I think this is my first review of pornography on librarianaut, but Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s graphic novel Lost Girls is exactly the kind of pornography you want to talk about even if showing it to people might be a little awkward.
At its core, Lost Girls is about three women who are staying in a hotel in Austria in 1914. These women are the grown-up heroines from key works of children’s literature: Wendy, Dorothy and Alice (of Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and ALice in Wonderland, respectively). Each of these women is there for their own reasons. Wendy is accompanying her intolerably dull husband; Dorothy has left America to see Europe (in a seemingly naive farm-girl manner). Alice is there by herself, the grand dame of the tree.
The characters meet and begin to tell each other their stories, which are the tales we know, but are in a less fantastical and more explicit form. The cowardly lion is a farmhand who yells and catcalls boorishly and when Dorothy faces him down and strips, all his bravado falls away and he’s actually a virgin and they have a lot of sex. (Actually, you can just add that “and they have a lot of sex” ending to every bit of plot in the book.) Wendy’s story is about her and her brothers masturbating each other and the peeping tom with the deformed hand in the park. Alice’s story is about Alice being used as a sexual object by all sorts of people who had much more power than her.
The stories are split up between them and what is happening in the hotel, which gets more and more debauched as they share their stories and break down social barriers and fuck an incredible amount. There’s a chapter wherein Dorothy’s boyfriend and Wendy’s husband have a secret tryst. An orgy where the manager of the hotel is reading a tale of incest and pedophilia and ruminating about how stories of such things are titillating even if you would never do such a thing, although as he says that he’s just finished with a 12-year-old boy (who is of course also fictional).
Now the thing about this is that it’s Alan Moore writing this stuff, so the layers to the literature are all there and intricate and studiable. He’s doing his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen literary ransacking here but with stories of sex and coming of age and how stories of sex work. Melinda Gebbie’s art is amazing. It’s a beautiful, lavish book filled with paintings you’d want to shove in everyone’s faces, if only they weren’t filled with cocks and cunts. She uses different styles for each of the women’s tales, and for the different stories of what’s happening in the hotel as The Great War breaks out. There are visual jokes conveying subtext in shadows and the opening and closing motifs are of the mirror that was Alice’s.
Basically my review here is: Best Porn Ever. (And just to be clear, the creators are very clear about it being pornography and the value of pornography. Here’s a great interview with Alan Moore on the topic.)
It’s a nearish future where the Net’s been riddled with viruses (this is not the focus of the story, just one of the excellent bits about how the future doesn’t have to rest on some ever progressing curve) geothermal power in the rifts at the bottom of the Pacific are preventing brownouts all through N’AmPac. The problem is that working at the bottom of the ocean so isolated from human society requires people that aren’t “well-adjusted” or “happy with normal life.” So the station the book is about is filled with people addicted to trauma, mostly of abusive relationships (giving and receiving the beatings), but there’s an almost MPD pedophile involved as well. These psychologically broken people were selected as pre-adapted for life on the bottom of the sea.
Oh and they also have organs that collapse to press all the gas bubbles out of themselves so they can withstand the hundreds of atmospheres of pressure in diving skins. They’ve each had a lung removed and replaced with machinery that lets them process the oxygen out of water so they don’t breathe. They are rifters instead of humans (one psychologist in the book refers to them as vampires, but I don’t see that as being very accurate). It’s all very cool.
One of the techniques I loved (and was made more sensitive to because of reading About Writing) is how Watts switches up the tenses in narration. On the surface everything is in the past tense, but in the depths it’s in the present, which is more artificial and distant, and very nicely keeping us distant from these characters who don’t want to be touched.
So yes, it was very good, but didn’t end up resolved as well as I’d like since it leads into its sequel.
Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist is pretty freakin’ great. It’s a vampire novel… no wait, don’t stop reading. It’s not emo-vampire crap like Twilight or “Vampires are just like regular people but sexy” like True Blood. It’s about a cursed monster and is suitably horrible.
Let Me In is about a vampire that moves into a suburb of Stockholm in 1981. The vampire appears to be a twelve year old girl and she has a guy who appears to be her father who goes out and harvests blood for her (which is tricky because the victim needs to be alive as it’s getting bled out). He’s also a pedophile who’s being manipulated by the vampire’s knowledge of his lusts. The main protagonist is a 12-year-old boy who is their neighbour. He gets bullied and wets himself and dreams of being able to kill his persecutors. There’s also an assortment of drunks who’re trying to figure out what’s going on after one of their friends disappears. They’re like the completely inept and unsuitable Van Helsing squad, in that they behave the way a bunch of losers would.
This (Swedish) book was turned into a (Swedish) movie, Let The Right One In, which is supposed to be scary and great and is how the book came to my attention. They’re also doing an American remake of the movie (called Let Me In) which pleases me not a lot.
I’d hoped to be able to recommend this as an antidote to teens who say they like vampire novels because they read Stephenie Meyer or Darren Shan, but all the pedophilia and graphic disfigurement probably makes it way inappropriate. It’s too bad though because the vampire is suitably monstrous. It reminds you there’s a downside to the whole eternal life deal. Plus there’s some good ol’ redemptive violence to make you feel good at the end.