Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

And a star to steer her by

When I went looking for a tall ship where I could do some hands-on research for The Stowaway, I was lucky to discover that not only do we have the Lady Washington berthed not far from Seattle, she's a brig, the same type of ship sailed by Hook in the original Peter Pan.

She's also the same ship filmed by "Once Upon a Time" as the Jolly Roger. As some of you know, the battle sail my husband and I were originally scheduled to sail on was postponed a week because the show's taping ran long. I had no idea about any of this until I was standing on the deck of the ship--one of the weirder examples of the weird that follows this project. Don't even start me on OUaT Hook's true love being named Milah, because I still don't quite believe I heard that right.

As many things as Once Upon a Time gets wrong (some of you have seen my rants on the subject, ahem), they got this one right, which is unlike far too many depictions of the Jolly Roger. I've begun  doing a cursory count of masts whenever I see one of those depictions, because as much as I like some of the incorrect art, it's really not that hard to get it right.

Robert Ingpen gets it right. His Peter Pan illustrations are beautiful in general, but he won me over completely with this.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Since you ask

I found this at Goodwill today. It's a version I hadn't seen before, a Dalmatian Press retelling for younger readers, but a more faithful one than most, and full of illustrations.

When the checker turned it over and asked me, "Children's book?" it was all I could do not to say, "Well..."

Monday, June 24, 2013

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog

I'd planned on posting some sailing ships (brigs, of course), from the ever-growing stock of images on my hard drive. But I was distracted by something posted on, and off I went.

So Disney parks make these. And multitudes of others, of every character you can imagine. But they didn't really catch my attention till this one.

I'm not sure why I like it, given my usual issues with the Disney depiction of the Peter Pan story in general (*deep breath* remember the Disney film is based on the play not the book *deep breath* better) and Captain Hook in particular. But when they don't play him for comic relief, the artists sometimes depict an expression or an action that I quite like. This one, I think, just makes me laugh.

So I spent the day waiting for an eBay seller to relist one of those, and in the meantime I ran across this.

And this.

Ye gods and little fishes, the hook's not even on the right hand (*deep breath*) and yet I post them.

I found a cake topper, too, so there's next year's birthday.

Ahem. Time to get off Google and back into the manuscript, now that my motivation is nicely recharged. Apologies for the digression, and a promise that the real blog will return soon, bringing with it the nice ships.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Slouching towards Eton

Even without the existence of "Hook at Eton," it would be easy enough to know the Captain's school affiliation merely because "he still adhered in his walk to the school's distinguished slouch." I find no mention of the slouch in current discussions of Eton, but in the Edwardian era it seems to have been a standard association with the school. J.M. Barrie attended Eton, as did the Llewellyn Davies boys around whom the stories of Peter Pan first cohered, so the slouch would have been common knowledge among them. Of course, I do not share that history, but neither does Vivian Drew, and so we can look through the window from the outside and shake our heads together in perplexity.

In Orwell: A Life, D.J. Taylor describes a first encounter with the slouch by George Orwell's close friend Anthony Powell: "Staring out of his study window a day or two after his arrival, Powell observed a boy of about fifteen coming along the far side of the street. One hand was in his pocket. The other supported a pile of books against his thigh. The boy's top hat--these were de rigeur until the 1940s--pushed to the back of his head, was no less startling than his exceptionally short trouser legs and light-colored socks. One of his shoulders was higher than the other. This, together with a slight sag at the knees, produced a perfect specimen of what was known as the 'Eton Slouch.'"

I picture the poor Captain, after years of carefully preserving a posture that is one of last relics of his upbringing, suddenly learning that to his crew it simply appears that he is compensating for an injury--a fact he learns only when Vivian asks with concern if his shoulder pains him. (This also explains why he wears ridiculous socks. Somehow I knew he did.)

Might the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch have been born as a parody of the Slouch? A friend and I have our suspicions. I haven't found any direct evidence, but Graham Chapman did attend Eton, and all the members attended either Oxford or Cambridge.*

George Orwell was ambivalent throughout his life about his scholarship presence at Eton, but it was not entirely unsuited to him. Taylor describes the school as "..a highly unusual place: a magisterial collective entity full of secret obscure fiefdoms; unfailingly orthodox in its make-up but quietly sympathetic to more maverick elements"--a perfect place, in other words, for the boy who would become James Hook.

Add to that Taylor's description of the boys in Pop, the elite self-elected Eton Society made up of around twenty-eight students of whom Hook was one, "who acted as prefects and possessed certain privileges, usually in the field of recherche' dress styles." Recherche': Sought out with care, arcane, of studied refinement or elegance--yes, dressing like Charles II fits those attributes nicely.

