A review of
by Rodrigo Fresán
A rather important warning is given far too late in Rodrigo Fresan’s tenth novel, Kensington Gardens. After we’ve already finished the dizzying, drugged-up saga, in which the curlicue fantasies of J. M. Barrie’s Edwardian London meet their historical doppelgänger, the lysergic ’60s, after the author has nearly finished his acknowledgments, he breezily mentions, in a footnote, his hope that we didn’t put too much stock in his narrator. Some of his story might have been fabricated, some even hallucinated. “Who knows,” Fresan shrugs. That’s something we should have figured out, sure, but the tardy tip still feels a bit cruel.
Kensington Gardens, the Argentine novelist’s first book to be translated into English, is both a biography—occasionally true, often fictionalized, at times fantasized even within its own conjured truth—of Peter Pan scribe J. M. Barrie, and a personal history of its own narrator, modern-day children’s book author Peter Hook. Hook, an orphan of wealthy, acid-addled flower parents, created the Pan-like Jim Yang, a character played in film adaptations by the child actor Keiko Kai, who also plays the audience for Hook’s self-fable; Hook has kidnapped the youth, and the novel is a ream of apostrophes in his direction.
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