Welcome to GMR

If you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the weekly edition which is up every Sunday morning and which alternates with a Story every Wednesday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,   Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his sort of Library Apprentices.  And you’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

PSS: If you look to the far left of the standing menu, you’ll see Words. That’s where you can find the various pieces of fiction that authors have given us exclusive permission to reprint here. Some are excerpts such as from Charles de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart whigh is reviewed here or Deborah Grabien’s The Weaver and The Factory Maid with the review thisaway.

Other are full stories such as Solstice by Jennifer Stevenson, or poems such as ‘The Sturgeon’s Wife’ by Catherynne Valente. Some exist too as audio readings by authors of their work as you’ll note by the link at the bottom of the fiction piece where they exist. There’s just a few pieces up now but more will follow. 

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part II

I was looking down the hallway when he appeared at my shoulder, silent as smoke.

‘Ah, the little mite — he’s fast asleep, holding onto his yarn for dear life. The room’s telling him Genji Monogatari — in the original court language, it sounds like — and I ‘d guess it was too much. Hmm? Oh, yes — learned it some while back.’ He smiled again, as though at some private joke. ‘But that story is hard to follow, even for me. I’m not sure I approve of it for Pix, but Robin says he needs to learn about such things sometime, and he’s a straightforward sort of boy — he’ll ask about things he doesn’t understand. I’d just rather he ask Robin.’ He his face was a little flushed. ‘Robin can explain — um, those sorts of things — much better.’

‘Hmm. Anyway, look at the patterns in the paneling here. That thing about the root makes some sense, doesn’t it? Because of the Tree, you see: it’s the First Tree, the Tree of Knowledge. What’s that? Tcha, that’s all much later, and more than half made up. I mean, look you — the Tree’s an ash — not much in the way of edible fruit, like. Oh, they’re real — they’re still out there in one of the gardens, wandering around without a stitch on and eating figs, perfectly content. Naming things — well, he does, but I would have thought he’d have run out of things to name by now — it’s been some time. I suspect he’s naming them more than once — his memory’s not too strong, I think. He seems a bit simple, when you talk to him. Oh, what the hell — they’re happy.

‘Anyway, this Tree knows everything. It’s a very helpful Tree, or it can be — Pix uses it for his lessons. But Pix seems to be able to get through to it better than most. There are rumors, I’m told, about this Library, and I hate to tell you how many eager scholars I’ve seen turn sad and dejected when the Library just won’t cooperate. The Tree will answer any question you want to ask, but the thing about trees, though, is you have to get their attention, and it’s not always that easy. And this is a very old tree, and a bit careless of ephemera — that’s what they call us, ‘ephemera.’ Maybe that’s why they gave up on having it keep track of the books.

‘Well, they have all sorts of ways to do that now, but none of them seem to work very well. Maybe if the apprentices could remember which alphabet they’re using. . . . There was talk at one point about putting in one of those electronic things, with the little guns with red lights in them, and bar codes on the books. I remember the Annies were very much for it, and inked bar codes on their arms — sort of like wearing a campaign button. (Funny things, bar codes — I don’t understand how they actually mean anything, you know?) I seem to recall there was some controversy about it. You might ask Iain about it next time you see him in the Pub.’ The eyes were all bland innocence, but his grin made me a little uneasy. ‘I know he always has a lot of ideas about that — he’s like to go on, though.’

‘Ah! Talk of going on, listen to me. I’d best go fetch the boy and be on my way. Robin’s making a special lunch for us in the Wood, just because, he says — and that’s the best reason, don’t you think?’

He ducked into the side room and came out with the boy held close, still fast asleep — a tiny little sprite, cradled in massive arms, dark hair all tangled curls, ball of yarn clutched tight to his chest. The big man held him gently as he looked across at me, a twinkle just barely sparking his eyes. And then, with a slight bow and a cheery “sayonara!” he made his way down the hall.

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What’s New for the 13th of January: Americana flavoured Jazz, The Three Musketeers, a ‘dorable Thirteenth Doctor, Black-eyed peas and ham hocks, The World’s Most Famous Dinosaur, live music from Altan and other Winter treats

But you must stop playing among his ghosts — it’s stupid and dangerous and completely pointless. He’s trying to lay them to rest here, not stir them up, and you seem eager to drag out all the sad old bones of his history and make them dance again. It’s not nice, and it’s not fair. ― Patricia A. McKillip’s Winter Rose

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Britain is getting one of its snowiest, most troublesome Winters in generations and that means this Scottish Estate is pretty much centred on Kinrowan Hall as the condition outside it aren’t terribly safe. So except for those folk who live in the cottages around the Estate such as Gus and his wife, most of the thirty or so residents here live in Kinrowan Hall, that ancient but throughly updated living space that’s the centre of all things here. So  you’ll see folks reading, conversing, eating and just enjoying each other as they watch the storm outside.

This edition has such things as classics like The Three Musketeers, reviews some tasty Nordic music and Americana jazz, a recipe for yummy ham hocks, yet another Thirteenth Doctor Who figure and a whole lot more. So while I go see what the Bar patrons want, why don’t you give it a look-see?

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Denise digs into another of the Titan DC Comics novelizations with her look at Batman: The Killing Joke. She’s not particularly thrilled. ‘Sadly, unlike Tritan’s excellent work with Harley Quinn: Mad Love, Joke is a padded tome that does too much digging into characters we never see in the graphic novel, while paying lip-service to the electric confrontation between Batman and the clown prince of crime.’ 

Not a book review as such, but a loving look at a book instead, so let’s have  Christopher tell us his love: ‘As much as I love The Hobbit , the trilogy always appealed to me more, even as a child. There’s a terrible wisdom that hangs over The Lord of the Rings, a thematic undercurrent that is all about mortality and acceptance of the limits of humanity. In so many ways, it’s about twilight. Yes, there’s love and magic and the brotherhood of human society that we must embrace and relish, but the joy that brings is a wistful joy, draped with melancholy. In the midst of orcs and songs and grand battles and fellowships, those are the things that have always spoken most intimately to me, and what make The Lord of the Rings, in my heart and mind, Tolkien’s greatest achievement.’

Down the decades, we’ve reviewed most everything Patricia McKillip has published, so it’s only fitting we have a review by Richard of her latest book: ‘With Dreams of Distant Shores, Patricia A. McKillip delivers something that is not quite your typical short story collection. While the point of entry is a series of shorter pieces, the collection builds to and is anchored by the lengthy novella “Something Rich and Strange”, with an essay on writing high fantasy orthogonal to the usual tropes. The book then ends with appreciation of McKillip’s work (and the stories in the collection) by Peter S. Beagle, an elegant coda to a warm, thought-provoking collection.’

Robert takes a look at a classic, in the ‘rollicking adventure’ category, Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers: ‘Alexandre Dumas père was, in real life, a character as colorful as his heroes. He was the son of Napoleon’s famous mulatto general, Dumas, became a successful playwright, had numerous mistresses, took part in the revolution of 1830, spent extravagantly, built the Chateau de Monte-Cristo, and fled to Belgium to escape his creditors.’

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Robert has a look at a film that’s fun, if not all that substantial: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: ‘Percy Jackson is a special guy. Maybe it’s the dyslexia. Maybe it’s the ADHD. Or maybe it’s that his father is the god Poseidon.’

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Jen has a recipe for some down-home, down-to-earth hearty fare: Black-eyed peas and ham hocks: ‘Long ago and far away in one of the grimier neighborhoods of New Haven, Connecticut there was a food co-op, the New Haven Food Co-op. . . . One of the benefits of shopping there was that some zealous members created leaflets with recipes for cheap but hearty fare, all themed. These were given away free at the check-out counter. One leaflet gave classic recipes for beans. That’s how I discovered black-eyed peas, and this recipe, somewhat modified over the years, but recognizable to its original author if s/he lives.’

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Gary reviews a new album of jazzy Americana, or is that Americana-flavored jazz, from fiddler John Mailander. Of Forecast he says ‘Mailander is more about breaking down barriers than setting them up.’

‘Memorable tunes, superb musicianship, lyrics that are darkly hilarious or deeply dramatic, all in a loud, twangy, rocking package.’ That’s how Gary describes They Made Her a Criminal by Texas Noir rockers The Transgressors.

Kjell-Erik Arnesen and Jørgen Larsen’s Calls and Frydis Ree Wekre’s Ceros are recommended by Joel — ‘Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven’t heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.’

Robert has some thoughts on some music that will liven up these long winter evenings, namely Johannes Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major and his Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor: ‘There are certain artists whose work becomes an inextricable part of one’s life, whether it be a writer, a painter, or a composer. One develops a sense of the work, sometimes to the point where it all becomes one great work. Brahms is one of those artists in my life — my first experience with Brahms was a scratchy, hand-me-down 78 rpm of the great Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor, when I was about eight or nine — I fell in love. I’ve heard more Brahms than I can sometimes remember until a phrase drifts past and I think, “I know that one.” And sometimes, no matter how well I think I know the artist or a particular piece, I run across a new interpretation that opens new doors for me.’

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Robert brings us up to date on the doings of the world’s most famous dinosaur, Sue the T. rex: ‘Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever found, has been a big draw at the Field Museum for seventeen years. Last year, she was taken off display and her place taken by Maximo, a replica of the skeleton of the largest dinosaur ever found. But, Sue is back, in her very own new quarters on the second floor in a side gallery in the “Evolving Planet” exhibition.’

Still hungry for more Who? Denise has you covered with her review of seven20’s SuperBitz Doctor Who Thirteenth Doctor Plush. ‘I’ve seen SuperBitz items here and there, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to get a really good look. And it’s a well made plushie with great attention to detail.’ Read her review for a deeper dive into this Doctor!

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I think some Irish music would be appropriate this time, so let me see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox, our Media Server.  Ahhhh that’ll do… ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’  by Altan, one of my favourite Irish trad groups, which was recorded at the Folkadelphia Session on the 7th of March four year ago. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part I

I ran across him in a corridor I’d never explored before — the Library was on one end, but I’d never been down it and had no idea what was on the other. I’d seen him around, usually outside, occasionally in the Pub, a tall, broad-shouldered man with a great fall of fox-red hair barely contained by a silver ring, his movements oddly quick and fluid. He had with him a little wisp of a boy who seemed in constant motion, slipping in and out of sight. He looked at me out of long golden eyes, the kind of eyes that don’t tell much, but his smile was friendly enough.

‘Well, hello there. I see you’ve discovered the hallway to the Wood — what is it, Pix?’

‘Might I go hear a story?’ The boy was definitely there, quite solid now that I’d drawn close. Huge blue eyes in a thin face were almost pleading.

‘Hmm — very well, I suppose so, but do be careful — no wandering around. There, there’s your favorite story room just over there. Do you have your yarn? Here, tie one end to my wrist and be sure to hold on tightly now. Robin would never forgive me if I misplaced you. There — all set.’

‘Thank you. I promise, I’ll sit quietly and listen to the stories.’ The beginnings of a pout. ‘I wish I got to pick the story, though.’

‘Well, maybe we’ll figure out a way to do that. Now, run along, and don’t get lost — and stay out of the computer! Tch. I don’t know how he does that, but he does, and it sends Robin into a tizzy trying to get him downloaded again — he’s truly fond of the little imp — and Robin in a tizzy is — well, the man has a temper, though he’s gentle as can be if you treat him right.

‘Now, where was I — oh, right, this hallway. Be very careful if you’re inclined to explore at all — you might want to get your own ball of yarn. It tends to go places you might not expect, particularly near the Border. I’m not sure they’re all real to begin with, and it would be the Devil’s own job to get you back from some of them. And be especially careful of the Minotaur — he’s more irritable than usual this time of year.

‘Hmm? Oh, yes — it ends at the First Tree, in the center of the Wood. Robin says this is actually a root that became the Library. I don’t know where he learns these things, and that’s the truth. Iain — you’ve met Iain, haven’t you? our Librarian? — Iain says that’s outrageous, but Robin’s usually right about such as that — he’s very clever, my Robin. He thinks the House just grew here, but that’s a bit much even for me to swallow, and he can usually talk me into anything. Although now I think on it, the House does tend to add parts without warning, so maybe. . . . Well.

‘Here, look down here a ways and you can see. . . . Ah! Let me go get Pix to give me some slack so I can move around a bit. I’ll be right back. . . .’

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What’s New for the 6th of January: Much Ado About Doctor Who

Don’t be scared. All of this is new to you, and new can be scary. Now we all want answers. Stick with me — you might get some. — Thirteenth Doctor

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I always enjoy this time in the Pub, as it’s really quiet since we don’t allow anyone except a handful of guests here this month and we don’t do any concerts save the ones done by staff, so it’s very restful. It’s just a place for conversation, drinking and the Neverending Session playing whatever they want, which is what they always do anyways. If you drop by here during the holiday season, first drink is on us.

We’ve a new Thirteenth Doctor Who just now, a talented performer by the name of Jodie Whittaker. Despite a lot of bile from fanboys, the series has its best ratings ever and that’s due in no small part to younger women now watching the show in very impressive numbers. We’ve never reviewed an entire series before though we certainly have reviewed an episode here and there, so it’s a great honour for me to note that long-time Whovian Denise is doing just that. You’ll also see a review by her of the Funko Pop Thirteenth Doctor figure as well.

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The Whovian Universe is vast and has grown increasingly complex over the fifty years that it’s been evolving. Torchwood was one of its spinoffs, the secret agency that fought alien invasions from its Cardiff base. Cat reviewed their Torchwood India audio adventure and had this to say about it: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series. Please note that it was BBC and not Big Finish that produced these despite the fact that latter produces most of the Doctor Who and spinoff dramas. This is so because the new Doctor Who audio dramas was kept in-house and these productions were kept there as well though Big Finish is now producing the new Doctor Who adventures as well.’

Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been non-fiction books focusing on various aspects of the Doctor and his adventures. April brings us a look at a not-so-reverent example, The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who: ‘Remembered by many for its wobbly paper-mache Pinewood Studios effects, frequently changing casts and cheesy incidental music, Doctor Who is, nonetheless, a unique experiment in television, and one that has been frequently engaging and entertaining, despite the production quality. There have been numerous books about the show, some more serious than others; here’s one that refuses to take itself seriously, and fans will love it.’

Gereg, not to be outdone, brings us a tome that does take itself seriously — perhaps too seriously: ‘With essays covering the entire span of the various Doctor Who television series from 1963 onward, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who addresses various ideas of The Doctor as a mythic figure. Unfortunately, the central premise — the idea that he is in fact mythic — is one that is never successfully supported.’

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Denise as promised has her review of the just concluded season of Doctor Who, and enjoyed almost every moment of Season Eleven. ‘The new Doctor loves bobbing for apples candy floss, purple sofas, and fast talking…. I love it. Yes, I’ve said that I love things several times here. I’m not sorry.’ Why is Denise so enraptured? Only one way to find out; give her full review a look!

Cat now first looks at an adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

Cat also looks at Doctor Who‘s The Unicorn and The Wasp episode which I think had one of the better companions in Donna Noble: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’

And Robert is very enthusiastic about the Dr. Who spin-off, Torchwood, as you can see in his reviews of Season One and Season Three: Children of Earth: ‘The basic set-up is related in John Barrowman’s voice-over for the opening theme: “Torchwood: Outside the government, beyond the police. Fighting for the future on behalf of the human race.” In practical terms, that means dealing with alien threats, and other things that might come through the time/space rift, before they become threats.’

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Cat was somewhat taken (but only somewhat) by two Doctor Who cookbooks: ‘This review is really an acknowledgement that there’s a nearly inifinite number of writings about Doctor Who done by the fans of the show over the past fifty years. Yes there’s fanfic where they’ve created their own stories, some using existing characters in new stories, some creating new characters in new situations. And then there are, err, cookbooks. Seriously you can’t be surprised that someone did did this, as I’m sure that there’s a Harry Potter cookbook or two out there.’

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Denise takes a look at one of the many collectible tributes to our new Doctor, Funko’s Rock Candy‘s Thirteenth Doctor Vinyl Collectible. (No, it’s not actual candy, but a type of collectible from Funko.) She’s rather fond of her new Doctor. ‘She’s here! And she’s fantastic.’ Read Denise’s review for more information, and why she’s a fan of this collectible.

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Our Coda is a just bit different this time though still with music in it. Doctor Who is fifty years old and has had obviously opening sequences that whole time. Until now, BBC has never compiled them together so we could experience how they’ve changed down the years. (And yes, there’s entire sites devoted to complaining about about how the new series has ruined these title sequences.) So for your considerable entertainment, go here and be delighted by what you see and hear as the music has been changed and not changed.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Katrina’s Requests (A Letter to Anna)

Dear Anna,

My, I’m glad that you’re doing several years living in Stockholm as part of your academic research as it means that you can send goodies this way. With that in mind, here’s a list of things that Katrina would like you to do for her. (She’s off to Edinburgh for a concert gig tonight.) And I have a few things for you to look for as well.

Katrina’s looking for any recent Swedish language studies on the home life of Carl Larsson that might not have been indexed in the Memoria here. She thinks there’s been recent new developments in that area. She’s also interested in any privately held sales of his works that might have held in the last several decades.

She’s also looking for any promoters that might be interested in booking her new group, Leaf and Tree, over the holidays next year. They’ve been working on a trio format for a concert programme of Scottish and Swedish traditional music that demonstrates the overlap in the two traditions. They’re not looking for money beyond that for food and drink, just an excuse for being there for several weeks during the Christmas holiday season. And I wouldn’t mind being there as well. She’ll be sending you promo packages shortly to give out to anyone you think might be interested. I know it’s rather short notice but they’re looking for exposure more than geld so all they need is two or three concerts.

Iain’s looking for leads on Library residencies that the more academically inclined of his Several Annies might attend in order to learn colloquial Swedish and get a good feel for Swedish culture.

And I hear that there’s a new limited edition single malt whisky from Stockholm-based Mackmyra that’s only being sold in their distillery shop. Reynard wants to purchase a crate for the Pub.

Until next time, Gus

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What’s New for the 30th of December: Horslips’ ‘Drive The Cold Winter Away’ and Other Matters for the New Year

And now we welcome the new year. Full of
things that have never been.

Rainer Maria Rilke

PFrom Winter Solstice to the end of January, only guests that have been invited by staff, usually no more than a half dozen in total at any given time, are allowed to stay here as we like the quietude of Kinrowan Hall and the Estate at this time of year. There’s more than enough room here to host that many souls without it feeling uncomfortable, but the extra folk do add a sense of liveliness to our small community that’s rather nice.

It’s amusing for me as Head Publican to watch the shift that Winter brings to our Pub. With many fewer visitors, it once again becomes a more low-key affair, with even the music played by visiting bands kinder and more restrained, and the Neverending Session being noticeably smaller and leaning towards the quieter end of the Nordic, Breton and Celtic traditions, which is something staff and those visitors here are quite fond of. Now let’s see what I’ve selected for this time …

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It’s Winter and we all dream of Spring I think, so Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life is naturallly a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’

Iain has a look this time at Rex Stout’s Fer-de-lance. Iain says of Nero Wolfe, the brains here, that he ‘is an eighth-of-a-ton recluse who rarely leaves the Manhattan brownstone he owns, so he raises rare orchids, enjoys gourmet meals prepared by Fritz, reads a lot of books, and solves mysteries.’ Archie Goodwin, his dogsbody, is the first-person narrator for the series.

Kathleen looks at an academic work with a rather long title, to wit, Charles Butler’s Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones & Susan Cooper. Her superbly written in-depth review looks at both the strengths and weaknesses of this work.

Kathleen also has a look at a book she’s treasured since her childhood, Tolkien’s Smith of Wooten Major & Farmer Giles of Ham. She says, ‘Smith and Farmer Giles have the advantage of being completed by Tolkien himself, and are lovely, polished tales. . . . They are the work of a very modern and well-educated scholar — but like all Professor Tolkien’s work, they feel like an echo of the sunlit fields and shadowed woods of the British mythic landscape that he so loved.’ Read her charming review here.

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Denise continues her Feast of the Seven Fishes theme with a review of DeLallo Flat Fillets of Anchovies. She’s a fan of the much maligned fish, and these seem to have her pleased indeed. “…for pizza-fish lovers like me, opening this tin was like heaven.” Read her review for more info, and for a few ways to try anchovies if you’ve never taken the plunge (or are looking for more ways to enjoy them if you’ve already dived in.)

After a few weeks of fish, Denise cleansed her palate by indulging in Carletti’s Jakobsen Coffee Time chocolate collection. ‘Coffee time? Yes please! And while these chocolates  would go great with coffee, I had mine with a stout, and then a mug of green tea.’ But what’d she think? On to her review!

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April has a choice recording for us: ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willemark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s. Windogur, a set of ten original compositions commissioned by the city of Stockholm (in its role of Cultural Capital of Europe ’98), was first performed live as part of a series of concerts entitled “Ladies Next,” and only later translated to CD.’

For a sampler, nothing beats the three CDs in the Nordic Roots series put out by Northside.  Kim says ‘There’s a pleasing dissonance in Nordic traditions, often a restraint that hints of something without ever going there, that’s found much more in Nordic music than is often the case with music from the Irish and Celtic traditions.’ We recommend you read her review for why this set is a must listen for anyone interested in this music!

Lars has what we at GMR consider to be the definitive look at the definitive collection of folk music in Sweden ever done. — ‘During the 1950s and 1960s there was a lot of field recording taking place in Sweden and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland. A generation of source singers and musicians were growing very old and the effort was directed at preserving as much of their music as possible. Many of the recordings are hidden away in the vaults of Svenskt Visarkiv (a society dedicated to preserving songs), the Swedish Radio and other establishments, where they can be accessed for singers and musicians. But quite a few have resurfaced on various LPs and in radio programmes. In the middle of the 1990s the Swedish National Radio together with Caprice, a record company owned by Rikskonserter, a government agency aimed at supporting live music, started a project with the aims to present a broad selection of these recordings, arranged thematically, on CD. Up to date 28 CDs have been released, sometimes in boxes with two or three CDs in each. The box with Yoiks is no longer available but the rest are reviewed briefly here.’ His very detailed review of the aptly named Folk Music in Sweden is well worth your time to read in full.

Robert has a review for us of a live recording from the String Sisters: ‘There seems to be something magical about the number “6” when you’re talking about fiddles. Maybe that many fiddlers reaches a kind of critical mass that sets off a chain reaction of some sort. At any rate, when the six fiddlers in question are six star-caliber women from across the Britanno-Nordic musical realm, what you wind up with is some really, really good music.’ As a delightful bonus, You can hear them perform The Champagne Jig Goes To Columbia/ Pat & Al’s Jig.

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Thinking of adding new items to your household for the coming year? Denise tried Liv With Roz Lemongrass Soap, and that’s now something she may add to her resolutions. ‘It’s not often a body wash and hand gel gal like myself gets stoked over bar soap. But stoked I am.’ See why she’s writing like Yoda in her review!

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So let’s end this Edition and see the Year out with ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ as performed by the Horslips at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on the 24th of March 1979. It’s an old tune, written by London composer John Playford and published in The English Dancing Master he first published in 1651. Yes most musos now think it’s Irish trad.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Blizzard

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A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, to her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex as she preferred to be called lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen.

Dear Tessa,

It’s been two weeks since one of the worst blizzards this century cut us off completely from the outside world. Now that doesn’t mean a lot as we get very few travellers here this time of the year and little business with the outside world gets done other than letters and newspapers coming in and letters going on. (You got this letter because one of the Nordic skiing enthusiasts traveled twenty miles to the nearest railway station to post letters and get any post that came in the last fortnight.) So the Estate is even more of a world unto itself right now that it is even at the best of traveling conditions.

Of course, the heavy snow means little work can be down outside other than what’s absolutely necessary. So lots of reading, gossiping with friends, and so forth. I’ve also been working on plans for a new herb garden that Head Cook wants which means Isabella has the Several Annies researching Elizabethan herb gardens to see what they looked like. One of the problems of an Estate like this is every Head Gardener, every Cook, for centuries has had ideas with what to with the gardens so what exist now has little resemblance to what existed a few centuries ago. Not a complaint by me, just stating what is.

The Steward has had the newly fixed Mill Pond (the repairs turned out to be trivial) cleaned of snow and has arranged for our first curling tournament to be held. I think it’s a silly game but it is outdoors which gets us out for some hours each day. It’s easy to learn, difficult to master. And Cook served tea (or hot chocolate) and biscuits after we gathered by the fireplace in the kitchen to warm up after coming in.

The winning team was coached by Isbella and comprised naturally of her Several Annies. I think they won in part because the males got distracted by their swirling skirts!

I’ve been learning Welsh as there’s been a Welsh literature reading group here for longer than anyone here can recall. I think the real purpose there is less to read medieval Welsh manuscripts like the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin, and the Book of Taliesin than to drink metheglin!

It’s an interesting undertaking, and Isabella, like all Librarians for years upon years, thinks everyone should know as many languages as possible! She’s invited Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Guest to lecture here this Spring on her translation of The Mabinogion.

The Steward has approved your funding to purchase more carpets, and he added a generous amount to purchase more books for the Library. Our banking agent in Constantinople has been wired the monies.

Lastly I should mention all of the kittens have been adopted. I’ve kept one of them that I named Ysbaddaden in honour of his size. Though all of them being males are truly big kittens!

Love Alex

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What’s New for the 23rd of December: Ursula LeGuin’s The Books of Earthsea, Unicorns, The Feast of Seven Fishes, a Fairy-Tale Opera, Jennifer Stevenson’s ‘Solstice’ and other Winter matters

The storyteller in me asks: what if? And when I
try to answer that, a story begins.

 Jane Yolen, author of The Wild Hunt

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Let me set my blue chai and breakfast curry with roti and poached egg aside for a minute. Yes, it’s an unusual breakfast but I got to like it travelling in Southwest Asia some decades past and the Kitchen here is quite used to offbeat whims when it comes to culinary desires among the staff here. Getting in fresh coconut was they said somewhat difficult but not impossible …

Chris has a review this edition of LeGuin’s The Books of Earthsea which Saga Press just published this past month. It got me thinking about her being around for as long as most of us have been reading fantasy, and yes I think of her as a fantasy writer primarily, and she more than many writers shaped how we think about the genre by making us actively think about what we’re reading. And that enriches all of us immeasurably.

So let’s turn to this Edition…

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As promised above, Chris has a review of The Books of Earthsea. We of course got several copies for the Kinrowan Library as it’s going to be very popular reading this winter. So what did he think about it? ‘In October, Saga Press released Ursula LeGuin’s collected Earthsea works, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. This collection includes the original trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971 ) and The Farthest Shore (1972), as well as the novels in which LeGuin revisited the trilogy, Tehanu (1990) and The Other Wind (2001), which conclude the saga many years after the events of the originals. Also included are Tales from Earthsea, LeGuin’s 2001 collection, and four other stories, including the never before published “Daughter of Odren.” Her illuminating essay, “Earthsea Revisioned,” which she delivered as a lecture in Oxford in 1992, is also here, along with an introduction from the author. In short, this giant of a volume includes everything you need to know about Earthsea, and it’s a delight to see it all collected in one place.’

Jo says that ‘Folk legend merges with Jane Yolen’s creative world to create a work of pure magic in The Wild Hunt, which should be destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. Pitting the forces of light and dark against one another is a common theme, but it is rare for those forces to acknowledge the other as essential to their own existence, as done in this delightful tale. Yolen’s use of time and words have woven a masterpiece from the ancient threads of an old tale together with the modern threads of something totally new and different. The resulting tapestry is beautiful to behold.’

Grey looks at Susan Cooper’s award-winning The Dark is Rising series; ‘When I was a teenager I often repeated these lines to myself as a kind of charm. It wasn’t that I expected them to make something happen; the words were a “happening” in and of themselves, and just saying them put me into the middle of it. They were a door into Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising cycle, one of the most compelling stories I had ever read. The story compels me to this day, and I continue to re-read it every few years.’

Robert brings us sequel that fits the season. Really, it does — it even has an angel: ‘Tanya Huff’s The Second Summoning is, as might be expected, a sequel to Summon the Keeper. It is just as wryly funny, with the attitude we’ve come to expect from Huff, and is sometimes surprisingly insightful about the trials and tribulations of growing up.’

We didn’t have anything on reindeer, but we have something even better. Our newest reviewer Warner bring us The Unicorn Anthology: ‘An anthology is always an interesting read, filled with multiple narratives and styles and as a result uneven by nature. The Unicorn Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman, is one which comes with a plainly stated theme.’

