Magazine article American Libraries

New Lives

Magazine article American Libraries

New Lives

Article excerpt

New lives

New Year's resolutions are a perpetually annoying phenomenon: a dreary, moralistic exercise designed to straitjacket ourselves into having less fun--stop smoking, stop drinking, go on a diet. but beneath these self-denying regimens lies the fundamental desire to create a new life for ourselves.

In celebration of another year, this installment of "Quick Bibs" looks at a group of stories in which the central characters do forge new lives--sometimes successfully, cometimes disastrously. The shock of the new lurks constantly at the edges of our circumscribed lives, urging us to break free while simultaneously sending us shivering toward the safety of the known

Around the new year, though, the idea of beginnings seems a mite less foreboding than j usuall, the entropic pull of sameness a little less magnetic. What better time to contemplate new lives in all their peril-plagued glory?

Barrie, James M. Peter Pan. Puffin, 1986 (orig. pub. 1904), $2.25 (0-14-305066-7).

This is the new life we all crave, at least some of the time: Never-Never Land, where the adventure never stops, and boredom doesn't exist. True, Barrie was one of those kinky Victorians whose idea of sexuality was "innocent" frolicking with prepubescent kids. Maybe that's why Wendy went back to the real world in the end--adulthood does have a few perks, after all, though new lives tend to come with strings attached.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Bantam, 1982 (orig. pub. 1861), $2.95 (0-553-21342-3).

Seen through 1990s eyes, Philip ("Pip") Pirrip is a nineteent-century yuppie manque. He comes into some money, leaves the homeboys behind, and sets out to do whatever it takes to get rich in the city. Like many a Wall Street hotshot, however, Pip soon realizes that he has set his sights on the wrong new life. That's the rub with new lives: You've got to pick carefully. Fortunately, Pip has a benevolent convict pulling strings for him in the wings, but these days the Magwitches of the world aren't nearly so nice.

Lawrence, D. H. Mr Noon. Cambridge, 1984, $22.50 (0-521-25251-2).

The story of Nottinghamshire schoolmaster Gilbert Noon's elopement with a married German woman and their journey trhough Germany to Italy is starkly autobiographical, paralleling Lawrence's own travels with then-married Frieda Weekley. …

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