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 quite a few pieces up now and more will follow. 

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What’s New for the 5th of July: Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ and Other Summery Matters

I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer — its dust and lowering skies —Toni Morrison’s The Blue Sky

So we’ve  reached that time of year where we on this Estate are starting to eat from our extensive gardens. Normally we’d be feeding lots of guests as well but the Pandemic had us impose a quarantine upon ourselves, so it’s just us, though we’re doing a more robust trade with neighbouring estates as we’ve got a larger than usual surplus this year.

So, the eventide meal will be a potato and cucumbers salad with a vinaigrette dressing, smoked pork chops, some lovely fresh tomatoes, and for our dessert, a warm strawberry rhubarb cobbler with freshly churned Madagascar vanilla ice cream on it.

Grey says of Medicine Road that ‘I suppose it’s fitting, for a story about twos, that the creators are two Charleses. Charles Vess’s illustrations make this not-so-simple fable deeper and richer. Vess combines line drawing and painting in a way that makes his pictures simultaneously vividly life-like and fairy tale-remote.’

There’s a bar in Medicine Road where the sisters play called A Hole in The Wall, which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (with permission). It’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first modern fantasy to take full advantage of the myths of this region. Grey says of the latter novel that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Michael says that ‘The Flight of Michael McBride is a beautifully spun tale of magic, love, loss, and growing up. It juxtaposes Irish myth, the enigmatic mystique of Native American folklore, the simple charm of folk magic, and the illusion of the Wild West, creating a tapestry that few writers can equal. The only author who’s done anything comparable who springs to mind is Tom Deitz, and his work is more focused on Cherokee myth. There are other authors who have juxtaposed Celtic and Native American themes — Charles de Lint, for example — but in my opinion, Midori Snyder hits a home run with this novel.’

Warner brings us his take on a novel in a mystery genre that’s new to us: “cozy mystery”. He starts off by explaining the term: ‘Secrets of Bones by Kylie Logan is an example of the pet or animal related subgenre of cozy mystery. While the presence of a cute dog in the book or on the cover is appreciated, it is the authors’ style that makes a book like this an enjoyable read. A multitude of different suspects, some personal drama, and just a little danger mix together to create quite a lovely combination.’

It being nigh unto summer here, that means lots of fresh hand churned ice cream soon with various fruits, especially those Borderland strawberries that start out red and turn white. So it’s apt that Richard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’

Michael brings us a film that sounds like the perfect way to spend an evening at home: ‘We all have those perfect films, the ones in which everything comes together, the story shines, the characters click, and the entire movie is resonate. That rare movie you can watch unlimited times, and keep going back for more. Where nothing disappoints, and everything excites. Forget what the critics say, forget what your friends say, forget everything but that, for you, this movie is damned near perfect. We all have those pantheons in our heads. And for me, the 1993 Disney version of The Three Musketeers ranks right up there as one of my all-time favorites.’

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.‘

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.’

Jack has a look at a album of an unusual nature: ‘Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household that I can count as it simply has not a less than stellar cut on it.’

Michael states what he thinks of most Celtic music in his review of C’mon: ‘To my pleasant surprise, he was right. I didn’t just like Rook, I loved them. And coming from me, that’s high praise indeed. You see, I have a somewhat unfortunate flaw. I don’t like Celtic music on the whole. Oh, sure, I’ve been known to enjoy specific bands, or certain songs, or some styles. But on the whole, I’m not really a Celtic music fan. I don’t know why, but after a while, it all starts sounding the same to me.’ Sadly this would be the only disc from Rook as they too broke up shortly after releasing it.

Robert’s been going through his music library again and came up with an album by a favorite group (yes, another favorite group — do you get the feeling he really likes music?): ‘Link Park’s Living Things snuck by me when it first came out — almost: they were the second band that came out with a new album while I wasn’t looking. So of course I ordered it. It’s Linkin Park doing what they always do — pushing the envelope.’

Our usual What Not is a puppet or a tarot deck, but this time Reynard has a review of two action figures that inhabit his office space: ‘Well back in 2003, Stronghold Group released two characters based on the sort of people that inhabited the CBGB club, one being Maxx, a singer, and the the other being, Bad Apple, who is less clearly defined though he too could be a musician, a fan, and even perhaps a CGBG bouncer. One site claimed these are ‘extreme look-alikes of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten’ but the manufacturer doesn’t say who they based on.’ Read his full review for a look at two fascinating characters!

There are bands for which I’ve deep liking for pretty much everything they’ve done such as the Old Blind Dogs or Steeleye Span, though the former used a full drum kit for a while that put me off those recordings. And then there are performers for which I can only blame radio play in heavy rotation for the song when I was working.

So it is with Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ which I’ve heard playing off and on over the past forty years. It’s certainly an upbeat, feel good summer song much like ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s. It was released on Chicago V in 1972 and peaked on the Billboard charts at number three which is bloody impressive. It is lovely enough that I didn’t get tired of it. But I’ve prattled on enough about it, so here’s that song for you to have the pleasure of hearing performed live at Park West in 1982.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bloodied Kings

There are stories of haunting here at the Kinrowan Estate going back centuries. Of patrons of our Pub who came back again and again at last call to hoist just one more pint of their favourite ale, of the gameskeeper (in those long ago days when we had such a post) who is spotted watching over the deer ias they eat grass in the late fall, of the piper heard playing in the distance as the dawn breaks over the hills where High Meadow farm is.

And any other of other tales passed down generation after generation ’till they past from being remembered to being part of our history into being simply stories…

There is one ghost, or rather a set of ghosts, that I See in my vision when I’m unable to sleep and leave Catherine sleeping soundly in our bed to roam around the Estate main building and nearby grounds in warmer weather. So it was that some decades back that I first encountered them.

At first all I noticed was the crickets chirping loud in the warm night air. Then I heard the Irish wolfhounds we have to keep the sheep and pigs safe from wolves and other predators growling lowly in their throats as if something beyond their ken. So I walked out to where they were and stopped awfully fast when I saw them.

They were I thought that they were just some waking dream I was having, not really there but I sound realised that they were really there. They were a King, stocky and red haired, bloodied but still standing, fucking war sword unsheathed and covered with blood and gore, and his foe, equally stocky and blond haired, obviously Viking, leaning on his bloodied sword. Dead men walking. As I watched, they resumed hacking at each other. Over and over again.

They went on, silently, never saying anything, cutting at each other ’til they were far past the point where they should have been dead, but they went one cutting at each other. They were still having at each other as they faded away.

I’ve seen them several times since, always on the same date. I’ve tried researching the old battles, the old kings of Scotland, but never found anything that matches up properly to what I saw. I do know that there are several barrow mounds on the Estate that may indeed be those of Kings lost now to even myth as they live and died so long ago that no one even remembers them as even that way.

