Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fairy post #14 - news, recommendations & review of "Refugee Wolf"


Recommended reading:

Recently I received a marvellous new book of original fairy stories all the way from Canada, entitled "Seven Tales" by G.C. McRae, born of his abiding love of myth and folklore. I’ll be reviewing this book soon, but first alert you to a wonderful review by Belinda Calderone (Monash Fairy Tale Salon & Australian Fairy Tale Society). Meanwhile, why wait? Available here

Title: "Seven Tales"
Author: G.C. McRae
MacDonald Warne, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9939183-4-6
267 pages
Published 7th October 2015
Fiction / Short Stories / Fairy Tales

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Open Garden with Wonderwings Fairy Queen Anne Atkins & Vic Fairy Tale Ring:
When: Sunday 22nd November 2pm
For details, please refer to earlier post at this blog

Garden of Wonderwings fairy queen Anne Atkins

Earth Art Beat Festival
Where: Moora Moora, 
When: 20th -22nd November 4pm
Info here

Earth Art Beat Festival
I’m not one for twittering, but a little fairy told me of Folklore Thursday.
Info here

#FolkloreThursday is a Twitter hashtag day that happens every Thursday
What can you post for #FolkloreThursday?
“Folklore” is defined as: “The traditions, beliefs, customs and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.” Tweet your blog posts, quotes and imagery that cover folklore, legends, fairy tales, heritage etc, including music & dance!

Beauty and the Beast by Warrick Goble 1913

This Spring in Australia, our theme in the fairy tale rings is Beauty and the Beast. I chanced upon Deedee Chainey's website image (above) today, dating to 1913, and below am posting a contemporary one by fellow fairy tale ring member here in Victoria, Lorena Carrington:

Beauty and the Beast by Lorena Carrington

Wonderwings fairy Marian Claire Lissant has sent in history of her grandfatherArthur Lissant, a dramaturge, who performed in a 1893 production of Beauty and the Beast, in which he played the Beast while Nellie Stuart was Beauty. Read all about it here

For the list of resources compiled by Jo Henwood, please contact The Australian Fairy Tale Society and join our group to receive newsletters, conference info and more!

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Review by Louisa John-Krol 
of “Refugee Wolf” (Flying Pig Media) by T.D. Luong 

A satirical novella by Thang Dac Luong, Australian author of Vietnamese background, Sydney lawyer, father and member of The Australian Fairy Tale Society.

Refugee Wolf by T.D. Luong

This novella is nifty, roguish, zany, topical, poignant and thoroughly lupine. It was so difficult to put down that I felt a bit wolflike devouring it all in one bite. (Do they do that?)

Along with his wit, which I’m sure he puts to good use as a lawyer, Thang delivers a king hit to the forehead of Australian hypocrisy. We pride ourselves on mateship, ease, or jocularity, yet our show of friendliness sometimes hides exclusion, as we fence ourselves inside impenetrable slang. Just because lingo or gestures are casual, does not mean they are accessible. Just because we are raucous, does not mean we are welcoming. Informal English is harder for newcomers to learn than formal grammar, and manifests greater variation between continents, even regions. That’s the irony: whilst ostensibly friendlier, it’s actually harder. Exclusion wearing a mask of inclusion. 

And it’s not only a matter of cultural translation. I’ve also witnessed firsthand, as a former teacher and in our filial circle, how people with autism sometimes struggle with colloquial language that’s heavily laden with metaphor. It can determine whether one gets a joke, interprets an instruction, or plays a game. It governs our ability to participate.

Colloquial lingo, euphemisms, acronyms or abbreviations of names - e.g. Bazza or Wuzza (page 13) - can also conceal harsh realities. Linguistic disguise is all the more deceptive for its simplicity. Slang comes with its own set of gestures - a slap on the back, a wry wink, a jocular grin. Does this bag of tricks really embrace everyone? Or is it merely more cryptic code to decipher, another hurdle to jump, a social test to pass, a riddle to unravel? How deep does the affability go?

So “Goodonyaluv” (page 23) is oddly reassuring when Refugee Wolf pronounces it, pairing it with an intention to “belt the living daylights” out of a two-headed porker. There might not be much nutritional difference between an Australian bickie and American cookie, but in America you can buy a gun in a supermarket. The distance between a gun and a biscuit tin in that supermarket aisle, is closer than our linguistic or legislative differences.

Preoccupation with intercultural communication, for me, runs in this book’s lifeblood. It might even explain why The Australian Fairy Tale Society is so relevant to T.D. Luong, who is one of its founding members. He understands the vitality of words, and how stories rich in metaphor have the power to shape lives and change history. Fairy tales are notoriously dense in symbolism, and carry the code-cracking clues of their cultures, like tightly packed seeds in the wind.

Wolf blowing... from The Three Little Pigs by Granger

In the Author’s Note, T.D. Luong reminds us that Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR), established 1951. He quotes some of its provisions, including Article 1 amended in the 1967 Protocol, abbreviated here, defining a refugee as “A person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is...” - well, to paraphrase the obvious: an outsider, between nations, unable to return from whence he or she has fled. 

The Three Little Pigs - Vintage Story Book

Using the frame of a popular fairy tale of Three Little Pigs, Thang sets the wolf as an alien, quite literally a space traveler, planet-hopping between limited options. The popular line for which the legendary wolf is most well known, “Let me come in!” takes a fresh spin, with poignancy. This wolf doesn’t appear to mind too much whether or not his new abode will be made of straw. It’s more about where he’ll be safe - or at least score a hefty pint of beer.

We find ourselves barracking for this Big Bad Wolf. He might not be a conventional hero, but he’s the underdog we barrack for, in contradistinction to the greedy pigs (a gangster allusion to police perhaps, yet more as border patrollers or prison guards, than helpful cops). Best of all, this wolf wears tracky dax. Well, the pigs do too. But some of theirs are make of silk. And at least one has a kimono. Refugee Wolf rambunctiously takes on slang like “strewth”, “yonks”, “gazillion” and “g’day”. Asked to find his “inner howl”, he rebuffs the “mumbo-jumbo” and instead releases “the biggest rip snorter of a fart” (page 26). Happily, he gets to keep his fangs. And with his larrikin quality, like Puss in Boots, he suits the Australian rapscallion spirit well... or at least our notion of ourselves.

"Let me come in!" - from The Three Little Pigs by Granger

There’s a hint that the excess of western culture, including McMansions and pills/drugs, somewhere between the bling and biffo, might be part of the larger problem of displacement, since exploitation is built into capitalistic globalism, at least in the latter’s more dysfunctional manifestations.

A good deal of toilet humour peppers these pages, which makes me wonder if a school curriculum board in one state or another might snub the book, or a few posh parents turn up their noses. However, as the author himself notes, the statements and messages are already prevalent on the internet. So too are vulgarities, especially in the playgrounds and locker bays of our schools, where farting abounds as much as pushing, shoving and swearing. Is there anything more puerile than white supremacists who wrap the Australian flag around themselves, as if they represent something quintessentially ‘Aussie’? Here at last is an author who fights fire with fire, fart for fart.

Teachers of George Orwell’s satirical fable “Animal Farm” would do well to bring “Refugee Wolf” into their swag of contemporary comparisons. Thang acknowledges this influence with humility and respect.

A truly modern Australian fairy tale.

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Coming soon at this blog is an interview with the author himself, Thang Dac Luong.
T.D. Luong's blog

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