Beyond the review… and Beyond Peter Pan…
I reflect that the man who ‘cursed’ all his biographers, has been subject to more than half a century of critiques as thematically complex and commercially astute as the plays he wrote - while the plays themselves have largely remained under explored. From ill researched, sometimes even slanderous and perhaps simply crazy works (I name no names - P.D) to R.D.S.Jack’s two valuable tomes Myths and the Mythmaker(2010) and The Road to the Neverland (1991); both of which are works so horribly overpriced so that no ‘ordinary’ reader can engage with them; there is no shortage of writing ‘out there’ about Barrie and his creative and dramatic works. While many remain wedded to the Disneyfication of Peter Pan, I suspect that many more of us draw our ‘knowledge’ of Barrie from Birkin’s landmark TV series (and book) The Lost Boys. Certainly for me, Ian Holm 'is' Barrie, but for the next generation Johnny Depp may 'be' Barrie. Though it must be said that to mention Birkin's work in the same sentence as Finding Neverland is an exercise in the sublime being followed by the ridiculous! I am old-school enough to think that 'dramatic licence' does have limits, and that Finding Neverland far exceeds these.
I suppose every generation will have its own ‘version’ of Peter Pan and our interpretations of J.M.Barrie are always just that, but perhaps how we 'see' Barrie and his works gives more of an insight into our own motivations and interests than any comprehensive or 'real' picture of Barrie as writer. His prose and plays remain as enigmatic as his personality. There is much work still to be done to bring Barrie’s work back into critical and popular awareness in a nuanced yet respectful way. Our Society Editions at least try to open the doors to affordable copies for the general reader which neither pander to commercialism nor distance through an over scholarly positioning.
Our first Society edition Auld Licht Idylls, A Window in Thrums and Margaret Ogilvy offers the reader the opportunity to explore 'Thrums' (Barrie's fictional version of Kirriemuir) in all its 'glory.' In all three we see fiction and fact melded together, sometimes humorously, sometimes uncomfortably, as Barrie represents a version of the world known to his mother and largely derived from the stories they shared in his childhood.
The place for people to find out more and exchange their thoughts about Barrie's work