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What’s New for the the 28th of June: Sherlock Examined, Edward Weston, Teen Superheroes, Storytellers, Acoustic Americana, a quick Indian Dinner,and more

I’m a cat. We aren’t required to make sense.― Seanan McGuire’s A Local Habitation

I smelled something terribly enticing in the hallway out of our Kitchen. So I handed Pub duties over to Finch and got myself down there for the eventide meal, which was lamb kebabs seasoned with fennel, cumin, garlic and chili. So it turned out we just slaughtered several lambs as demand is down in a major way during the Pandemic.  Served up with rice, steamed veggies and the best yeasted whole wheat rolls I’ve had.

We had ice cream for desert: a cardamom and ginger one, another intensely dark chocolate and peanut in nature and a strawberry one with the very first berries of the late Spring growing season. I sampled all three and can say that Mrs. Ware and her ever so talented Kitchen staff outdid themselves!

So let’s head over my work table and see what we’ve got you this afternoon.

Cat looks at the urban legend retold yet again, of a ghost girl asking for a ride home on the anniversary of her death: ‘Seanan McGuire decided to tell her own ghost story in Sparrow Hill Road which, like her novel Indexing, was originally a series of short stories published through The Edge of Propinquity, starting in January of 2010 and ending in December of that year. It appears they’ve been somewhat revised for this telling of her ghostly narrator’s tale but I can’t say how much as I’ve not read the original versions.’

Matthew had a surprisingly strong reaction to a fantasy trilogy: ‘but there are certain books that are written so wonderfully that they leave me an emotional mess for a few days after reading them. Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry is one such series.

Robert brings us an important work in the history of twentieth-century American art, The Daybooks of Edward Weston: ‘Edward Weston shares a place in American photography with a very select group of artists: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Imogene Cunningham, Charles Sheeler. These are the people who took photography out of the realm of imitation and, working within a very pure view of the capabilities of the medium itself, created what we still think of as the “good photograph” in the still-dominant mode of American Modernism.’

Warner has a look at a (realtively) slim volume of Sherlockian scholarship: ‘A difficulty for most Sherlockian scholars is getting their hands on much of the wealth of older material. One reprint anthology that aids in this a great deal is Philip A. Schreffler’s Sherlock Holmes by Gas-Lamp, which contains a variety of materials from the Baker Street Journal from its first forty years of publication.’


Robert came across a quick and easy way to fix an Indian dinner, thanks to 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.’

Cat spent a few fun hours watching Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: ‘Come in — sit by the fireplace here in the Green Man Pub and we’ll discuss one of the best series ever made. We’ll speak of storytellers, shaggy dogs who speak, trolls, comely maidens, ugly hags, and a whole lot more. So grab a mug of Ryhope Wood Cider and we’ll get started. . . .’

Robert takes a look at a group of superheroes, teenage variety, in Teen Titans: A Kids’ Gamne: ‘I stumbled across the Teen Titans quite by accident a while ago, and recently started following Geoff Johns’ version of the team. They’re an engaging bunch of kids, and manage to get themselves into some pretty hot water.’

Gary has a review of some new music by the Oregon-based Kristen Grainger & True North. ‘Ghost Tattoo, their sixth release, is a delightful slice of acoustic Americana that highlights the songwriting skills of Grainger and other progressive Americana musicians.’

Gary says, ‘There just aren’t enough albums that combine bagpipes and yodelling. If you don’t see yourself agreeing with that statement you can just stop reading now.’ You’ll have to read his review of Auli’s Voices of the Ancestors to see what that’s all about.

Robert was digging through his music files and ran across an old favorite: ‘Tangerine Dream wound up being one of those groups that I collected fairly extensively, based on the quality of their music. (At least, I like to think so.) They’re one of the few groups I’ve run across in any area that has managed to combine a rich, sensuous soundscape with a solidly intellectual approach. Exit is more or less typical of their output in that regard — the music-making is pretty sophisticated and the collection as a whole is certainly engaging.’

He also came up with Celtic Café, a collection by Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts, that has a wider provenance than you might think: ‘In the constant onslaught of Irish and/or Scottish music under the general heading of “Celtic,” we tend to forget that the Celts dominated most of Europe for quite a long time; the Gauls whom Caesar fought in what is now France, and the inhabitants of Europe in Spain and north of the Roman Empire for centuries before that until the arrival of the Germanic peoples, were Celts. Celtic traditions seem to be enduring: there is still a strong thread of these folkways not only in the British Isles, but in places such as Brittany and even Belgium.’


Our What Not this edition comes courtesy of Guy Gavriel Kay, author of such novels as Ysabel and Tigana who says ‘I love Steeleye Span (and so should you, even though you are way too young for your own good). Maddy Prior was easily up there with Sandy Denny and Jacqui McShee for me, back when. (The too young remark was an aside to his publicist, Elena Stokes) He goes on to add Favourite songs include (on my iPod and iTunes on my computer): “All Around My Hat” (totally messed up, merged lyrics, but just great), “Hard Times of Old England” (a shower song, to the chagrin of my family), “Thomas the Rhymer”, “Dance with Me”, “Black Jack Davey”, and “Drink Down the Moon”. Just pulled these off the iTunes list.’

Our Coda this week is another summer-themed selection (can’t get enough of summer): violinist Joshua Bell is the soloist in this performance of “Summer” from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons:

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Dancing Goats


Once upon a time, I fiddled away the entire night of a summer solstice under the stars with a Québécois band named Les Chèvres Dansantes. That means in English ‘The Dancing Goats’, the French Canadian name for the Northern Lights, which they say dance in the sky. Like the Northern Lights, the band danced as much as they played that night. (Québec has the world’s finest junk food that I’ve ever been lucky ‘nough to eat! It’s is called poutine, and you can get it almost anywhere, to take out in paper boxes, or to eat there. It consists of a mixture of a sort of cheddar cheese that comes in popcorn-shaped clumps, frites (French fries), and a delicious gravy-like sauce that goes over the cheese and frites.)

But the reason we were there was to provide, as Kevin Burke once said, ‘dance music, and it’s got to have a fair old bit of jizz in it’. Surely you’ve felt like dancing when the night grows cold and the there’s ‘nought but the stars overhead and a roaring bonfire for light? We did. For we who are musicians, it’s always about playing music together, playing for dancing and for listening, and the magic that it creates in all of us. There’s plenty of gossip among the musicians about who was playing with which bands, who has learned a new tune worth sharing, but mostly, it’s about those jigs and reels and slow airs and waltzes, and how of all of us — be we musician, dancer, or listener — are part of the music.