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Cat loves an offbeat Christmas film: ‘I don’t do movie theatres for various reasons, including audiences that chatter too much and the smell of that weird stuff that’s not really butter. And so it is that I’m watching an animated film released several Christmas seasons past called Rise of The Guardians which features a Russian Father Christmas, an Australian Easter Bunny (complete with boomerang), The Sandman, and a really cute (in a fey way) female Tooth Fairy. All Guardians of the hopes, wishes and dreams of children everywhere.’

Despite the untimely death of its lead actor Heath Ledger, I think this film review by Liz points to one of the feel-good films of all time: ‘Oyez, Dudes! The Renaissance Rockz! This film is not for the literal minded, nor for students looking for an easy way to do research on the Renaissance. A Knights Tale is writer/director Brian Helgeland’s attempt to create a sort of early-Renaissance Rocky, only with jousting, not boxing, as the central sport and metaphor. Oh, and the soundtrack is a mix of Early Music and 1970’s pop tunes.’

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Hey all, and Happy Merry! Denise here, taking over the Food & Drink section yet again. This time I’m adding to my Feast of Seven Fishes with two more fishy reviews. I’ll continue with four more scattered through the next few issues, so’s not to overwhelm you. But for now? Dig in to these!

First, I’m taking a look at Specially Selected’s Cold Smoked Salmon. Store-brand salmon? From low-price wonderland Aldi? Yep yep. And before you turn your nose up, read my review. Here’s a taste (pun intended); ‘…I wasn’t able to stop myself with this salmon.’ Why not? Well now, you know what to do next.

To balance things out, I also devoured some Specially Selected’s Hot Smoked Cajun Flavored Salmon. Because why not? ‘This salmon was a tough to review, because the moment I opened the packet the delicious smell of smoked fish and cajun spice I wanted to devour the entire thing in one go. Willpower and I have never had more than a passing acquaintance.’ Read my full review to find out exactly why I’m now a fan of smoking (edibles) however I can get ’em!

And for those of you who are done with fish, how about cakes? Soulmass-cake, aka Soul Cakes, are a medieval tradition that The British Bake Off has resurrected. These cakes were typically baked for All Hallows Eve and Christmastide, to pass out to the poor. But how does one make these things? A quick Google search shows that there are more recipes for this classic cake than you can shake a candy cane at. So if the tradition of handing out food to those less fortunate than you appeals – and at this festive season it should – feel free to hand out whatever type of cake, bread or item you feel would best help those in need. Donate to your local charity. Clean out your closet and drop off your unwanted pieces to a shelter. Whatever you decide, if it comes from the heart, you’ll be in keeping with the soul cake tradition. Joyeux Noël, one and all.

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Richard has a choice few words for us about a DC series: ‘To read Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers as a straight narrative, or to take it at face value, is really to miss the point of the series. It is a deconstruction of the classic superhero team-up comic, done with malice aforethought and the intent of ripping down every cliché and classic trope of the genre. Which is to say that if you actually like that sort of world-spanning super-smorgasbord, you’re probably going to think Seven Soldiers is awful. If, on the other hand, you think that anyone at DC who even mentions the word “Crisis” needs to be put on six months’ sabbatical, this might be more your cup of tea.’

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Gary, who says he’s not usually one for holiday music, enjoys the new Valse de Noël, An Acadian-Cajun Christmas Revels. In addition to some carols from those traditions, it features Acadian dance tunes and ballads, some Cajun two-steps, and some songs and tunes shared by French-Canadian and Cajun cultures.

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result.’

Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King draws this note from No’am: ‘This disk tries primarily to separate the fact from the fiction. “The historical Arthur is a highly controversial figure. Theories abound as to his region of activity and his ancestry.” are the first two sentences in the well written sleeve notes. Arthur also tries to provide in music a feeling of what it was like to have been alive in time of Arthur. Thus we have songs written from the point of view of Arthur himself: “The poet and the troubadour have stolen my name” are the opening words from “The Name Of Arthur,” from what constituted the aristocracy of the time — people who were more Roman than British, from the warriors, and also from more artistic and legendary viewpoints. “The Hallows” begins with the words “From my name has come a dream, a fable, a myth.”

If you’d like something different this season — not the standard Nutcracker or Messiah — see if your local opera company is performing Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel. Robert says: ‘It’s one of those Christmas things that people do, like The Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah. It also happens to be a lot of fun. Humperdinck made extensive use of folk melodies in the score, which certainly adds to the opera’s charm (I don’t think anyone would not recognize the music to “Ra-la-la,” the dance song in the first act), and the story, of course, is well-known.’

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OK, you do know that we have a resident hedgehog at this Scottish Estate by the name of Hamish MacBeth? If you did,  it wouldn’t surprise you that Robert reviewed this puppet: ‘Well, I finally got my first Folkmanis puppet to review, and appropriately enough, it’s the Little Hedgehog — and let me tell you, he’s a real charmer.’

Denise mentioned soul cakes in our Food & Drink section, so I’d be remiss to not mention that Kage once pondered upon them as well: ‘Barm Brack is a soul cake — traditional Scots recipe calls for a bean or silver coin or some other token to be baked into it and the person getting the winning slice gets fame or good luck or sacrificed or whatever, deciding on how much of The Wicker Man you take seriously.’

I’m feeling generous this time so I’m going finish Our What Not this time with a look at something that was very special to Vonnie: ‘The Christmas Revels is a special event, an annual tradition on par with performances of the Nutcracker, only tailored to lovers of folk traditions. After 42 years, it has accreted tradition of its own, which helps audience members to feel like part of the holiday community — which is the point of the Revels. The culture on which the performance focuses changes from year to year but the basic shape of the performance — and its professionalism — remains constant.’ Her look at the Irish Christmas Revels is here, and her review of Strike The the Harp: An Irish Christmas Revels can be found thisaway.P

The only choice to leave you on is Jennifer Stevenson reading her ‘Solstice’ tale of a small town musician who gets dumped by her boyfriend in apparently the middle of nowhere who had the most magical night one could hope for. If you prefer to read it, it’s one of our offerings in the Words menu on the top left side of this site.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Something Awful

There’s a void in the records of this Estate around thirteen hundred. No, not in the made-up history that the Steward in the eighteen hundreds created out of whole cloth, a comforting lie that neatly created a history for us that didn’t exist on paper or in memory.

Something bad happened here, something that the Estate inhabitants wanted not a soul to hear about down the centuries. Something bloody, something abhorrent. Those of us who’ve The Sight, who can see the ghostly visions of the past, can’t see anything that tells us what happened. No ghosts, no traces of anything happening. It’s not that we can’t see anything — it’s as if nothing happened at that point in time.

Even the old stone church, strangely built in the Viking way like a long boat made of stone and likely put up in the twelve hundreds, simply leaves no impact upon the Grey that is the ghostly traces of what happened then. I even tried asking the Fae and they just look blankly at me as if the question itself makes no sense! Tamsin, the current hedgewitch and another one with The Sight, says that asking the owls what their collective memory say happened also draws a blank.

The only physical clue to what happened is a barrow mound that the Estate ghosts and Russian wolfhounds won’t go near. It’s got magical wards on it that chill even I, who have fought gods and demons and monsters down the centuries. Hell, my ravens won’t even fly anywhere near it … Those who don’t have The Sight aren’t even aware there’s a barrow mound there — they just walk around it, not even noticing they’re doing so. We who know ’tis there think that’d be a very bad idea to disturb whatever lies sleeping there.

I didn’t say this was a comforting tale, so drank up your whiskey and I’ll have Reynard pour us another one. Sleep well tonight!

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What’s New for the 16th of December: A Charles de Lint edition

Have a drink and listen to the music. — Charles de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart

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I always think of de Lint as being one of those writers fit for reading a cold winter’s night. So when I was looking through the Archives that I decided that it was well-worth sharing with you some of the wealth of material concerning him that we’ve done.

So we’re devoting this issue entirely to Charles de Lint and his writings — Paul Brandon, a friend of Charles and a well-known author in his own right, has penned an appreciation of Charles which follows these short notes; Cat Eldridge offers us an interview with him; Robert Tilendis has a career retrospective regarding his writings; and various writers such as Terri Windling, OR Melling, James Hetley and so forth pay homage to him. Oh, and there are two goodies for you to hear by Charles — one performed by him, another performed by a superb Celtic group! Might there be even additional offerings to tickle your fancy? See for yourself!

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Greeting I’m Paul Brandon. I’m glad that there’s no lectern.

When the folks at Green Man asked me to do the introductory kind of speech thing for Charles de Lint, my first thought was ‘I hope there’s not a lectern.’ I dislike public speaking at the best of times, and if I’m coerced into doing it at a festival or a workshop, I nearly always do it from behind a desk or nested in a nice comfy chair. I’m tall, and lecterns come in some kind of standardised ‘normal’ (I’m assuming) height, so I either have to stand upright and not be heard because the microphone is a foot below me, or I slouch and assume a posture that is halfway between casual author arrogance and a severe curvature of the spine. So there you go. I hate lecterns.

So as I shrug out of my heavy coat and cross to the bar, I’m already feeling a bit better. I love the Green Man pub. It’s almost as if it’s a room that’s slipped free from Tamson House, and it knows just what you like. For me, it’s the oak panelling, the low ceilings and beams (though remind me I said that in a few hours after a couple of ales. Tall, remember), the throbbing fire and the truly astonishing array of drink. This is the one place I know where I can still get my beloved Fremlins Kentish Ale and Tasmanian Pepperberry vodka. It’s kind of a shame that Charles doesn’t drink, although I have a sneaking suspicion that somewhere under the bar there’ll be a bag mixed with his own concoction of Starbucks coffees. Probably guarded by Hamish, the resident hedgehog here. Someone’s gone to a lot of effort for this evening. All the of the usual amazing artwork has been taken down and replaced with wonderful framed prints of Charles’s book covers, although the one just to my right of Forests of the Heart looks like it may well be the John Jude Palencar original. There’s also a whole bunch of his own watercolours, and some by his partner, MaryAnn.

It’s almost like being at an Ani diFranco concert here — you swear you can see some of Charles’s characters walking around, drinks in in hand, peeking over shoulders, listening in to conversations with sly smiles on their faces. Charles’s appearances are often like that.

Yep, that’s him over in the corner singing the Fred Eaglesmith song. Impressive isn’t it. The first time I heard him sing was in a hotel room in Montreal, not long after we’d met face to face for the first time, and he damn near blew me off my chair. For such a quiet person he sure can let fly. There are a couple of tracks on the Infinite Jukebox here at Green Man if you’re interested — one of him playing a song, one of him conversing on a radio programme about the relationship between two of his passions, music and writing.

That’s MaryAnn on the right, no, the other right. You can’t miss that beautiful wild hair and the sound of the sweet little Gibson mandolin. Out of all the people I’ve ever met, Charles and MaryAnn are the most complete of couples. Partnership doesn’t go far enough to describe their relationship.

I’m just going to lean here a while, sip my beer and soak in the music and memories.

I can clearly recall my first encounter with Charles’s work.

.It was in a small bookshop in Bromley, England, in the days when fantasy and science fiction had their own departments, rather than just a few shelves. My dates are sketchy, but it must’ve been sometime around 1984, and I would have been . . . well, younger. The book, of course, was Moonheart, and I clearly remember standing there looking at the beautiful cover (this would have been the Pan edition, with the tall trees, shafting light and the two little chaps standing by the trunk. The print is over . . . there. The frame directly above Don, the fiddler). I know the old adage about a book and its cover, but sometimes the old sayings are wrong. I devoured it.

I was a precocious reader as a young wan, always with a book on the go, and something within Moonheart really got to me. Looking back, I guess it was the beautiful blend of myth and reality, set in a very appealing city (and Ottawa didn’t disappoint when I finally got there many years later), but it was also a little more than that, and I think as I became a writer myself, I understood what it was. Moonheart was written with love, passion, and it rubs off onto you with every page. I think that’s why so many readers list it as their favourite of Charles’s considerable library.

After that came Greenmantle, Yarrow and The Little Country (which is still my favourite, because I know Cornwall and the music so well), then came my Life Upheaval in the form of a move to Australia, and I hit the wall that most fans of Charles would have come across at that time. The mysterious Back Catalogue. This was back in the mid ’90s, before the Internet really took off, and one had to get bibliographical information from books or those extremely limited off-line catalogues in bookstores! I remember somehow getting very lucky and finding an import of Jack of Kinrowan (Jack the Giant-Killer and Drink Down the Moon) in a local store, and then getting set on the breadcrumb trail of Charles’s myriad shorts and other ‘hidden’ works such as the mysteries he originally wrote under the pseudonym of Samuel. M. Key such as Angel of Darkness.

I did a quick check on ‘urban fantasy’ on Wikipedia just before I walked over here, and Charles’s name is listed as one of the key pioneers, along with the likes of John Crowley, Emma Bull and Jonathan Carroll. Mythic Fiction is probably more of an appropriately broad term, as Charles quite often steps away from his beloved streets of Newford, and over the past number of books, the still of the desert has featured alongside the cathedralling trees of the wildwood.

The explosion of the Internet opened up the ability to find these out of print books, and also brought me in contact with the man himself. I found an online mailing list called Tamson House, and promptly, a bunch of new friends. Mostly it was just general talk, life, love, magic, books, music, but there was also a fair bit of trading and exchanging of Charles’s stuff. Luckily there’s no such problem these days, with most of Charles’s work available online, and the shorts gathered into the two Triskell Tales volumes, Triskell Tales and Triskell Tales Two. I found a bunch of copies of The Wild Wood that were illustrated by Froud, and asked if anyone would like to swap one for something else I didn’t have, and I was quite surprised to find an email from Charles asking about them himself. Well from there we began corresponding, with me sending him musical tidbits from Australia (he’s a big fan of Divinyls, not to mention a bunch of other lesser-known Australian performers) and he’d send me books, CDs, knick-knacks. Over the course of the years we kept up a constant dialogue, until we finally managed to be in the same country at the same time and we could meet. That was the World Fantasy Convention in 2001, and my partner Julie and I were going to be in Montreal. Luckily, the meeting went well. We spent time with them in Ottawa, and Charles and MaryAnn stayed with us in Australia a couple of years ago, despite MaryAnn’s worries about the snakes and spiders.

One thing that has always staggered me about Charles is his amazing workload. Besides being a novelist, he puts out a amazing number of short stories (and I’m including in that simple description all the novellas, novelettes, verse, et al), writes the Books to Look For column for the magazine of F&SF, plays music in a local pub on Thursday nights (and he plays a number of instruments very well), does book tours, listens to an amazing amount of music in every genre known to an iPod, and corresponds with countless people all over the world. I do about a quarter of that and I still moan about the speed of the days. Secretly, a few of us thinks he has one of those little reality folds into the UnderEarth, somewhere in his crowded attic room, a little like the ones described in Someplace to be Flying, and that he nips away for days at a time, only to emerge back in Ottawa five minutes after he finished his last coffee.

So, the future. Well as always there are a lot of people holding out for a movie of one of Charles’s stories (an episode, The Sacred Fire, of The Hunger was made a few years ago from the Dreams Underfoot tale, which was very good), and there are a lot of us holding our breath for an album of some sorts. The musical little tasters we’ve been given over the years at various conventions and signings point to something well worth waiting for. And of course, new stories. I have the new novel, Widdershins and Triskell Tales, Volume 2 sitting on the bedside table back home, positively hollering to be read.

On a personal note, I just want this speech to be over so I can sit and play some tunes with a pair of old friends.

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Needless to say, it wasn’t hard to find people willing to comment on de Lint, his writing, and his other endeavors. To start, what might be considered, for the most part, a few blurbs, we might call them, by other writers, editors, and even an illustrator.

Author and editor Terri Windling tells us a story about transformation, one of de Lint’s major themes. Yes, stories can make a difference.

James Hetley, also an author and a friend of de Lint, has some observations on de Lint’s role in the creation of what we now call “urban fantasy.”

And finally, author (another author? Must be the company he keeps) OR Melling has words of praise for Charles de Lint the writer and the person.

And to sum it up, Robert, who has been reading de Lint’s fiction for more years than he’s willing to admit brings us a quasi-critical history of de Lint’s writing.

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We did mention that de Lint is a musician, didn’t we? Well, he is, as witnessed first by his album Old Blue Truck. And in this context, given her contribution to that album, it’s only meet that we introduce you to the music of MaryAnn Harris, as evidence on her EP, Crow Girls. And as additional testimony of de Lint’s abilities as a composer, Zahatar recorded an album of tunes from his novel The Little Country.

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And finally, a word from the man himself, written originally on the occasion of his having been named Oak King at Green Man Review.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Restless (A Letter to Ekentrina)

Dear Ekentrina,

I find myself restless this morning, even though I got barely three hours’ sleep, as the Pub stayed busy ’till past two. Blame it on three days of truly nasty weather that’s left the not quite Winter season work crews with precious little to do. None-the-less, it’s barely seven in the morning and I’ve left our warm bed where Ingrid sleeps on, barely aware I’ve left. Your sister has always been a deep sleeper!

There is a quickening in the air and in the oaks in the Courtyard that reminds you that the dark winter months are upon us even and there’s a deep chill in the morning air that will only get stronger in the coming months.

Of course, there are always warm places in this building where one can be comfortable, such as the kitchen! Even without the sun shining through the windows into that ever so pleasant space, there are enticing smells of baking on the air, and quite pleasant Welsh music being played where the Neverending Session, including a crwth player, has taken up residence in a cozy corner near the fireplace. The work crews kept dropping by to see if they could cadge a bit of breakfast despite the early hour . . .

For me, I’d take some really sharp Quebec cheddar and the still warm from the oven sourdough bread with braised onions and small dark olives in it with a cup of strong coffee with fresh cream.

Your sister’s usually the morning person as I’m the one who works into the early hours, but she put in extra hours the last few days with The Steward doing the report to the Estate trustees on the finances for the past year. I think they’ll be very pleased as we made a pretty profit due to a most excellent number of conferences ranging from an environmental makers NGO regional gathering to the curling round-robin this past Winter. And this year looks equally busy which means I’ll run a tidy profit again.

Now I must leave you, as otherwise I’ll miss out on the Nutella crepes with smoked bacon on the side that the kitchen staff has prepared — and I for one think that’s a great breakfast treat!

Until next time, Reynard

PS: So when are you coming to visit? My wife’s hinting rather strongly that either you must come soon or we’ll need to visit you in Riga. And there’s a place for you here if Putin starts eyeing your country as his next acquisition. I wonder if he realizes that some of the more restless border regions of Russia may argue to join the area they’re more culturally akin to? And there’s not enough left of the old Soviet army to put down multiple rebellions.

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What’s New for the 9th of December: Lots of Tull, Haydn’s “The Seasons”, Questions About Angels, a country house mystery, and other matters for you to consider


So how can you laugh when your own mother’s hungry,
And how can you smile when the reasons for smiling are wrong?
And if I just messed up your thoughtless pleasures,
Remember, if you wish, this is just a Christmas song.

Jetho Tull’s ‘A Christmas Song’

In our hearts, we all want to hear those three little words: “pie for breakfast”. Well hand pies, anyways. Mrs. Ware and our ever-so-skilled Kitchen staff are keenly aware that a working Estate doesn’t mean staff can always take the time out of their busy schedules to sit down and eat a meal, hence breakfast hand pies.  Ham, egg and cheddar; apple and yet more cheddar; sausage, egg and cheese — something to please any hearty appetite, no matter what time of day.

I’ve been helping Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, decorate Kinrowan Hall for the Holidays so I’ve been up early for me, around nine in the morning, and I grabbed a ham, apple and cheddar hand pie before heading out to string more wreathing around the Hall. It was warm and oh, so tasty.

I’m back in the Pub now, so let’s turn to this Edition. Oh and be advised that next week is an updating of our Charles de Lint Edition, which is full of wonderful looks at books he’s done (rather obviously as he’s an author) and music as well (bet you didn’t know he and his wife MaryAnn Harris have albums out).  So do come back next week to see what we have by him and her!

Camille says that ‘In The Moon and the Face, Patricia McKillip revisits Kyreol and Terje from her lovely Young Adult novel Moon-Flash. Kyreol and Terje, having followed the river to the Dome in book one of this duology, now push beyond the new boundaries of their expanded world: Terje back into the culture they left behind, though as a ghostly observer; and Kyreol outward, into the stars. When Terje discovers the Healer (Kyreol’s father) is dying and Kyreol barely survives a crash landing on a distant desert moon, both of them must find inner resources to meet challenges they never anticipated.’

Denise takes a look at the new DC Comics novels with Harley Quinn: Mad Love. ‘Who can say where this new series of books may take Daddy’s Little Monster? It’s too early to even guess, but with a starter like Love, I’m game for wherever she’ll lead me.’ Sounds promising, no? Read her review for the full story!

Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’

Robert says the poetry of Billy Collins is a delight, as is readily apparent in Questions About Angels: ‘Born in 1942 in New York City, Collins has published numerous collections and garnered, among other recognition, fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is possibly one of the most widely exposed of living poets. Questions About Angels, originally published in 1991, was selected by Edward Hirsch for the National Poetry Series.’

An English country house murder mystery gets reviewed by David: ‘As traditional as the genres he chose might have been, in Altman’s hand they were turned upside-down, and sideways. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie became anti-hero and opium addict in Altman’s “western” McCabe & Mrs. Miller, set to the music of Leonard Cohen! A laconic Elliott Gould became Raymond Chandler’s private dick Phillip Marlowe in an updated LA for Altman’s “detective” classic The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman has been the most American of directors, and now, in Gosford Park, he takes on the English country house murder mystery. Altman’s Agatha Christie film? What could this mean?’

As cold weather comes to stay, warm beverages take center stage around here. So Denise looks into Smashmallow’s Cinnamon Churro marshmallows to see if they’d be a welcome addition to our stores. She’s happy with what she found: ‘I have a love-hate relationship with marshmallows. I love how they bob on the top of my drink, but hate that most of the time I’m left with a soggy bit of ‘mallow bloof (it’s a word because I just used it) as I empty my mug. However, that’s about to change, thanks to Smashmallow.’ See why she’s pleased in her review.

Gary notes that ‘There are memoirs, and there are cookbooks. A few authors have combined the two, but none that I’ve read have been so successful at it as Diana Abu-Jaber with her delightful The Language of Baklava’. Read the rest of his equally delightful review for the details on this book.

I noted last week that the DC Universe streaming service in the States was doing a live action Doom Patrol series (and Netflix will be having it here in the UK and Europe we’re told),  and we’re also being being told that they’re also doing the same with Swamp Thing! So let’s turn to April’s look at this tasty offering: ‘For the first time, Moore’s early work on Saga of the Swamp Thing — the first eight issues — has been released in hardback format. This edition includes issue 20, which has not previously been available outside the original single issue. Original creator Len Wein provides the introduction, while author Ramsey Campbell add a foreword.’ It is not the first live action series for this DC being as this review by Debbie shows.

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Got a Tull fan on your Christmas shopping list? Oh does Chris have a suggestion for you: ‘Over the past several years, many classic rock bands have been re-releasing their backlist, and Jethro Tull is no exception. Like most Tull fans, I already have these albums, in some cases in multiple formats, so I was initially skeptical of the new releases. Did I really need a box set of an album, when I already had an LP, cassette tape, and, as in the case of Aqualung, the 25th anniversary CD? However, I found myself tempted by Songs from the Wood, a personal favorite album of mine, and decided to take my chances with it, and the reissue of Heavy Horses. I wasn’t disappointed.’

Gary reviews a digital release of recordings from the New York Ragas Live program, an annual festival in which musicians play ragas for a live audience and live radio broadcast for 24 hours straight. The Ragas Live Retrospective gathers performances from 2012 through 2017, and Gary says ‘It’s a rich, creative and infinitely rewarding exposition of the current state of the New York raga renaissance.’

Robert brings us a review of music that’s fit for all seasons, namely Joseph Haydn’s Die Jahreszeit: ‘I’m always delighted and amused by what the eighteenth century — one of the most mannered and formal periods in Western history — considered “lacking in artifice.” However, whatever my personal opinion (coming, as it does, from a casual and fairly spontaneous contemporary American Midwesterner), that was one of the major points of praise by his contemporaries for Joseph Haydn’s oratorio, The Seasons.’

Krampus, that dark side of Christmas folklore doesn’t get always get the recognition he deserves but writer Elizabeth Hand who is familiar to many of of you has a book to recommend: ‘The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards, edited by Monte Beauchamp, on Fantagraphics. Beautifully reproduced artwork from 19th and early 20th century Austrian, German, and Czech postcards featuring the diabolical Krampus, St. Nicholas’s demonic sidekick. Perverse and a nice, dark, folkloric alternative to Christmas kitsch.’

We started off with lyrics from Tull so let’s finish off with them as well. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ has no apparent entry in the Infinite Jukebox database which I admit is rather odd but it’s fine sounding none- the-less. It was, as Ian notes in the brief intro to it, done in the lead-up to the release of the Jethro Tull Christmas Album which means it was recorded in the summer of fifteen years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate Canines

Welcome to the Kinrowan Hall. Mind your step now.

We’ll just go down this corridor to my office. Yes, I know it’s a little dusty. I don’t come here as often as I would like. Why? Well, it’s the cats. You see, my husband is allergic to them, so before I leave here I have to have a shower and then sneak out the back way to avoid them, and when I get home I have to wash all my clothes separately, or he’s miserable till I get rid of all the cat hair. So when I come, I stay at least a week, read all day and stay up all night listening to the Neverending Session. Might as well make it worth it.

Where was I? Oh yes, cats. I love cats. So does my husband, for that matter, which makes his affliction all the more tragic. Of course, the offices are crawling with them, and sometimes I wonder how the dogs stand it.

You didn’t know we had dogs here? Saints preserve us, of course there are dogs! Couldn’t get along without them. Get up, then, and I’ll take you to meet them.

Actually, you don’t want to meet Fergus and Fidelma. They guard the stables, they and their whelps. A fine brood they have, too. Their pups are always in high demand as guard dogs to the discerning.

You might not want to meet Colm and Connor and Ike, who patrol the grounds, either. They’re bull mastiffs. Bred to catch poachers back in the Old Country, they were. No, of course we don’t have trouble with poachers here — not with Colm and Connor and Ike on the job. Seriously, while the Building welcomes all who come with good will, there are always a few, fey or not, who don’t come with good will at all. The bull mastiffs take care of them nicely. They don’t hurt them, mind, just discourage them from hanging about.

Perhaps we’ll just have a look out the window, then, and see if we can spot them. Look, there’s Connor over there, on the other side of the moat. And the lovely little tyke drinking from it? She’s Sophie, one of the junior music editors. You’re lucky you can see her. Not everyone can — she’s half-fey.

Yes, of course we need a moat. See the hillock in it? That’s where the bandog lives. Actually, he’s a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Jamie. Came here with a piper-lass named Tiffany. She ran off with one of the best squeeze-box players ever to grace the Neverending Session, but Jamie stayed. He seems to be under a spell of some sort, and he’s vicious as all get-out. Thinks he can’t cross running water, fortunately, so we managed to get him onto the hillock when he was asleep. He has a fine doghouse there, fit for a King Charles, and traditionally the newest staff member has the joy of feeding him.

Let’s go on down to the Pub, then, but first I see you’ve meet Boomer, our hyperactive Boston terrier. Has quite the eye for the ladies, does our Boomer. They don’t have quite as much of an eye for him, but he’s ever hopeful. Some consider his leaping ability to be magical, but I’m fairly certain it’s natural. Most of the fey consider it a blessing to be licked on the forehead by him — except for the brownies, whom Boomer chases around like they were cats. They’ve taken to keeping tennis balls with them to distract him while they’re cleaning.

Oh, dear, are you all right? Sorry to yank your arm so hard, but that was Hannah. I didn’t hear her coming in time to warn you. No, of course you didn’t see her, she’s a phantom. She works with the music editors, and rackets around the hallways on a little phantom motor-scooter when they’re not looking. At least, that’s what they say is going on. None of us have ever seen Hannah, but she’s put bruises on almost all of us at some point.

Here we are, then, safely into the Pub. See those curly, cuddly dogs in the corner? That’s our pack of bouviers des Flandres. They’re a joint project of Gus the gardener and Mrs. Ware, the cook, actually. Mrs. Ware’s cousin Danny is blind, you see, and has a bouvier as a service dog. The organizations that train them are always looking for places to foster the pups, and when Danny started courting Gus’ daughter Ginevra who works in the stillroom, well, both Mrs. Ware and Gus fell in love with the dogs. Ginevra and Danny never made a match of it, but, to make a long story short, we’ve been raising bouviers des Flandres here ever since. Any dog raised in a Pub like ours will be socialized to handle anything, after all, and there’s usually at least one blind harper or shanchaí around for the pups to practise on.

