by Jackie "Wullschlâ€žger ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 12, 1996
That some of children's literature's best writers were not very happy or well adjusted is a sad irony, soured further by Wullschlâ€žger's crudely argued, unsympathetic survey of their lives and works. Children's literature underwent a creative boom in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with its Victorian golden age and Edwardian silver age. Wullschlâ€žger, a literary critic and feature writer for the Financial Times, proposes that the former's most famous girl heroines and the latter's boy heroes reflected not only adult mores about children, but also their creators' arrested development, sexual repression, and neuroses. Amid a haphazard social and literary context, Carroll, Lear, Barrie, and Grahame are all portrayed flatly as ""boys who never grew up."" Wullschlâ€žger's semi-psychoanalytic biographies show some broad similarities: All of the authors were either Victorian confirmed bachelors or Edwardian failed fathers and husbands, whose emotional and creative outlets were channeled into relationships with children and tales for them. Carroll and Lear were bona fide eccentrics, but recent, richly detailed biographies show them to have been complex, adult characters. And while Barrie's pre-WW I adolescent heroism and Grahame's bucolic fantasies show an embarrassing lack of self-consciousness, Wullschlâ€žger baldly overstates such points. Obtusely humorless as only a Freudian can be, she paints unflattering portraits of their creations, too, with Alice as a prim prig and Pooh as stupid and selfish. A.A. Milne, ironically, gets the harshest treatment, for living a happy life with his son until the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh; their subsequent estrangement marked them as ""the last victims of the literary obsession with childhood."" Wuilschlâ€žger's psychoanalytic thesis about these authors is as familiar as their stories, and her mediocre discourse adds nothing to either their lives or works.
Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1996
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995
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