We played damn near everything that long, magical night — Québécois, Celtic, Nordic, Russian, Welsh, and even a few from over the Border that the Seelie Court introduced to an Irish fiddler named Mad Pat two decades ago, and which I first heard being played by the Neverending Session in the Green Man Pub. We had more than enough musicians present so that all of us could grab a bite, drink a bit, dance as we saw fit, and, for those so inclined, chase a willing lover.

We finished off the next morning as the sun rose over the mountains with ‘ Midsummer’s Night’, a sprightly reel also known among fiddlers as ‘Miss McKnight’s Reel’. The dancers treated us to what they called a proper morning-after breakfast — Blue Mountain coffee with cream, fresh squeezed tangerine juice, and a lavish buffet good enough to please even the most jaded of palates! For me, the freshly baked blueberry muffins the size of small melons was me favourite food that morning. Though I must admit the scrambled eggs with smoked Scottish salmon, Vidalia onions, and Chevrochon Tomme du Haut Richelieu was awfully good too!

 

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What’s New for the June 21st: Summer Solstice is Here!

This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath. — Margaret Atwood

Because of the isolation caused by the Pandemic, we’re having an unusually quiet Solstice celebration on the Estate this year. Usually we throw a party to which a hundred or so guests show up, but this year it’s just the thirty five residents here. So we decided just to have a meal and do something quiet, perhaps a reading from something that was Summer Solstice related.

That got changed in favour of a concert of music that seemed fitting of the passing from the Winter months to the Summer months, so we gathered after the eventide meal in the Pub, got our favorite drinks and settled in for an evening of music. It was a restful, quiet concert — very unlike the unusual raucous celebrations we have here. It finished off with “Dancing at Whitsun”,  a song by Maddy Prior and Tim Hart.

So let’s start off with an English mystery set in summertime. For that, we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a looked by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Michael looks at possibly the best fantasy novel set up to and on Summer Solstice, Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks: ‘How can I say so much, and not touch deeply upon the plot? Because this book is like that. It’s full of words. Beautiful, poetic words, that sing you a song, urge you into a dance, lull you into a sense of security, and weave a tale while you’re not looking. It’s easy to get lost in this book. Emma Bull is a musician in her own right, and she lovingly details the scenes revolving around music, songs, and the band with painstaking effort. She knows what she’s doing, and it shows. This book literally sings. Turn to any page, and I promise you, the text will be gorgeous, evocative, and occasionally as mysterious as the Phouka.’

Not precisely Summer novels, but I like them as Summer reading, so Robert has two  fantasies by de Lint: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of KinrowanJack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’

Robert rounds out our reviews with a McKillip novel also set in summertime: ‘It seems somewhat odd, on reflection, to realize that in a genre that so often uses magic as a metaphor and/or device, so few writers actually evoke the qualities of magic in their writing. That observation is prompted by Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood. McKillip has always been a writer whose books can themselves be called “magical,” and it’s even more interesting to realize that she seldom uses magic as a thing of incantations and dire workings or as anything special in itself: it just is, a context rather than an event, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.’

Denise is back from her (stomach ache after all that candy) sabbatical, and immediately dives into Coastal Maine Popcorn Company’s Cinnamon Apple Popcorn. How’d she like the sweet treat? ‘I love multiplex ‘corn, and who doesn’t love apple pie? Two great tastes that taste great together? Um, nope.’ But she holds out hope for other ‘corns by the brand in her review. 

The ultimate summer festival? How about this? Take a number of well-known musicians, toss in fans and a camera crew, put all on a train traversing Canada. That’s the gist of Festival Express. Sound intriguing? David thought so: ‘It opens with a faded map of north Ontario, Kapuskasing dead centre. Then the camera pulls back and from the middle of the screen comes a train — an old Canadian National engine — and tracks, lots of tracks. This is a movie about that train and the people who rode on it, and the places it stopped, and what happened one week in 1970 when this train went from Toronto to Calgary … with a cargo of rock’n’rollers and all their paraphernalia. What a summer.’

Another film, this one soaked in summer — and summer in northern Italy, to boot. Says Robert: ‘It’s hard to avoid comparisons between Call Me By Your Name and Brokeback Mountain, even though the stories couldn’t be farther apart. Let me just say that, for this viewer, at least, the impact was equivalent.’

Robert has the beginning of a manga series that looks good for summer reading, Yellow Tanabe’s Kekkaishi: ‘This is the start of a long-running series, which justifies the episodic nature of the story — from the looks of things, Yoshimori’s going to be having a lot of adventures. (Thirty-five collected volumes worth, in fact.) I’d note it as one for teen boys, and probably tweens as well — it’s a humorous action/adventure story, although it’s likely not a series that I will be continuing — but then, I’m not a teenager. Really.’

Robert here, with some music that more or less fits the season — my own feeling is that music has no season, but there are exceptions.

First, a work by none other than Ludwig van Beethoven that — well, I won’t say it’s ignored, but it’s not one that people think of first — the Symphony No. 6 in F: ‘The Sixth Symphony, almost an anomaly in Beethoven’s oeuvre, is truly a “pastorale,” a musical counterpart to the paintings of Constable or the poetry of Wordsworth. In the history of the portrayal of Nature in the works of Man, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony occupies a place of its own.’ It really was intended to depict a summer day in the country.

Of course, there’s an old stand-by, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, this time in a somewhat singular reading: ‘Terje Tønnesen, soloist and conductor on this recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, includes a liner note to the effect that the performance “represents a form of time travel in which we attempt a ‘correct’ reading of history while at the same time interpreting it freely from our own perspective.” For those who routinely deal with the past and its artifacts — from archaeologists and historians to musicians, actors, and critics — this seems so self-evident that it hardly bears repeating, but it does give one pause for thought: we tend to assume that the past is just like the present, except that people wore funny clothes.’

Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote some tremendously evocative music, as discussed in this review of a group of his orchestral works. The one that always seems to me to be a “summer” piece is The Lark Ascending: ‘The Lark Ascending is possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of music Vaughan Williams wrote. For some reason, it is linked in my mind with A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad – perhaps it’s the very real feeling of an English village reflected in the music: the images are rural, sometimes sprightly, sometimes melancholy, and Iona Brown’s solo passages are simply haunting.’

And finally, an album from a land that doesn’t really have seasons — well, rainy and not rainy, but to those of us in northern climes, it’s alway summer — Uun Budiman and the Jugala Gamelan Orchestra’s Banondari: ‘One realizes, after a while, that popular music, while it may appear in many guises, has certain things in common. Sometimes it is subject matter, sometimes it is more elusive. . . . Jaipongan is a newly designated Sundanese “traditional” form that incorporates elements of several other Indonesian forms of traditional dance theater, Sundanese gamelan styles, and even pancang silat, a traditional martial art, along with influences from Western rock and pop music.’

That’s it for music this week.