There are usually at least a few guest dogs here, too, accompanying visiting authors or musicians, or perhaps here on their own like poor Jamie. Fenrir is over there by the fire. He travels with The Old Man, though I’m not sure it would be appropriate to say Fenrir belongs to him. Indeed, you might just as well (or just as safely) say that The Old Man belongs to Fenrir. At any rate, Fenrir is supposed to be an Irish wolfhound, but he’s a giant if he is. He’s nearly as tall as I am when he stands up, and he can put his front paws on the mantelpiece.

Sit down, then, and have a glass of something cheering. What’s wrong? Are you choking? Allergic, you say? Patrick be my shield and buckler, why didn’t you tell me you were allergic to dogs, then?

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What’s New for the 2nd of December: Live music from Iron Horse, Peter Pan, Swamp Thing, The Beatles, and other comforting things as well

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. ― Edith Sitwell

No, it is not Winter yet but I like that quote a lot and the forecast is for a harsh Winter here so we’ll all be looking for the small pleasures ones takes when that happens.

That is a muffin filled with a hard boiled egg at its centre and with smoked crumbled bacon and dried onion in the batter. Quite ymmmy. Oh and cheddar cheese as well. It and a thermos of tea with cream make for a rather nice and filling breakfast for me to toss in my mackinaw pocket before I go for a ramble towards The Wild Wood just after dawn breaks on this unusually pleasantly warm very late Autumn day which I’ll be doing as soon as I finish off this edition for your reading pleasure.

It’s not surprising food and drink on this remote Scottish Estate play a crucial role in the life of the small year-round community that swells significantly with visitors for music festivals and conferences in the warmer months but folds in on itself by late Autumn for the most part.

Now let’s turn to this Edition…

Of Brian Attebery’s The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin Grey says that while ‘it’s clear that this book is written for a primarily academic readership, the writing style is smooth and not ponderous. It’s a little dry, but dry like a pleasant white wine, not like a mouthful of saltine crackers. Attebery gives plenty of examples to illustrate his points, but not too many examples. Occasional readers of fantasy could give it a miss, but those who read fantasy devotedly or have an interest in the genre as a whole will want it for their reference shelf.’

Kelly gives us a look at a book by someone who we might not have expected to be an accomplished writer: ‘Evenings with the Orchestra gives not just a fine example of critical writing in nineteenth century Paris, nor even just a good illustration of the cultural life in that time and place. It does all that, to be sure, but most importantly it gives us a personal look at the inner world of one of Romanticism’s greatest composers. It’s a book that is full of humor, fire, and love of music. So it should be, having been written by Hector Berlioz.’

Some books we’ve reviewed more than once, as they had multiple editions. So it is with the classic book Marian has for us this time: ‘This is a strongly recommended edition of Peter Pan. It is faithful to the original text and is complemented very well by the imaginative illustrations of Greg Becker, which bring to life the story by J.M. Barrie.’

Richard says that ‘Elizabeth Hand’s Winterlong is not an easy book. It challenges the reader from the first page – really, the first sentence. It sprawls across genre boundaries as if they weren’t there, effortlessly mixing mythopoeic fantasy with horror with post-apocalyptic science fiction with Shakespeare. It is rich, filled to bursting with ideas that are so integral to the world and yet so thoroughly understood by the characters that there’s never a moment of slam-on-the-brakes exposition. ’

As a break from bleak winter skies, Robert brings us a collection from a Greek poet in exotic Alexandria, The Complete Poems of Cavafy: ‘Modern Greece has produced an amazing body of literature including works by such luminaries as Nikos Kazantzakis, George Seferis, and others. One of the most significant members of this select community is the poet Constantine Cavafy. The Complete Poems of Cavafy as translated by Rae Dalven presents the body of his work for the non-Greek speaking reader, and has the added grace of including an Introduction by W. H. Auden.’

Denise checked out Swamp Thing: The Series, and while she loves the title character, she felt there was  more that could have been done for ol’ Swampy. ‘It’s a completist’s treasure, but a well thought out “Best Of” set with the lesser episodes removed would have been a better crafted, more enjoyable collection.’ Read her review to find out more!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season, says Will, is very satisfying and ‘The general reason this season is great is because it’s about love in many forms. A specific reason it’s great is the Spike and Drusilla romance. They’re the first ongoing villains who touch Buffy’s personal life. In their case, it’s initially through Angel: Angel sired Dru, Dru sired Spike, and when Angel turns bad, he’d like some fun with Dru again, though his obsession with Buffy doesn’t abate.’

Denise starts prepping for her yearly ‘Feast of the Seven Fishes’ with a review of Bay Harbor All Natural Smoked Wild Kippers. She’s pleased with what she’s found. ‘These kips are strong with the smoke, but slight on the salt. It’s fantastic.’ She promises a full seven fishy reviews by the time Christmas rolls around. So read this one and keep coming back for more!

It’s definitely that time when that if you’re like me, that you’re craving extra carbs and Cheesy hash brown casserole is a recipe on which Jen has an open riff that’s delightful and makes the dish sound warm: ‘Here is a tump recipe I got off the back of a bag of hash browns and then messed with. There are no rules with tump recipes. Change the ingredients, the proportions, the oven temperature—this is your recipe now.’

Given that the DC Universe streaming service is launching a live Doom Patrol series next year (and the teaser on the Titans series there was fucking awesome!), it’s an excellent time to read Richard’s review of Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage graphic novel: ‘The Doom Patrol had always teetered on the lunatic fringe of super-groups, due in large part to the fact that many of the characters were gimmicky, unlikable, or just plain strange. Wheelchair-bound genius Niles Caulder was Charles Xavier with Doctor Doom’s people skills, manipulative and megalomaniacal. Of his team, the most human and sympathetic was the orange-plated Robotman, and things went rapidly downhill from there. And did I mention the fact that the entire team had been killed off at least once?’

Chris says ‘Forty years after the groundbreaking progressive rock classic Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull brings us Thick as A Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? Is he Too Old to Rock n’ Roll? Hardly. This album is all the proof you need.’

Gary takes a look at a new version of an old favorite: ‘Well here we are again, celebrating another 50th anniversary of a ground-breaking Beatles LP with a deluxe, remastered reissue. This time it is the double LP The Beatles, otherwise known as The White Album…’

Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical’s Ensemble Mystical gets reviewed by Naomi: ‘For those of you not familiar with Kathryn Tickell, she is an ultimate listening delight. Kathryn is an accomplished piper and fiddler. She comes from Northumberland, which is one of England’s largest counties, and has put out a number of CDs. Kathryn actually picked up the Northumberland pipes at the age of nine for the first time, and I’m happy to say she didn’t put them back down but kept at it.’ Oh and there’s a carynx involved as well!’

Robert rediscovers Depeche Mode — again: ‘Somewhere along the line, I rediscovered Depeche Mode. I pretty much had everything available up through Depeche Mode 101 (which I didn’t think much of — it’s one of the worst live albums I’ve heard), but on a whim I picked up a copy of Songs of Faith and Devotion and finally got around to listening to it. The die was cast. I then got a copy of Playing the Angel.’

Our What Not this week is yet another highlight from Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The Labs (Well, says Robert, it’s a big place — there’s lots to see): ‘As you wander around the upper level gallery at the Field Museum, you will run across several large glass-fronted rooms in which people are doing mysterious things. These are several of the laboratories where technicians are working, and you can watch.’ Prepared to be amazed.

Something lively, something trad I think should be our parting music this Sunday, so let me have a few minutes to see what I like… ‘Black Crows and Ravens’ from Iron Horse, a sort of trad Scottish band I think is no more, recorded this at Gosport Easter Festival in April of 1996, is my choice this time. I say I think as many of those groups, provided all of their members are alive unlike say Nightnoise have a tendency to show up for one-offs pretty much without notice.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Herne

Some hold that the Green Man is but a Celtic myth retold by the English as a sort of ethnic cleansing of the native culture. That is bollocks as there’s really no Green Men in English myth either, no matter what Lady Raglan claimed back in the period between the Wars. But there is a Lord of The Forest who is far older and far bloodier than any Green Man might have been had he existed. Read his story below …

Herne.

His voice was like moss on the bark of an ancient tree … deep and smooth, making you expect velvet. And then you touch the bark and it is cold, cold and with a hardness like stone under it.

I first heard it in the small courtyard off the Long Hall, where sometimes people go to get out of the heat of the hall fires, and rest their ears from the storytelling. I’d been sent out with a tray and a bottle of one of the oldest whiskeys, and told to deliver it to whoever I found there. I didn’t think too much of that — you get orders like that all the time from Reynard — so I went right out to the one table with people sitting at it.

He was a shadow darker than the shadows of the walls, sitting in the twilight; light from the windows gleamed on the glass in his hand, the metal at belt and wrist and knee, the gleam of his eyes — like cold sparks struck from a flint. Calm radiated off him like cold from a stone, too. Coming near to him was like wading into heart-high water. You felt yourself slowed and surrounded.

That surprised me, that he breathed out such a vast, calming peace. If you’ve heard his train whooping through the nights, men and horns and hounds howling all alike under the moon, you’d never expect their Lord to be so … quiet. There’s a solace in his company, and in that deep, sweet voice. At least when you catch him a quiet moment, drinking in the moonlight with a lady.

She was sitting on a cushion, her head against his knee, her pale hair flowing like starlight over them both. Their voices were low and easy as they spoke, with the rhythm of long years’ intimacy between them; like the voices of your parents through the walls in the middle of the night – you hear just a moment of their conversation as you burrow into your pillow, inexplicable and remote and far, far older than anything you know — but the sound means all is well in the world, and you go back to sleep comforted. That was what they sounded like.

I don’t know who she was, though her face had every beauty you could ever imagine in a woman. I didn’t know who he was, until he shifted into the light from the Hall window. Then, what I had thought were vine-shadows on the wall behind him were plain to see — the great branching antlers, like amber and ivory and iron in the dim light. And I just stood there, staring like I’d never seen any of our older, stranger guests before, like a booby. But when the Lord of the Hunt is looking into your eyes, it’s damned hard to remember you’re only there to deliver his bar order and not to be judged eternally . . .

You’ll get a better judgment, of course, if you do remember to give the Lord his order. I can testify to that, because when I finally got my wits together enough to put the tray down and display the label, he smiled and thanked me in that deep voice.

I don’t know why anything ever flees from him, with that voice . . . I could have stood there, drowning in it, forever. Which I guess he knew, because he dismissed me very kindly, so I could remember I still had a body and walk away. But the singers in the Long Hall sounded like crows when I went through, after the dark voice in the dark courtyard.

They still do.

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What’s New for the 25th of November: Doctor Who goes Victorian, cornbread, music from Nightnoise, concert hall staples, color photography, and there’s a bite on the air

The roasting, the feasting and the hours of horseplay helped to create a special warmth on this cold, hard day. Then the fire was stoked and fed to make a warm place where there could be dancing until darkfall. Martin was very drunk. Rebecca danced alone, wide skirts swirling, hair flowing as the accordion wheezed out its jig, and feet stamped on the stone flags at the edge of the field, where the pit had been dug. — Robert Holdstock’s Merlin’s Wood

It smells this afternoon, if you venture outside, like Autumn should: tannin from the ancient oaks and wood smoke, thick with resin from the spruce scarps being burned in the fire pit near this Hall. It’s got a bite on the air, but not enough to be unpleasant. And I’ve got enough readers in the Library for it to pleasantly busy without being hectic as it is if the weather turns too nasty.

I’ve already dressed warmly and taken my long walk for the day, a morning sojourn with the Estate wolfhounds, complete with a thermos of tea and a breakfast ham and cheese biscuit in a pocket of my mackinaw, out towards one of the Standing Stones and back. Now I’m quite content to tackle my paperwork and assist folks here as need be. Let’s turn to this Edition while I see what Irish trad music I’ll see you off with on this Autumn day…

 

Grey has a fairy tale collection for us: ‘So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this: collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’

Susan Gaber did the illustrations for The Princess and the Lord of Night, which Marian notes was written By Emma Bull, who ‘is best-known to readers as a writer of urban fantasy novels, including War for the Oaks, Bone Dance, and Finder. She is also a musician involved with the bands Cats Laughing and the Flash Girls. However, in this book she turns her hand to writing fairy tales, and is, in my humble opinion, very successful.’

Robert brings a look at, of all things, a museum catalogue, but one that’s quite out of the ordinary: ‘William Eggleston is one of a small group of people who created color photography as a viable medium in art. William Eggleston’s Guide, the catalogue for an exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976, is a group of approximately 50 images that served to establish Eggleston’s reputation as a major figure in American photography. In addition to Eggleston’s astonishing photographs, the book is graced by a brilliant essay by John Szarkowski, the legendary Curator of Photographs at MOMA.’

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work, which is definitely aimed at adults, that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’

Our Editor looks at a Doctor Who adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang which featured Tom Baker, one of the most loved of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

Kage says ‘With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, alas, the malign gods were paying attention and behaving not unlike Terry Pratchett’s Auditors, practically warping time and space to mess with Terry Gilliam. They failed to ruin the film — Munchausen is magnificent, and a fitting conclusion to the Trilogy of the Imagination — but they ruined everything they could, to such an extent that Munchausen is unfairly and incorrectly called one of the most expensive disasters in cinema history.’

There’s Jiffy Corn Bread (25¢ a box when I was a bride, and a great help) and then there’s scratch corn bread, such as the bride makes from good old Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (with the faux red-and-white-check tablecloth cover), and then there’s real scratch cornbread. That’s what you get when you do all the right things to make the chymical magick of corn bread happen perfectly. Do it Jennifer’s way and you’ll amaze them all.

Remember Abe Sapien? Well, if you don’t, Robert has a look at three stories about him: ‘Among the many spin-offs from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is the series Abe Sapien, relating the exploits of the eponymous hero, the amphibious man introduced as part of the B.P.R.D. This collection, The Devil Does Not Jest, is the second Abe Sapien collection and contains three stories.’

Ian Anderson at the Beacon Theater a decade ago says Chris was wonderful: ‘This show was billed as an acoustic performance, and fans of the band were not disappointed. For years we hoped Anderson would do an acoustic album– The Secret Language of Birds (2000) and Rupi’s Dance (2004) albums filled that need, and his solo performances work from that mindset.’

Judith looks at at something strictly Irish trad: ‘Natural Bridge is a delight for session musicians and traditionalists. More progressive Irish music enthusiasts should keep in mind that it is a record of earlier 20th century styles and thatLennon and his friends are making little attempt at innovation.’

Play Each Morning Wild Queen gets praised by Michael: ‘The Flash Girls were the musical equivalent of Thelma and Louise, a pair of wild women musicians who’d taken their songs on the road, spreading chaos behind them merrily. They’re what happens when you throw in the Celtic rock talent of Cats Laughing or Boiled in Lead, the peculiar English sentiments of Neil Gaiman, the urban phantasms of one “Colonel” Emma Bull, and the genius of “The Fabulous” Lorraine Garland, self-styled Duchess of Hazard, into a blender and serve chilled with a twist of lime. Or, to put it another way, it’s what happens when some really creative, talented people got together and decided to have some serious fun.’

Robert brings us some holiday music of a different sort: he calls them ‘warhorses’, the concert-hall staples guaranteed to please an audience, presented in Hi-Fi Fiedler, a recording by the master of ‘light classical’: ‘Arthur Fiedler has the distinction of being the best-selling classical conductor of all time, due in no small part to his immense popularity as the musical director of the Boston Pops, a post he held for fifty years. His recordings of so-called ‘light’ classics and orchestral settings of show tunes, jazz, and popular songs sold 50 million copies during his lifetime. After listening to this collection, it’s not hard to see why.’

Our What Not this week is yet another trip to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, this time to take a tour of the Nature Walk: ‘About halfway down the west side of the Field Museum’s Stanley Field Hall, the three-story central atrium of the Museum, there is the beginning of a boardwalk with a sign announcing the “Nature Walk” (not to be confused with Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Board Walk, although there are some similarities). The entrance is between two dioramas depicting birds at the potholes that dot the Great Plains of North America (or used to: 90% of them are gone).’

Ahhh now that’s a rather fine piece of music! ‘Toys, Not Ties’  which was recorded by Nightnoise at Teatro Calderon, Spain on the 23th of April, 1991. Now I admit it is not strictly speaking an Irish trad band by any stretch though the band did include siblings of the late Ó Domhnaill and  Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill who were was raised in Kells, County Meath in it.  The band also included the late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham who was honoured here in in a memorial concert.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Guest Lecturer

Well, now. Mackenzie has asked me in as this for tonight’s guest lecturer. He likes to keep these seminars going through the summer months, you know, when otherwise the staff and denizens of the Green Man get too caught up in the long days and short nights in Oberon’s Wood. Remember, Masters and Mistresses, you are supposed to be writing about books, here.

And what does it mean, to write ‘about’ books? Hey? Any of you bright-eyed boys and girls ever paused to think about it, in your rush between the reference stacks and Jack’s in barrel? I’ve seen that barrel, and a mighty void it is, too. What are you all about as you proffer your analyses of art to the waiting ether?

Some might consider it a self-referential waste of time, especially the business of review and literary critique. ‘Them as can, do,’ the saying goes. ‘Them as can’t do, teach. And them as can’t do neither, criticize.’ Of course, that old saw is usually trotted out by someone who has written a bad book and been caught at it. There is power and skill needed to review a tale properly, so as to catch the casual reader’s interest and send it on like a well-aimed sling stone to find the original work itself.

But you may need to ask yourselves – and a frightening question it is – are you committing metafiction? When you write about another’s world, are you outlining the borders for the uninformed, or extending them? Are you lighting the path or creating a detour? It’s not my business or concern to tell you that — no, it’s not, so you can put away your notes and that dismayed look, young woman — it’s merely my intent to make you think about it. To read deeply and then to talk about it is a serious thing.

We all walk into books hoping. We hope for joy and mere amusement; for fulfillment of a dream and the filling of an idle hour; for a clear look at something we have glimpsed in dreams, or the first look at what has been unimaginable. When we consent to read a tale, we’re consenting to a journey that we have to take on faith. We hope to be well and safely conveyed the whole way, and not left robbed of our time by some nameless roadside. We trust the writers to know the way and show us all the best sights. At their best, all writers take us on the perfect road; at your best, you are sharing your experience on that road.

Consider yourselves cartographers, ladies and gentlemen. Every book opened is a new world discovered. Worlds are vast things. They harbor as much danger as delight; neither one is always easy to find, and maps are required. Not all worlds will sustain life — a warning to the explorer behind you on the road can give warning that ahead is a deadly insufficiency of oxygen, or warmth, or wit. A bright red ‘Here Be Dragons’ pulls in as many eager travellers as it warns off the timid ones: someone languishing for the company of dragons may never find their heart’s desire without your directions.

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What’s New for the 18th of November: A Tull concert, limited edition Ritter chocolate bars, Novels from Ursula le Guin and Patricia McKilillip, German style sausages, ‘Take This Waltz’ by Leonard Cohen and other later Autumn matters

Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all. — William Goldman, August 12, 1931 – November 16, 2018, author and screenwriter of The Princess Bride

I’m sitting in the corner nook of the Estate Kitchen with my iPad resting nearby and a large mug of cinnamon spiced hot chocolate in hand listening to the always pleasant  conversation of the crew as they go about their task of feeding the Estate residents. It being late afternoon and my Several Annies are off getting a lesson in Jewish culinary traditions from Rebbeka, a former Several Annie of mine who now works here for the Estate in this very Kitchen, I decided to ensconce myself hefre for the afternoon.

They’ve been discussing the German-style sausages that Gus, our Estate Head Gardener (and butcher as well) just made that they’re frying up. His usual seasonings include salt, white but never black pepper and mace, and then depending on his inclination, they might contain cumin, coriander, cardamom, thyme, sage, caraway, lots of garlic, and cloves. All I know is if they taste as good as they smell cooking right now, they’ll be delicious!

So now let me finish this Edition off so you can read it…

Camille says that sometimes ‘It’s quite gratifying to revisit books from one’s childhood. Actually, it can be gratifying or disastrous. I’m pleased to say it was the former for me with Patricia A. McKillip’s Moon-Flash. Originally published by Argo Books in 1984, Moon-Flash is one of a duology, though this first book is absolutely readable as a stand-alone novel.’

Chris says ‘Ursula K. LeGuin seems to be getting better as the years go by. Her newest novel, Lavinia, is a historical fantasy that is in some ways even more ambitious than her previous work. First, some background: in book VII of the Aeneid, we learn that Lavinia, daughter of the King of Latium, became Aeneas’ wife, but her role in the poem is almost an afterthought. LeGuin’s novel lets us know what was on Lavinia’s mind.’

Autumn’s often a time of passages so it’s apt that Richard has a look at this work: ‘Even before the untimely passing of author Robert Holdstock, it would have been impossible to read Avilion as anything other than a tale of partings, a resolution to many of the threads woven through the Ryhope Wood cycle. Now, it reads as a fond and graceful farewell to Ryhope and the Huxley family, an affectionate gift of endings to characters who, in their own ways, have all earned peace.’

Lars shares his comments on a man who is, to many, the embodiment of English folk rock: ‘In Off the Pegg Dave tells his story to Nigel Schofield, who has written a number of books about Fairport and past members. Basically the books consists of Dave Pegg talking to Schofield’s recording machine, with the co-author putting in comments to bridge any gaps in the narrative.’

William Goldman died yesterday so let’s have L.G. tell us about one of his films: ‘Envision a film with Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, and Peter Cook that is absolutely hilarious, yet none of them appear in the lead roles. “Inconceivable!,” you cry and I reply, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” Yes, indeed, we are talking about The Princess Bride — the wildly successful movie based on the wildly successful book of the same title. Both book and screenplay were written by William Goldman which explains two things; 1) why they match up so well, and 2) why they’re both so very, very good.’

Chewy grains and sausage casserole is something offered up for a late Autumn day by Jen: ‘Well, that didn’t work. I tried adapting a recipe yesterday and it was a total frost. The right way to cook this recipe creates a great side dish for a pot luck, or a solid meal for two with leftovers. The grains are chewy and smoky and savory and salty, with just enough sausage grease mixed in to flavor them, and there’s just enough meat to make you feel virtuous about your protein intake.’

Raspberry Creme and a Buttermilk Lemon are the two flavours in chocolate bars Robert looks at this time: ‘As you will remember, Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG is a major German chocolatier and candy manufacturer. I happen to have recently received two of their Limited Edition candies for review — which means, sadly, that I wasn’t allowed to just snarf them down. These are part of a series of candies made with yogurt and flavorings and covered in chocolate. Strangely enough, I wasn’t able to find information on the Ritter Sport website. I guess when they say “Limited Edition,” that’s just what they mean.’

Our Graphic Lit offering this week features more Korean manwha, courtesy of Robert: ‘Yeo and Park’s first collection of Chronicles of the Cursed Sword contains the first three volumes of the original manhwa series. Like King of Hell, it’s a Korean action/adventure story with heavy supernatural overtones, this time involving not one but two magical swords, demons, spirits, and heroes.’

Barb has a look at a rather unusual album from a rather unusual trio (plus guests): ‘ First indication of their sense of humor was the name of the group and album title: Folk Underground and Buried Things respectively. Right there I detect a smirk (a mischievous one, not a criminal one). I love musicians who smirk a bit. It’s a good indication that they don’t take themselves too seriously.’

Chris has some comments on a concert that was a bit of nostalgia and a bit of right now, which is to say Jethro Tull live at Jones Beach, NY, June 11, 2010: ‘After more than four decades of making music, Jethro Tull still has the kind of magic that defines rock ‘n roll. Ian Anderson’s wild onstage antics may have mellowed somewhat over the years, but he is still shockingly agile and energetic for a man in his sixties, even taking to his one-legged flute pose from time to time. Tull are the kind of group that inspire dogged devotion – the guys sitting near me had been to more than three hundred Jethro Tull shows (yes, you read that correctly.) And I thought I was a little obsessed.’

Chicago indie-rocker Ryley Walker just released his own version of a legendary unreleased album by the Dave Matthews Band, called The Lillywhite Sessions. Gary says, ‘There’s nothing in these Lillywhite Sessions that’s going to make me a Dave Matthews fan, but plenty to keep me singing the praises of Ryley Walker.’

Judith says that ‘Emma Bull is a science fiction and fantasy writer, having published a number of sometimes odd works including War for the Oaks, Territory, and Bone Dance: A Fantasy For Technophiles. Lorraine Garland is a “comic book assistant.” Emma and Lorraine perform together as The Flash Girls; they both sang and Lorraine fiddled. Take the Nields, Boiled In Lead (literally), Susan Voeltz, Cordelia’s Dad, and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh of Altan, add sometimes bizarre lyrics and voila! a vague approximation of The Flash Girls.’ Now go read her review of their Maurice and I album.

And now for something completely different. Robert shares his thoughts on a recording of Terry Riley’s legendary Lisbon Concert: ‘One of the high points of my music-listening career, right up there with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Irwin Hoffman performing the perfect Brahms Symphony No, 1, was the chance to hear Terry Riley in concert. For those who haven’t had that opportunity, the recording of his Lisbon Concert is the next best thing.’

Our What Not this time is about a library that has the habit of — oh, let’s let Atlas Obscura tell the tale: ‘In the reading room of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., researchers might spend hours carefully paging through a 16th-century pamphlet or the only surviving quarto edition of Titus Andronicus. (“If one good deed in all my life I did, I do repent it from my very soul.”) But they also have access to another unusual—if more informal—collection. Behind the reading room desk there is a vault where the staff keeps a small lending library of handmade shawls.’  You can read the rest of this delightful tale here.

Hmmm… ‘Take This Waltz’ by Leonard Cohen as performed at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on the 19th of Feb 2009 seems properly Autumnal to me. Cohen took his version from Pequeño Vals Vienès  (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca and the poem itself is definitely not upbeat, but it fits my mood oft times.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Calamity Janes

They called themselves The Calamity Janes and were a Americana group that showed up here one fine Autumn day. Jack hadn’t booked them, indeed hadn’t even heard of them, but they decided to visit us as they’d heard they could get room and board for playing here which was (sort of) true. Jack consulted with Jean-Pierre, the Estate Stewart who makes that decision, and he said yes if they were willing to also help around the Estate as we always could more bodies during the growing season which they were enthusiastic about doing anyways.

They were a three woman group (fiddle, dobro, and mountain dulcimer) all in the thirties. Visually they were a striking group: all red haired with green eyes and abundant freckles with a ready smile for all they encountered. In concert, they had a sweet sound, blending old-timely, bluegrass (both of which are relatively new forms) and celtic into something unique that worked nicely.

Of course they played acoustic as does everyone here and we got permission as we always do to record them for inclusion in our Infinite Jukebox, our MP3 archives. Their performances were attended by almost everyone on the Estate. One concert alone ran over three hours and a number of the musos here ended up sitting with them for their jams after the concerts.

Jean-Pierre arranged for them to play and give a hands on work for the children at the Lewis Carroll School of The Imagination. In the village nearest us. The teacher there said the students were in rapture from the entire time they were there. Several of the female student vowed that they would be musicians!

He also handed them, to their delight and surprise, a rather nice cheque even though they hadn’t expected to be paid. He also handed them three full zone Eurorail passes so they could get around easily while they were still travelling. And Jack arranged for them to come back the next time that they over this way.

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What’s New for the 11th of November: TCHO dark chocolate, music from smallpiper Kathryn Tickell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Korean manhwa, Peter Beagle on J.R.R Tolkien and other matters

She knew this music — knew it down to the very core of her being — but she had never heard it before. Unfamiliar, it had still always been there inside her, waiting to be woken. It grew from the core of mystery that gives a secret its special delight, religion its awe. It demanded to be accepted by simple faith, not dissected or questioned, and at the same time, it begged to be doubted and probed. –– smallpiper Janey Little in Charles de Lint’s The Little Country

Nasty weather today, isn’t it? Don’t  believe it’ll get above minus five centigrade today which is damn cold so near everyone’s staying inside Kinrowan Hall save the Estate staff tending the livestock and checking on the grounds as need be as there’s also a gale force wind blowing and a freezing rain, too.

I was asking a question that pops up frequently around here and Peter Beagle said ‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’  He’s been a guest off and on for decades and I’ve absolutely no idea he gets here from the San Francisco area, but I swear he’s magical in nature — which probably explains his fiction.

