Thursday, November 8, 2018

Fairy post #39 - Reviews of The Stolen Button, Love Struck & Taffies

Faerie News

Australian Fairy Tale Society's guest Ezine Editor, Dr Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario, recently published her long awaited research in a hardcover academic tome:
Fashion in the Fairy Tale Tradition: What Cinderella Wore (Springer, 2018).
A journey through the fairy-tale wardrobe, from glass slippers to red shoes, capes, bonnets and glittering gowns, it explores how the mercurial nature of fashion has shaped and transformed the Western fairy-tale tradition. Unveil patronage, intrigue, privilege and sexual politics behind the most irrepressible, irresistible fairy tales!


Reviews 

Album: Long Time Travellin’ 

music by South Australian group Saltwater Taffy


There is a granular ethereality to this music, whose members include founders of the legendary pagan mythic rock band Spiral Dance. Song titles such as ‘Lady Of The Wood’ and ‘The Gardener’ have one foot in fairy land, probably also a belly button, boot and boob. If it’s possible for a sound to be both grainy and hazy at once, this album shows how.

First, spread out Kim Brown’s digi-design to drink the dusty spell of a cemetery, a rusty bus-stop sign and half-submerged railway bridge, complete with old suitcases, watch-chain or monocle, plaits, hats, sepia photos, eucalyptus in its full spindly glory, a banjo resting on a tombstone, blood-red blooms and wild briars, not to mention a stray chook, and you’re ready for the rustic dream of Saltwater Taffy.

The Taffies specialise in 4-part harmony with (to quote their intro), ‘Old Timey stringband style backing’, playing songs traditional and contemporary; ‘front porch’ Americana songs that migrated from the British Isles into the mountains of Appalachia and back down again. Tune into melodies from the cotton fields and mills, plank roads and abandoned railways, civil wars, ghost-shacks and gospel, songs that twisted, turned and kept on travelling. Launched unofficially at the Fleurieu Folk Festival, their official launch is at the Wakefield Hotel. They’ve also played at Wirinna Bluegrass Festival, folk clubs and other venues over the past 5 years, culminating in this studio recording.

Now, I’m partial to the word ‘Taffy’, as a daughter of a Welsh immigrant, though these cheeky Taffies hasten to point out that they’re not a Welsh Sea Shanty band! To counterbalance my Celtic bias, I deplore America in the Trump era, but the poignant patience of this music reminds me that not all is lost in the deep South, especially as the Dems won back the House in the Midterms on the very day that this music spun cotton in my CD player. Salty sweet, indeed! And it’s mighty good to have a taste of Gillian Welch’s compositional charm in this diverse yet cohesive collection. Her song ‘Caleb Meyer’ is one of the darker pieces; no spoilers here, but be sure to listen carefully to the narrative. Pussy Grabbers beware!

The album opens a cappella, an arrangement recurring every second or third song, wholly or partially, with seamless balance of volume between each vocal line, along with integration of tone or timbre. It’s evident that these folks have sung together awhile, and that their producer knows them as well as apple cider. I particularly like how the vocals are mixed suddenly into the foreground in ‘Wind and Rain’ when all the other instruments drop out, as if the singers have moved up to sit beside me while we wait for…a cart, or bus, or train, or the jester in Twelfth Night, or the next chapter of our lives. Really, it’s a brilliant interpretation; the bass enters and re-enters with an eager saunter, almost a swagger but sweeter. 

So far, along with ‘Wind and Rain’, my favourite track is ‘Morning Come’, which I adore for its fey harmonic suspensions and tinkling banjo. Another fave is ‘The Lone Pilgrim’, a 19th century ballad by William Walker, reminiscent of ‘Amazing Grace’.

Meet The Taffies: 

Artwork by Kim Brown, musician in Saltwater Taffy
Adrienne Piggott (Vocals, Mandolin), Bron Lloyd (Vocals), Kim Brown (Vocals, Tenor Banjo, Resonator Guitar, Mandolin) & Nikkei Nicholson (Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin). 
Guest artists: Kath Kennedy (Fiddle), Nigel Walters (Bass) & Nick Carter (Vocals, Jaw Harp, Bass, Guitar), the producer.

Launch:

When: 2nd December
Where: Wakefield Hotel, 76 Wakefield St, Adelaide, South Australia

Find the Taffies at Facebook
Find their album at Bandcamp

Review by Louisa John-Krol

Reviews continued...



Two books by members of the Australian Fairy Tale Society


Photo courtesy of multi-award winning author Eugen Bacon

Love Struck by Eugen Bacon

Publisher: Fiction4All
Genre: Romance

Among Eugen Bacon's new offerings is a chapbook Love Struck, the poetic prose of which I find empowering and invigorating. 