Jennifer gives us “Comet Summer”, a tiny story about children’s magic saving the world on the Summer Solstice. Nobody knows this, but the story was written to be sung to the tune of “Tender Shepherd”. It was originally published in Breaking Waves, An Anthology for Gulf Coast Relief in 2010.

Robert has the ultimate summer song for our Coda this week — none other than Clara’s first act aria from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess:

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Theatre Company

Overheard in the Green Room one night…

There, my friend. I am not good company tonight, but if you can stand the long face, I’ll buy the rounds, all right? Here, Reynard — a pint for this compassionate one, the poor bastard…

No, sure it will be all right. Surely. It is just that…you know they say that the world is a stage, yes? Vesti la giubba, vesti la giubba! The sad fruit of hate, the agonies of grief, the cries of rage, the bitter laughter. We breathe the air of this lonely world along with everyone else, and we hold up a mirror — but which is the reflection?

The stage and the world. As Signor Shakespeare said — are they not the same thing? We think, no! they are not, surely they cannot be . . . yet disaster strikes in a mockery of our mockeries, like mirrors reflecting mirrors over and over again, until you cannot tell where life starts and then art continues on, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Which is art? Which is life? Reynard, give me another? No, it’s all right, you know I can hold my drink, I’ve been drinking since before you were whelped! Another for you, my friend?

Ah, don’t look so worried, you. Surely it will be all right. Our company…we follow the grand tradition, the great art, yes . . . we are one of the few companies left of the Commedia dell’Arte, we are! Each performance different, the story the same, but everything fresh, each night new . . . We each have our roles, our specialty, each of us has studied long and hard.

Yes, I am Arlecchino, sometimes I am Truffeldino. Someday when I am a bit older I will master Pedrolino as well, or perhaps he will master me — but Arlecchino, he is my favorite and always has been. Troublemaker, servant, go-between, clever boots . . . that’s me! Your servant, my master!

Ah, my master. Well, he is our director, he is a great clown, a subtle actor, a genius of improvisation! And a good businessman as well; he owns our company. Ah, my friend, I am worried. We came to this great city, was it years ago now? Surely not . . . but now, they shout for us as the kings and queens of the stage!

Tragedy and comedy, both the mirror image of the other… He has a terrible temper, but he is honest, my master is, you can trust him.

She is beautiful, you know, my master’s wife. She is much admired. Much admired. She is sometimes my Columbina, sometimes she is Isabella. She is very clever as Columbina, her improvisations are very good.

Look at the time. I will have to be at the theatre soon. Reynard, one last one for the night. Perhaps just a bit of that whiskey. A sniff of water.

Yes, I am worried. It is this damned city, it turns everything around. Do we become our roles, or do they become us?

But surely it will be all right.

Come down later to see the performance tonight, the? For some reason, I’m actually dreading tonight, I don’t know why. I will feel better if you are there in the audience, my friend. I must go, for, as they say, the show must go on, no matter how we feel, the?

Ridi, Pagliaccio!

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What’s New for the June 14th: Jennifer’s cold green summery sludge (really), John Hartford’s fiddle tunes, the War for the Oaks film, three novels by Pat Murphy, chocolate chip cookies and other yummy matters

If you can’t change the world with chocolate chip cookies, how can you change the world? — Pat Murphy

So, would you like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie? Mrs. Ware and her ever so talented Kitchen crew decided that they would make cookies and milkshakes today, so they’ve been having lots of Estate staff show up to indulge in these delicious treats. I went for my favourite one — dark chocolate, peanut butter and banana. (The latter are grown in The Conservatory that Lady Alexandra Quinn, Estate Gardener during the Reign of that Victoria, had built.) I took my treat and retreated to the Library where I’m working on the Hugo nominations packet that I’m reading.

Yes the WorldCon this year, because of the pandemic, is virtual, so I decided to be a member and attend the panels, watch the readings, vote for the Hugos and decide where it’ll be post pandemic. The Hugo voting packet of all the material was downloadable from Best Novel and Semi-prozine nominees to even the Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, which was episodes of Doctor Who and The Expanse. It’s been a lot of fun to go through!

Cat goes back to what should be, and maybe is, a science fiction classic: ‘Roger Zelazny’s Isle of The Dead is a prequel of sorts to To Die in Italbar, though you don’t really need to read it first. It amuses me that, as I noted in reviewing To Die in Italbar, Zelazny considers that to be his worst novel, as it’s stylistically identical to this novel — He wrote them both in the same year. I could make the argument that they’re really one novel published in two pieces. Certainly I would suggest that it’s worth reading both of them in a single go as they form in a continuous narrative.’

Jennifer gets her paws on Daniel Pinkwater’s upcoming Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, at least as subversive as his Devil in the Drain but longer, and therefore funnier by volume. She fails to mention how much food is mentioned in this book. Thank goodness I can bring it up here. Lot of great food. He even makes parsnips sound yummy.

Robert came up with three books by Pat Murphy, an author he thinks deserves your attention: ‘I am having an immense amount of fun discovering the work of Pat Murphy. Aside from laudatory comments picked up from other writers, I first ran across Murphy as one of the editors of the James Tiptree Award Anthologies, the first three of which we reviewed here and here. (Strangely enough, she had no stories included in those collections, which is, I think, our loss.) When the chance came to review some of her work, I smiled and said “Sure!”‘

Warner has the latest installment in an audiobook series: ‘The Confessions of Dorian Gray is a longstanding series of audio dramas from Big Finish Productions. The latest episode, “Isolation”, was conceived, written, recorded, mixed, produced and released in less than 5 days. It was written by Scott Hancock and stars Alexander Vahos as Dorian Gray of Oscar Wilde fame.’

Jennifer pulls out somethibg to go with your spicy barbecue delights. Some people think cilantro tastes like soap, others, like the food of the gods. Cilantro adds color and freshness to this raita, with avocado to make it fluffy and Greek yogurt to add creaminess and heft. It’s a perfect foil to jerked goat or tacos arbol. It’s fast, it’s soothing, it’s green!

It’s not a film, but rather a teaser for a film of Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks that never got made made. Let’s have Michael explain in this excerpt from his review of it: ‘Imagine, if you will, the movie version of War for The Oaks. Adapted directly from the book, and directed by Will Shetterly, with Emma Bull undoubtedly acting as a very close, very personal creative consultant. It was shot on location in Minneapolis, with a soundtrack provided by Cats Laughing, and the Flash Girls. When you consider how Hollywood traditionally and typically butchers adaptations, this must sound like some sort of blessing.’ Now you can watch this short but highly entertaining film over here.

In honor of Pride Month, we have a look at a stellar example of boy’s love manga. Says Robert: ‘Ishihara has made full use of the potential of the graphic novel medium in this one. Kimi Shiruya is to my mind not only a superb example of BL, but a remarkable example of graphic literature in any genre.’