Now let’s turn to our Edition…

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by Iain: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Speaking of Welsh mythology, Jo looks at two versions of a Welsh collection of myths: ‘Grand quests, swords, sorcery, gods, mortals, love, war, and a healthy sense of mystery can all be found in The Mabinogion. These eleven ancient Welsh tales date back to somewhere around 1200 in written form and are classics of the folk tale genre. There are few places where you can find so many archetypal folk themes, presented within such a short space. Celtic lineage, culture, and heritage are presented with grace and passion within the framework of a group of stories. These tales are a must for anyone interested in Celtic folklore or in Arthurian legend, for Arthur plays a minor role in many of the tales.’

Kim has a bit of Irish cultural history for us: ‘Helen Brennan’s The Story of Irish Dance is an engaging, personal, informative, and opinionated look at the reclamation and revival of traditional Irish Dance in the past 40 years — it’s the sort of story that one imagines could be heard in conversation at a congenial pub, sitting by the fire with a pint, or in someone’s living room with a cup of tea. That said, it’s also well organized and gives a succinct history of the decline of Irish dancing in the 20th century, the victim of commercial zoning laws and clerical vendettas.’

A treat for the forthcoming Winter Holidays comes in the guise of a short novel from one of our favourite writers and Richard says ‘one can look at the book as a companion piece to Beagle’s Summerlong, a bookend to the story that one tells. If Summerlong tells the story of a mature romance torn apart by the intrusion of the supernatural, In Calabria is a tale of a May-September romance that happens precisely because of the intrusion of the supernatural into everyday life. One door closes, another one opens, and the cycle goes on.’

Glenn Yeffeth’s Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Discuss Their Favorite Show, says Denise, has ‘something of interest in almost every essay in this book. It’s a fine volume for the smallest room in the house. Most of the writers I disagree with are still interesting — Lawrence Watt-Evans has a solution to Buffy’s love life that would never please me, but I understand how he got there.’

Tim looks at The Adventures of Robin Hood: ‘While numerous Robin Hood movies have been made, my dad steadfastly refuses to watch them. “There’s only one Robin Hood,” he says. He’s talking about Errol Flynn, of course, and this 1938 classic.’

Robert, our resident chocolate purist, has three offerings from a fairly new chocolate maker, TCHO: ‘TCHO is an American chocolate maker (and they differentiate between “chocolate maker” and “chocoatier”) that is, according to their website, determined to make the best chocolate possible. Like so many others, they are focused on fair trade organic chocolate. . . .Three of their offerings wound up on my desk recently, and I have to admit, they are all excellent. Where to start?’

Robert brings us something a little out of the ordinary for this week’s graphic literature: the beginning of a Korean manhwa series, King of Hell: ‘King of Hell is manhwa from Korea, a medium that, along with Chinese man hua, fits within the overall manga model. It’s what I’ve taken to calling a supernatural adventure, based on the exploits of one Majeh, an envoy for the King of Hell.’

Celtic music has long been bastardised, errr, blended with other traditions, as Chuck notes in this review: ‘Many forms of music have been fused with Celtic — hard rock, new age, jazz, and South American, just to name a few — with varying success. With Born Tired, Burach fuses with several styles, most unusually, attempting to merge Celtic with ’70s era funk with mixed results.’

Gary tells us about a new four-song EP from Rachel Baiman that has a holiday theme. Thanksgiving packs a big emotional wallop for such a little thing. Rather like the emotions lurking behind this family-centered, uniquely American holiday.’

Naomi looks at album called Solstice: ‘Duchas, pronounced “du-kuss,” is an Irish Gaelic word meaning “heritage.” And this is what this high energy group from Connemara is playing: their musical heritage. This is their second release, and it is filled with traditional and original pieces, all played with a wonderful energy and passion.’

Robert brings us a collection that of music that often starts with the traditional and goes on from there — to wit, Vaughan Williams’s Orchestral Works: ‘Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) is certainly one of the foremost English composers of the twentieth century. Like many of his contemporaries – Bartók and Copeland come immediately to mind – he drew a great deal of his inspiration from folk songs and traditional melodies. In addition to his symphonies and choral works, he left behind a rich legacy of shorter orchestral works, many of which are remarkable, orchestral jewels.’

This week’s What Not almost wound up in Food and Drink. How can that be? you ask. Well, let Robert guide you through a rather unusual exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum: ‘If you happen to be in Chicago before January 5, 2020, be sure to catch a small gem of an exhibition at the Field Museum: the Chicago Brewseum’s Brewing Up Chicago, their first exhibition, hosted by the Field Museum. It’s a combination of history, politics, and the brewer’s art.’

Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing   ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her, which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th of June 2010, and it should do quite nicely.

Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian piper Billy Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also claims.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bonfires

Nothing warms my heart and body as much as a bonfire does. Other than my wife that is. Oh I know that I could be inside with my wife Catherine enjoying the warmth of one of the many fireplaces in this old building, but I love, particularly as Autumn gives way to Winter, being outside when a roaring bonfire’s been built.

We build bonfires often in the courtyard here at the Kinrowan Estate. Sometimes we have contradances deep into the night with bloody big mugs of hot chocolate fortified with brandy, spiced cider or tea to aid in keeping everyone warm, and sometimes the Neverending Session treats those who care to come out in the cold to music by fire and moonlight. There’s something rather amazing to hear those musos play long into the night with the stars overhead.

Now building a proper bonfire is not something most folks know how to do. They think just throwing anything wooden into a pile and lighting is all there is to it. And we won’t even dwell on the idiots who use petrol to ignite their bonfires which is a sure way to get someone hurt badly.

A proper bonfire first of all needs a pit, preferably made out of stone. Ours is twelve feet across and three feet deep — need I say that it’s set a safe distance from anything that could catch fire? The wood for the bonfire should be a mix of softwoods like spruce and pine for both its quick burning and its lovely crackling sound; the hardwoods we use are maple and oak as they’ll burn a long time.

Our fire pit has a six foot wide flat lip — perfect for sitting on as the fire dies down. As the courtyard has a nice stone tile surface perfect for dancing (at least ’til it gets really cold), we often use the bonfire as a light source for those dances. And we’ve actually roasted whole pigs in the pit over a custom iron rack that fits into grooves in the sides of it — really good eating that makes!

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What’s New for the 4th of November: Charles de Lint’s Dreams Underfoot, Jakob Bro at the Old Church, Poetry by Robert Frost, Guy Fawkes Day and music in remememerence of, Joni Mitchell’s 1970 Isle of Wight performance, Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’, Season of the Witch candy roundup and other matters of November

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot. 

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta

As Manager and thereby self-assigned evening Barkeep in the Estate Pub, breakfast for me is around three in the afternoon as I rarely stir before two in the afternoon. (Ingrid, my wife, who’s the Estate Steward, keeps roughly the same hours, arising about noon as RHIP and her work has no set hours.) Fortunately I work nights so I don’t notice the shortening days.

When the weather turns nasty, as certainly has it this November afternoon,  I’ll always go with an old favourite of mine — huevos rancheros, which for me are eggs and chorizo wrapped in warm tortillas, then covered with a green chili sauce. That and strong black coffee served with real cream will do nicely, provided all of this is served ’round noon, when I’m, more or less, ready to be awake. If I don’t ‘ave that, I’ll settle for a full Welsh breakfast of three thick Welsh bacon rashers, pork sausage and two lovely eggs. And strong tea.

Our Edition time is our usual mix of old material from the Archives, such as the review of de lint’s Dreams Underfoot collection which we strongly recommend for Autumnal reading, along with such material as a newly penned look at Halloween candy, a recent DVD release of  a Joni Mitchell performance almost fifty years ago, and of course we’ve got music in the form this time of  The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Homefires’, their take on Guy Fawkes Day to see us out.

Elizabeth has a Big Dumb Object SF Novel for us: ‘Helix is one of the few science fiction books that manages to make the future of humanity look both bleak and hopeful at the same time, and that’s a testament to Eric Brown’s skill with characterization, description, and narrative.’

Richard has this lead-in to a classic English work of fantasy: ‘The first fully fledged novel in the Robert Holdstock’s epic novel cycle is Mythago Wood. The book, which first saw print in 1984 (though part of it appeared earlier in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) is awash in both the Oedipal struggle and the Jungian subjective unconscious. At its heart, it’s a tale of family struggle. Sons war against each other for the love of a woman, and both struggle against their monstrous, inhuman father. Or so it seems.’ And though he’s doesn’t note it in that review, he does note in later reviews of other novels in the series that Mythago Wood is a character unto itself.

Robert has a wonderful fantasy collection for us: ‘Charles de Lint’s Dreams Underfoot is another collection of Newford stories, rather different in feel than those in The Ivory and the Horn. While that collection leaned more toward the “ghost stories” category, this one is much more inclined toward what we’ve come to know as de Lint’s own brand of fantasy: urban, contemporary, drawing on mythic traditions from both Europe and North America, and not quite like anything anyone else is writing. These stories are also what I’ve come to think of as “mature de Lint”: the boundaries between the worlds have become not only intangible, but largely irrelevant, the here-and-now is not irrevocably here or now, and magic is where you find it – if it doesn’t find you first.’

Equally wonderful, in Robert’s view, is a collection of two collections of works by Robert Frost: ‘A Boy’s Will was Robert Frost’s first published collection, seeing print when he was nearly forty, in 1913. North of Boston, published in 1914, was his second collection. Published together, they provide a good signpost at the point where 19th-century poetry became 20th-century poetry.’

Kelly joyfully exclaims that ‘Joni Mitchell’s 1970 Isle of Wight performance is captured in Both Sides Now, a stunning historical document of an artist at the peak of her powers amid the chaos of this iconic festival.’

Denise here, taking over the Food & Drink section with more candy reviews. Why? It’s the Season of the Witch, is it not? Donovan says so, and I will not argue. So go take a gander at my reviews for Reese’s Snack-Size Peanut Butter Pumpkins, Treat Street’s Zombie Hand Gummy Lollipops, Jelly Belly’s The Original Gourmet Candy Corn, Wonka’s Halloween Fright-Tins, and Sour Patch Kids’ Zombie Candy! Of course I have a quote for you. I’d never forget. But this time, you’ll have to figure out exactly which review it’s from. (Spoiler: it’s not chocolate…) ‘Perhaps I’m not cool enough, but…there’s only so much I can take.’ It’s a tough job, reviewing candies, but someone’s gotta do it. And on that note, I’ll be off to the kitchen, where I hear that the Cook has whipped up a batch of sugar-hangover cure. 

Denise has a look at the film version of V for Vendetta: ‘It’s been said that Guy Fawkes was the only person who ever entered the Houses of Parliament with honest intentions. He honestly meant to blow the place to smithereens, and though he was foiled in his attempt, at least his motives were easy to understand. . . . the titular hero of V for Vendetta has a similar plan, but his intentions are darkened by involved self-interest.’

David looks back at the original V for Vendetta: ‘It was Dickens who said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” but by the time it rolled ’round to Alan Moore and David Lloyd, it was worse: nuclear holocaust, fascist dictatorships, concentration camps for the disenfranchised. And who is disenfranchised? Just about anyone who doesn’t toe the party line. It’s not a pretty sight this England imagined by Moore and Lloyd in their 10 month comic series from two decades ago.’

Gary saw Jakob Bro recently live: ‘The beautifully restored Presbyterian Church in downtown Portland that is The Old Church Concert Hall  was a perfect spot for this music. It’s a warm, acoustically gorgeous and intimate venue that made this gig feel more like a house concert.’

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result.’

A debut recording  that turned out to be the only recording by a Scottish group caught the ear of Naomi: ‘The sound of the CD really does reflect this large cast of musicians, revealing a broad spectrum of styles and influences with forays into country and pop music. However, the overall feel of this recording is remarkably unified and thoroughly Scottish at its core, although the members of Cantychiels clearly have the knack for injecting a pleasant modern sensibility into their music. Fans of early ’80s Clannad will not be disappointed with this CD.’

Robert has a look at music from Merrie Old England, the England of Elizabeth and James — and Guy Fawkes. It’s a twofer review of Seven Teares: Music of John Dowland and The York Waits’ Fortune My Foe: Popular Music from the Period of the Gunpowder Plot: ‘Guy Fawkes made the mistake of getting caught with the barrels of gunpowder intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605; he was neither the instigator nor the leader of the plot, just the fall guy. He has the somewhat thin consolation of giving his name to the English holiday on which things explode. (Every country has one, you know.)’ (I know, the titles don’t sound so merrie, but that’s just the way it was.)

While Guy Fawkes Day is still on our minds around here, there’s another tale that I can’t help but come back to when November begins. With a yearly masquerade to attend, I can’t help but think of Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’. This tale blends the chills of the recently departed Halloween with the horrors of what I like to call The Sickness Season. While we can hopefully count ourselves lucky enough to avoid Prospero’s fate this season, this time of year raises goosebumps for more reasons than one. Let’s hope ‘Darkness and Decay and the Red Death’ bypasses us all. (Save for the tale itself, of course.) Shall I fetch us all hearty cups of soup? I feel the need for one right now.

Our music for you quite naturally is The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Homefires’, their look at Guy Fawkes Day and what it means to British culture. Where and when they recorded it seems to have been lost right now though I’ll add in if I find out that information.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Riddles (A Letter to Elizabeth)

Dear Elizabeth,

You asked me about the power of rhymes as I mentioned they’re common in Swedish children’s songs, and indeed there is power in the old rhymes, spells that they be, which even most hedgewitches forget, but not our Tamsin. Like all hedgewitches who have lived here at the Kinrowan Estate, she has a working knowledge of how important they are as she’s read the Journals written by centuries of hedgewitches before her at the Estate. She even claims that there’s an old fox with one eye that listens keenly when she recites riddling spells in the woods near her cottage!

I was drinking Oberon and Titania’s Ale in the pub with Tamsin and Reynard, the latter taking the evening off as Finch was on duty. There was a contradance later that night with me calling and Reynard playing with Chasing Dragonflies. Somehow the subject got into the matter of rhymes as sung by children.

Tamsin mentioned ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ first appeared in print in the late eighteen hundreds, but it’s probably at least a century older, maybe a lot more. She noted that some folks, particularly fellow hedgewitches say that the song originally described the plague as posies were thought to prevent the plague, but folklorists of recent years reject this idea. Silly lot, those folklorists in her opinion — she says that just because you can’t prove something is true is not proof it isn’t true.

Iain had just added a book on riddles in The Hobbit. He mused about the idea of riddles as a riddle is a statement or question or even just a simple phrase having a double or often hidden meaning which makes what is a riddle rather expansive.

That led a Several Annie who was listening in to suggest a riddle slam, a contest in which anybody can state a riddle and both the riddler and the riddle get judged on the best of each. We set it for the next stormy day so that the Steward could declare it a Respite Day in which everyone (including the Kitchen staff as our eventide meal would be soup and such to keep prep minimal) got the day off.

That was several weeks ago and it’s been fun to watch everyone writing riddles and reciting them aloud to see how they sound. Tamsin has cautioned them about saying aloud riddles with an embedded wish as they might just come true.

I’ll tell how the riddle slam goes after we have it. It might be a while (I almost said spell but resisted) as the weather’s been ideal for my estate work crews and we’re still in harvesting season as well!

Your friend, Gus

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What’s New for the 28th of October: All Hallow’s Eve Edition

I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there
None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead

Fairport Convention’s ‘Tam Lin’

 It’s quite cold and blustery here on this Scottish Estate so we’re all thankful that  the Fey provide the lighting for the exterior pumpkins as candles of a conventional nature wouldn’t stay lit at all. But the lighting of a supernatural nature is perfect. We here on the Estate and invited guests will be celebrating by attending a concert by the Neverending Session  in which they perform Halloween music, both classical such asDanse Macabre’ and  more contemporary tunes such as ’The Great Pumpkin’ and even one by the Red Clay Ramblers, ‘The Pumpkin Dance’.

Roast pumpkin soup, sourdough rolls shaped like skulls, cinnamon-spiced pork hand pies and nutmeg-spiced pumpkin ice cream will be our eventide meal tonight which will be perfect for working off when we have a midnight contradance by Chasing Fireflies which tonight is Ingrid, our Steward, on hand drums, Bela, our Hungarian violinist, Finch, one of our barkeeps, on Border smallpipes and Iain, our Librarian on violin.

Now let’s turn to our more or less Halloween-centric edition. To start things off, how about a lovely reading of ‘Halloween’ by Robert Burns? It’s a poem perfect for the season, and read by David Hart with just a wee touch o’ the brogue. As for the rest of the haunts in this issue? I think you’ll find much to check out later. I think there’s even going to be some food and drink of a Halloween nature courtesy of, well, let’s keep that a secret …

Cat starts off our book reviews with Smoking Mirror Blues, a novel by Ernest Hogan. Cat says of it that ‘In the very near future, the citizens of Los Angeles are preparing to celebrate Dead Daze, a bacchanalian rave of a holiday that’s an over-the-top merging of All Hallows Eve, the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Mardi Gras. The reawakened Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, riding the body of a human, is feeling quite well, thank you! And let’s not forget that the Day of the Dead, which forms part of Dead Daze, is at its heart a time when the barriers between the dead and the still-living are all but completely erased. So maybe the gods do walk again … And this holiday, not dissimilar to the one in the Strange Days movie, needs National Guard troops to prevent rioting!’

So how about a Day of The Dead set story that involves a small town mechanic called Grace who discovers the man she loves is dead? And that she can cross over when the veils are thin to see him? Such is the premise of Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace which Cat notes that ‘It is a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything else by him at all, but gives you a good feel for what he is like as a writer, as it has well-crafted characters, believable settings, and a story that will hold your interest. And it is a novel that you will read again to get some of the nuances that get missed in the first reading.’

Craig has a review of a horror novel set on a closely related holiday: ‘Brian A. Hopkins is an acclaimed writer and editor (he has won Bram Stoker Awards under both guises) who also operates an innovative publishing company (Lone Wolf Publications, which produced the multimedia anthology Tooth and Claw, Volume One and another Stoker winner, The Imagination Box), yet who still has time to crank out terrific work for other smaller houses like Earthling Publications. El Dia de los Muertos (“the Day of the Dead”) is his most recent Stoker recipient, winning the 2002 award for best novella.’

Halloween is the time for vampires, and so Denise takes a look at Gross and Altman’s Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy and Angel. She found an detailed “oral history” that is sure to please fans of both shows.  ‘I can feel the authors’ love for their subject, and their excitement is contagious.  … [A] fun read that’ll keep you in party anecdotes for this coming holiday season, and into the next one.’

One of our Garys has a look at Christopher Golden and James A. Moore’s Bloodstained Oz: ‘If you like lots of violence and gore, and you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz, then you’ll like this book. The evil manifestations of Baum’s characters are one of the highlights of the book. If you like a book with an ending, prepare yourself to write your own, as the authors apparently intended.’

Jack looks at a Diane Wynne Jones novel that befits this holiday: ‘It’s a good solid book with memorable characters and an engrossing plot which got read in one rather long sitting on a cold, rainy afternoon late in October. Several pots of Earl Grey tea and a number of the tHe Kitchen’s excellent scones were devoured in the reading of Fire & Hemlock.’

Love, hate, or baffled by The Wicker Man, there’s no denying it’s a horror classic.  No, not the horrendous 2006 remake, but the original 1973 film starring Christopher Lee.  The original film has caught the eye of many, including many academics. Kestrell takes a look at Benjamin Franks’ The Quest for The Wicker Man: History, Folklore, and Pagan Perspectives, a collection of articles from a conference that focused on the film.  ‘The Quest for The Wicker Man is highly recommended for any dedicated Wicker Man fan and especially for academics writing about this classic cult film.’  Read more about this collection in her review!

Nellie looks at The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: ‘Through Jean Markale’s book we can find the real legitimacy for Halloween as a holiday. It is not simply about children traipsing from door to door looking for candy (or else! Trick or Treat!). It is not simply about a reverence for ancestors, or a time to let go of all inhibition. There is a reality to it that gives it a deeper presence, and which beckons us to seek its true meaning, in addition to its true history.’

A fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

We next look at Ray Bradbury’s quintessential Autumn novel and film which gets an appreciative review by the previous reviewer: ‘By right and nature, all October babies should love Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is a love letter to autumn, and to the Halloween season in particular, a gorgeous take on maturity and self-acceptance and all the dark temptations that come crawling ‘round when the calendar creeps close to October 31st.’

Just in time for the festivities a couple of nights from now, Robert has a look at Alex Irvine’s The “Supernatural” Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons, and Ghouls: ‘I seem to be faced with another one of those television spin-offs, this time from the series Supernatural, about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who hunt demons and other nasty customers not entirely of this world …. Alex Irvine has taken this basis, and the various creatures the brothers encounter, drawn from myths, urban legends, and folklore, and turned it into a “bestiary of the unnatural”.’

Thomas has a guide to this holiday for us: ‘Halloween, an unofficial holiday, is nonetheless celebrated by millions of people in North America and the British Isles, rivaling only Christmas in popularity. In the heavily illustrated Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, York University professor of history Nicholas Rogers traces the history of this holiday from its alleged beginnings as a Celtic festival, Samhain, marking the end of summer, to its many and various manifestations today. ’

Horror films have been part of the Halloween experience in the States for a very long time now. And we’ve had our share of wonderful seasonal treats, as well as time-wasting tricks.

Craig looks at the 1941 The Wolf Man: ‘After 18 years in America, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns home to his father (Claude Rains) upon the death of his brother. He meets Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), the daughter of a local shopkeeper, and falls in love. That night, they accompany a friend of hers, Jenny (Fay Helm), to a gypsy fortune-teller to have her fortune told. Unfortunately, the fortune-teller, Bela (Bela Lugosi), is a werewolf who sees the sign of the pentagram in Jenny’s hand. He sends her away, but attacks her in the foggy moors later that evening. (These things always seem to happen in foggy moors. See, for example, An American Werewolf in London.)’

Denise takes a look at a ‘trick’ of a tale with her review of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. She doesn’t hold back on her distaste: ‘If the folks responsible for this garbage really wanted to depart from the first two films and create something authentic, this basic story could have been an interesting movie …. Happy Halloween? Not with this clunker.’  Read her review for exactly why she’s nonplussed.

Another trick-y tale is The Haunted Mansion, a film based on a ride at the Disney resorts. Denise thinks that all the beautiful set design can’t make up for a film that can’t quite figure itself out.  ‘This is a lovely film to look at, but there’s not a lot of substance. Just double-check to make sure any young children you take are up for a pretty good scare.’

A choice bit of British horror is next.  Jekyll is ably reviewed for us by Kestrell who says that ‘this version is not so much a remake as a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story. The story is relocated from Victorian Edinburgh to contemporary London and follows one of Jekyll’s descendents, a research scientist named Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt).’ Kestrell concludes that ‘While I found this re-telling of a traditional story exciting and exceptionally well done, I would suggest that this series is not for everyone. Viewers looking for a remake of the original story will not find it here; those viewers who prefer American Hollywood effects may also be disappointed.’

Festive Samhain, everyone! Denise here, and I’ve stolen away the food and drink section this issue. Why? Because ghoulish delights abound! I’ve stuffed my face with all sorts of seasonal delights … though not everything was particularly delightful. Come along and see, won’t you?

First off, in a nod to the spirit of the season, Dunkin’ Donuts released a slew of themed donuts. I tried their Spider Donut, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. ‘It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.’ Read on to learn more!

Then there’s something that’s near and dear to my heart; black licorice. Oh now stop with that face. It’s delicious stuff.  In fact, I’ve got two Halva Licorice Bars that’ll tempt you I’m sure. Why? Because ‘…you’re getting the real deal here. No anise posing. No mutton dressed as lamb.’

Want something savory instead?  How about Transylvanian cheese?  Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese, to be exact. Let’s just say that if you’re able to get your hands on some, you should. There’s more to be had in the review, but for now let’s just leave it at this; ‘Thank you, Transylvania.’

Greenbriar’s Halloween Candy Bracelets are ‘These strange, Fruit-Loops looking candies strung on a bit of elastic string, with or without a “pendant” or “charm” made of the same kind of candy were a must when I was a kid. They were fun, they were cheap – very important when you’re dealing with a weekly allowance that had to be stretched as much as possible – and they doubled as an accessory. An accessory that melted on your neck or arm and left you with stripes that you had to soap off once you got home.’ So read my review of this modern take on an old favorite!

Robert has a look at a suitably scary graphic novel from a story originally penned by Robert E. Howard: ‘Pigeons from Hell is an adaptation by Joe R. Lansdale of a story by Robert E. Howard, with art by Nathan Fox and color by Dave Stewart. Lansdale is at pains to point out, in his “Notes from the Writer,” that it is really an “adaptation” — updated, exploring some new facets of Howard’s story, and not to be confused with the original, all of which leads me to treat it as its own creature.’

And what would Halloween be without demons and ghosties and that sort of thing? Well, that’s what we get with the latest incarnation of John Constantine, in Hellblazer, Vol. 1: The Poison Truth. Says Robert: ‘I’ll be honest: John Constantine is not a comic book hero who has ever really grabbed me. I can’t think of any particular reason for that, unless it’s his rapid-fire delivery and glib personality. Maybe it’s because he’s a sociopath, and I’ve learned to be wary of those — even comics. (It’s a wonder how many of the characters in this collection really don’t like Constantine very much, but they go along with him.)’

Gary tells us about an album of what’s called ‘dark polar ambient’ music by a Russian musician who performs under the name Ugansie: ‘If you like drone or ambient or dark experimental music, Border of Worlds is for you. If you just want something spooky to play in your haunted house at Halloween, ditto.’

‘There’s nothing very pretty about this record,’ Gary says of Jeffrey Martin’s One Go Around. ‘It’s all as real as the hard roads traveled by the people in his songs.’

Robert has a look at a fairy tale full of goblins, ghosts, and witches — it’s Philip Glass’ The Witches of Venice, based on the book by Beni Montresor: ‘The King and Queen of Venice are bemoaning the lack of an heir. Sure enough, two fairies appear from the Lagoon with a plant: if the King plants it in his garden, a child will be born. The King is not impressed and throws the plant out the window.’ You can guess what happens after that, but read the review anyway.

I’ll admit I love our pumpkin graphic that we’ve been using these past few weeks. But as Halloween is fast approaching, I think of Jack-o-Lanterns, and how living in the modern world is a good thing this time of year. Oh, not because of scientific progress, technological marvels, or anything like that, though all these things are wonderful and much appreciated. No, it’s because now we carve pumpkins rather than turnips for our Jack-o-Lanterns. I just don’t have the patience, nor the skill, to whittle a turnip into a candle holder. Though the turnip is trying to make a comeback, this year I’ll be marveling at – and being especially grateful for – our gourd-y seasonal visitors.

Very long after the band recorded Liege and Lief, which Deborah plays proper homage to in, “Trad Boys, Trad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do….?” Liege & Lief remembered, Fairport Convention played the entire album live at their own summer bash, the ‘07 Cropredy Festival. Everyone who was on the 1969 recording save Sandy Denny who had passed on was on stage so with Chris While doing the vocals for this epic experience. The soundboard recording is stellar, so here’s ‘Tam Lin’ as performed on a warm summer night.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Jack O’Lanterns

Botanically speaking, pumpkins are just large gourds (cucurbits) of which we raise many types here as they’re an intrinsic part of the Winter fare here being served up baked (butternut squash particularly is good this way), in pies and tossed into stews for a bit of additional flavour and thickness. 

It’s really easy to understand why Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comics strip, had one of his characters, Linus van Pelt, believing in a being called the Great Pumpkin.  He sits in a pumpkin patch on All Hallows Eve waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear, but the being never does. Linus though never loses faith that next year will be different.

It’s important for me to stress that, like Scotland at large, the Kirk has fallen which is to say that the Inhabitants of this Estate are not really Christian though we sort of celebrate the holidays of Easter, Christmas, Twelfth Night and so forth but only as an excuse to hold a festive celebration involving the entire Estate community.

So it is with pumpkins as they represent for us both the sacred and the profane. Yes we carve pumpkins ever year to place around the Estate. You might know that the Irish create the idea of jack-o’-lantern which were spirit catchers to keep the restless souls of the dead who past between the veils on All Hallows Eve though they used turnips as pumpkins weren’t cultivated in Ireland at that point.

So we invite the younger children who board at the School of The Imagination to a day of hot cider, making and eating doughnuts, games of various sorts, and of course pumpkin carving. I always grow more than enough pumpkins to set aside good ones for this endeavour. 

It’s fun for me even after decades of doing this day to watch them and more than a few staff makes their imaginations seem real.

Now comes the interesting aspect of these jack-o’-lanterns. I think it’s been mentioned here that we sit on the Border with the Realm where the Fey dwell.  Most folk just light their jack-o’-lanterns with was candles or even little electrical lights, but that’s far too mundane for us. 