*The BBC (October 20, 2012) reports that a third of the UK's "leading people" went to Oxford or Cambridge and Eton alone educated about 4% of the nation's elite. That group is chock-a-block** with lawyers and diplomats. James has reason to feel that he's let down the side, and Vivian even more reason to resent the system altogether.

After that statistic, we all need some "Eton Rifles" by The Jam.

**A nautical term. Of course it is. (Used of a ship's hoisting tackle: Drawn so close as to have the blocks touching.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Hook at Eton"

Ah, Eton College.

Such a key part of James Hook's past and in fact, his entire psychology. This can be gleaned from the pages of Peter Pan, but J.M. Barrie didn't fill in many of the details until 1927, when he gave a speech at the school after being invited by the provost to refute the statement, "James Hook, the pirate captain,was a great Etonian, but not a good one."

Without this additional information from Barrie's "Hook at Eton," I would not know about James's yellow blood, or the shipwreck in Manaus. That he was a member of Pop, the nickname of the exclusive Eton Society. That he had not only held the school close in memory but had gone back to visit in later years. That he favored the poets of the Lake School, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsmouth. Why a silk hat would be of such importance to him.

Vivian Drew has her own opinions about the Captain's Eton days. Public schooling goes against her ideas of how children ought to be raised, but she also harbors resentments because her gender and financial position prevented her from having such options. But beyond that, she objects to James holding those memories so close. She believes they provide constant re-injury rather than solace and prevent him from being able to look forward. Oh, how she dislikes that Eton crest tattoo of his, not that she would ever wound him by saying so aloud.

Without a December 2010 article by Brian Till for The Atlantic,  The Secret History of Captain Hook," I might be missing an absolutely key piece of research for The Stowaway. Till's article (recommended reading: it's excellent) led me to the original speech from M'Connache and J.M.B: Speeches, published by Hugh Walpole in 1939. I was lucky enough to find it on before it was pulled down, and to get a copy for myself through Questia. It's not an easy speech to find.

I suspect that Renae De Liz has come upon it as well, from hints she has dropped regarding her upcoming graphic novel of Peter Pan, a retelling faithful to the original. (I learned just recently that this will be available primarily to Kickstarter supporters. While I'm pleased to be one of them, I'm sorry this won't be more widely available, both on its own merits and because the original Peter Pan is not as well known as it ought to be.) I hope there are more of us familiar with "Hook at Eton" than I'm aware of. The Captain deserves to have this part of his story better known.

More soon on the "Eton slouch," and also George Orwell.

Friday, June 7, 2013

From the sublime to the--well, mostly just ridiculous

This post comes to you because I was under the impression actor Terry-Thomas had played  Hook in the 50s  and I wanted to compare his picture with Dustin Hoffman's portrayal. Alas, I was misled by something on the internet (yes, I know) and evidently there is no such animal. However, I did find a surprising list of some actors who have played Hook.

Let us begin here.

Robb Harwood, 1906

Ian McKellan, 1997

Did you enjoy the sublime? Good, because it's pretty much ridiculous in one form or another from here on out.

Russell Brand with photographer Annie Leibovitz, Disney Parks Campaign
In a way he's perfect. In all the others, he is so, so wrong.

Hans Conreid, voice of Captain Hook in the 1953 Disney movie.
In the ridiculous category because I find this costume particularly suitable for voice acting.

Larry Lamb from Eastenders, 2012

Eastenders, then. And who the heck is Dame Abel Mabel? That's not from any production I've ever seen.

But now, my piece de resistance.

David Hasselhoff, 2012

He's pulling off the look better here, but David. Hasselhoff. I am--I don't know what I am. Bewildered will do. I am bewildered.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Research win (or is that grin?)

This has been sitting on the "to do" pile for a while, and I am deeply relieved the conundrum has been resolved as well as it seems to have been.

I needed a church and a swanky address a long walk's distance apart. And here we have St. Mary Abbots,

which looks exactly inside as I'd wanted it to

and is a 40-minute walk from Mayfair,

where Vivian realizes she may not prefer posh city living, adjoining "secret gardens" notwithstanding, to the crumbling family estate. In fact, that walk could easily take an hour if one were to dawdle on the Serpentine Bridge between Kensington and Hyde Parks, allowing other mourners to reach the funeral reception well before the protagonists do.

I like the idea of including the bridge, as the Serpentine Swimming Club awards the Peter Pan Cup to the winner of a 100-yard race every Christmas morning. The race has been held since 1864, and the original prize was a gold medal, but in 1904--the year "Peter Pan" made its theatrical appearance--our friend Mr. Barrie inaugurated the award that is still presented today. Admittedly, anything that takes place in Kensington Park is likely to be related to Peter Pan, but it's still fun.