Mister Kitty, errr, Cat looks at 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.’

I always think of Frifot as being a summer group as I first saw them in Sweden at midsummer, so let’s have Barb tell us about one of their albums: ‘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.’

Some composers also invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, 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.’

John Hartford fans be advised that Gary has a treat for you to finish off our music reviewers : ‘Working with Hartford’s family, Nashville-based fiddler Matt Combs has put together two massive projects from those archives: a book called John Hartford’s Mammoth Collections of Fiddle Tunes and this album, The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project, Volume 1. The album brought together a multi-generational who’s who of contemporary roots musicians to celebrate Hartford’s legacy.’

I dug out this review from the Archives of some twenty years ago — OK, you do know that we have a resident hedgehog at this Scottish Estate by the name of Hamish? So it won’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.’

Our music coda this time comes because a member of File 770 community mentioned that his book group was reading Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks. In it, you’ll find the lyrics for a song called ‘For It All‘ which Eddi and The Fey sing in the story.

Now usually that’d be it and you’d never actually get to hear the song but Emma went on to be a member of Cats Laughing whose first two recordings are reviewed here. So they recorded that song and a lot of other great music.

They broke up as bands are wont to do but they came back  together a few years back at Minicon and did A Long Time Gone – Reunion at MiniCon 50 recording with a DVD of the concert, so read the splendid review thisaway.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Empires That Might’ve Been

I’m the King in Exile for A Kingdom that is far older than any now in existence snd you’ve never heard of it…

Mind you, he was dressed all in black with a smart cut to his slightly old-fashioned clothes and a haughty demeanor of one to the Manor born, but that said little to who he was, and we’ve heard far stranger statements made here by much odder looking individuals.

Now I know that most historians claim that Charles I succeeded to the Austro-Hungarian throne during The First World War, and that he abdicated from it a short time later in 1918 when the Armistice took effect and the war ended with the surrender of the Central powers to the Allies. Historians further say he died five years later — a mortal lifetime ago. Our visitor, Karl by name, rejected that history with an angry shake of his head. Indeed Bela, our resident Balkan violinist, has also claimed for years that he was born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire!

One of the Neverending Session players shrugged her shoulders — I think it was Zina who was playing on her fiddle a spritely set of tunes, ‘Never Wed a Hendrake Lass / Hangman’s Reel / Midsummer’s Night’ — and asked him to tell his story. So over the course of that very late evening, he told us tales of Empires lost and regained, of parties so lavish that vassal states were impoverished to keep the festivities going, of a lover who betrayed him for a handful of silver, of another lover who risked everything for him, of mad priests who couldn’t be killed, and many more tales.

He drained his tankard of our finest dark ale, picked up his walking staff topped with a doubled headed silver eagle, and said in his faintly accented English that it was time to catch a train back to the Imperial Capital where he was meeting with the Loyal Opposition. Bela bowed deeply to him as he turned toward the door, and that was the last we saw of him, but he left behind ‘nough stories for lifetimes…

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What’s New for the June 7th: More Zelazny, Rights and Freedoms, More “Chocolate Covered” Goodies, Chamber Music You Weren’t Expecting, another Comics Cross-Over, and More

I’ll be just a story in your head, but that’s okay, because we’re all stories in the end. ― The Eleventh Doctor in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’


We’ve been isolated from the rest of the world here on this remote Scottish estate ever since that virus first happened. We were lucky enough that all staff members were here and not travelling, so we just ceased allowing any visitors what-so-ever and no one’s been going anywhere since the crisis started. Fortunately that’s not as much of a hardship as it might be, as this is a working farm and pretty sufficient unto itself with the trade with other estates nearby making up for what we don’t produce ourselves.

It’s going to make for a very different Summer season here, as we’ll obviously will not be hosting out usual festival and other money makers as we expect gathering and travel restrictions to stay in place through next year. Fortunately we can dip deep into our slush fund if need be. Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, is already planning a long list of projects using staff that usually have hosting duties and Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook, is adjusting radically down what she needs to lay in for the Summer. I expect the Pub to be a quietly pleasant place.

Even the number of actual printed books from publishers being seen here is way down, a grumble echoed across many a review publication. Digital copies, fortunately, are common but it does shows how much the pandemic is affecting every aspect of our global culture. And let’s not forget it’s deadly — be it here or in the States, it kills. So stay safe by wearing your mask and practicing safe distancing please!

Cat takes a look at Roger Zelazny’s To Die in Italbar, which Zelazny didn’t like (although Cat did): ‘What if you could cure any disease with but a touch? And what if that same touch could turn an entire city into a charnel house? Mr. H, who needs only to touch someone to heal or kill them, is that man.’

Cat also had some thoughts about a work by one of science fiction’s legends: ‘As a general rule, I find Poul Anderson’s writing to be stilted and not very fluent, so that I can’t really enjoy the story as I should. But that is not so with Orion Shall Rise, which is a lively and complex story that shows how good he could be at his very best.’

Robert has a volume that he considers essential reading: In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action, by Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy: ‘In light of the increasing number of assaults on our basic freedoms in recent years, including attempts to mandate the teaching of religious doctrine in public school classrooms, attempts by the federal government to strip away basic rights of American citizens under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments with no judicial oversight and no probable cause, it is well to remember the words of Floyd Abrams, an attorney involved in a landmark First Amendment case: “The Bill of Rights assumes a government that will misbehave without specific limitations on its behavior.”’

Warner examines a mystery novel built around a classic trope: ‘A late Victorian murder is a classic framing for a mystery novel, and Victoria Thompson has made a career of providing interesting variations on the formula. Her Murder on Pleasant Avenue is the latest in the author’s “A Gaslight Mystery” series. It also gives something of the game away in the title. Specifically, that there is a murder. While that is common enough in mystery novels, the first crimes the reader learns about, and that the investigators focus on, are something else entirely.

It’s ‘chocolate covered’ time again. This time, Robert has a go at Chocolate Espresso Beans from Dean’s Sweets: ‘Dean’s Sweets is a chocolatier and confectioner based in Maine, owned by Dean and Kristen Bingham. One of their selling points is that they use local ingredients whenever possible, in addition to imported chocolate. Given that the sample of their artistry sitting on my desk right now is Chocolate Espresso Beans, I doubt that the ingredients came from Maine — although, as it turns out, the beans were roasted there.’

Cat has some thoughts on making changes to a long-running, very popular television series — in this case, the very popular English detective series Midsomer Murders: ‘This essay will allow me to express some thoughts about what happens when the lead actor in a long-running series leaves and the production company has a popular series that they don’t want to cease producing. And bringing in a new lead is always a trick proposition, so how do you do it for something that’s had the same lead this long?’