A charming series of vignettes - portals of experience, imagination, perception, mystique - complete with singing trees and dawn tides, it includes such delectable lines as: 'a gilded sun cartwheels with the world out yonder, as the tram ting tings! and groans its way into a vigorous city' (p.56);  'the hush of you and me in the whirligigs of the sea, our anxious thrill at the cusp of a new literature' (p.8); 'You purr abandoned in sleep, peaceable like a tot, chin cradled to palm, in the indulgent cream of a feather eiderdown' (p.15); 'The goddess... she told me it is a drink from a chalice overflowing with milk-white blood and sunburnt honey and you will speak in tongues' (p.48). 

Featuring a preface by award-winning author/scholar Dominique Hecq and an eclectic mix of pics, this lush, glossy, elegant, ebony, slim volume slides lightly into the hand, and opens like moth wings rushing to a flame, drawn by a street sign spelling Love, broken yet impossibly still hot, lit up from within. There the book hovers, gleaming and glowing between genres, ageless and free of category, liberated and sweet as a freestone peach.

Eugen Bacon is a multi-award winning African Australian author who has published over 100 stories in multiple anthologies. 

One of Australian Fairy Tale Society's latest members, she recently sold her PhD novel A Woman’s Choice (literary speculative fiction) to a publisher Meerkat Press, based in Atlanta. Find it here. Meanwhile, we are ever so proud that she has agreed to contribute to our fairy tale compendium, too! 

Discover her writing if you dare, at Eugen Bacon's website

Take this poet's advice, and be sure to pluck yourself 'figs and almonds and pomegranates... pour wine from the 'sun-gorged fruit of the Barossa Valley' (p.11). While you're at it, I recommend my own salves for the soul: dab your kitchen with lemon myrtle oil, love cats, bathe in a tub of butterballs sprinkled with lavender, and breathe deeply of a rose. All in the name of literary luxury.

Review by Louisa John-Krol


The Stolen Button 
by Marianna Shek (author) & Leila Honari (illustrator)

Recently on a country train, I read this unique book - twice, thrice - from cover to cover. It’s amazing. More than quality, in my view it’s a classic. The ending is indelibly sad, poignant, haunting, even terrifying. 

Although perhaps a cautionary tale (really, a sort of punishment for lack of respect or gratitude), it’s also tragic from a feminist perspective, because Mei Ling suffers for having curiosity, boldness and dissent. She is spoilt and at times cruel, yet some of her antics are funny and refreshingly bold, e.g. pointing out the flaking fake gold dust on the coin in the general’s presence… I love her for that. 

Like Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Match Girl’ (minus the sentimentality), or Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ (equalling his enchanting vocabulary), it dances between cruelty and beauty, without compromising either. Along with the legacy of Andersen and Wilde, this story deserves longevity. Moreover, it demands to be lining the shelves of bookstores and libraries in countless editions, set in school curricula (primary or secondary? I’ll come to that), deconstructed at university tutorials and seminars, discussed in book clubs and festival panels, and hailed as a permanent fixture in the fairy-tale tradition. Indeed, while reading it I found myself imagining those two great fairy tale spinners reincarnating into female form, exchanging their Dutch and British heritage for Iranian and Chinese, transplanted to Australia. Fun, eh?

First, it would need to push through a major flaw in our current publishing industry, around categorisation. According to some experts in commercial book retailing, categories are divided by genre in every age-group except children. The children’s market alone is divided by age, not genre. And picture-books are officially limited to children. As such, this book’s horizontal picture-book format typically fosters a misconception that it’s for children, when really its language is more sophisticated, while its plot and themes are also suitable for middle-grade, YA, or older readers who love fairy tales. This doesn’t mean it couldn’t sit happily in a primary school library. It could. There are gifted youngsters who would devour these pages with pleasure, undeterred - even stimulated - by unfamiliar words stirring initiative to look up and learn, lured and guided by entrancing imagery that provides cultural context as well as casting a spell. (On that note, congrats Leila Honari on the superb illustrations. Together with the writer Marianna Shek, she has brought a rich tapestry of skills and talents to this display.) Enthusiastic teachers, librarians, parents, carers, or other mentors, can play a role in such extension. Unfortunately some mothers are reluctant to give their children stories with sad or frightening endings. I disagree with this fear. Traditionally, fairy tales often served as warnings. We probably now need a whole new genre of cautionary tales to warn children about the dangers of positive thinking! Generally, the book would hold appeal for teenagers and adults who haven’t quite finished with the magic of childhood. I used to teach secondary students, years 7 to 12; that experience underpins my suggestion that many teens would love this book. Others might struggle with the vocabulary. If teaching this book as a text, I’d lead in with a glossary of challenging words or phrasing, along with pre-reading activities. Certainly I adore the author’s choice of words. Exquisite! 

If you’re into fairy tales of any era, ancient or modern, this book will grace your collection with enough spices to make your caravan fly.

Buy at the artists' website, or at other online stores.

Review by Louisa John-Krol



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