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LOST BOI by Sassafras Lowrey (Arsenal Pulp Press),.
LOST BOI by Sassafras Lowrey (Arsenal Pulp Press), 240 pages, $16.95 paper. Rating: NNN
There’s always been something intrinsically queer about the Peter Pan story, from its androgynous title character – played by a woman in the stage adaptation – to its testosterone-fuelled lost boys vs. pirates battles, not to mention the campily outfitted, moustachioed villain, Captain Hook.
But Brooklyn-based writer Sassafras Lowrey takes things to the entertaining extreme in Lost Boi, a queer punk BDSM reimagining of the J.M. Barrie tale that says as much about gender fluidity as it does the disenfranchisement of queer homeless youth.
In Lowrey’s unnamed urban landscape, Neverland is a rundown squat inhabited by Pan and his lost bois – each of whom was orphaned and/or thrown out of home. Occasionally they engage in some playful sparring with the neighbouring leather pirates, which includes flying – i.e., being bound and strung up to have sex – and any number of role-playing games. And then there are their marginalized comrades, the Mermaids, a group of femme prostitutes who work the lagoon. Everyone tries to avoid the seductive jaws of the Crocodile, a menacing euphemism for heroin.
When Pan meets Wendi at a spoken-word night, he convinces her to come to Neverland to become a Mommy to him and his bois. This upsets the balance of power, and provides the book with its only narrative tension.
While Lost Boi is occasionally disorienting and flat – so many characters introduced at once! too much telling rather than showing! – Lowrey expertly interweaves fantasy elements with harsh reality. There’s an especially strong look at how difficult it is for homeless people to integrate into so-called normal middle-class society.
And there’s no judgment about gender and sexual activity. The BDSM scenes are cleverly written so a lot’s left to your imagination. At heart, the book’s about living among people who accept and understand you for who you are, not who you’re supposed to be.
Even Disney would approve of that.
Lowrey reads with Amber Dawn and Alec Butler on Tuesday (July 7), at Glad Day Bookshop. See readings listing here.
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