Warner takes a look at a crossover comic that may surprise some readers: ‘Crossovers are a common occurrence in comics, involving both characters owned by a particular publisher and those with more varied origins. Indeed, comics may be the one format where such crossovers are downright celebrated. Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron by Eric Burnham and Dan Schoening represents one of the most recent examples of this, giving a crossover that would be unlikely in any other format.’

Gary’s going to tell us about some music by a jazz trio from Vienna. ‘Vienna-based PRIM isn’t the first or only ensemble to challenge the expectations of the piano trio format. But they’re doing it with a lot of wit and intelligence, as we see on their latest release Garnet Tales.’

The idea of four Finnish cellists playing Metallica didn’t appeal initially to Mia: ‘How often is an album of cover tunes the most original, creative, and enjoyable CD imaginable? Well, how about when the self-styled “Four Bowmen of the Apocalypse” released Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos? Yes, that’s right, four classically trained cellists playing music by one of the loudest, angriest bands in the heavy metal universe. Sound strange? Not being a big fan of Metallica to begin with, I wasn’t overwhelmed with any great desire to listen to Apocalyptica. Then I heard the first track, and discovered my mistake. Apocalyptica is amazing.’ As good as that album was, she also reviews a second album by them, Inquisition Symphony, which she says is even better!

Steeleye Span’s Storm Force Ten and Live At Last! garners this intro from Michael: ‘ It’s hard to remember so long ago, but back in 1978 eight years must have seemed like a pretty decent lifetime for a band. Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly common for groups to have anniversaries marking several decades of existence; indeed Steeleye Span themselves recently celebrated their fortieth year. But in the late 70s, such a timeline wasn’t possible for any sort of rock band and Steeleye had decided that after nearly a decade, they had achieved all they wanted to in the realm of folk rock and so called it quits.’ Now read his review to see why he’s glad they didn’t stay quit.

And Robert finishes off our music offerings with chamber music — but not what you might expect: ‘Cokekan is a collection of traditional central Javanese works designated in this recording as “chamber music.” The selections make use of the traditional gamelan in either slendro (seven-tone) or pelog (five-tone) tuning, and range from works usually performed to open a shadow-puppet performance to components of Javanese dance-dramas.’

A hearty congratulations to our colleague Cat Rambo, who carried home a Nebula award last weekend for her 2019 novellette Carpe Glitter. Cat’s been reviewing for us since 2018, especially things literary and comestible (chocolate in particular!). Cat, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, is the past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She writes, teaches and edits extensively with more than 200 fiction titles to her credit in addition to plenty of nonfiction, and has previously been nominated for the Nebula as well as Endeavour and World Fantasy awards. You can learn lots more about her and what she does on her website, kittywumpus.net. And the Seattle Times interviewed her here.

So how about something from Aaron Copland this time? It’s quintessential Americana, and it’s summery in feel.  It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing his ‘Hoe Down’ which was originally recorded on his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Hidden Dragon

The dragon was carved of a local stone in multiple pieces by a local firm after consultation with an artist who sketched out the dragon. It didn’t look like the Welsh national symbol but rather was more akin to a serpent out of medieval illustrations. Nothing was written in her Journal on why this representation was decided upon.

And that’s where the mystery started. Lady Alexandra refused to admit where the dragon was put, nor did anyone else give a clue as to where it was. Now keep in mind that our Scottish Estate is quite large, covering thousands of acres. Though our Estate Gardener described it as being sixty feet long and twelve foot tall at the head, that was still small enough that, in the right place, it couldn’t be seen more than a scant hundred feet away.

Well it obviously wasn’t near the central area of the Estate, so that left everywhere else. So I started looking for it on my walks and asked everyone else to keep an eye out for it. Ingrid, our Steward, was the one that found it. She took me to where it was on skis one fine winter day late last year after the first decent snowfall. They had placed it very deep in the woods, three miles out, in the opening where it had in the intervening years been covered in lichens and moss effectively rendering it invisible.

And this story is to be continued…

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What’s New for the 31st of May: A Science-Fiction Legend, Licorice, A Superhero Reborn, Russian Folk Music, and other goodies

Words, he decided, were inadequate at best, impossible at worst. They meant too many things. Or they meant nothing at all. ―Patricia McKillip’s In the Forests of Serre

While our Librarian has been indulging his fondness for the fiction of Roger Zelazny, I’ve been reading deeply of the literature created by Patricia A. McKillip, one of our best fantasy writers ever. She’s been at her craft for almost fifty years now, so she’s done a lot of brilliant work.

My short list? The Riddle-Master trilogy should be read by anyone who loves a good story; the Winter Rose duology of Winter Rose and Solstice Wood is really interesting, as it is two different stories linked in surprising ways; Something Rich and Strange is a quiet book full of wonders; and my last pick, Dreams of a Distant Shore,  is a collection of  short stories, a form she excels at. This list should get you started, but it really barely scratches the surface of her work, so a lot of pleasurable reading awaits you!

Faith notes that ‘Before starting this review I want to set some parameters. I have never been a Calvin and Hobbes fangirl. I’ve never lived anywhere that the paper carried the strip, so I have only very rarely seen them. I’m so out of touch that I didn’t even realize that Calvin and Hobbes’ adventures had ended n 1985. After reading Looking for Calvin and Hobbes I now want to start saving up for The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.‘

Robert has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust, a work I believe is one of his best ever: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

He also has a look at the life of one of science fiction’s legends, as told by himself: ‘Reading Jack Williamson’s autobiography, Wonder’s Child, is in many ways like a walk through my own childhood — not that my life has had that much in common with Williamson’s, but that his friends and colleagues were in many cases the authors I was reading when I was young. To many people, Jack Williamson is science fiction.’

Warner brings us a collection of scary stories: ‘The Outcast and Other Dark Tales is editor Mike Ashley’s latest collection of dark fiction by E.F. Benson. Containing a number of short works, this collection attempts to give a survey of the disturbing genre fiction Benson produced over the course of his life. These stories cover a range in terms of year of publication, complexity, and subject matter.’

Denise delights her quarantine sweet-tooth with Katjes Salzige Heringe. ‘…[W]hen my lovely editor sent a packet of these my way, I gasped in delight…because this happens to be my absolute favorite form of straight-up black licorice.’ Read her review, and how she waxes poetic about these candies!

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.’

Robert takes a look at the resurrection of a superhero (in more ways than one) in Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”: The New Adventures: ‘The name “Will Eisner” is practically synonymous with “comics,” and even “graphic novels,” which he did so much to champion as a medium. In spite of that, however, I can’t claim any familiarity with Will Eisner’s very popular creation, the Spirit, one of the comic book superheroes to come out of the 1940s. Eisner retired the Spirit to move on to other things before I was in my first comic-reading phase, and it was only in the 1990s that he allowed a group of writers and artists to create a series of new adventures for the resurrected detective.’

