A review of

Kensington Gardens

by Rodrigo Fresán

Central question: If you never grow up, what do you do instead?
Format: 370 pp., cloth; Size: 9.2" x 6.7"; Price: $25.00; Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Editor: Lorin Stein; Translated by: Natasha Wimmer; Originally published in 2004 as: Jardines de Kensington; Figures from Beatles songs appearing in book: Happy warm gun, idiotic yellow submarine, all the lonely people, boy carrying that weight for a long time; Representative sentences: “I like to think Marcus Merlin came to Neverland at almost the same time LSD came to London. Dark lightning shooting from a colored cloud. It works for me as a narrative device, although Merlin came into my parents’ lives—and mine—before that.”

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.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Theo Schell-Lambert

Theo Schell-Lambert is a regular contributor to the Village Voice and several other publications. He lives in San Francisco.

News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list