Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dancing in the Asylum ~ Fred Johnston

Dancing in the Asylum has been described as 'an unexpected portrait of a place and its people in a time of great change.' In the title story an alcoholic named Pritchard wakes up in hospital after a bender. Pritchard is spectacularly deluded and selfish, and the story explores his dawning awareness of the circumstances which led up to his hospitalisation: 'There were things groping and crawling their slimey way up from his memory that he did not want emerging into the light.' In 'Ship of Fools' a young refugee tells his story with 'the strained rhythm of a recitation... a story whose truth was hidden under too many applied coats of panic and loss.' When refugees try to become a part of the community they discover that acceptance is 'not a song you [can] sing or imitate' because no outsider knows the 'music of the village.' While the villagers make a show of welcoming the young man in front of the tourists, seeming to say through him, 'look how colourful and rich is our understanding of the world,' their acceptance is superficial and tragedy lurks around the corner. The stories in this collection are carefully observed, skillfully executed studies of loneliness and isolation.

Read Fred Johnston's blog here.
Read an interview with Fred Johnston here.

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