'll dig, but I consider this a sound investment. Highly reccomended for anyone willing to put their inhibitions aside for just a moment to learn something new about sex, lying, trust, love and fantasy.
Just keep it away from the kids.
Melinda Gebbie's artwork, using bright pastels and occasional collage, is lush, warm and inviting. As always, Alan Moore's story is incredibly multilayered with literature, history, and rich characters. A particularly beautiful chapter involves the women watching the performance of Stravinsky's ballet "Rite of Spring". The scene alternates between phantasmagoric images of the ballet itself and the erotic excitement it inspires in the viewers. My favorite aspect of the story is the intertwined accounts of Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy's sexual awakenings. Couched in references to the more well known versions of their tales, each woman recalls the curiosity, terror, ecstasy, and violence of the loss of innocence. By sharing their similar adventures they help each other and allow their selves to become free and whole, free from being victims and whole as sexual women.
My only wish would be for an edition with notes on all the references, but that could easily double the size of the box. I will be content with doing my own research.
Alan Moore, and he had all the freedom he wanted to tell any kind of
story. Despite all that the book was a bit of a let down.
The concept of the story is interesting. Three legendary heroines:
Dorothy, Alice and Wendy all meet up in a hotel in Austria, on the eve
of World War I. The hotel is called the Himmelgarten (himmel= sky,
heaven; garten=garden heavenly garden? ) and is a place of earthly
pleasures. The staff is VERY friendly and each room has the same
white book, a collection of erotic pictures and stories. The setting
brings out certain qualities in the three protagonists, so that they
grow a special bond, also brought on by the recounting of their
Their stories, as told by Moore are of course quite different than the
cherished childhood tales we all know. Instead of the "fairy tale"
magic the readers expect the characters to encounter, they have their
first sexual experiences. The original stories inspire these new
imaginings, and the old characters and themes are eluded to in clever
ways. For example, each boy that Dorothy came across echoed the same
failings her friends had in the original story. The first boy was
like the scarecrow (no brains), the second was like the cowardly lion,
and the third was like the tin woodman (no heart.) (I don't want to
give away to many of these allusions to someone who hasn't read the
story, because it's part of the fun of reading the book.) The story has a lot clever humor, visually and in wordplay. One example is the way the shadow play between Wendy and her husband, which constrasts their intense sexual desires with their proper but lifeless, loveless relationship.
The story is set on the eve of WWI. In the middle of the story, the cataylismic event of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand's assination occurs. The discovery of the three women is set in a backdrop of this coming unease, a metaphorical storm that will change the world. People weathering a storm by telling stories is the frame for other works of literature: Magic Mountain, Canterbury Tales, etc. It's also siginificant to note that the end of WWI is the beginning of the pessimistic period of Modernism in fiction, and Moore frames the story with this in mind. There is a sense that innocence is lost and things will never be the same.
The art served to tell the tale, even if it wasn't overly impressive.
If the reader is familiar with erotica, you could tell that the illustrator was eluding to certain styles of erotica, particularly from the 1920's. Overall, the art seems "cartoonish" and falls short of this design, but it still works. Each girl's story had it's own style, mostly apparent by the way the panels were set up: Dorothy had window panes, Alice had ovals like a mirror and Wendy had a story book pattern. The way Dorothy story was illustrated was my favorite, a more impressionist sort of composition, and the most pleasing to my eye.
Thematically, Moore was interested in the validity of erotica as an
art form, and that is one of the main themes of the book. I would say
that the book is erotica and therefore art or literature due to the clever elusions, and well-crafted framework of the story. I don't see the subject matter as trashy or exploitative, but rather bold. Many people have strong objections to the age of many of the characters involved in sexual exploits, but Lost Girls supposedly passed the acid test for not being child pornography. Most people will take it at face value and enjoy the aesthetic value instead of seeing the pictures/situations as titillating.
However, overal I wouldn't say Lost Girls was great art or overly entertaining however. It is a good read, but it is relatively forgettable, and certainly did not live up to expectations. If Moore's goal for the book was a defense of erotica, I think that it fell a little short. I thought it succeed instead as a celebration of erotica, and elegiac look at time when that type of art was more appreciated. I base this reading in part to the frame story it was set in and the historical back drop. The ending fits with this theme, even if many of the other readers I talked to didn't like it.
But... I realized what truly bothered me later. I enjoy comics and graphic novels. Not too many people actually bother collecting or reading them. When I mentioned to a friend during conversation what I had been reading recently the obvious question "what's it about" came up. I couldn't decide how to answer. Admitting to reading a comic book about orgies, childhood sex, and all sorts of other interesting topics just isn't the best thing to talk about over dinner. How do you explain something like this to people not 'in the know' with comic books? This question has bugged me enough that I truly question whether it will go on my shelf with other great comics or be hidden away like the pornography that Moore claims it to be.
If nothing else, it defintely makes you think.