A silver-haired Alice rediscovers Wonderland as she lays a sprightly young maid with the assistance of a porcelain dildo. In one of many asides from the primary plot, a family of four engages in every conceivable combination of incest, son and daughter clearly below the teenage threshold.
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Most of the book, in fact, challenges obscenity laws and definitions of child pornography. Preteen brothers explore their sexuality, a young street urchin turns tricks to survive and Alice falls prey to the manipulations of a predatory white rabbit. To remove any ambiguity in the minds of those who have yet to read the book, Gebbie draws every adolescent sex act in full detail, often in lush crayon. Lost Girls does not allude and suggest when it comes to its XXX-rated content.
The length of the story—over pages—allows Moore and Gebbie to touch on budding sexuality in nearly every permutation. Her awakening is a forced one, coerced into sex with an older man when she is only Her Wonderland, the topsy-turvy, otherworldly dimension that has made untold millions for Disney throughout the decades, is her way of escaping reality during these repeated violations. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Dorothy Gale, corn-fed farmgirl from the Heartland.
The grown protagonist of J. Rather than cope with her rollercoaster feelings toward sex, Wendy marries an older man for whom she feels no sexual attraction.
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Their most passionate sex scene in the book takes place entirely without their involvement, as the pair performs mundane tasks that cast fireside shadows posed in carnal positions. These three women, all of whom titillate each other multiple times throughout the course of the book, find comfort in relaying their tales to one another while sleeping under the same roof in a hotel. On these pages, Gebbie becomes perhaps the first and only person in the world to draw a great pink vaginal alligator or a clitoral caterpillar awash in opium smoke.
Moore, the scribe behind such comic benchmarks as Watchmen and V for Vendetta , approaches the story as seriously as any of his now-canonized works. The complexity of the literary references within—yes, to the famous texts, but also to Victorian pornographers and obscure erotica artists of the era—rival anything in his more action-packed League of Extraordinary Gentleman.
If Moore had put Wendy into a less provocative story, the hospital would probably have turned a blind eye. This does not mean that the risk of prosecution for copyright infringement was the sole anxiety surrounding Lost Girls. The fact that its heroines are icons of children's literature, shown having sex from the age of 14 onwards, aroused fears that retailers and buyers might be charged with possession of child pornography.
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Granted, the book all three and a half kilos of it couldn't be more arty if it was hand-crafted by William Blake and annotated by John Berger. But there's no escaping the sense that the enchanted childhoods of Wonderland, Neverland and Oz are undermined when Alice the elderly dyke says "Dorothy, dear, perhaps you might tell Wendy and I more about your farmyard fucking while we amuse ourselves?
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Ironically, like so many works of literature that provoke indignation, Lost Girls is a deeply moral work, both serious and sincere. Moore and Gebbie, appalled by the forensic soullessness of modern porn, are on a mission to reconcile fine art, philosophical depth, strong characterisation and hardcore thrills.
Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain is just one of many literary classics evoked, as a disparate group of guests gather at the Hotel Himmelgarten on the eve of the first world war. Lifelong lesbian Alice now Lady Fairchild strikes up a friendship with Wendy Potter, a repressed bourgeois wife, and Dorothy, a young American yokel. Monsieur Rougeur, the Himmelgarten's owner, is happy to encourage them; he's an amateur pornographer who has placed, in each room, a copy of his White Book - stories and illustrations purportedly by the cream of Europe's decadents.
Lost Girls is liberally supplemented with excerpts from this forgery, allowing Gebbie to demonstrate her flair for impersonating Beardsley, Mucha, Schiele and Franz von Bayros.
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Gebbie also draws each woman's reminiscences in carefully differentiated styles, framed with mirror-shaped ovals for Alice , tall window-like apertures for Wendy and wide "landscape" oblongs for Dorothy. Largely executed in coloured pencils, Lost Girls is softer-focus and less startling than Gebbie's earlier work in American underground comics, but it is a major achievement none the less. In one of the most lushly rendered sequences, "The Twister", year-old Dorothy, convinced she will die as her house is buffeted by a tornado, decides that she can "do what the heck I liked", and frigs herself to a climax that's surreally mingled with the twister's impact.
Post-orgasm, Dorothy's world looks forever changed, an Oz of rainbow sexuality, as if she'd been "put down someplace else in some whole other country".
Similarly, the "Come Away, Come Away" chapter ends with a wickedly charming vision of Peter, Wendy and her wanking brothers flying high above the rooftops of Edwardian London. Seldom since the advent of mass-market porn has so much aesthetic energy been expended on masturbation.
Moore strives to differentiate the voices of each of his heroines: In truth, the dialogue is shaky, frequently eroded by Moore's poor grasp of American vernacular "Pity's sake," says Dorothy, "I ain't curtsied or nothin!