"...by Jack Handey."
Did you watch Saturday Night Live in the 90s? I did! 90s nostalgia weirds me out, but I have a fondness for early 90s SNL and late night MTV shows (I loooooved MTV when I was in high school...let's say it all together...."when MTV still showed music videos"). Anyway, this post will be a little bit like Jack Handy's Deep Thoughts, but not nearly as bizarrely hilarious. It will be quite random.
Sir Charlie: The Funniest Man in the World
When I heard that the late Sid Fleischman had written a biography of Charlie Chaplin, I wondered how much of Chaplin's controversial personal life would be included. Well, I'm here to tell you that, as far as I can tell, Fleischman addresses pretty much everything about Chaplin. Mental illness (his mother), alcoholism (his father), paternity disputes, his affection for young women, his political views....it's all there. Nothing is titillating, but everything is addressed. It's a engrossing and magnificent end to an amazing career in children's literature. I've read Chaplin's autobiography and watched Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of The Little Tramp (I think I'll have to Netflix Chaplin again), but there were still fascinating aspects of Chaplin's life that I did not know about until I read this book, particularly the fact that, in his decline, he only allowed his children (with Oona O'Neill) to watch Chaplin films.
Sure, I've heard that Peter Pan is a little odd. I've inwardly scoffed at that; it's Victorian children's literature. It isn't surprising for children's literature from another era to strike us as being weird, because we don't live in the same era and society as did the author and his/her intended audience. Oh, yes, I've heard about the gossip about J.M. Barrie, thank you very much. Sure, sure. How weird can it be and OH MY GOODNESS....
Peter Pan is weird.
Ohhhhh, is it weird. And I admit, I am reading Peter's and Wendy's (and Tinkerbell's! And the Lost Boys!)) relationship through a 21st century perspective. And Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations are creepily delicious and weird. And, as they used to say of literature, a ripping good yarn. Pirate adventures and flying about to a new world; there's tons of fun in that. I won't deny that. I won't go into the psychological underpinnings of the story, because that's beyond the scope of this blog. I may have to read it again and find some criticism of the book.
I poured over the illustrations. As someone who grew up knowing the Peter Pan story because of the Broadway show and not the book (I saw Sandy Duncan on tour when I was five or six, and saw Mary Martin's filmed production when it was still shown on television from time to time), my image of Peter Pan is still a bit feminine, even though I think Sandy Duncan, in this clip, brought very distinct genderless or little boy attitude to the show (I know many consider Martin the quintessential Peter, but Duncan is my favorite).
It's been a while since I've watched the entire filmed version of the stage production; from what I remember, the relationship between Peter and Wendy is not incredibly deep or significant. They do play at being father and mother to the Lost Boys, but it's more playacting. Peter is more of a wacky friend that leads them on adventures. It's quite different in the original book; the relationship is much more complex and odd, with Wendy being much more obviously on the dividing line between childhood and womanhood. Wendy is awakening to more mature feelings and through her relationship with the Lost Boys, working out what is expected of family life, however subconscious they may be. She understands Tinkerbell is a rival, but she's probably not quite sure why (Tinkerbell is very aware why). Of course, Peter is unaware of any such feelings.
Now I understand why this story attracted attention in the psychological field; there's quite a bit to delve into.
(I started to type more, but I realized that I was rambling more than I usually do!)
I'll have a post of forthcoming books in the near future; the fall publishing season is well underway. I also recently ordered new Halloween books, but it's a bit too soon to tell you about them.
(Speaking of Saturday Night Live....if you are/were a fan, you should definitely read Live From New York: An Uncensored Story of Saturday Night Live As Told By Its Stars, Writers, and Guests. It's an oral history of the show; hilarious at times, heartbreaking at times, especially the reminiscences about Chris Farley and Phil Hartman, and eye-opening at times. A great read, and written by Tom Shales, the long-standing television critic for The Washington Post.)