Ours get lit by what one young visitor here called leaf dragons as these small fey look like something akin to a red or yellow dragon comprised of leafs. At night, it amuses them to alight for a time inside one of the jack-o’-lanterns. Sometimes just briefly, sometimes for long minutes before flitting to another jack-o’-lantern. 

The effect at that is amazing as we hold a contest for the most interesting place to locate a jack-o’-lantern be it high in the crook of an ancient oak or lining the rafters of the former Church sanctuary. It’s truly joyful and telling rrifying to walk around the Estate  uilding and the area seeing which jack-o’-lanterns will visible.

They’re up for a fortnight through Samhain which we also celebrate with the selection of an Oak King but that’s another tale. Because the Fey light our lanterns, every one of them gets used again be it for feed for our hogs,  in pumpkin tarts and pies or be it in our exemplary pumpkin ale.

Speaking of pumpkin ale, let’s head to the Green Man Pun for a pint or two of it.

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What’s New for the 21st of October: An Aaron Copland cornucopia, Justice League Dark, Yolen’s favourite Tolkien, contemporary urban fantasy from Tanya Huff, Leonard Cohen live, Halloween candy, Rock from Down Under, and other hopefully tasty matters

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer. — George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones

October some years here on a Scottish Estate sharing the Border with the Fey are rather  quite pleasant feeling more like Summer than Autumn despite the lateness of the year,  but late October really is more often than not is truly the beginning of the cold season for us. And this year is decidedly one of those years. Ingrid and I have had the fire going in our fourth floor quarters in Kinrowan Hall both for warmth and for the cheeriness it provides. Not to mention that our feline companions are very fond of laying right in front of it for long periods instead of prowling the Hall.

I’ve been looking through the Archives of The Sleeping Hedgehog, our informal newsletter for staff and friends of the Estate, when I noticed we’d asked some writers about what their favourite Tolkien work was, not a surprise give his fiction’s a perennial favourite here. For  Jane Yolen, it’s The Hobbit: ‘While it’s true that The Lord of the Rings is his masterwork and The Hobbit his first attempt at writing (and that, some say witheringly, for children) I have to admit I adore The Hobbit. It has adventure, wonderful characters, fine pacing and spacing, some really scary bits (my daughter ran screaming from the room when the trolls grabbed the ponies, and she refused to hear the rest of it.) And if I could ever write a chapter as good as the Riddles in the Dark chapter I would never have to write again.’

Ok I’m off to the Kitchen as I’m feeling a bit peckish and I’ve heard they’ve made pumpkin and cheddar cheese tarts that are being kept warm along with hot spiced cider , a favoured autumnal drink on this Estate. So here’s this Edition for your reading pleasure…

J.L. offers up a review of a audiobook from an author not known for work being presented in that format: ‘Ray Bradbury used to write tales in the Twilight-Zone-meets-sci-fi vein, but with the publication of One More For the Road it appears that he has ballasted the scientific and kept the fantastic. In place of space-age dystopia we have present-day disillusionment, usually delivered with a “Tales of the Unexplained” twist. These eighteen short stories are performed by actor Campbell Scott, whose film credits include The Spanish Prisoner, Longtime Companion, and Dying Young.’

Richard offers us a novel that I think makes for fine reading on a chilly Autumn afternoon: ‘Seven Wild Sisters, a collaboration between Charles de Lint and Charles Vess, holds no surprises, and that’s a very good thing. The companion-cum-sequel to their earlier collaboration The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, the book delivers exactly what it promises: Gorgeous illustration and an encounter with the otherworld that’s ultimately more about wonder than it is about peril.’

Robert’s been going through the Library shelves again and has some up with another old favorite, and one that fits the season: ‘Summon the Keeper is quite possibly the first of Tanya Huff’s books that I read – she’s another one of those writers who has a long history in my library. This one is a contemporary urban fantasy that is hilariously funny, original, and captivating.’

Denise says that ‘When Charmed first aired, it was dismissed by many as a poor-wiccan’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer knock-off. Which, considering Buffy was only in its first season, wasn’t intended to be kind. But viewers took to the three Halliwell sisters, and even embraced such story-altering changes as the death of a sister and the discovery of a new one. In the eight seasons Charmed was on the air, love came and went, children entered the picture, and powers were lost and regained too many times to count. But in the end, good always triumphed over evil.’

Robert looks at the Justice League Dark film: ‘Once I got started on the Justice League Dark comic, I had to go back and check out the 2017 animated film. If anyone is expecting a film version of the new comic series, guess again: the film was released before the new series was even announced, and while there are similarities, they are very different sorts of critters.’

Sweets of a Halloween nature are up this time as Denise has been gorging herself with such candy on our behalf, so let’s see what she’s got for us. Other than possible indigestion. And a sugar high of truly epic status.

Cheetos’ Bag of Bones is a suitably spooky entry into the holiday snack aisle. And Denise seems pleased: ‘When you queue up a spooky movie this season, grab some of these to really get into the spirit.’ Read her review for more details.

And what better way to wash things down this spooky season with a Harry Potter themed drink? Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer is just the thing, Denise says. ‘A nice quaff when you’re feeling Potterish. And this time of year, especially with #HarryPotter20, who isn’t?’

Denise says that ‘If you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer like I am, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume One: The Long Way Home is something you’ve been looking forward to for a few years now. If you’re only generally aware of this series –or only know the title from the so-so practically unrelated movie that preceded it — this collection of the first five comic books that takes Buffy’s story past the ending of the TV series is a good place to get into the mix. Also called “Buffy Season Eight” (and officially subtitled “Joss Whedon’s Season Eight” starting with comic book #6), it’s intended to be the offical follow-up to the series. The first collection of this Dark Horse collection serves as evidence that Joss still has it in spades.’

Robert has a review of of the new Justice League Dark series — or at least, the first two issues: ‘First, a disclaimer: I almost never read single-issue comics, for reasons that will become clear. Secondly, I haven’t been following DC’s Justice League Dark, a series first introduced in 2011. In fact, I have to confess to not being a big fan of the DC Universe as a whole. That said, I was persuaded to take a look at the new series, written by James Tynion IV.’

Barb exclaims that ‘If there are superstars to be named on the Swedish music scene, I would like this opportunity to nominate Lena Willemark (vocal, fiddle, viola, whistle, drone whistle), Per Gudmundson (fiddle, viola, bagpipes, vocal), and Ale Möller (octave mandola, overtone flute, cow’s horn, drone whistle, folk harp, shawm, harmonica, vocal), otherwise known as Frifot. The group’s CD Sluring is most certainly a masterpiece.’

David as a look at Aqualung Live: ‘This new recording of Jethro Tull’s classic rock album Aqualung was produced for XM Radio’s “Then Again Live” programme. This is a show that aims to “re-create the most important albums of all time . . . offering total creative freedom for artists to re-visit their milestone recordings [in order not to] rival the original, but to re-experience it.” Well, I haven’t experienced Aqualung for many years, apart from a few songs heard on the radio; but the recent book by Allan Moore which provided a track by track analysis and this new recording have brought me back to the album with new ears.‘

Aaron Copland’s A Copland Celebration gets looked at by Gary who notes that ‘Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Robert is already fed up with autumn and turns to the southern hemisphere for some music — namely, Icehouse’s Great Southern Land: ‘Icehouse is an Australian band formed by Iva Davies in 1977, under the name Flowers. In ’81 he changed the name to Icehouse, as the group started to get some international air play and actually hit the charts in the U.S. and UK. Davies is a classically trained musician who created one of the more musically literate groups in the history of rock. Icehouse early on moved into synthesizers and CMIs (computerized musical instruments), although they never went to the lengths of another of my favorites, Depeche Mode.’

As leaves turn from emerald to shades of yellow, orange and tan, our minds wander to all the delicious treats this season has in store. Chocolate, most especially. While we love the stuff any way we can get it, a number of ads from Lacta 5Star Chocolates has given us a new way to love cocoa. These humorously dark videos show a world made of chocolate, which is constantly being attacked by ‘outside influences’. Mostly cookie crunches, caramel and the like. The blend of hilarious and hairy seems tailor made for October.

We’re entering the season when we celebrate things that scare us, and what’s scarier these days than the future? With that in mind, here’s Leonard Cohen in Zurich, on May 21, 2005, with his take on ’The Future’

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: All Hallows‘ Eve

All Hallow’s Eve is just a fortnight away, and the Staff is deep in preparations. Mind you, a lot of those are just fun and games: putting up decorations and scurrying around with secret costume plans. Some of the more inventive around here won’t be able to move for the weight of their guisings on the night itself. Those who are already done are creeping about vying for dibs on copies of Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads – we’re giving them away this coming month, and they are the most anticipated Treat in the place: a entire book/bag of bittersweets by the likes of Jane Yolen and Neil Gaiman.

It’s a busy month in the gardens, but I am leading from the rear at the moment; sitting here and watching the main courtyard, wondering if the great oak there is going to win this year’s contest with my lads pruning deadwood. Our esteemed cook  Mrs. Ware has requested my feedback, as it were, on an experimental batch of triple Brie and fig scones for the annual Halloween feast, and it’s my pleasure to sit and give it my deepest attention. That woman brings inspiration to a plate of crackers and cheese; what she does to a risen dough enters the realm of the sacred …

For the Kitchen Staff, Reynard’s Tap Crew, and for my own lads in the garden, there’s a lot of real work leading up to Samhain celebrations. Mrs. W. is, as I said, already cooking: she’s been laying aside a veritable treasure trove of pickles, relishes, butters, marinades, sauces, curds, creams and other culinary conceits — when the freshly baked and just roasted masterpieces hit the tables, they will be accompanied by her usual astonishing condiments. Do you fancy pork roast rolled in leeks and apples, with whipped sweet potatoes in a cognac sauce? And new bread? Well, plan to move fast when it’s served, then, because so do I.

Reynard, of course, is both laying in appropriate potables and fretting over the batches brewed here specifically for All Hallow’s. All this month he’s been serving Headless Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale in the Pub. Come try a pint, but be careful! I’m told the name is not only seasonal, but a fair warning of the effects of over-indulgence. And there are the porters, the stouts, the dark brews like liquid bread that are required for this holiday; the cider and perry and aged brandies to keep off the growing chill and light the holiday bonfires in us all.

The Endless Session has been having night ceilidhs in the gardens, before the nights get too cold and they retreat to the Pub for the winter. Autumn evenings the wind rises in the woods, and gives the music in the courtyards a special pace and chorus … the secret’s in the pruning, of course, though I doubt the Session has figured that out. But I go out and do the trimming myself, tuning the oaks like an Aolian harp, so their voices will be clear on All Hallow’s night.

Most of all, though, my lads and I are responsible for the bonfires. No one cuts wood in my gardens except me and mine, and at this time of year I’m just as particular about the fallen wood as I am about the trimmed. That wood’s been gathered and stacked with great deliberation, you know. The Halloween bonfires have to be carefully planned, and meticulously built; I daresay the mix of firewood I use is as complicated as Mrs. Wares’ pumpkin butter or Reynard’s Samhain Stout. It needs a particular scent, a notable stamina and even special colour … which is why that one oak has to be pruned just so. The eastern boughs have seen soaking up the salt mist and should burn like tourmalines. It will make the perfect King Log … if that fool Andrew doesn’t hang himself with that guy rope!

Hi! Look sharp, lads! What are you about? We don’t do that anymore…

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What’s New for the 14th of October: Rolling Stones do Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’, chilies and chocolate, H.P. Lovecraft, Québécois Style pork pies, Ray Bradbury and Other Matters

One should never mistake pattern for meaning. — Iain Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata

Québécois Style pork pies, spiced with nutmeg, are the main entree for the eventide meal on the Autumn day along with roasted carrots, beets and onions as the weather turned decidedly nippy over the past week with even some nasty periods of freezing rain and sleet. Before heading into the Pub for my evening shift, I was assisting Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and all around groundskeeper, with the  harvesting of the fall squashes which had to be harvested before a hard frost harmed them beyond them being usable. And I so look forward to squash and smoked pork soup with pickled ginger on a cold Winter evening!

Autumn more than any other season is when you’ll find lots of reviews themed to that time of year. Oh Bradbury is fairly obvious as an Autumnal creator but some of the content and where it came from I expect will surprise you such as our look at The Call of Cthulhu, a 1920 silent film in this edition, or our look at the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which ran last edition. So grab your favourite Halloween candy, say those skull shaped dark chocolates with those oh so soft centres, and settle in for some delicious reading…

Carter looks at a Ray Bradbury that is indeed a classic of fantasy literature: ‘The Illustrated Man is a short tale wrapped around eighteen short stories. The framing story is of a tattooed man whom the narrator meets, and whose tattoos foretell the future. The eighteen short stories inside the frame give Ray Bradbury’s visions of our future and, in the process, let us see ourselves as we are in the past and present. Bradbury always asks probing questions in his work, but seldom provides definitive answers. He leaves it to the reader to find his or her own answers inside.’

Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, says Rebecca, requires that you take ‘Take a deep breath before you start this book. It’s a heavy 701 pages of adventure and sex. It’s also one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time. I recommend it highly.’

Robert came up with a treasure while going through the Library: Wisława Szymborska’s View With a Grain of Sand: ‘Wisława Szymborska is a highly regarded Polish poet who has a long and distinguished career. Born in 1923 in Kornik, in western Poland, she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at Jagiellon University in Krakow, and has published sixteen collections; her work has been translated into over a dozen languages. In 1996 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”’

Sara looks at Clive Barker’s Abarat: Book One of the Books of Abarat quartet: ‘Candy herself is a mild but very likeable heroine, just a bit spunky, just a bit bewildered. She is the perfect Alice for a new Wonderland. And, of course, the veritable cornucopia of strange and delightful denizens of the Abarat boggles the mind. Barker’s dry humor sparkles throughout the book, and lends a needed jaunty air to a book otherwise filled with danger and a delightful creepiness. This is, after all, Clive Barker and not some sweet-minded YA author of happy rabbit tales. Barker knows creepy, and there’s plenty of it.’

James says that ‘The works of H.P. Lovecraft have enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the cinema. While his writings have influenced movies from the Evil Dead trilogy to Creepshow to In The Mouth of Madness, full-length adaptations such as Dagon and From Beyond tend to lose the mythology and focus on sensationalistic gore. (For a great look at Lovecraft and movies, I recommend the book The Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H.P. Lovecraft by John Strysik and Andrew Milgiore.) And Lovecraft’s most seminal story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” has not been filmed — until now. The good people at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have tackled this tale by giving it the silent treatment: Their movie The Call of Cthulhu is a 1920s-style silent movie.’

Denise looks at some very tasty chocolate: ‘There are lots of tastes that taste great together. Peanut butter and jelly. Buttered popcorn and champagne. (Seriously, try it.) And, of course, chocolate and licorice. But there’s one that doesn’t get enough love here in the States, and that’s chilies and chocolate. But we need to fix that right now. Taza’s Guajillo Chili chocolate is just the thing to make converts out of all chocolate lovers.’

Stork’s Toffifay really delighted Denise as well: ‘I remember being a kid and seeing Toffifay. It looked so elegant, so grown-up. Now this was a classy candy, obviously made for ADULTS, thought Little Me. Naturally, I had to try it. And I loved it. But I seldom wander the candy aisle anymore, so when I got a box in for review, I snapped it up.’

As a warm-up for the coming festivities, Robert brings us a look at an old favorite, Tite Kubo’s Bleach: Strawberry and the Soul Reapers: ‘Tite Kubo’s Bleach is a wildly popular manga and anime series (which was initially rejected when Kubo offered it to his publisher) that went on for 74 volumes of the collected manga and 300 episodes of the anime before Kubo finally called it quits. It’s also one of the most imaginative series I’ve seen.’

Gary reviews a new archival release by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. Sing Me Back Home, he says, ‘is a compilation of home recordings by Hazel & Alice from the mid to late 1960s, when they were a rarity – a female duo in the nascent bluegrass world.’

Kjell-Erik Arnesen’s Calls and Jrgen Larsen and Frydis Ree Wekre’s Ceros are recommended by Joel: ‘Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven’t heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.’

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

Robert has a look at an opera that is, perhaps, more relevant than we might want to acknowledge, Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony: ‘Philip Glass, bless his heart, keeps turning out operas, and with a couple of near-misses, they’re among the best in the contemporary canon. In the Penal Colony takes as its foundation Franz Kafka’s chilling short story of the same title.’

And another opera, which Robert notes is usually performed at Christmas but is equally appropriate heading into Halloween, wicked witch and all: Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretal: ‘The idea of making an opera out of a fairy tale was not unique to Engelbert Humperdinck (this is the nineteenth-century composer I’m talking about, not the mid-twentieth century crooner). Actually, in the case of Hansel und Gretel, it wasn’t even really his idea.’

As thoughts turn to mulling spices, apple-picking and all things pumpkin, there’s another seasonal tradition that we here at GMR are fans of; Renaissance Festivals. In Maryland, their ‘RenFest‘ has been going strong for over forty years, and people come from miles around (and even nearby states) to get their garb on.  Shakespeare in the open air, aerial silk performers, crafts that take the breath away (and have parted many a happy customer from a dollar or three), and of course those smoked turkey legs. It feels like coming home, but with more velvet and tapestry.

Our coda is Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ as performed by the Rolling Stones. Yes the Rolling Stones! A number of bands including Styx and Emerson Lake and Palmer have also adapted it for use. So here’s their decidedly offbeat version.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: A Punjabi Meal

Chandra came to the Estate several springs back with the intent of being here for a single growing season. I hired her as she had a deft hand with transplanting seedlings, something harder than it looks to do properly, and relished the long hours we work for weeks on end. Her musical abilities were an unlooked for bonus, one we discovered after she began her tenure as an under gardener. She was the only staff member living in her particular yurt, which meant Chandra was free to play ragas and pop music from her Punjabi homeland, something that brought a smile to many a passerby.

I had decided within a few months to offer her a permanent position if she wanted it. She accepted with delight and noted that she was looking forward to learning to ski, not a common practice in her country. 

Which leads me back to that oh so tasty meal. We favour Raj inspired cuisine here as many of our staff are from there down the centuries. This meal, curated by Chandra, was far beyond most meals we’ve had here in its wonderfulness. Ingrid, the Estate Buyer, tracked down rice, spices and even ghee butter from the Punjab during a tea buying trip and had it shipped here. (I’m sure Customs must have looked the other way on some of the items.) Bjorn even brewed a Punjabi style Black Ale for the occasion, a feat which was well received by all.

Some of us even knew how to eat in culturally appropriate fashion using naan scoop up tasty morsels of our meal. Ingrid and her husband, Reynard, had spent enough time in the Punjab on tea buying trips to really appreciate the meal. It was nothing like what’s the British interpretation of India food which is hot and even hotter. Here were dishes spiced with a deft hand, so that the spices complemented the other ingredients instead of overwhelming them.

We finished this repast off with cardamom flavored ice cream. All in all it was a most excellent Eventide meal!

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What’s New for the 7th of October: A short story from de Lint, a rare Russian ale, Buffy’s first season, Danish jazz and other cool matters

To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due. — Hob Gadling, toasting upon Dream’s journey as told in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists

It’s very truly Autumn now, my favourite time of the year, and Steeleye Span to me is an Autumnal band, so we’ll finish off with something from them. If you’re at all interested in the history of the band which I think is quite fascinating, I recommend you go read our review of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock which covers how he helped create  that  group along with the Albion Band and Fairport Convention as well!

Autumn means lots of all things fruits and Mrs. Ware in the Kinrowan Hall kitchen has been definitely noting that the ending of Summer and and the arrival of Autumn is upon us. That means changing leaf colours, cooler temps and comfort food. So do sample the plum apple tarts she’s fond of baking if you’re visiting us anytime soon.

Cat has a look at a short book that comes to us via digital technology, Charles de Lint’s Somewhere in My Mind There Is A Painting Box: ‘One of the great joys of the digital publishing age is that it allows authors like Charles de Lint to offer up their back list of short stories and novels to us on their own terms.’

Denise revisits a cult classic television show with Totally Charmed: Demons, Whitelighters  And The Power of Three.  This collection of essays…charmed her. ‘Overall, this group of essays doesn’t give one solid viewpoint, and it’s all the better for it.’ Read her full review for more insight.

Kelly says that ‘Poul Anderson, who died in 2001, was one of the grand old voices of science fiction right up until his death, winning the Hugo Award seven times, the Nebula Award three times, and being named in 1997 as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. His was a long and prolific career. In the middle of that career, he created a character named Dominic Flandry, whose adventures had eluded me as a reader until my review copy of Ensign Flandry arrived on my desk. Now I’m wondering why.’

Mia says ‘In 1946 Ray Bradbury gave us “Homecoming,” and From The Dust Returned was born. More than 50 years later, the finished product consists of six previously published short stories, including “Homecoming,” which have become chapters of a larger work. These stories, plus new material, are woven together with Bradbury’s characteristically engaging style into a novel that should delight any fan of Bradbury’s dark fantasy.’

Robert got first dibs on Glen Cook’s newest book, Port of Shadows: ‘Glen Cook’s Port of Shadows is another installment in the saga of the Black Company, once again narrated by Croaker. Cook has given us two story lines in this one: The first takes place in the distant past, in the waning days of the Domination. The second takes place in the “present day”, sometime between the battle at Charm and the confrontation with the Dominator at Juniper; the Company is on garrison duty in the town of Aloe, which seems almost like a vacation. Of course, you know things are going to go to hell.’

Will gives us a look at a classic of tv horror in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Season One: ‘To anyone who has never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I won’t give away any major plot points in the first season. But I warn you, in my reviews of the next seasons, all’s fair. Read this, decide if you want to try the show, and if you like it as much as I do, watch the first five seasons. They form a coherent unit, building in quality through the first three seasons, then sliding slightly in seasons four and five, though those seasons include many of BtVS‘s finest moments.’

One of our Kellys has a hard to find beer suitable for Autumn drinking for us as you’ll see when you read his delightful review of it: ‘Considering I generally dislike the hoppy bitterness of IPA’s, I’m astonished I enjoyed Pliny the Elder. I shouldn’t be, as the only other hoppy beer I’ve actually liked was another Russian River Brewery IPA, Blind Pig, which displays the same grapefruity character. I’ll certainly order this again, probably on a crisp autumn afternoon.‘

Robert has a rather strange graphic novel for us in The Green Woman, courtesy of Peter Straub and Michael Easton: ‘The Green Woman, written by Peter Straub and Michael Easton, is a hallucination in full color — the latter thanks to John Bolton’s art. Reality gets severely warped here — if we can figure out whose reality we’re seeing.’

Gary has a look at some Danish jazz, a new album called Bay of Rainbows by a trio headed by guitarist Jakob Bro. ‘It’s a quiet but deeply felt recording, its long passages of subtle and introspective playing revolving around an equally subtle melodicism.’

Another Gary says of Quake, a  sort of trad Nordic recording from Den Fule that: ‘When I was trying to find something that my good friend, a Breton girl of 22 who loves nu-metal music, would like, I pulled out Den Fule. Her assessment: “That’s really fun, kinda’ like Irish music, but it rocks.” This accomplishes in ten words what will take me at least 300 to re-iterate.’

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result.’

Robert went back to the Berlin club scene for Qntal’s Qntal III: Tristan und Isolde: ‘Qntal is one of the pleasant surprises. I knew nothing about the group when I saw the subtitle “Tristan und Isolde” on the list, but I figured, being a confirmed Wagner freak, that it should be interesting. It’s much better than that. . . . They’ve been called an “electro-medieval” band and compared to Estampie, Dead Can Dance, and Loreena McKennit.’

Our What Not this time is that quite some time back we asked Kage Baker, author of many delightful novels such as Or Else My Lady Keeps The Key and companion to Harry the Space Pirate, Errr, Space raptor in the years before her Passing just what was her favourite folk song and why so. She had a Grateful Dead-ish answer:

Probably ‘The Rambling Sailor’. The lyrics are sort of heartless, but it makes a helluva dance tune, especially a morris dance. I was once at a morris-ale held in an oak forest one summer night in northern California. Kate and I were providing the ale. The conditions were perfect — a full moon, thunder rumbling around the sky, there was a big turnout of dancers, we had a fairly full band– two fiddlers, a concertina, a standing bass, a couple of pennywhistles and a shawm.

There was a lantern strung up in the branches of this one big oak tree that must have been about 400 years old, and the dancing was done in the open space underneath. The different sides did the usual tunes, with the sword dances and the sticks, but then everyone got out the white handkerchiefs and the band struck up ‘Rambling Sailor’. There must have been fifty or sixty dancers moving in perfect time, and my memory insists the boys were all as beautiful as young satyrs and the girls all looked like wood nymphs. The white cloths flashed like seagull wings. The little gold bells rang. The ground shook. It was one of the most perfect moments of my life.

So ‘Tam Lin’ as performed by Steeleye Span at Fairport Convention’s ‘06 Cropredy Convention is our music coda this time. It was first released in a studio form on their Time CD though it appears on Tonight’s the Night…Live as taken from a concert recording.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Why Contradances?

Dear Justina,

You were asking quite some time back about how a remote Scottish Estate came to have contradances.

It was nearly a month before Iain got back to me after I asked how contradances came to be here and the story was, well, that the Journals didn’t say a word as how they became the de facto dance here. What he did say was the first such dance was nearly fifty years ago and was the result of a winter residency for a contradance band from the Canadian maritimes. Banish Misfortune, as they were called, taught contradance, played for three dances, had their own caller and even commissioned our luthier in residence for two instruments.

The band impressed the Neverending Session musos present at that time so much that they eagerly learned the tunes and created a group dedicated to providing music for contradances. They needed a name and settled on eventually on calling themselves The Snapdragons. That was easier than finding a caller as neither the Estate or the surrounding communities had one. So Roberta, one of our beekeepers,  volunteered to be the caller and did so for several decades.

What the Journals fail to say is who arranged their residency. Iain even asked The Steward of the time, a woman by the name of Sarah ap Morgan, who was still doing well though into her second century . Iain went to Cardiff to see her, had tea with her, and learned nothing. She remembered the band not at all as gardening was her lifelong passion.

I think that what happened was the community aspect of contradancing was the thing that attracted the people here to it — lessons for new dancers before the dance, potluck suppers (though we don’t do that as we do the meal ourselves), and always stories about what everyone was up to. It became a de facto community gathering for the surrounding community except when the Winter weather weather simply made travel far too dangerous; we do to this day provide sleeping space for anyone who wants to stay the night and do a potluck breakfast with us the next morning. 

Now we’ve got a contradance tonight with the Chasing Fireflies band and I’ll be doing the calling.  I know you’ll not be visiting us until over the Winter holidays but Ingrid’s looking forward to seeing and chatting with you over tea.

warmest regards, Gus

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What’s New for the 30th of September: the Two Fat Ladies DVD set, Clifford D. Simak’s City, two de Lint novels, Chinese jades, and other Autumnal matters

Nothing happened. We stitched in silence. At least we stitched without words. Having nothing else to listen to, I began to hear needle points puncturing cloth, threads drawn through, again and again, as rhythmically as breathing. Our breaths mingled with the sound, as though breath became thread, air became fabric. I stitched another corner carefully, thinking of other corners: in doorways, at field gates, walls joining at the edges of a house. My stitches pulling them together, reinforcing them… knowing how it was done, whatever it was they were doing, would be knowing how it could be undone… — Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood

May I note that author is one of  the most favoured around here? Iain’s busy re-editing the edition we did, so we can offer up to you again as I think McKillip’s an author truly befitting Autumn. Should be up in October unless Iain gets distracted, errr, too busy.

It’s rather quiet in the Pub on this warm afternoon, as almost everyone who can be is outside either doing needed chores or just enjoying the unseasonably warm weather it’s twenty three out right now (that’s Celsius, mind you), with not a breeze to be felt. I’ve the windows open here airing the place out, which is something I rarely get to do this time of year. I do have a group of German tourists sampling ciders and chatting with me about northern German favourite foods we share in common.

I’ve been reading two favourite Autumnal works of mine  that I keep close at hand for dipping into, Charles de Lint’s Jack of Kinrowan novels which he’s released as digital books, Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon.  You’ll find links in our review to purchase them which I think is a splendid thing to do indeed!

