First of all, it’s FREE!? That sounds a bit fishy, doesn’t it?
When a window that was advertising Larry Feign’s latest cartoon collection appeared amidst the newsfeed on Facebook, my immediate reaction was not much different from Rodman’s, my buddy who’s also a talented artist and has proudly garnered a kind of following in social media lately with his comic, “真係免費咁筍喎” (“It’s really too good to be true as getting a free copy!”).
After all, we, Hongkongers, have been fed up with various kinds of scam, especially after the handover in 1997 when we became subject to an array of swindles being carried out by fellow Mainlanders, despite the fact that the magical code “FREE” was still eye catching. Perhaps Larry knows us so well that he has a way of nudging us to buy whatever he’s trying to sell like a maverick insurance agent or, as I suspect, perhaps he is one of the Mainland swindlers himself who pretends to be a “Gwailo” (an expat or Westerner) as a foil commonly employed by perverts when dating those naïve “港女” ([HONG] Kong girls) who would fall for whoever sounds “WEIRD” (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) in their profiles.
Next comes the question of who on earth this Larry Feign is? Excuse my ignorance, but, to be honest, I didn’t think I have heard anything about Larry much less his work until Lily Wong, one of the comic characters created by Larry, rang the bell when I googled him up and read his bio. Although my memory is a bit hazy, I remember that I had read a bit of the comic strip during my high school years and found it funny. I just didn’t pay much attention to who her creator was back then. No sooner did my suspicion begin to vanish than I found Larry’s blooming reputation as an award-winning cartoonist with his work even appearing in The Economist, The New York Times, and South China Post rather impressive. Then I thought maybe I could give it a try. It doesn’t cost me a dime so far anyway.
The title of the giveaway is also appealing in his own right. A Politically Incorrect History of Hong Kong? Having experienced the political turmoil which had culminated in the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the unrest broken out in Mongkok in the beginning of 2016, we seem to be left with either yellow (pro-democratic and anti-Beijing) or blue (pro-establishment and Beijing) parties. Who else still gives a damn of what political correctness is? As how Larry puts it in the beginning of the book, it only depends on which side you’re taking? The winner’s or the loser’s or neither? Once our political orientation is formed, the idea and belief will take shapes and begin feeding on itself. As growing volume of research on our affective system shows, no real “correctness” of politics in terms of objectiveness would ever be achieved as long as our belief system is implicated.
So, I downloaded the book and gladly realized that I was wrong…It really is FREE! And so is Larry’s view on the history of Hong Kong, of the ups and downs the locals have experienced throughout the colonial age as well as the post-handover period, and of the struggles and love affairs that are still playing out everyday in such a tiny and yet beautiful city. Soon and sure enough, Larry’s signature wry humor and his penetrating observation of the quirks most Hong Kong people share in common displayed in his pictures and narratives began to win over my mind and heart. As Larry wisely illustrates, instead of hurriedly falling in love with “the dashing blue-eyed sailor”, I am sure readers in Hong Kong, like the Asian beauty depicted in the book, “who just happen for some reason” to read English will always fall for a great artist, like Larry Feign, who, like a high-ranking captain, would surely deliver us “a many splendid thing“.