Gary has a review of a new album of American stringband music by Jake Blount (and a few friends) called Spider Tales: ‘The title of the album is a nod to Anansi, the trickster-god in the pantheon of west African religion of the Akan peoples, which were repurposed as illustrations of the deception through trickery of the oppressive authority figure.’

Gary also reviews Nous III, the third release from the eponymous experimental rock ensemble based in New York. Here’s how he describes one of the songs on this album: ‘ “We Hope The Weather Will Continue” is a six-and-a-half-minute blast of minimalist rock, with the straight-up hard-rocking kit perched out front of a bed of polyrhythmic percussion and a one-note bass line, punctuated occasionally by flute and blasts of industrial guitar noise.’

Finally, Gary has a review of a sprawling set of contemporary Russian folk music, because of course he does. He says on Folk & Great Tunes From Russia …’There is some throat singing – which I happen to enjoy – but as far as I can tell there’s nary a balalaika in sight.’

Our What Not is not unexpectedly of a Dragonish manner, and let’s have Camille explain for us: ‘Like every Folkmanis puppet I’ve so far seen, the Baby Dragon Puppet is a marvel of workmanship for the price: carefully stitched seams, articulated wings, darts along the inside of the limbs and belly to allow for movement and keep shape. The tag tells us it’s made in China, so we know who to thank.’

So it’s the end of May, which means Summer is nigh upon us. Let me see what I can find for suitable music to part with to note that lovely condition … Ah! De Danann (originally Dé Danann and later, following a nasty legal fight,  two bands with slightly different spellings) has been one of my favourite bands as long as they’ve been around, so let’s  finish off this edition with them performing ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’. It’s from their performance at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, sometime thirty eight years ago. It’s an exceptionally great recording, so it’s most likely off the soundboard, either by the engineer or someone allowed to tap into it.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: An Invitation

From: Ingrid, Steward of the Kinrowan Estate
To: Our friends in the local area

You are cordially invited to a weekend celebration of Summer which will be held the third weekend of June starting on that Friday afternoon.

Now I know we’re all busy with Summer work but if you’ve got sometime spare time, do drop by for a while. If you want to stay a night or more, we’ll have the yurts ready for your use but RSVPing is a good idea. We’ll be running a shuttle back and forth the village if you decide to stay there.

Gus, our Estate Gardener, is doing a pig roast with all the fixings on Saturday evening. If the weather cooperates, we’ll eat buffet style around the roasting pit; if not, it’ll be in the Pub with the kegs tapped there. This pig is being provided by the good folks at the High Meadow Farm.

The Kitchen will be  providing food pretty much non-stop from early morning breakfast to late evening suppers for those of you who are here. Riverrun and Sunrise Farms are also donating food stuffs and kitchen labour for this weekend, and others of you are kicking in as well. We’ll put up a work schedule for those of you who want to pitch in and help out for a few hours.

We’ll be tapping kegs of a new Summer Ale and the last of the Spring German-style beer as well. For those driving home, we’ll have plenty of coffee and tea as well.

Just for fun, we’ll be holding a hand ice cream making contest with everyone participating bringing the ingredients for their favourite ice cream. Riverrun’s providing the whole milk and cream, we’ve got the sugar et al, the ice and the hand cranked machines you’ll need. Judging will be by the current group of Several Annies, our Library Apprentices.

We’ll having three contradances, one each evening commencing on Friday around eight. My Bouncing Doxy, Chasing Dragonflies, and Black Swan White Raven, respectively, will be the contradance bands. Iain, our Librarian, will be calling for all three, bless him.

Bela, our violinist from somewhere in Europe, will be joining Huddled Masses for an afternoon concert of the works of that other Bela, Bartok, on Saturday afternoon.

If you’ve questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. As I said, do RSVP if you want overnight accommodations.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you here!

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What’s New for the 24th of May: All things Zelazny, Kasaugai Roasted Nuts, James Gunn’s Inside Science Fiction, early Doc Watson, new Cotton-Eyed Joe, Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet, and more

I know, too, that death is the only god who comes when you call. ― Roger Zelazny’s  “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai

I’m still continuing my read of all things Zelazny this week by diving into his short fiction.  “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai,” which won a Hugo for Best Novella, is collected in his Frost & Frost collection, which is recommended by me and which I should review soon. Not much of his work is readily available these days for reasons not terribly clear. Some like Roadmarks is just now decades makes in the digital realms.

I’m ensconced in the Kitchen right now having a snack of a raspberry tart and hot chocolate. Ahhhh, I see they’re discussing how many American style buttermilk biscuits they’ll need with that beef stew for the eventide meal.

And I see one of my Several Annies, Rebekah, is being asked by Mrs. Ware if she’d like to join her staff when she gets done with her Estate, errr, Library apprenticeship in two years. She’s the one who introduced us to wonderful Jewish baked treats. Oh and I see that someone has been mushroom hunting, so the beef stew will have these tasty morsels in it. Barrowhill beef is always a treat no matter how it’s used.

So let’s see what I’ve got for you this outing…

A thriller from Roger Zelazny? Oh yes, and April says it’s quite good: ‘Dead Man’s Brother is a delight to read — Zelazny’s language and characters seem right at home in this genre — and regrettably over all too fast at less than 300 pages. If only more such jewels were left to unearth…’

Robert has a jewel that’s also something of a puzzle: ‘Samuel R. Delany is one of the most challenging writers of speculative fiction, ever. (I say “speculative fiction” because he has written major works of both science fiction and fantasy.) And so, faced with They Fly at Ciron, I have some problems.’

Science fiction used to be the domain of geeky boys and cosplayers at conventions, but no more, as Robert points out in his review of James Gunn’s Inside Science Fiction: ‘It’s interesting to see the history of something as told by some of the people who made it. In the case of James Gunn’s Inside Science Fiction, the “something” is, indeed, science fiction, and Gunn was one of the history makers.’

Shifting genres to detective fiction, Warner has a look at a neat story collection: ‘Settling Scores: Sporting Mysteries is editor Martin Edwards’ look at the myriad different crime and mystery short stories in which one sport or another serves as a major story element. The book collects 15 stories from several decades, each by a different author and featuring a wide variety of sports, ranging from track to cricket and beyond.’

Denise shares a particular favorite of hers, Kasaugai Roasted Nut Assortment. ‘This particular gathering of treats has been a favorite of mine for years, and I’m so happy to let you in on my little no-so-secret.’ Check out her review of a beloved treat!