Yarrow: An Autumn Tale which is a Charles de Lint novel, gets a loving look by Grey: ‘Cat Midhir has stopped dreaming. People assure her that it isn’t possible, that she just doesn’t remember her dreams, but Cat knows they’re wrong. Where her dreams have been, there is only heaviness and loss. For Cat, this loss means more than it would to most of us, because she is that rarest of all dreamers, a person who returns to the same dream every time she sleeps. In her dream world live her truest friends and her only source of inspiration for the books and stories that have won her acclaim in her waking life…’

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by Iain: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Richard has more pulp for us this week: ‘Turn On The Heat is the second of the twenty nine Cool and Lam mysteries Erle Stanley Gardner published under the pen name A. A. Fair, and it is widely regarded as the best of the bunch. It’s not hard to see why: The twists are extra twisty, the consequences extra serious and the plot twists especially ingenious.’

Robert goes back to a classic of science fiction’s Golden Age, Clifford D. Simak’s City: ‘To one who grew up on science fiction (and I really did — the first book I ever bought all on my own was The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Groff Conklin; I think that was about fifth grade. It was by no means the first science fiction book I had ever read — I really did grow up on it, starting with the Tom Swift series.) And even now, there are names that echo through the memory, the writers who brought visions to life that were fascinating, sometimes frightening, sometimes reassuring, and that made our universe larger: Heinlein, Sturgeon, Asimov, Vance, Pangborn, Clarke, Anderson, among many others. Not by any means least among those names is Clifford D. Simak.’

Denise looks at Brave: ‘Bairns, bodhrans and brogues…. Doesn’t everyone want to be in Scotland?  Disney/Pixar is really hoping you do, with the release of their newest animated feature, Brave.  I liked it.  But I really, really wanted to love it.  So that’s where the empty little hole in my soul is coming from.  Though it is good to see that archery is the new black this season, with Brave taking up the bow & quiver alongside Katniss from The Hunger Games and Hannah’s…Hannah.  Why before you know it, we’ll even get the vote!’

Jen is a person after my own heart when it comes to Autumn food cravings, as years spent busking on the road meant for me looking for simple, hearty food. She offers up this Mexican style casserole: ‘ This stuff will kill you, but you won’t care.  It’s intense, dense, and more-ish. I’ve never really settled on one definitive recipe. It’s more about what’s in the house when the cravings: ‘This stuff will kill you, but you won’t care.  It’s intense, dense, and more-ish. I’ve never really settled on one definitive recipe. It’s more about what’s in the house when the craving hits.’

OK, it’s Autumn, so I must offer up one of our favourite food reviews ever which is the Two Fat Ladies DVD set. If ever there was a series that felt like it was Autumn all the rime, it is that one Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up. The series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked whenever they pleased and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t ‘tall good for you. And funny as all Hell as well which indeed the review is too.

Meanwhile, Denise dug into Golden Island’s Sriracha Pork Jerky and fell in love with the taste. ‘I’d love a barbecue glaze with this taste; think North Carolina barbecue blended with brown sugar instead of regular.’ But did she love everything about this tasty jerky? Read her review to find out!

The Oysterband are certainly a folk rock band now  but Ed has a review of their very early years when they weren’t: ‘I stumbled onto the Oysterband several years back via a copy of Little Rock to Leipzig, received as a premium during a college radio station’s fund drive. This was blind good luck. The two CDs I had originally wanted were gone, so I picked this one based on its “folk-rock” label. I haven’t stopped listening to this band and now own ten of their CDs. As a devoted and possibly obsessed fan, when the chance came to review some of their earliest and long out-of-print albums, I jumped. I now feel blessed to have acquired this piece of their history. In short, these LPs prove that the Oysters were always good, but have nevertheless gotten much better.

Gary reviews a new disc from Canadian-American duo Courtney Hartman & Taylor Ashton, who make folksy Americana music. ‘Been On Your Side is a quiet album of rootsy chamber folk with a definite indie-pop feel to it. Both of these musicians have far-ranging influences, but a clue to the overall feel might come from Hartman’s cover of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” on her earlier solo album.’

Lars brings us a recent album by Maddy Prior, Hanna James, and Giles Lewis, Shortwinger: ‘If you look at the cover of this you might be excused for thinking this is another solo project. Prior’s name is in much larger letters than those of Hannah James and Giles Lewin. But do not let yourself be fooled. This is a true trio effort. Each member has written things on the album, each takes solos and each has arranged tracks.’

Robert has a recording by a contemporary American composer, a concerto developed from a film score: John Corigliano’s The Red Violin Concerto: ‘John Corigliano is widely considered one of the leading American composers of his generation, which includes such luminaries as Morten Lauridsen, Terry Riley, and Ned Rorem. Commentators have characterized his style as “highly expressive,” “compelling,” and “kaleidoscopic.” In addition to symphonies, chamber works, and opera, Corigliano has also done film scores.’

Our What Not this week involves another trip to Robert’s favorite museum, Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, where we discover the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Hall of Jades. As Robert points out, there’s a lot more to see there than dinosaurs.

For our Coda this week, Robert came up with something fitting the season: A very lively performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Autumn’ from The Four Seasons.

(Yes, we’ve reviewed this one several times, in recordings by several artists — just do a search for Vivaldi and The Four Seasons.)

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: On Tolkien

So, while Mackenzie’s off looking for the Victrola – yeah, we’ve really got a Victrola in here, as well as a 21st century sound system that’s practically sentient – I’ll sign you in. I’m one of the Several Annies, and the Library desk is my post this afternoon.

Oh my yes, Professor Tolkien is a hero to a great lot of us here in the Green Man. Especially the younger Library staff, like me – I’m not quite past my seven-year apprenticeship (Mackenzie is quite old fashioned) and Tolkien was one of the storytellers I got with Mother Goose and Brothers Grimm when I still wore pajamas with feet. Mackenzie wrinkles his autocratic nose over The Lord of the Rings, (and Liath says the Elvish sociology is shocking) but we Juniors all think it’s one of the best fantasies of the 20th century.

Why do we love Tolkien? Well, he’s unique. He himself based the structure of his stories on classic quest tales — but Professor T., being a real scholar, went to the original sources to study the method and art. His style has since been copied over and over ad nauseam, to the point where Middle-earth and all his creations are treated like public domain. A lot of fantasy readers scorn his works because of the flood of imitations, good and bad, that followed him. And that is a great loss to the scorners, because he’s an original.

Professor Tolkien was an heroic bard, a man very much of the Twentieth century who nonetheless brought the style and voice of a skald into modern literature. A lot has been written about whether or not his WWI experiences influenced the plot of his trilogy — I think that’s like asking if he deliberately breathed while he wrote it. Of course he drew on those experiences! And whether or not it was conscious really doesn’t matter at this distance – he took the formative horror of his generation, focused it through the prism of scholarship, and created a story of enduring beauty out of blood, mud and despair.

I think he’s matched only by Mervyn Peake (Gormanghast, Titus Groan, Titus Alone) for sheer enormity of creation. And in fact, there is a school of fantasy – China Mieville epitomizes it, I feel – that has drawn its epic roots from Gormanghast rather than Middle-earth. The difference between Peake’s and Tolkien’s magnum opii, though, is that Peake tragically went mad while he wrote his – Tolkien took what should have driven him mad, and made a coherent tale out of hideous chaos.

And that’s just the trilogy! His body of work is huge, and hasn’t been plumbed to its depths yet, luckily for all us readers. There are all the highways and byways of Middle-earth, which far too many folks don’t explore. Take a look at Farmer Giles of Ham and Unfinished Tales; there’s more than one world in there. Don’t scorn the ‘non-hobbit’ works like The Silmarillion, either; the elves were a lot livelier in the youth of the world, and their adventures and misdeeds are amazing. I’ve liked the Lady Galadriel a lot more since discovering what a wild bad girl she was when she was young.

Some of older Library staff really do say Professor Tolkien visited here in the Thirties, and oh, how I wish I had been here to listen! They say he was both a perfect researcher and a perfect guest; always handled the books to Mackenzie’s satisfaction, and could usually be persuaded to sing a bit in the pub of an evening. Though he did have a tendency to sing his own stuff – and back in the Thirties, no one knew how familiar those would get someday, and how fond of them most of us would be.

Still, an Oxford don with an extra pint or two under his waistcoat is almost required to recite his own work, don’t you think? And as Mackenzie himself reminds us all when he reads aloud from the Professor’s books — Tolkien read all this out loud to his friends to test it first. It was drawn from a verbal heritage of saga and ode, and it’s still damned good when read aloud. And since Mackenzie does quite a job even on the middle bits he claims to abhor – well, I think he likes the old Professor’s stuff a bit better than he lets on … don’t tell him I said that, though!

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What’s New for the 23rd of September: Earle Stanley Gardner, Concert swag, a China That Never Was, Old Hag tunes, Benjamin Britten, Kedgeree, an Elizabeth Hand novella and other neat stuff

When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people. — Jens Stoltenberg

Ahhh that’s my drink that Finch is pouring now.  It’s one of our new Autumn offerings, Banish Misfortune Stout, and it’s quite good. We rotate our Pub offerings regularly so you should try it now before it’s off the board.

And that’s a SMOG (steak, mushroom, onion & gouda) sandwhich, warmed up of course, that I’m having with it for my very late lunch. The beef comes from Riverrun Farms who also supply us with our dairy. If you’re hungry, ask the Kitchen to make you one.

I’ve actually reading the overview of the current version of Storyspace, a hypertext system, that might be useful for mapping the relationships in the music played here as reflected in the musicians who learned it. Several of the Several Annies, my Library apprentices, are violinists and they’re taking lead on this endeavour.

It’ll be interesting to see if it’s useful as it certainly isn’t my idea of reading when there’s more than one novel awaiting my attention but a musical folklore journal expressed interest in the Neverending Session and how it learned music so I agreed to write an article up.

Cat was more than a little impressed by the audiobook of Elizabeth Hand’s novella, Wylding Hall: ‘Liz Hand’s Wylding Hall is fucking brilliant. And it’s simply the best audiobook I’ve listened to, bar none, as her text is perfectly matched to what amounts to a full cast production in a way that’s rarely done.’

The review of Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s Spirits That Walk In Shadow by Kestrell starts this way: ‘It’s late autumn here in New England. The last lingering tattered leaves have crashed and burned to the ground, and even the fiery rites of Halloween and Guy Fawkes are behind us. We’re left with a shrinking hoard of days burning shorter and shorter, like a few handfuls of candle stubs. With the darkness gathering around us, it is now the season for telling tales about the things that live in shadow.’ So is the novel itself an Autumn thing? Oh yes.

Richard has some choice pulp fiction for us: ‘How do you steal a six foot long blowgun from a party where all the guests are X-rayed on their way out? Believe it or not, that’s only the tertiary mystery in The Count of Nine, a twisty, sneaky thriller from the pen of Perry Mason creator Earle Stanley Gardner. But instead of belonging to that more famous series, The Count of 9 is part of a 29 book series Gardner penned under the alias A.A. Fair detailing the adventures of detectives Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. Cool is big and brash, Lam is undersized but tenacious, and together they solve impossible cases that leave the local cops scratching their heads. This particular episode of their adventures has been out of print for a solid half century, and Hard Case has done the reading audience a solid by bringing it back.’

Robert’s been digging around in his bookshelves and came up with a book that deserves a look: ‘Bridge of Birds is an old favorite that has been sitting in a corner gathering dust for way too long. I recently hauled it out, dusted it off, and gave it another read, and it’s still as good as it was way back when.’

And another old favorite from Robert, Jim Carroll’s Fear of Dreaming: ‘Jim Carroll is probably best known for his 1978 book The Basketball Diaries, which became a feature film with Leonardo DiCaprio, released in 1995. However, he first made his reputation as a poet. He had been widely pubished in various journals and anthologies before the release of Living at the Movies, his first collection, in 1973, when he was 22 years old. Living at the Movies is reprinted in its entirety, along with selections from his second collection, The Book of Nods (1986), in Fear of Dreaming.’

Jayme has this to say about a series that got a proper finale: ‘Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is a miniseries that never should’ve existed. That’s true on several levels. Firstly, there would never be a need to wrap up the major plot threads with a miniseries had the Sci-Fi Channel honored its commitment to produce a fifth season of the acclaimed space opera. But when Vivendi-Universal — the parent corporation at the time — ran into financial duress, its subsidiaries were ordered to cut costs, and contract or no, Farscape was toast. But TV series that die stay dead, as a rule.’

Kedgeree is such a deep rooted British dish that we told you about it here and now Jen shares with us her most excellent recipe for it: ‘I’ve been reading about kedgeree in English novels all my life and decided to try it. This is regarded as intensely British food, meaning, they got the smoked fish from Scandahoovia and the curry and the basmati rice from India and where else does that kind of crazy happen except in Britain?’

Meanwhile, Denise digs into Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co.’s Smoked Beef Chipotle Cracked Pepper Jerky: ‘This is a jerky that’s so soft and tender you’ll want to keep the entire bag for yourself.’ Read her review to find out why!

Hedningarna’s Karelia Visa gets this comment from Kim: ‘It’s an odd thing — one of the words which keeps coming to mind when I listen to this CD is “evocative.” But that raises the question, what exactly does it evoke? And I can’t really give you an answer, as I am not of Nordic origin and have never visited the area. So, it is indeed an interesting phenomenon to listen to a CD of a Swedish band travelling to the now-Russian province of Karelia, collecting the songs from that region to include on this recording, and to find it both exotic and evocative at the same time. Ah, the mysteries of music…’

Byss-Calle wins the approval of Naomi: The Nyckelharpa orchestra is comprised of six top musicians from the younger generation of nyckelharpa players. They are all working at preserving the nyckelharpa tradition, as well as developing it, both as an ensemble, and as solo artists. Their playing is exquisite, all six are adding in passion and talent to a ensemble which has much potential. And after listening I would have to agree that this is a tradition which should be preserved.’

Richard has high praise for a Maddy Prior recording: Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

Robert has another major work by a major figure in twentieth-century music, Benjamin Britten’s Death In Venice: ‘Many consider Benjamin Britten the most important British composer since World War II; indeed, some think him the most important since Henry Purcell. Although often thought an uneven composer, most writers in the area concede that his operas Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, and Death in Venice are among the greatest works in twentieth-century British music.’

Concert swag is our What Not this time and Vonnie who has now passed on so had once her take on that subject: ‘During a memorable trip to England for the Oysters’ 25th anniversary tour, I bought a fan t-shirt from Ian West that decried Oysterband concerts at seated-only venues.Since I’m a dancing fool, I can get behind the ‘When I’m Up, I won’t sit down’ sentiment. I had the t-shirt signed by everyone who would let me push a marker into their hands: Oysterfans of all ilks, a kind lady who put me up for the night, both members of Show of Hands, June Tabor, the sound guys, and a few Oysters, too. It was a great trip, and the shirt is a heck of a souvenir.’ She went on say ‘I did something similar with a Canmore Folk Festival t-shirt, and my signers got a bit more creative, drawing pictures and writing jokes on the shirt.’

So what shall we hear this time as we take our leave? Hmmm… So how about ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ by the legendary Bothy Band as recorded rather well at the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival some forty two years ago.

Variants on Old Hag tunes are so common that they actually figure into the narrative of at least one Charles de Lint story,  ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’, which is collected in his Dreams Underfoot anthology which you can purchase the digital edition of your choice here.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Chasing Fireflies

Come on in, you,re just in time! We haven’t started yet. Don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and oh, there’s a fiddler missing!

Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub? I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something. As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, its very easy. It is so! Its just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, Im sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Lets dance “Lady of the Lake”. Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back past around. Do a ladies’ chain over and back. Now balance and swing with that person below and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and well dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please.

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What’s New for the 16th of September: Tull live, a really big chocolate treat, a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall, Irish music books, good milk chocolate, live music from De Dannan, an excerpt from de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart and other matters as well

Do we ever fully know a tune, or only versions of it, temporary delineations of the possible? — Cairan Carson on the reel most commonly called ‘Last Night’s Fun’ in his Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music

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Summer is passing as it always does on the Kinrowan Estate in fits and starts with both unseasonably warm weather and weather that requires a fire be started in the rooms that Ingrid, the Estate Steward, and I have on the fourth floor of Kinrowan Hall. I think that the fire this time of year as the early Autumn rains begin in earnest is as much about feeling warm as being warm.

And they also applies to my fondness for both playing and listening to Irish music as both activities are quite comfortable.  It just feels good to be part either a member of the Neverending Session, particularly when they’re here in our Pub, or working behind the Bar when they’re playing as that space feels at its very best especially on an Autumn evening when there’s a chill in the air and they’re  playing this music.

So I’ve decided to select reviews of books that look at Irish music this edition and several choice albums get reviewed but this is not an Irish music edition as we’ve already have that here. No I just felt like directing you to several favourite things of this manner.

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Our Publisher has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart novel which I’m reading now and it says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’ which I must say is most excellent advice. The novel  has an astounding description of Irish music sessions which we just added it to our Words section courtesy of de Lint and you can can read that here.

Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to borrow from the Library here: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’

Diana Boullier’s Exploring Irish Music and Dance gets a look from Kim: ‘Diana Boullier seeks to bridge the gap between children’s interest and the world of Irish traditional music.’

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A boozy chocolate trifle is the recipe this time from Jen: ‘This dessert is highly alcoholic. And huge: the finished recipe weighs about 8 pounds, not counting the heavy glass trifle bowl, without which it really isn’t worth doing. I developed it after reading, yes, way too many English novels and wondering how to make it with chocolate.’

Robert has chocolate (funny how that works out, isn’t it?). This is another from Ritter, Ritter Sport Golden Edition Milk Chocolate Squares (and if you think that’s a mouthful, just wait): ‘I have another (huge) bar of chocolate from Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG of Germany, a major chocolatier. This one is the Ritter Sport Golden Edition Milk Chocolate Squares, and when I say “huge”, I mean just that: It’s about half a pound (8.8 oz, or 250 g) of fairly thick squares of milk chocolate.’

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Alistair looks at a recording from the Celtic Fiddle Festival, a group I like a lot: ‘Play On is the fourth release from a group of musicians who had no real intention of continuing as such beyond a one-off concert series in 1993. The enthusiasm, both on and off stage, generated by that project, which featured three of the Celtic world’s most noted fiddlers, Irishman Kevin Burke, Scot Johnny Cunningham, and Christian Lemaitre from Brittany has resulted, twelve years later, in hundreds of performances and numerous successful international tours.’

Brendan has a look at group that’s Irish to the core, to wit From the beginning: The Chieftains 1 to 4: ‘The Chieftains were one of the first modern Celtic music bands. Although completely traditional in material and instrumentation (even to point of eschewing any guitar or piano), they were one of the first bands to present Irish music to an international audience as a serious craft, whose still-quite-living tradition demanded serious attention. Paddy Moloney — then a founding member of the influential (and much larger) Irish group Ceoltoiri Chualann — formed the band in the early Sixties as a compact ensemble of Irish musicians showcasing purely Irish stylings.’

Chris was able to get into a sold-out show on Ian Anderson’s golden anniversary tour: ‘Fifty years ago, a group of young musicians from Blackpool released a record called This Was, launching the career of Jethro Tull, one of the most influential and original rock bands ever. This year, Ian Anderson is out on the road, celebrating this golden anniversary with a series of shows across the US and Europe.’

Gary reviews Ameriikan Laulu, the second release from Aallotar, the chamber-folk duo of Finnish accordionist Teija Niku and Finnish-American fiddler Sara Pajunen. ‘Throughout, this music is sharply observed and deeply felt.’

Lars brings us a look at an EP by someone who’s relatively new on the country music scene, Rachel Button’s Long Way Round: ‘Rachel Button is a singer, songwriter, fiddler and vocal coach. She was born and raised in Britain but she has also lived in Vancouver and Nashville, where this EP was recorded. Rachel started out as a folk performer, but here she is closer to mainstream country.’

Robert has a recording of music by contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a group of shorter works gathered together in an album titled Da Pacem: ‘The music of Arvo Pärt, one of the best known contemporary composers, is something I’ve always found attractive. From my first recording of Passio, which was, believe it or not, my beach music for a whole summer way back when, I’ve been an enthusiastic follower of his works.’

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Our What Not is a look at a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall as Denise found a small charmer of a spot: ‘My favorite spot to read is a tiny rounded nook that’s just off the passage between the kitchen and the library. I sit on a large, overstuffed cushion on the floor, where I battle for supremacy with Blodeuwedd, who has decided that since I found her, I’m responsible for her . . . and her comfort. We usually find a happy compromise. Blod usually sits in the middle of the cushion, and all the mathematical formulas in the world couldn’t find the dead center of that cushion with more accuracy. After she gets comfy, I pack myself tightly underneath the little stained-glass window and lean myself back on the cool stone wall, which is a nice counterpoint to the heat of the kitchen. Cracking the window a bit gives a nice breeze and plenty of light for daytime reading. Being near the kitchen has its pluses and minuses; the kitchen staff often peek in and ask me to taste new recipes if they know I’m about. I keep hoping they’ll ask for my opinion of the wild mushroom and barley stew again, but the haggis omelet flambe was something even Blod was glad to see the back of.’

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Ysbaddaden and his brood are telling me that ’tis time for their eventide feeding, so I’ll take your leave now. Now where did the kitchen staff put that leftover smoked duck from last night? Ahhh, there it is! Let me feed them and I’ll see about some music to leave with you after their feeding, so one moment please…

So what am I leaving you with for Irish tradish music? Well it’s a choice live performance of ‘‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ by De Dannan at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio nearly thirty years ago. This is before the band split into two, each faction not speaking to the other, with only a different spelling of the name as a way of telling them apart. As of five years ago, both bands were still active, and both are very much worth hearing live if they perform in your area.

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An Kinrowan Estate Story: Mushroom hunters


Well, here we are, are you ready? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were among my fellow mushroom hunters! How d’you do? My name is Kate, I’m one of the Assistant Cooks in the kitchens here, and I’m all dressed like this to go mushrooming — oh yes, in Oberon’s Wood! Mrs. Ware has the most divine receipt for risotto with morels, just for this time of year.

Oh me, no, we never go mushrooming but in groups, and it’s the Head Gardener who leads us only. At least, in Oberon’s Wood! The King himself has given us permission to mushroom in his woods, so long as Mr. Eldridge invites him for one of the morel dinners, but it’s still quite a dangerous place. Only the Head Gardeners know all the ins and outs of getting in and out with the morels, and any group without the Head Gardener with them will run all the risks anyone does in the Wood.

We’re still waiting for Patrick to come back, you know — he was one of the under-gardeners about a century or so ago. They went mushrooming, he got separated from everyone else, and one of the Fey took a fancy to poor Patrick. The Head Gardener back then went to the Fey Court to protest and to try and get him back in one piece, but the most he could get was a promise that Patrick would be returned to us when his Fey was tired of him. It’s almost been a hundred years now, I believe, and that’s about the usual time, so the gardening staff has been on the lookout. I’ll bet Patrick’s gardens there are quite nice by now… I hope he’s not gone mad as a hatter.

Old Gus, our Head Gardener now, knows all the things to look out for, where the sweet spots are where the morels come back dependably, or as dependably as any morel patch does…and all the regular mushrooming things, of course, plus there’s the extra bits of mushrooming in a fairy wood. Mushrooming is dicey enough, what with poisonous ones and mushrooms that look like other mushrooms but aren’t, and all. Oh my, no, I don’t know all that, I go along to learn about mushrooms and mainly to help carry morels and other mushrooms back.

It’s rather dangerous, being one of the bag carriers, actually, so one of the senior Under Gardeners are always among us to take a look at the shrooms as people gather them and hand their bags over. There’s always little creatures in mushrooms, for they like them as much as we do, but the creatures from a fey wood are sometimes a tad more dicey to chase around one’s kitchen, especially if they’re angry for being doused in salt water when we soak the mushrooms. The King’s given the Cook a charm for the kitchen, but every now and again someone or something doesn’t get the hint, and sometimes we have to call one of our resident Fey in to help clear the kitchen.

There’s a story that the King once got a morel dish at dinner here with a fey creature in it — supposedly it jumped out of his dish and bit him on the finger, not realizing whose dish it was in. That was when he gave our Cooks the charm, see!

Mrs. Ware makes a lovely polenta with mushrooms, and that risotto with morels is Mr. Eldridge’s favorite, so he always gets to pick who shares that meal with him. The best recipes are the simplest — morels sauteed with a bit of butter are probably the very best, really. I like them in eggs though, for breakfast!

Oh, here comes Gus and the rest of our little party, boots and all — see you later, be sure to be here for dinner tonight, there’s bound to be morels!

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What’s New for the 9th of September: Summer hambos, A Tombstone fiction, Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, Junior Superheroes, and other matters of an Autumn nature


Fire on the Mountain. Run, boys, run!
The Devil’s in the house of the rising sun;
The chicken’s in the bread pan picking out dough.
Granny, will your dog bite? No, child, no.

Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’

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Autumn technically isn’t here for another couple of weeks but it’s damn cold in the morning and Ingrid, my wife, who’s the Steward for the Estate, just did an inventory of the woollen blankets that we’ve got, as most staffers keep the heat cool enough in their sleeping areas not to be too warm, and woollen blankets are preferred covers by most every soul here.  Well, really nice ones are. Some blankets seem to get lost, some down the decades just wear out. And replacing them is bloody expensive!

That Charlie Daniels song I’m quoting is, I think, on the Infinite Jukebox. I’ll check later to see if it is. A band we’ve got in played it last evening in the concert they did for us. They named themselves Snow on the Mountain after a plant that has green and white leaves that’s up as soon as the first Spring warmth arrives. They claimed to hail from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find any such a place in any gazetteer that we had, but that mattered not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments, which made for a very sweet sound.

April has a Western of sorts of us: ‘The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of those seminal historical events that every American knows about — or at least thinks they know. In the materials accompanying the ARC for Territory Emma Bull comments that there are many conflicting historical versions of the events leading up to those thirty seconds of gunfire that transpired between the Earp brothers (and Doc Holliday) and the Clanton gang. So instead of settling on any particular version of the truth, she set out to write a novel that could encompass all of them. I can’t claim to be well-versed in Tombstone historical lore, but I can vouch that Bull has done a excellent job of blending original characters and scenarios with the ureality of history into an entertaining read.’

Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale gets a loving look by Grey: ‘Cat Midhir has stopped dreaming. People assure her that it isn’t possible, that she just doesn’t remember her dreams, but Cat knows they’re wrong. Where her dreams have been, there is only heaviness and loss. For Cat, this loss means more than it would to most of us, because she is that rarest of all dreamers, a person who returns to the same dream every time she sleeps. In her dream world live her truest friends and her only source of inspiration for the books and stories that have won her acclaim in her waking life…’

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Robert has a look at what he calls a ‘quasi-critical study’ of a giant of American literature, Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction: ‘Ray Bradbury has always presented a problem for the science-fiction establishment: from Judy Del Ray’s comment defining the field by invoking Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, and noting “one could almost add Bradbury,” to his being solemnly consigned to the nether regions by critics and scholars for not fulfilling the “requirements” of the genre (whatever those might happen to be in any given circumstance), he represents a quandary.’

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I’ve found that reviewers are always hungry so Jennifer’s recipe is one they should like: ‘These empanadas are quick’n’dirty. You will like them just as much as my Mexican Casserole, but unlike the casserole, this recipe gives you only four to six spicy empanadas with an irresistable flaky, browned-butter crust and a juicy chorizo center. The finite number of empanadas means you can still overeat, but you won’t actually pop.’

But if you’re feeling like a quick meal rather than a recipe – and who hasn’t had that feeling now and again? – Denise reviews Trader Joe’s Boneless Skinless Mackerel in Sunflower Oil. And she’s got a tip for you; ‘Hey save that oil! Why? It’s delicious tossed with pasta. ‘ Read what she’s got to say about the fish itself in her review!

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Robert has a twofer for our Graphic Literature department this week, starting with Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers: ‘After reading Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways, I decided that Young Avengers was one series I definitely wanted to follow up on. It was worth it.’

And he followed up into a second collection, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade: ‘As our story opens, the Young Avengers are battling the Sons of the Serpent, a paramilitary group (read “militia”) devoted to racial and moral purity — their words, not mine — when Captain America, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel show up — just in time for Wiccan (Billy Kaplan) to unleash a psychic blast that KOs the Sons and about half of Lower Manhattan.’

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I don’t think we’ve ever reviewed a music video but Cat decided that he’d take a look at the Primus animated version of Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, so he did: ‘Primus, a rock band from San Francisco, recorded this version of Charlie Daniels’ classic, which was released as a Claymation music video on their 1998 Rhinoplasty EP and its companion Videoplasty video album, and also re-released on their 2003 EP Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People.’

Denise gets an early jump on what she likes to call ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ – otherwise known as Halloween Season – by looking at Charmed: The Complete First season. ‘No matter if you lost track of the Halliwell sisters after Prue’s departure, Phoebe’s flirtation with the dark side, or the coming of the kids, Season One is worth a peek for it’s straight-up look at sibling power, wiccan and otherwise.’ Check out her in-depth review for more!

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Cat looks at a recording from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part.  Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’

Gary brings us a debut album by two old hands performing as a new duo, Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson’s Temporary Kings: ‘I was sad and a little concerned in 2017 when pianist Ethan Iverson left The Bad Plus, the modern jazz trio he helped found nearly 20 years ago. Not to worry, though. [He’s] creating vital new music of his own. One place he’s doing that is in this duo with sax player Mark Turner. The two met at New York jam sessions in the ’90s and have played and recorded with the Billy Hart Quartet, but Temporary Kings is their debut as a duo.’

Mike says of this recording by Alban Faust  and Josue Trelles  that ‘At first glance at a bi-cultural collaboration like Polska pa Pan, I’ve come to expect one of two possibilities. The collaboration can be an exchange of traditions or it can be slanted towards that of one of the participant’s. This CD definitely is in the latter category, but the project is so well executed I can easily live with it.’

What happens to tradition when a contemporary composer gets his hands on it? Robert has some thoughts on that in his review of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 7, “Toltec”: ‘Philip Glass was invited to compose a work for conductor Leonard Slatkin’s 60th birthday season with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2005; the result was the Symphony No. 7, “A Toltec Symphony”, based on the wisdom tradition of the ancient Toltec civilization of Mexico.’

For our What Not this week, Robert took another trip to his favorite museum (Again? Well, there’s a lot to see) and an exhibition for school kids, “What Is An Animal?”: ‘When I was a small child (as in, about five years old), my father would take me to the Field Museum; I always wanted to look at the “stuffed animals.” (And I should note that the “stuffed animals” on display are barely the tip of the iceberg of the Museum’s specimens.) In the intervening years, the Museum has done some rethinking on the organization of those exhibits, grouping them in ways that more or less make sense (“Mammals of Asia,” for example). One thing that is new (well, since I was five) is an introductory exhibit geared toward school children, “What Is An Animal?”’

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Our music coda is indeed ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ but not as done by the band that created it but rather by the Levellers, an English folk rock band whose music we’ve reviewed here over the years, including this review by Jack Merry of not one, but two collaborations between them and McDermott’s 2 Hours.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Oh That Biography

So you want to know about the Sandy Denny bio that Reynard was alluding to in the Pub earlier this evening?  Well I can’t give any specifics about it but I can tell the tale by changing the names of all involved. A writer for a long gone American music magazine, call it Frets, decided to write a biography of Sanny Denny who died as the result of  a fall down some stairs at her home even though her death was some weeks later. The Coroner’s Inquest found mid-brain trauma to be the cause of her death.

if you need to acquaint your self with her as an artist, go read read read Deb’s review of Leif  & Leige which will be more than enough to make you realize some was truly among the world’s best musicians, not just one of the world’s finest English folk musicians. I’ll wait — go read it .

She just over thirty years old when she died, a tragedy for a folk musician of high esteem working with Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, the Strawbs and otherwise. Here’s a link to her singing with Fairport, circa —-.

He got an advance from a well-regarded publisher here in Britain and set out doing interviews and such. So far, so good. And then she turned in her draft which was when the shit started piling up. It’s been speculated on who was her pusher. (Her husband had left her and taken their daughter as her drug usage was getting worse rapidly.) And the writer decided to say who it was, a gross speculation at best. (I read the draft — hid evidence was scant at best. And I no longer remember who it was. And the Infinite Jukebox, our figital media server, no longer has the PDF on it.) Hid publisher hit the roof and said that bit had to go (he refused), so he got a ban from it being published anywhere and demanded the advance back. And that’s where the story ends.

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What’s New for the 2nd of September: Steeleye Span’s ‘Robbery With Violins’, New Zealand candy, Colombian music called vallenato, a Benjamin Britten bio, First chapter of James Stoddard’s The High House and Autumn is Coming

What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. — the now departed Josepha Sherman in her Winter Queen Speech some years ago.

I know it’s a little odd to be quoting those words as Autumn is yet to arrive here with its promise of bonfires, fresh pressed cider, of blackberries fat and tart on their prickly bushes  and pumpkins still ripening on the vine, but it’s also the time of year that we get serious about getting ready for Winter. If you visit us on this Scottish Estate, someone will no doubt ask you to pitch in on some task that needs doing. So dress appropriately, have a good attitude, sturdy footware and you’ll be appreciated here quite nicely.

Now why don’t you give me a few minutes to finish up this Edition and we’ll head off to the Kitchen as the season’s upon us when the staff’s making babka, that exquisitely chocolate, rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools…

Donna leads us off a look at two non-fiction books regarding ‘the Raj, the British rule over large parts of the Indian subcontinent as she read David Gilmour’s The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj and Lawrence James’ Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India, and concluded that ‘although these are both serious and well-researched history books, they are readily accessible to the general reader.’

So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this says Grey: ‘collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’

Michael has a look at the first two books, The High House and The False House in the Evenmere trilogy by James Stoddard: ‘Welcome to the House that God built. Evenmere, the High House, that unending ever-changing building which crosses and contains worlds. It is, and represents, all Creation, an enigma, a parable, a mystery. Within its halls and rooms, passages and basements, attics and terraces, are the undreamt worlds, the lands of dream, places like Ooz and Innman Tor and Arkalen. The House bridges upon our own world, but is far more than a house. It just Is.’ We’ve just added the first chapter of the first novel to our Words section here.

Robert brings us some comments on what might be the definitive biography of a giant of modern music, Humphrey Carpenter’s Benjamin Britten: A Biography: ‘Whatever one may think of Benjamin Britten’s place in the history of music, there is no doubt that his life provides a fascinating and insightful look into the place of the artist in the twentieth century.’

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Gary reports back from the wilds of New Zealand on an exotic candy treat: RJ’s Licorice Choc Twists. ‘As soon as I bit into one, I was hooked. They’re fat little chunks of licorice twist, about 1.5 inches long, with milk chocolate filling the hole in the middle of the tube. Though soft, the licorice gives a very satisfying little “pop” when you bite into it. It’s very good licorice, though you wouldn’t call it “gourmet.” And the chocolate likewise is just good enough.’

Jennifer is without doubt a quite amazing baker as her offering this week demonstrates: ‘This cake is a real punch in the mouth—extreme chocolate and extreme lemon. Because I’m extremely lazy and because Ghirardelli makes that lovely brownie mix in a box, I use their mix, adding only an extra egg and using butter, but you can go nuts and use your own recipe. Remember that butter is your friend, beating the batter is a no-no, and flouring the pan with cocoa helps make it OMG. I serve it in very small slices with hot tea.’

We get an enthusiastic review of a somewhat unusual manga — well, considering the creator, that is. Robert says: ‘BL manga legend Youka Nitta’s Otodama: Voice from the Dead, is not BL. It’s a crime thriller, and it’s a good one.’

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Gary enjoyed Daisy’s Beauty Salon, the latest release by the Los Angeles-based band Very Be Careful, which he says plays a style of Colombian music called vallenato. ‘The song titles, lyrics and simple melodies all speak to this music’s origins as a working class dance music.’

Gary is also enthusiastic about a new honky-tonk record from Cliff Westfall. ‘Baby You Win is music you can dance to, whether a fast shuffle or a slow waltz. Electric guitars and pedal steel and high harmonies. Sad songs that make you laugh and funny songs that make you cry, quick with a turn of phrase that brings you up short.’

Jo looks at a Welsh recording, Telyn: ‘Fans of Robin Huw Bowen and the Welsh triple-harp tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’

Richard gives a detailed review of what turned out to be a spectacular evening at Minnemeers Theater despite some preconceptions: ‘I have seen June Tabor live numerous times in recent years and I thought I knew what to expect at her concerts. I own just about every recording she ever made, the first review I wrote for GMR, when it was still Folk Tales, was of a Tabor CD and I do not expect many surprises from her performances.’

Our What Not is the time that we once asked  Josepha what her favourite folk music was: ‘OK, my dear: I play the folk harp a wee bit (I’m sadly out of practice) and of the older songs, I like ‘Sumer is icumen in,’ ca. 1260 or so, by our old friend, Anonymous. I like it both for the melody and the words, which are cheerful and alive with the image of animals jumping about for the joy of it. It also makes for a cheerful round for several voices. For the earliest songs, though we don’t have the melodies, alas, I love some of the Ancient Egyptian love songs, which are downright modern — such as the one about the girl who sees her boyfriend and rushes out to meet him with half her hair still undone!. She went on to note The Ancient Egyptians had our concept of romantic love, btw, clear in their songs. There’s even a sadly fragmentary one of a wife undressing her husband, who’s passed out after what was clearly too much drinking at a party, and how she loves him even so.’

Steeleye Span’s just now gearing up for its fiftieth anniversary tour, just the British Isles this time if I remember correctly. The current lineup’s is good as any that’s existed in very long and distinguished career but today’s cut is when violinist Peter Knight (who once took extreme exception to a review we wrote) was still a member.

Our music this edition is ‘Robbery With Violins’ was recorded at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, NY on the 20th of April 1973 which means the band was Tim Hart on guitars and vocals, Maddy Prior as lead vocalist, Peter on strings, keyboards, guitars and vocals, Bob Johnson on guitars and vocals with Rick Kemp on bass, drums and vocals.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Biscuits

BISCUIT

JAM

BUTTER 

BISCUIT 

On a t-shirt worn by an American tourist visiting the Estate

Okay, let’s make one thing clear: an American-style biscuit is not the biscuit you find here in Scotland, which is more akin to the thing Yanks call a cookie. That biscuit is a sort of bread made with flour, water, baking soda or yeast, and, well, that’s it. The ones made here by Mrs. Ware and her talented staff most likely were first made here a century ago when we hosted for a summer a number of American farm workers interested in learning how a Scottish farming Estate worked.

They were a very tasty addition to the baked goods here as they made for most perfect hand meals with such fillings as smoked ham and cheese, or, when the weather was cooler so the contents didn’t spoil, baked turkey and our own mayonnaise. The ones we make are a good four or so inches across and each part of the biscuit is easily a full inch thick. 

The best ones I think are with butter, lightly salted of course, and jam, usually strawberry but raspberry and even blackberry have been known to meet with my favour, especially just out of the oven, particularly on a sharply cold Autumn morning when the all too fast approaching Winter means every able-bodied staffer is going to be putting in a long day on chores around the Estate.

So let’s head down to the kitchen to get one of those freshly baked biscuits with whatever jam you like and butter, along with a coffee, or tea if you prefer. Though we’re pressing cider now and that’s a nice pairing as well!

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What’s New for the 26th of August: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Imagine film, Mint juleps, First chapter of an Emma Bull novel, Leonard Bernstein, Aretha Franklin, Peter Beagle on chocolate and other end of summer matters

Traditionally, people are always supposed to feel empty, devastated, when a god leaves them. Nobody seems to wonder how the god might feel. Leaving the only people who almost understood. — Peter Beagle’s Summerlong

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Yeah that’s Peter Beagle — author of such delightful works as the above-quoted  Summerlong along with In CalabriaTamsin and of course The Last Unicorn to name but three of his many works — over in the sitting area in the Kitchen here at Kinrowan Hall.

Reynard and he have been talking about ales and he says that ‘When I can get it — and I only know one pub in Berkeley that stocks it — I’ll take Blackened Voodoo, which is really a dark ale (as is the Brazilian Xingu, which is even harder to find). Blackened Voodoo is a Dixie Beer product; I think Katrina almost put them out of business — anyway, I couldn’t find it for quite a while. Sierra Nevada’s always a reliable bet, but BV’s worth the extra searching…’

He’s just been offered a particularly decadent chocolate bar and the Several Annie is asking him if he wants it: ‘Whatever you may have heard, it is not true that I have ever killed for really good chocolate. Trampled … well, sort of.  But only when the person was directly between the chocolate and me.  I mean, after all …’ and I see the chocolate is indeed to his liking.

If you like chocolate, may I recommend the strawberries dipped in dark chocolate over in the cooler? Tasty, aren’t they? Yes they’re bone white in colour — all  Border strawberries start red and turn white when ripe. You can find them in Emma Bull’s Finder — A Novel Of The Borderlands which  is reviewed this time and whose first chapter can be found in our Words section.

Cat has one of his favourite novels for us: ‘Emma Bull has written a fair number of novels in her career and all of them are superb in their own way. Be it Bone Dance, Finder or War for The Oaks, all are superbly written. So when I recently was looking for a novel to read on one of the many cold, rainy nights we’ve had this Autumn, I turned to Finder, a novel I enjoy re-reading every few years. You can read the first chapter here courtesy of her.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec’s Gaslight  Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes gets a review by Kage: ‘Here we have an anthology of eleven stories by diverse hands set in Sherlock Holmes’ universe. As the subtitle implies, however, there are more fantastic creatures roaming around in this particular universe than ever Holmes encountered in the days when Arthur Conan Doyle was getting the royalty checks.’

Ellis Peters’ Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a favourite novel of mine for autumnal reading,  receives a loving look by Lenora: ‘This is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and fact combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series took a while to hit its stride, but, as Robert notes in his review of Summer Knight, it did: ‘I read Storm Front and Fool Moon, the first two volumes in the Dresden Files, when they first came out, and enjoyed them but wasn’t so overwhelmed that I kept up with the series. My bad. Summer Knight, the fourth book, shows that the series has grown up and become a substantial companion to Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels and Tanya Huff’s Blood series.’

Raspberry dividerDenise digs into Epic’s Bison Uncured Bacon & Cranberry Bar, and thought it was absolutely delicious.  But she’s got a warning; ‘Think of this as a snick-snack, and you can enjoy this delicious bar as it should be enjoyed; as a treat.  But folks looking for a long-term hunger basher and/or meal replacement will want to look elsewhere.’ Read why in her review!

It’s late Summer and Jennifer has an easy way to make a damn fine mint julep, a classic American southern  drink: ‘Some author, I believe it’s Wodehouse, reports that the mint julep is like a baby sister who steals her little hand in yours, and the next thing you know, the judge is telling you to pay five pounds to the bailiff. (That’s an approximate quote.) Sounds like Wodehouse, doesn’t it?’

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More Jim Butcher, this time in graphic novel form, which Robert has some thoughts on: ‘Jim Butcher has moved the Dresden Files into the realm of graphic novels with Welcome to the Jungle, a prequel of sorts to his series on the adventures of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard for hire.’

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Kim notes ‘This is the album that got the Hedningarna phenomenon going, a richly textured, darkly fascinating instrumental album by the “core” trio of Björn Tollin (frame drum, string drum, hurdy-gurdy, moraharpa), Anders Norudde (fiddle, hardanger fiddle, moraharpa, swedish bagpipe, bowed harp, jews harp, wooden and pvc bass flutes) and Hållbus Totte Mattsson (lute, baroque guitar, hurdy gurdy). On more recent albums, the group has expanded to include other players and some dynamite vocalists, most recently exploring the roots of Swedish folk traditions in Russia on Karelia Visa.’

A debut recording  that turned out to be the only recording by a Scottish group caught the ear of Naomi: ‘The sound of the CD really does reflect this large cast of musicians, revealing a broad spectrum of styles and influences with forays into country and pop music. However, the overall feel of this recording is remarkably unified and thoroughly Scottish at its core, although the members of Cantychiels clearly have the knack for injecting a pleasant modern sensibility into their music. Fans of early ’80s Clannad will not be disappointed with this CD.’

It’s Leonard Bernstein’s centennial,and Robert brings us two landmark recordings. The first is Bernstein’s Mass: ‘Lights! Camera! Kyrie! Sounds rather theatrical, doesn’t it? Some might even say disrespectful. It’s no surprise, then, that Leonard Bernstein’s Mass generated so much controversy at its premiere in 1971. Thirty-five years later, the controversy is muted.”

He follows up with The Original Jacket Collection: Bernstein Conducts Bernstein: ‘I’ve mentioned before that there are vanishingly few orchestra conductors in the twentieth century whose names have become household words. There are, if anything, even fewer composers who have achieved that degree of notoriety. Leonard Bernstein is all of the above: conductor, composer, and household word.’

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In 1971 John Lennon and Yoko Ono filmed the recording of John’s Imagine album. They created a conceptual film also called Imagine, edited to a soundtrack created from that album and Yoko’s FLY. It’s being re-released to cinemas (as well as DVD and Blu-Ray), and we’re pretty excited about that. Its guest stars include George Harrison, Fred Astaire, Andy Warhol, Dick Cavett, and more. It’s got previously unreleased cinema-exclusive bonus material such as studio footage of John and the band (including Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, Alan White from Yes and Klaus Voormann) performing ‘How Do You Sleep?’ and ‘Oh My Love’ in Dolby surround sound. Here’s a trailer for Imagine, and you can find out where and when it’s playing here and learn more about the related releases, too.

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Our coda this week is a tribute to the late great Aretha Franklin. Watch this very upbeat performance of one of her signature songs (there are so many), ‘Respect’.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood, Part II

Ah, there you are! I’m so glad you’re back again, because now I get to finish the story Kit told me about the Handfasting of the King and Queen of the Faeries.

Where was I? Oh, right — Kit and I were sitting on our log and having a bit of a snack from that miraculous hamper of his, and he said, ‘Anyhow, she was Queen in her own right, Lady of the Blessed Ones who live here in the Wood, though they stay pretty much to themselves. Beautiful they were, all of them, as the Fay are, but she was the most beautiful: all moonlight and night skies, with great lovely eyes that spoke riddles and answered with mysteries, a tall and regal Lady indeed. He was a vagabond prince, a lord of the fianna, as much as they would have such a thing, all golden, a dashing figure shining in the twilight, and his eyes were full of sorrow and joy, but there was ever laughter in his voice. Some said he was a son of the Lord of Beasts — he had that sort of wild look to him — and some said he was the Lord himself, or one of his brothers. And some said she was more than she seemed, and that her mother was the Moon herself. And that night was the night they were wed.

‘The guests came from all over. There were the retainers, of course, and a delegation from the Unseelie Court, and a party of dwarves and kobolds, led by a brawny man who walked with a limp, and a group of the water-folk who stuck close to that brook there,’ and he leaned close and pointed it out to me, ‘and others who you could see were very important, although I didn’t catch their names. One woman — African, she looked — arrived in a great wind, with sheets of lightning across the sky. She was an ample woman, but ‘lovely, as a ripe yam is lovely,’ as they say, and with her was a tall skinny man who had a twinkle in his eye and a big smile. And there was a beautiful Chinese lady, dressed all in silks, who arrived with a large rabbit. (I noticed a number of rabbits in the woods around, and foxes, and the Cats all seem to have trooped down from the House. That might explain the way the evening went.) And a quiet young man with a white dove on his shoulder; everyone treated him with great respect, as they did the wild-looking, dark-haired man wearing a leopard skin, who greeted the quiet man as ‘Brother.’ And there was another couple I remember, quite striking they were: he was blue, but a fine looking man nevertheless, with large, lustrous dark eyes, and she was dusky and curvy, and very beautiful. They had with them a boy, a lovely little thing with long lashes and a mop of curly black hair. I remember when they arrived they presented the boy to Herself, to be her servant. I don’t think they noticed the look on the King’s face at all. There were more, but I can’t remember them all — it was quite the turnout. Almost the last to arrive, though, was a very young man, with a bow — a great hunter’s bow it was — and a quiver of wicked looking shafts. That caused a stir at first, but one look into those eyes of his and no one argued. Old, they were, as old as anything, and no pity in them at all.’ He shivered. ‘He was treated with great deference — I heard someone call him ‘Eldest,’ so I suppose that was it, although he seemed the youngest. With this bunch, though, there’s no telling. He drew aside with the Quiet Man and the Leopard-Skin Man, and the three of them stood there talking quietly.

‘The ceremony was brief, as such things tend to be among the Old Believers, and then the couple stripped off and swam the brook, then ran straight to their bower.’ He leaned closer and pointed to where the bower had been. He smelled musky and fresh at the same time. ‘Well, then everyone relaxed and started eating and drinking and visiting — most of them seemed to know each other, and it was quite the happy crowd. The musicians struck up a tune, and the Blue Man and his lady led the dancing — such dancing it was! I’ve never seen anyone dance like he did, graceful and forceful, and . . . well . . .’ he gave me a sidelong look — and he was blushing again. ‘And a little, uh, suggestive, if you know what I mean. I saw the Chinese lady’s rabbit over by the drinks table talking to the Leopard-Skin Man, and the tall skinny African man joined them. The faeries danced, and then the kobolds and dwarves did a dance — a noisy, stomping dance — and things were just getting a little loose and friendly when there was this shriek like all the bean-sidhe ever were proclaiming the death of everything, and the King came splashing across the brook without a stitch on, looking more than ready to do his husbandly duty, snatched that pretty boy up and ran off into the woods with the boy clutched to him, and his bride racing along behind him swinging a claymore — I’ve no idea where she got it — and screaming curses and oaths like a whole crew of sailors.

‘Well, no one knew what to do. The retinues lined up on opposite sides of the glen eyeing each other, and the dwarves and kobolds drew off to the third side, although the lame man was laughing and cheering the King on (which earned him no few dirty looks). Everyone else just looked confused, except the Leopard-Skin Man, who was standing off to one side smiling to himself. Suddenly he gave a great shout and waved his hand, casual like, you know? There came heady scent in the air, like a fine strong wine, and everyone just started throwing things and tackling each other and yelling. The Quiet Man walked up to him and spoke with him, quite urgently, but I think it was too late — with all the shouting and fighting, it was a sorry mess.

The Eldest was standing off to the side and started shooting people with his arrows, but no one seemed to get hurt. I noticed when he hit those who were going hand-to-hand, the fighting — well, they didn’t really seem to be fighting any more, you know? And the ones who weren’t going hand-to-hand soon were, although they all seemed to be enjoying it a great deal.’ I noticed he was really blushing. ‘It wasn’t much of a party at that point, so I left before I got hit with something. But I wonder if I should have stayed.’

It had gotten cool, and he reached into that hamper again and drew out a blanket, which we shared. ‘And that’s just the way it happened. Probably.’ That twinkle was back in his eyes, but it was different, somehow. And his hands were very warm.

Oh, sorry — got distracted for a moment. At any rate, that’s Kit’s story of the Handfasting of the King and Queen of Faerie, just the way he told it to me, and he should know, having been there. What’s that? My eyes? Well, they’ve always been green, but. . . . Really? Well, I suppose things happen when you spend a night in the Wood.

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What’s New for the 19th of August: an exhibition hall of all things Chinese, Irish music live and reviewed, fantasy reading, a fantasy film, salmon bites and other tasty things

A note: At long last, we’re back after some misadventures in online publishing. We now resume our regular programming:

‘Name the different kinds of people,’ said Miss Lupescu. ‘Now.’ Bod thought for a moment. ‘The living,’ he said. ‘Er. The dead.’ He stopped. Then, ‘… Cats?’ he offered, uncertainly.  — Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

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So it’ll be a John Crabbie’s Ginger Beer for you? Excellent choice. Did you know the Company’s in the process of opening up a new whisky distillery? The Scotsman has the details here on their website. Give their whiskies a few dacades to age and they should be rather good.

Too damn bad that Iain Banks, author of such SF novels as The Hydrogen Sonata, hadn’t lived to see it open as I’m sure that he as author of  Raw Spirit, a book suitably subtitled In Search of the Perfect Dram would have had a few thoughts on their products.

We’ve got some fantasies for you this time, all I’d say suitable for the coming Autumnal evenings. We’ve also got some Irish music, both reviewed and for you to listen to, Robert has a film that was more fun than he expected it to be and some interesting manga for you as well, and he’s makes yet another a visit to his favorite museum. Oh and Denise look at salmon and cookies, no not a single product… So let’s get started…

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Cat starts off our book reviews with a look (a listen?) to the latest from GraphicAudio, Simon R. Green’s Once in a Blue Moon — but first, a bit about the publisher: ‘First, a thanks to the GraphicAudio staff for providing this for review. I’ve reviewed quite a number of their productions in the past, including several in their World of Lipi, Ghost Finders and Rogue Angel, so I’m going to lead this review off by talking about what they do and also about the GraphicAudio app, which is how I’m listening to this work.’

Kestrell waxes poetic on Theodora Goss’ In The Forest of Forgetting: ‘Every book is a grimoire, a witch’s recipe book for summoning thoughts and feelings, travels and transformations. Books of different genres can be used to invoke different seasons: horror for the haunted harvest time of late autumn, mysteries for the long nights of winter, and ghost stories to accompany the thunderstorms of spring. But fantasy — with its bewitching call to be out and away — is for summer. One June day you may open a book of fantasy stories and notice that, as if dried petals had been pressed between its pages, the faintest scent of roses begins to stir upon the air, banishing the last memories of wool socks and raincoats. Your senses begin to awake, slowly noticing that wisps of birdsong and tendrils of soft breezes have come curling like magically growing vines through the crack of a half-open window, inviting you to escape.’

Richard says ‘Lavondyss is perhaps the most problematic of the Ryhope Wood books, the least accessible and at the same time the richest. It also plays the most games with time, narrative flow and character identity, and as such is either going to delight or frustrate the reader far more than an ordinary tale of a young girl lost in the wood has any right to.’

Robert was going through his bookshelves and ran across one that’s worth a look: Greg Bear’s Songs of Earth and Power: ‘Greg Bear is known for his science fiction, despite the fact that his first two published books were fantasies — Blood Music and The Infinity Concerto, which is the first part of Songs of Earth and Power. The second part, The Serpent Mage, was originally published a number of years after Concerto. Bear has revised them to stand as one novel, and quite a novel it is.’

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Robert found a DVD that turned out to be a lot of fun — it’s pure Edgar Rice Burroughs: Andrew Stanton’s John Carter: ‘I missed John Carter in the theaters, but ran across the DVD on one of my browsing trips through Amazon. I figured I’d probably enjoy it, but I remember my first question was “Who is Taylor Kitsch?” As it turns out, Taylor Kitsch portrays Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the combination of pretty face and gruff voice was too much to pass up. And I found the DVD for half price. How could I say no?’

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Epic Bites’ Maple Glazed & Smoked Tender Salmon Bites Get gets, errr, consumed by Denise: ‘ Mmm, salmon. I never liked fish when I was a kid – blame that on a mother that overcooked every finned creature to sawdust – but when I started cooking for myself I fell in love with salmon. Miso glazed, wood plank grilled, poached, however it’s prepared I’m up for it. So when I found out that Epic came out with a jerky-esque salmon – “100% Wild Caught Salmon” – I couldn’t wait to give it a try. And these Bites are, in fact, Epic.’

On the other hand, Stonewall Kitchen’s Cocoa Sea Salt Caramel Waffle Cookie doesnt quite please Denise: ‘I fell in love when I visited Belgium. Waffle cookies. Stroopwafel. While the cookies originated in the Netherlands, I first tasted them on a trip from Paris to Amsterdam, a small packed of two I grabbed up during a break at a gas station. Now a US company has decked out these cookies with luscious add-ons like cocoa and sea salt…but I’m missing the plain-ol’ deliciousness of the original.’

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Robert offers a take on one of the most unusual superhero duos, James Asmus’ Quantum and Woody! Vol. 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team: ‘I’ll be very honest here: James Asmus’ Quantum and Woody! had me at the cover. How can you beat “The World’s Worst Superhero Team”? (And yes, there’s a goat.)’

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Brendan says in his review of the first four Chieftains recordings that ‘For an excellent assortment of really great Irish music, this set of CDs really cannot be beat. Each clocks in at about 40 minutes, which means that the Chieftains packed their LPs as much as possible, and which also means that there are many other gems on these CDs that I’ve left out in this review. ‘

Cat says: ‘Australian author and Celtic musician Paul Brandon, who wrote of one of the finest fantasy novels of recent years, Swim the Moon, has a new novel, The Wild Reel, coming out this summer. He’s also a great fan of Lúnasa, who are capable of some really wild reels! Now, I know that Paul hasn’t heard this album yet, but I’m certain that he’ll find the very wild reels and jigs here to be quite fine, as The Kinnitty Sessions is the first live recording that this group has released. ’

He also looks at this recording: ‘It’s no secret that we love Gaelic music around here.  For this issue, Cat takes a listen to Skara Brae’s Skara Brae, an album that is widely considered the most important album of Gaelic music ever produced. ‘Skara Brae was the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs…. For lovers of songs in Irish this album is a must.’

