Tuesday 19 June 2018

JM Barrie and An Awfully Big Blog Adventure - Lucy Coats

Before this blog existed, when it was just the germ of an idea, the first thing we needed was a name. So that was the question we asked each other. What should we call this new venture for the Scattered Author’s Society? There were many suggestions, some more whimsical than others, but then somebody suggested An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, a play on the words of Peter Pan: ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure’.

It therefore seems fitting to remember JM Barrie, the man who wrote those words, who died on 19th June, 1937, exactly 81 years ago today. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens was published in 1906. However, that story of a ‘Betwixt-and-Between’ half-bird boy is much less well-known than Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, aka Peter and Wendy, first a 1904 play and then, in 1911, a novel, which has been in print in one form or another ever since. My own treasured copy of the former, with the original Rackham illustrations under onion skin paper, belonged to my grandmother as a child, and has been handed down through four generations now.

However old-fashioned the idea of children in nightgowns with nannies might seem to today's tech savvy kids, the story itself, with a boy who never wants to grow up, the ultimate pirate captain and crew, Lost Boys, a ticking crocodile and a dying fairy is still intriguing enough to stand the test of time.
However, some of the elements, such as the ‘native American’ princess Tiger Lily, and her tribe are now rightly regarded as dated stereotypes, and have thankfully been quietly excised from modern versions. Peter Pan has now appeared in the form of films (both of the story and spin offs), the perennial Christmas panto, a musical, and endless book adaptations, as well as TV programmes and associated productions such as the biopic Finding Neverland. The boy who never grew up remains perennially young. I wonder if JM Barrie himself would believe that his creation was still being talked about over a century after Peter first stepped out of a London window and flew down to Kensington Gardens to meet with old Solomon Caw and Queen Mab. I suppose that’s the true memorial every author really wants (if they are honest) — for their work to live on, and themselves through it. So, happy death day, JM Barrie — and thank you for letting us adapt Peter’s words as our name. You definitely live on in our hearts here at ABBA.

OUT NOW: Cleo 2: Chosen and Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out:  Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review
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Pippa Goodhart said...

Lovely to see those pictures and be reminded of Barrie. Thank you, Lucy.

catdownunder said...

The Senior Cat (aka as my father) has just read this. His comment, "It was my favourite book as a young boy (he's 96)and I so wanted to fly!"

Hilary Hawkes said...

It really is a story that has lived on, isn't it? A favourite with many.

Katherine Langrish said...

Lovely post, Lucy - thanks - and I realise I have NEVER READ 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens'!