Peter Pan Is Grownup Delight

Before I leave 1938, I want to share a review or two of works from that year that didn’t make the bestseller list but achieved fame since.

Peter Pan began life in 1938 as an adult play by the Scot James M. Barrie. Later Walt Disney animated the story. More recently Peter Pan went back to the stage as a musical.

In Barrie’s story, Peter Pan coaxes the three Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael, to fly off with him to Neverland. There they join Peter’s band of lost boys for adventures with pirates, Indians, and the famous ticking crocodile.

The children eventually go home to grow up, but Peter refuses to grow up. He returns to Neverland.

Peter Pan is both more serious and more funny than Disney or musicals make it appear. Barrie uses his whimsical story to ridicule childishness in all its forms.

The Darlings’ calculations of whether they can afford children, the explanation of how mothers put their children’s minds in order each night, the story of how the Darlings acquired a dog as a nurse for their children — these are delights beyond the thrills of flying and killing pirates.

Most libraries carry a novelized version of Barrie’s play in their children’s collection. Find a copy and some children to share it with. You’ll enjoy reading it and the kids won’t know it wasn’t written for them.

© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Theatre Is a Class Act

Red Stage Curtain
Theatre: A Novel starts out as superficial as Entertainment Today but segues at the last minute to an analysis of the role of the arts in life. Incredibly, W. Somerset Maugham makes the thing work.

Acting is Julia Gosselyn’s career and her life. She studies people and events constantly to enrich her performances. Even as she engages in ordinary activities, she’s conscious of how she’s appearing to others.

Her husband, a poor actor but brilliant theater manager, adores her. He brings out her best on stage and bores her at home. She’s faithful to him, though people assume she’s had a lover for years.

At mid-life, Julia’s disciplined life turns topsy-turvy when she falls for a man only a few years older than her son. That son triggers Julia’s examination of her life.

Julia finds her work matters. As for sex, well, it can be fun, but it’s not nearly as enchanting as a steak with onions and fries.

Maugham ties things together so adroitly that the novel’s ending seems inevitable. He makes you understand that art must reveal life without being life.

Theatre is easy reading, the sex is all off-stage, and readers end up understanding a bit about why theater matters.

What’s not to like?

Theatre: A Novel
By W. Somerset Maugham
Literary Guild, 1937
292 pages
1937 bestseller #7
My Grade: B

Photo credit: Stage Curtain (Red) by Dominik Gwarek

©2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni