“He’s not a little boy who won’t grow up,” said writer Jenny Boully. “He’s an old lusty goat. He’s taking advantage of his boy body to frolic with the nymphs.”
Boully discussed her most recent work, a cynical retelling of the Peter Pan story, at an event Tuesday hosted by the literary arts department in the McCormack Family Theater. Boully’s fiction explores Wendy’s heartbreak when she realizes that Peter Pan will never get married, settle down or stop flirting with other girls.
“Dearest Tink, should you and I together unionize against the Peter?” says Wendy in the novel. “We would all like some benefits, we’ll say. And what about old age? Have you, Peter, a pension plan for us?”
Boully’s novel raises questions about the nature of Peter’s relationship with the Native American princess Tiger Lily, calling attention to Tiger Lily’s seashell encrusted thong and suggesting that Peter gets a sexual thrill when he rescues her from drowning.
Boully’s novel grew out of her dissertation on the role of nymphophilia, the love of nymphs, in Western literature, she told The Herald. Her novel, “Not Merely Because of the Unknown That Was Stalking Toward Them,” allowed her to tell the Peter Pan story from her own critical point of view.
Boully also had personal reasons for writing the novel, she told the audience. She said she has dated a number of boys like Peter Pan and she could identify with Wendy’s frustration.
“How many of us have been with somebody who says that they love us?” Boully said. “I truly believe in that moment they do love us, but it’s not the type of love Wendy wanted or needed.”
While Boully said she sympathizes with Wendy, she joked about Wendy’s sentimentality and foolishness. “She wanted (Peter) to go home and ask her father if he could have her hand in marriage and grow up and be a real man in London and go to the office and wear a tie to the office,” Boully said.
Boully spoke in front of 60 students and professors in the soft light of the English department theater. The reading was part of the undergraduate class LITR 1200: “Writers on Writing,” which showcases the work of contemporary poets and fiction writers. Students in the class read the works of seven contemporary writers who then come and speak to the class, said Joanna Howard, visiting lecturer in literary arts.
Aimee Lucido ’13, who read the novel for the “Writers on Writing” class, said Boully was “really sweet and very funny.”
“I had only seen the Disney version,” Lucido said. “It was definitely a lot darker than I had initially thought.”