We all know the story of the boy who could fly. He came late one night looking for his shadow, then took the girl Wendy, the boy John and the baby Michael with help from pixie dust and happy thoughts to a world of adventure where they’d never grow old.
Jenny Boully’s “Not Merely Because of the Unknown that was Stalking Toward Them” has been described as a dark re-envisioning of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter and Wendy,” “a ‘deliciously creepy’ swan song from Wendy Darling to Peter Pan” in which Boully seethes her text with feelings untouched upon by Barrie’s own prose. Did Peter thimble Tiger Lily, Wendy may wonder; when he loves as ferociously as he fights, is it for real or make-believe? Is Tinker Bell’s pining justly so because she will only live and die and be forgotten?
To delve into Boully’s work is to dive with faith from the plank—to jump, with hope and belief and a wish to see what the author has given us: a fresh, imaginative look at a tale as ageless as Peter himself. You must, when reading the work, “dispel every other thought,” as Calvino would say. You must find yourself in a locked room, perhaps on a couch, perhaps in the bath (to dream of mer-creatures), or perhaps almost prostrate in bed with wide and absorbing eyes. You must be willing to fly yourself.
Boully, both a poet and an essayist who teaches at Columbia College, knows perfectly well how to weave together the intricacies of chosen words and images with an arc essential to an impacting story, and the key to her prose here lies not in its darkness or its grownup-ness, but rather its careful tiptoeing between the minds and hearts of characters whose surfaces we’ve known for decades. Peter, a true child-thief, is more mischievous here than even Barrie wanted to show, and his cohort of Lost Boys and Tinker Bell and the Darling children show us what is real to them—what exists far beyond Neverland, but as sincerely as the sincerest happy thought. (Micah McCrary)
“Not Merely Because of the Unknown that was Stalking Toward Them”
By Jenny Boully
Tarpaulin Sky Press, 69 pages, $12