Mike looks at one of the the more interesting Irish sort of trad bands: ‘Nightnoise was formed in the early 1980s by the recently departed Irish traditional musician, Micheál Ó Domhnaill and American violinist, Bill Oskay. They were soon joined by Micheál’s sister, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and flautist, Brian Dunning, with Oskay eventually being replaced by the late Scottish fiddler, Johnny Cunningham. Pure Nightnoise presents a compilation of material spanning the band’s career, from their first album — 1984’s Nightnoise, right up to their 1995 album, A Different Shore.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert makes a visit to his favorite museum, this time to the Cyrus Tang Hall of China: ‘No, I don’t know who Cyrus Tang is, or was, but I suspect this exhibition is named for him because a major portion came from his collection. That said, the exhibition itself gives an overview of the history of China from the Neolithic to the early 20th Century.’

Our parting music for you this Edition is ‘An Cailin Rua’ from Skara Brae’s Reunion Concert recording made at the Dunlewey Lakeside centre in Centreon, Donegal on the second of January, some fifteen years ago. Now don’t go looking to order it as it was never released commercially but I was handed a soundboard recording of it and it’s one of the most played performances by me as both the music itself and the recording of it are first rate.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood

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Hi there, it’s me — Robert. Here, come sit with me under this oak tree here. I was just remembering the other night at the Pub. It had gotten late and we were all sitting around swapping stories, and of course I can never think of a story when I need one, but I just remembered one that Kit, the woodsteward, told me. That’s what he calls himself, ‘woodsteward,’ although forest warden or ranger might be just as accurate. He takes care of the Wood behind the GMR building (as much as it needs caring for — it’s a self-sufficient sort of place, when all is said), and he’s quite an interesting character. He’s quite striking, sharp-featured, great bones, tall and slim, but with broad shoulders, well-knit, of no particular age, with a great mane of fox-red hair that he wears in a tail down his back most of the time. And of course he knows all about the animals and trees. He always seems to have a little smile hovering around his lips, but it’s his eyes that hold you — strange eyes, golden, watchful like a cat’s, tilted like that, with a sparkle to them that says good humor and maybe just a touch of mischief.

At any rate, we’ve gotten to be friendly over the years — I spend a fair amount of time in the Wood. And it’s definitely ‘the Wood,’ and not any sort of common old ‘woods,’ Kit made that clear early on. He says it’s part of the First Wood, but that’s all he’ll say about it. It’s a nice place to be when I’m too restless to settle down in my office or my reading room, quiet but not too quiet and always something interesting to watch. And of course, Kit spends almost all his time there. He does have a little room down by the kitchen where it’s warm in the winter, but he only uses it during the worst weather — he says everyone needs a nice cozy den sometimes, but he’d rather be under the trees. So, I guess it was inevitable we’d start spending time together, and he’s even invited me to visit him in his room. It really is a snug little place to spend a long winter night. Uh, ‘evening,’ I meant to say. ‘A long winter evening.’

Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, Kit’s story. I was out walking down the Road one day about this time of year — maybe a bit later in the Summer, right about First Harvest — Lughnasadh, they call it around here — and I happened across Kit. He greeted me warmly, and suggested we take a walk into the Wood. ‘I want to show you something,’ he said, ‘and you might as well not waste your time on this Road. It only goes from here to there, since it’s not really part of the Wood at all, and I suppose that’s good enough for most times, but today is special.’ And he led me off into the Wood, along a path I had never noticed before, guiding me along by the hand, and putting an arm around to help me over the tricky parts. He’s certainly nimble, for such a big man — and very strong, too.

The Wood was wonderful that day, warm and a little sleepy, and every once in a while we’d hear the buzz of a greenbottle or see a butterfly glowing in a shaft of sunlight, the trees and bushes all leafy and green, and every so often we’d cross a small clearing where summer flowers had found a place to bloom, asters purple and white, and sunflowers and rattlesnake weed and swamp lilies (the Wood does have some wet parts) and all sorts of things, all like little bits of sunlight themselves. I have to confess, I was surprised to see some of them in the woods, although I suspect Kit does as much gardening as stewarding, and even more surprised that some were blooming this time of year, but we had crossed the Border, I think, so I guess time wasn’t that much of a consideration.

Well, we eventually got to a clearing around a great, ancient oak, a really massive old tree. Kit says he thinks it might be as old as the Wood, or almost. We found a fallen log to sit on, all mossy, just like a storybook log, and Kit made sure I was comfortable — he was being particularly nice that day — and produced a little hamper with some lunch for us, and a flagon or two of ale.

‘It was right here,’ he said, ‘where the Lord and Lady of the Wood tied the knot. Just this time of year, at the First Harvest, High Summer, as the poet says, when —

our days are long and sleepy,
our nights too brief for rest,
summer’s bloom is sweetest now
and summer’s pleasures fullest.

I looked at him, and he blushed, just a little. ‘I do know some things besides woods and beasts, you know.’ He seemed quite pleased with himself.

Oops, look at the time. On this side of the Border I have to pay attention to it, I’m afraid, and I’ve really got to run. Will you be around for a while? Good. Why don’t you meet me back here later, and I’ll finish the story for you. It’s quite the tale. Wonderful! Later, then.

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What’s New for the 12th of August: On Folkloric Matters

“But stories are fragile. Like people’s lives. It only takes a word out of place to change them forever. If you hear a lovely tune, and then you change it, the new tune might be lovely too, but you’ve lost the first one.” “But if I stick to the first tune, then I’ve lost the second.” “But someone else might discover it. It’s still there to be born.” “And the first tune isn’t?” “No,” Tallis insisted, although she was confused now. “It has already come into your mind. It’s lost forever.” “Nothing is lost forever,” Mr. Williams said quietly. “Everything I’ve known I still know, only sometimes I don’t know that I know it.” All things are known, but most things are forgotten. It takes a special magic to remember them. “My grandfather said something like that to me,” Tallis whispered. “Well there you are. Wise Old Men, one and all…”  ― Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss

It is, as all nights are on this Scottish Estate far from the light pollution of any city, a good night for star gazing if weather permits. I’ve got my gaggle of Several Annies, my always female Library Apprentices (and yes I do know their names but I usually use this appellation) are getting a stars-related mythology lesson from Tamsin, our resident hedgewitch, on this crisp evening.

I listened for awhile but realized being warm was a far better option so I decided that I’d stitch together this edition in the Pub while ensconced in the Falstaff Chair near the fireplace with a generous pour, neat of course, of Talisker Storm whisky as the Neverending session backs a sweet  sounding red-headed coleen singing ‘Run Sister Sister’,  a Red Clay Ramblers song with deep Appalachian roots.

Everything this edition is folkloric in nature. I’m selecting some of our myriad folktale reviews, music that’s equally folkloric and other interesting material as well. I’m sort of avoiding contemporary fiction, be it Sharon McCrumb’s  Ghost Riders, Seanan McGuire’s Indexing, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country or Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt as all are frequently cited here. For contemporary short story takes on folkloric themes, I recommend such works as edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling such as Black Swan, White Raven and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales.

April starts us off with a treat for fairy tale aficionados: ‘Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are well known, even to those who’ve never heard his name. His stories have entered our cultural consciousness (who doesn’t know of “The Little Mermaid,” even if it’s only through Disney’s version) and verbal lexicon (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”) and are here to stay. Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen offers a glimpse at the man behind the tales, the subtle nuances of his art and language and renders the stories all the more powerful.’

Deborah says ‘ (Jane) Yolen initially compiled Not One Damsel in Distress for her daughter and three granddaughters, as she wished to provide for her girls that which she had not been able to access — stories where girls are the heroes. Not heroines or sheroes but true heroes, in every sense of the word. Stories where it is the girls who are the knights and the serpent slayers and the pirates. As Yolen writes in the open letter to her girls at the beginning of the collection, “This book is for you because in it are folktales about heroes — regular sword-wielding, spear-throwing, villain-stomping, rescuing-type heroes who also happen to be females.”‘

Terri Windling’s The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors says Diane is an anthology that ‘reinterprets classic fairy tales with reference to contemporary issues of childhood. In short stories,essays and poems the various authors examine the issues of confusion, fear, and, ultimately, survival.’

Denise looks at Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood: ‘I surveyed Josepha Sherman and E.K.F. Weisskopf’s great green paperback with a twinge of envy. These folks took my long-ago discussion and tuned it into a book. It’s a work of scholarship, to be sure, but it’s a lot more fun than most scholarly tomes. Like the great collection of Ozark folktales Pissing in the Snow, Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts makes telling statements about American culture even as it induces milk-out-the-nose guffaws in its readers.’

John Colarusso’s Nart Sagas from the Caucasus gets reviewed by Eric who says ‘The Narts are a legendary race of heroes, whose deeds form the basis for the culture of the Caucasus. The stories are examples, both inspirational and cautionary, of how a warrior of the Caucasus should measure his life. The language is extraordinarily direct; the sagas’ talent for understatement is difficult to equal. . . .”

Jack Zipes edited a new edition of Thomas Frederick Crane collection which Faith reviews for us: ‘Italian Popular Tales, first published in 1885, was the first comprehensive collection of folktales from Italy published in English. It is meticulously organized by subject (fairy tales, tales of Oriental origin, etc.). This is not just a collection of stories, however, as each one is introduced and commented on in the text. The copious endnotes list the origins of each tale and cross-reference their various stock elements. They also include variants on several of the tales, some of them quite long, that were not included in the body of the book for whatever reason.’

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Jo looks at two versions of a Welsh collection of myths: ‘Grand quests, swords, sorcery, gods, mortals, love, war, and a healthy sense of mystery can all be found in The Mabinogion. These eleven ancient Welsh tales date back to somewhere around 1200 in written form and are classics of the folk tale genre. There are few places where you can find so many archetypal folk themes, presented within such a short space. Celtic lineage, culture, and heritage are presented with grace and passion within the framework of a group of stories. These tales are a must for anyone interested in Celtic folklore or in Arthurian legend, for Arthur plays a minor role in many of the tales.’

Leona comments that ‘When I started writing for Green Man Review, I thought of myth and folklore as primarily Irish and Greek, Latin and German. I suspect that’s fairly common in America, but that view misses several important and fascinating segments of the world. In Latin American Folktales, editor John Bierhorst has gathered together in print a wide variety of traditional oral Hispanic and Indian stories.’

Lory loves Jilali El Koudia’s Moroccan Folktales: ‘El Koudia did not merely transcribe the tales he heard, but rewrote, reconstructed and retold them, eliminating wordiness and repetition. His English translation (with Roger Allen) gives us the tales in direct, unembellished and almost stark language. It is an excellent basic source for storytellers and teachers,es who can retell the stories in their own idiom. For scholars, there is a critical analysis and an impressive numerical index of tale types and motifs.’

An edition of The Grimm Tales edited by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. and Alexander H. Krappe wins the favor of Michael:  ‘So what’s so good about this particular volume, as opposed to the numerous other Grimms’ Fairy Tales out there on the market? Quite simply, accuracy. I have to admit a great deal of respect for anyone who can translate this many stories from German, and still manage to keep the authentic flavor of the text, and the colloquial language intact. And if some of the stories seem just a tad … surreal, you can thus blame it on the original text involved. Trust me, some of the originals -are- a bit on the surreal side. It’s a safe bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to publish the Grimms if they were alive and submitting manuscripts today.’

Charles Downing’s Armenian Folk-tales and Fables gets reviewed by Naomi: ‘Armenia is a land which has been ravaged by war on far too many occasions. Other nations keep turning it into a battlefield, and tearing it apart. These tales have survived for many generations in the only way possible, through word of mouth. They were told and retold during the long hard winters, told in the coffee houses for entertainment, and have survived just as the Armenian people have survived.’

Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’

Asher proclaims ‘Here is a tale of human folly — “Whatever the cost, do it”. Of a noble dream – “One land, one king!” Of magic – “Can’t you see all around you the Dragon’s breath?” Of its passing – “There are other worlds. This one is done with me.” And of memory – “For it is the doom of men that they forget.” Excalibur is arguably the most exciting film version of the myth of Arthur to date.’

Grey looks at a Terry Gilliam film: ‘The Fisher King is a modern fairy tale after the pattern of stories by authors of urban fantasy like Charles de Lint. Like de Lint, scriptwriter Richard LaGravenese gives us a story in which an indentured servant and a victim of the urban jungle are redeemed by a traditional quest, by their acceptance of roles which echo some of the deepest archetypes from our collective human myths. In this story, those archetypes are the wounded king and the holy fool. However, we also see that in this redemptive quest, the heroes must play both roles to find their Grail.’

April, our resident Summer Queen, starts off graphic novel reviews with an intriguing offering by looking at the first two volumes in a sprawling series: ‘Imagine, if you will, if the inhabitants of the fairytales you know so well — human and fantastical alike — were alive and well and living in New York. Such is the premise behind Bill Willingham’s Fables series for Vertigo Comics. The Fables, as they call themselves, have long since been driven from their lands by an entity they call only The Adversary. The human-looking Fables settled in New York City, in a neighborhood they call Fabletown. Those who are less than human (think the Three Little Pigs, Shere Kahn, and Oz’s winged monkeys) live in bucolic upstate New York. Good King Cole is mayor of Fabletown, but the real power is in his deputy, Snow White.’

The four issue run of Ballads and Sagas get a look by Debbie: ‘Charles Vess, an extremely talented graphic artist, has done just that. Vess, who has a solid reputation for illustrating such works as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories (also published in graphic novel form) also loves the ballads and sagas that have been entertaining people for hundreds of years, and in this series of books he has collaborated with some of the best-known writers in fantasy literature, including Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Sharyn McCrumb (not a fantasy writer but an author of mysteries with an Appalachian folkloric theme), Midori Snyder, Robert Walton and Delia Sherman (whew!) — I hope I’ve not left anyone out! They tell the stories: he does the illustrations.’

Mia tells us about a charming Appalachian folktale for all ages, as are many such works intended for children: ‘Prequel or stand alone fairy story, A Circle of Cats is a bewitching little book, much bigger inside than out, and a wonderful collaboration between two enormous talents. There’s a place of honor on my bookshelves for this one … when I can finally stop going back to it every little bit and actually bring myself to put it there.’

Steeleye Span, Fairport Concvention and the like were an aspect of the subject of a book, to wit Michael Brocken’s The British Folk Revival, 1944-2002  has a title which sounds like its a history of that re I al but also our reviewer says ‘I better come clean from the get-go: Brocken’s book is a prolonged attack on A.L. Lloyd, a revival singer and writer whose work I love and revere, although I never had the good fortune to meet him.’ You really should read her full review to see where this writer went wrong including as Liz put it, ‘what is probably the most unappealing metaphor ever to muck up the pages of Green Man Review.’

Robert takes a look at a graphic novel that’s not quite a fairy tale. In fact, it’s pretty firmly grounded in Greek mythology: ‘Mike Carey’s The Furies, illustrated by John Bolton, is another spin off from Neil Gaiman’s series The Sandman, and captures that same blend of myth and everyday life that was such a striking feature of Gaiman’s work.’

Robert found another series that updated the Greek myths, Peter Milligan’s Greek Street: ‘Greek Street: Blood Calls for Blood is the first compilation of the individual numbers of the comic series. It offers another retelling of the Greek myths, translated to the seamy underbelly of a contemporary city — in this case, London’s Soho. The center of action, so to speak, is a strip club — the strippers serve as the Chorus. The main story arc is the story of Oedipus — in this case, Eddie, just released from the orphanage and left to his own devices.’

And the story continues in Greek Street: Cassandra Complex: ‘I’m sure you’ve heard the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me, Kate. Well, in the case of Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice’s Greek Street, it should go “Brush Up Your Aeschylus.” And Sophocles. And Euripides. Because you’re going to run into all of them here. In one story.’

I look at an opera based on a Grimm story:  ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’

Colcannon offers us two tales with Irish music as part of those tales in ‘The Pooka and the Fiddler’ and ‘Happy as Larry’ that Jack loves: ‘Ahhh, there you are. I saw you sitting over in Falstaff’s Chair by the cheerfully cracklin’ fire on this cold, windy, and even rainy night. I see you’re enjoying your novel. . . . Me? I’m reading de Lint’s Moonheart — perhaps his best known work. Not all great literature comes in the form of the printed page — indeed some can only be listened to like those told by the storytellers, who sit in that chair telling stories long after midnight is but a memory, or the entertaining tale told by Colcannon on the recording I saw you eyeing a short while ago in the Library.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here  but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.

Staying with the folklore theme,  I’ve got some music for you that I think befits the Autumn season. It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

Oh and Gary did a review of Howard Pollack’s Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man which you can read here.

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What’s New for the 29th of July: Ravens musical and otherwise, Totem Poles, some novels by Charles de Lint, new music and old music, and Other Matters

One flies in to case the joint,  boldly struts around.
Two fly in to make it three,  laugh a while and knock each other down.
Four flies in with a frowning walk  gains a laugh from out a squawk
but it’s five who owns the place  and proves it with a look, stopping
six and seven in their tracks from smuggling a book.

SJ Tucker’s ‘Ravens in The Library’

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The only Raven I’ve ever known to be let in the Library is Maggie, the one eyed corvid that showed  up here one late Autumn with a damaged wing and a scarred over eye some decades back. She can’t fly all that well anymore as she has a certain lack of balance from the eye damage and the wing,  which even with the assistance of our hedgewitch Tamsin, didn’t heal right so she sticks close in the trees just beyond the outside Library entry and has her own nest just inside that door so she’s safe at night and in bad weather.

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Gary reviews the first book in a new fantasy series, Kevin Hearne’s A Plague of Giants. It begins with the invasion of the continent Teldwen. ‘Five of the six peoples in Teldwen have a kenning or mystical power that is linked to them as a people, and to the place where they live, and perhaps to the spirit or god of that place. A Plague of Giants, in addition to being the story of the war sparked by the giants’ invasion, is also the story of the discovery of the sixth kenning.’

Phil Brucato’s Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard’s Name anthology was done as a fundraiser for SJ Tucker who was seriously ill at the time. Tucker’s doing much better now but do read Leona’s review to see why you should seek out this stellar work for a fine summer read!

Richard looks at a novel I’ve enjoyed reading several times:’Seven Wild Sisters, a collaboration between Charles de Lint and Charles Vess, holds no surprises, and that’s a very good thing. The companion-cum-sequel to their earlier collaboration The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, the book delivers exactly what it promises: Gorgeous illustration and an encounter with the otherworld that’s ultimately more about wonder than it is about peril.

Robert starts off a review I think is perfect for Summer reading this way: ‘I’ve long followed Charles de Lint’s writing, starting with, if I remember correctly, Moonheart way back when, and I’ve been as close as I ever come to being a fan for years. (I even got my hands on some early stories, somehow.) So when I was asked to do a review of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, I said, “Yes. I haven’t had a chance to read de Lint in a while.”’

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Robert’s discovered a nifty kitchen short-cut for those fond of Indian cuisine: Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer Sauce: ‘I know one thing about Indian food — I love it. I don’t claim any real expertise in that particular cuisine (although I do have an Indian cookbook stashed away around here somewhere), but one of my favorite nice things to do for myself used to be to go up to an Indian restaurant in the neighborhood and hit the buffet — then invariably, I’d waddle home and take a nap.’

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The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is an expansion of a much shorter work by de Lint and Vess entitled A Circle Of Cats which Mia says is ‘is not a novel, or a novella, or even, at 44 pages, a chapbook — those are merely convenient labels assigned by publishers and booksellers to assist them in categorization. Call Cats instead an enchantment, a weaving of words and pictures into pure magic. Charles de Lint is adept at converging the mundane world and the Otherworld: at touching them together briefly to produce intense moments and life altering episodes, and then gently letting each world retreat from the touch and settle back into its own normality, usually with both sides all the better for the experience.‘

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Reaching way back in our Archives, Asher has a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairytale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.“

Ahhhh, summertime and the living is fine indeed which is why Gary says ‘The Sadies’ In Concert Vol. One is my feel-good disc of the summer. Put these discs on, crank up the volume, and rock out!’

Robert takes a look at a recording that rapidly became a favorite: Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet: ‘I’ve remarked before on Morton Feldman’s propensity to shape sound with silence, a tendency he shares with Toru Takemitsu. Listening to Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet, a late work, written two years before his death in 1987, I realize that the juxtaposition of sound and silence in Feldman’s work is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.’

And now, Robert takes us back in time, about 600 years, more or less, for The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin: ‘In spite of the dearth of records concerning his life, we do know that Josquin was the foremost composer of his time. Although his music was largely overshadowed by that of Palestrina and Tallis for literally centuries, Josquin has, over the past hundred years or so, been rediscovered.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert takes us to one of his favorite places, and one of his favorite parts of that place: Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The Alsdorf Hall of Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples: ‘I’ve come to think of the Field Museum as the “everything museum” — from evolution to paleoanthropology to conservation to meteors: it’s all here. . . . One of the more intriguing areas is the Alsdorf Hall of Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples, which is just what it claims to be.’

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I’m going to finish this edition out with Tucker performing ‘The Raven in The Library’. This performance is at ConFusion in Troy, Michigan on January 23, 2010, and the performer you see here with Sooj is Betsy Tucker.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Cranachan

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Good Evening Ekaterina,

Ingrid sends her love and hopes your trip to Canada is going well.

Mrs. Ware cooked the traditional Scottish dessert that you love earlier tonight — cranachan which you know is made with oats, cream, whisky and raspberries.

Scottish cranachan is a very quick, easy recipe. It is also a very festive recipe and perfect for any celebration especially Christmas, Hogmanay and rounds off a Burns Night Supper quite beautifully.

However, Scottish cranachan is too good to save just for special occasions and is especially good in the summer, making the most of the delicious raspberries found on this Estate growing wild in immense brambles for a truly authentic recipe. But don’t worry if you can’t find them, use any raspberries, as with the other wonderful ingredients in the cranachan it’ll taste good anyways.

If you use frozen raspberries, make sure to decrease the amount of sugar you use as most of them come in a sweetened syrup. Though I’ve noticed that the natural foods movement has resulted in just raspberries, no sweetener, being sold as well.

Mrs. Ware has been pondering the idea of substituting blueberries in the recipe which should be tasty as well.

Yours with affection,

Gus

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What’s New for the 22nd of July: The Art of Mouse Guard, Medieval Japan, Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ and some other possibly odd things

Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head

White Rabbit’, written by Grace Slick

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Yes, we love chocolate a lot around here, to the extent that Ellen Kushner once shared her hot chocolate recipe with us, the same chocolate drink quite popular with the characters in her Swordspoint novel and other Riverside tales. You’ll have to ask Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff for it as I’ve never actually been told what it is. Oh, and that toast is spread with the Lindt Chocolate Hazelnut Spread which they’ve just starting selling here in the UK. Really, really ymmmy!

It’s summer, so the Neverending Session has decamped from the Pub to the Greensward ‘til the sun starts to come down to take advantage of the fantastic summer weather. Yes, I know this is Scotland, which has shitty summer weather, but we share The Border with that place, call it, if you will, Tír na hÓige, and their Summer Court love warm, sunny summers so we get the same. Now guess what it’s like when the Winter Court holds sway…

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Cat has a rather good SF novel with mythological underpinnings for us: ‘On a whim, I picked it up a novel and started reading it — it felt like classic Zelazny such as The Isle of The Dead, so I kept reading. Now keep in mind that this never before published Zelazny novel was finished posthumously with the help of his coauthor and companion, Jane Lindskold. But unlike so many of this sort of collaboration, Donnerjack has Zelazny written all over it.‘

Robert has a look at a poetry collection, Mark Doty’s Sweet Machine: ‘I don’t know if it’s possible for anyone not to be taken by Mark Doty’s poetry. Reading one or two (which I try to do with poetry, so as not to become too glib about it) is like eating one or two pistachios: before you know it, you’ve done the book cover to cover and your mind is too congested for any use whatsoever. And your hair is standing straight up.’

How about life in medieval Japan? That’s what’s in store in our next offering. Robert says: ‘f the title sounds daunting, don’t be worried. William E. Diehl’s Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan is a well-organized and eminently usable reference to the history, arts, and customs of Japan from 1185, the beginning of the Kamakura Period, to 1868, the end of the Edo Period, which is to say, the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the Emperor.’

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Robert has a Scandinavian candy bar for our inspection: ‘Troika is one of those candies that comes only in Norwegian — the label is in Norwegian, the web site is in Norwegian, and so on. Nidar is one of three companies that consolidated to form Orkla Confectionary and Snacks in 2013, and is a major confectioner throughout the Baltic region, with companies in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia and Estonia.’

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Sometimes the companion work to an awesome series is every bit as good as that series, as Cat tells us here: ‘The Art of The Mouse Guard is nearly three hundred and seventy pages of awesomeness and it’s packed with artworks such as sketches, pen and ink illustrations, and painted art. Let’s not overlook the photos of miniature sets of interiors and buildings that were used as references. Yes miniature sets of interiors and buildings were built by David Peterson to help him visualise the unique reality that his mice exist in.’

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Three albums from one of the legendary San Francisco rock bands, Jefferson Airplane, get an appreciative look-see by David: ‘Psychedelic music was originally so named because it sought to recreate musically the mind-expanding experience of LSD. “Psychedelic, man!” The center of this music was unquestionably San Francisco, with bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Jefferson Airplane. Straight from Haight-Ashbury to you they brought in special lighting techniques, extended trippy solos, exotic Middle Eastern modal influences, and more . . . “far freakin’ out!” These three albums provide a workshop on yhe latter’s efforts to expand the minds of a nation.’

After you’ve read that review, go read Deborah’s Flight Plan: A look back at the Jefferson Airplane an essay which not only covers some essential recordings and even a few books about the band, but is also a fascinating look at her relationship to that music.

Gary reviews a new CD by Clay Parker and Jodi James, a musical couple from Baton Rouge. Their album The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound ‘stands out quietly in the crowded Americana field,’ he says.

Canadian folk-rockers Cowboy Junkies are marking the 30th Anniversary of one of their best-known albums The Trinity Session. Gary says  ‘All That Reckoning, all these years later, still is built around Margo Timmins’ hushed vocals, but this one seethes with a barely suppressed rage at the present state of the Western world.’

‘John Prine is the folk singer America deserves. And needs,’ Gary says. ‘And boy, do we need this new album of his.’

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We’re not sure who wrote this Folkmanis review as our What Not this time, as that information does seem to have gone walkabout: Folkmanis has gained an excellent reputation in recent decades for its overwhelming array of puppets. The plushies range from eerily lifelike to utterly fantastical. Right now I’m holding the Sea Serpent Stage Puppet in my hand. Well, okay, I’m wearing it on my hand. . . is that so wrong?’

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If there’s any voice that match the cool, strong feel of Grace Slick, it’d be in my not so humble opinion that of June Tabor, whom I’ve heard live and that we’ve reviewed many a time, including this review of An Echo Of Hooves. Now imagine that she performed Slick’s ‘White Rabbit’ with quite possibly the finest English folk rock band ever in the form of the Oysterband which has been reviewed here many, many times, including Ragged Kingdom which is their second second album with Taborr, the first being Freedom and Rain some thirty years ago .

Well you don’t need to imagine it happening as it did and you can hear ‘White Rabbit’ as performed by her and the Oysterband at City Varieties in Leeds on a November night just seven years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Green Lady

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If we’ve left the impression with you that we’ve only encountered only Green Men on this Scottish Estate down the centuries, that’s not correct. There’re stories about The Green Lady in Sleeping Hedgehog, our Estate community newsletter, as far back as the Sixteen Hundreds.

Sometimes she appears completely human until you get close enough to see that her apparently tanned skin is ‘nought but fine grained wood. Though there were other  times she was definitely nothing more than a plant vaguely shaped like a woman. The Welsh have Blodeuwedd, a being made of roses and owl feathers, but that’s not this being. She’s all plant from her toes that restlessly seek the nearest soil to her hair that looks to be tangled dreads but is actually very fine -eafed strands of ivy which are always moving.

Like the Green Men we see here, none of them speak. However, none of the Green Ladies plays an instrument whereas all the Green Men do, but instead they seem to be all gardeners instead. I’ve seen them in our gardens, apparently talking in a low rustling voice to them. I know that I said that they didn’t speak but what I’ve heard is something far older than our speech is. Something felt in my soul more than heard with my ears.

One was apparently tasking bees to do certain pollination, an impressive task that Gus felt was more a dance of thousands than mere work. They don’t take notice of we mortals, fey or human alike, but neither do they not know we’re there.

I assume they live in the Wild Wood but not even Gutmansdottir, our resident botanist studying that region, has seen them there.

Now, shall we head over to the Pub for some of the mead that’s been made from the hives they tend? It’s a truly blessed drink.  

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