Chocolate-covered is the name of the game, as Cat looks at Diana’s Bananas’ Dark Chocolate Banana Babies: ‘OK, it’s way too cute a name, I’ll grant you, but once you meet them and taste them for the first time you’ll forgive the overly cute name, as they’re amazingly good. Diana’s Bananas’ Dark Chocolate Banana Babies are one of those snacks that are both an indulgent treat and, surprisingly, rather good for you, as I’ll detail shortly.’ (Well, no, he didn’t just look at them.)

David has a look at a remake of one of his favorite films: ‘King Kong has long been one of my favorite films. Some might say, “it’s a movie, not a film.” But that’s nitpicking. The original is a stunning work of animation, blended with live action to create an entirely believable world in which a giant ape could fall in love with a screaming girl. I even loved the remake — especially for the wonderful performance of Jessica Lange as the naive wanna-be movie star Dwan. But neither of these films could prepare me for the cinematic experience that is Peter Jackson’s King Kong. It’s bigger, longer, louder, scarier, and it manages to maintain the same naivete that keeps the original version on everyone’s top ten list!’

Robert was more than a little ambivalent about another installment in the Captain America/Avengers saga: ‘I picked up Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier: The Longest Winter on one of my periodic trips to the comics store, mostly on the basis of the juicy cover art and the blurb on the back — this one brings us up to date on Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s sidekick who was killed in World War II. Except he wasn’t.’

Gary reviews a new release of some old music, a recording of a 1962 concert in Greenwich Village by Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton. ‘As much as I love Doc Watson’s playing and singing, the appearance here of Gaither Carlton is equal in importance. … the unadorned Appalachian style of the self-taught Gaither Carlton has a sturdy purity to it that brilliantly fits this music and complements Doc’s guitar picking.’

Gary also has a tale about the long and twisted history of the song ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’, including a link to a review he wrote here way back in 2001, and a new, dark version of the song by ‘Swedish gothic garage blues singer and guitarist Bror Gunnar Jansson‘ whose video of it was released this week.

Robert looks at a work by a perennial favorite, Terry Riley’s Salome Dances for Peace, performed by another perennial favorite, Kronos Quartet: ‘Terry Riley begins the notes for Salome Dances for Peace by stating that the idea for the work came from “an improvisation on a theme from The Harp of New Albion. Around that time, David Harrington called me and asked me to write another string quartet.” That’s the kind of thing that happens when composers hang around with performers.’

Arvo Pärt is another of Robert’s favorite contemporary composers. This week, he takes a look at a group of shorter works collected as In Principio: ‘Arvo Pärt, like so many contemporary composers (particularly, for reasons that may have something to do with domination by officially atheist regimes, those of Eastern Europe), finds great inspiration in the liturgy. Something like the Passio, of course, will count as a major work, but much of his oeuvre, even relatively minor works, falls into what I generally class as “church music,” which seems to offer the impetus for some of the most profound and moving musical statements ever made, no matter the time or place. . . . This collection gives us a range of the composer’s music spanning the years from 1989 to 2007.’

It seems Robert has a lot of favorites among the contemporary avant-garde. (‘Well,’ says Robert, ‘It’s the music of my time. How can I not love it?’). Here’s yet another selection: ‘The Philip Glass Ensemble: A Retrospective isn’t, actually. Granted, it covers Glass’ music, and the Ensemble’s history, over more than thirty years, but it is, in reality, a live recording done in 2004 in Monterrey, Mexico, the Ensemble’s first actual “concert” since 2001.’

Word came this past Monday of the passing of Nolan Porterfield, the highly respected writer, teacher and broadcaster who dedicated much of his career to furthering our understanding of American roots music. He grew up in Texas, served in the U.S. Army, worked for newspapers in Texas and New Mexico, and had a distinguished teaching career at colleges and universities in Missouri as well as serving as a consultant for the Smithsonian Press in Washington, D.C. In later years he was well known for his vintage music program on WKU FM in Western Kentucky. His biographies of Jimmie Rodgers and John Lomax are acknowledged as definitive.

Robert has yet another favorite for this week’s Coda. He says, ‘By far the best version, in my humble opinion, of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings is that by the Kronos Quartet. It’s lean, spare, and avoids the sentimentality that so often creeps into performances of this piece. You can hear it here. And, as I noted in discussing this album, Thomas Schippers does an excellent rendering for full orchestra, with the New York Philharmonic.’

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Library and Its Librarian

P

I’m the lead publican here at the Pub, and, if I must say so myself, a damn fine concertina player even though I need to find more time to play these days. I’m also an avid reader, so I’ve made many a visit to the Library here which is why you’re getting this tale today…

The Kinrowan Estate Library is full of dark paneling, with darkly stained walnut shelves up to the ceiling, with an open atrium of several stories, topped by an opaque skylight, with several stories of bookshelves, so that one can look up and see the books, or peer over the wrought iron balcony, over the white marble floors, or see a reader curled up below in a lovely overstuffed, winged armchair. All the shelves have those brass ladders attached to a sliding rail, so that one can climb up and get to the things tucked away on the top shelves. Many of the shelves have sliding glass doors, some with leaded stained glass, so that one is never sure of what might be inside. And some are locked! One must ask the Librarian for the key, if one has a pressing need. There are also study rooms with long tables, with lamps in the middle. And one can ask the assistants to get things from the stacks. Ah, the stacks. Given the nature of the filing system it is difficult to say what might be in there….

As one staffer put it, it has ‘Nooks. Crannies. Things you can hide under…. Capability to find exactly what you are looking for immediately — invaluable for research… Capability to find exactly what you really, really want to be reading right now, whether you knew it or not — invaluable for fun… Ambient lighting that adjusts automatically for print size, strength of bifocals — or lack thereof…’ Sounds like a pretty normal library, eh? But the Library here is like none other as it straddles, like the GMR offices, the Border. As Maria Nutick once noted, ‘The Library may be the only place where you can go to read William Shakespeare’s The Trapping of the Mouse or Edgar Allen Poe’s The Worm of Midnight while listening to the music of Gossamer Axe or Snori Snoriscousin and His Brass Idiots. The world of literature is a big, big place, and it’s an intrepid and meticulous soul who can keep track of the shifting tapestry that we call reality.’

If you think the Library is a bit strange, wait ’til you meet the Librarian! Have you seen John Hurt as The Storyteller in the series of the same name? Iain MacKenzie is every bit as scruffy as The Storyteller was. Tattered old clothes that have seen much better times, long hair and a very scraggly beard… Now I know that one expects Librarians to be bespectacled boring and rather quiet beings. Sure. You obviously haven’t spent anytime here, as ‘normal’ is never what happens around here! No one here remembers when he first showed up, nor are we sure how he came to be the Librarian, but he’s living proof that knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and that those who search for it must be brave, if not foolhardy.

The Librarian presides over a collection that holds as much delight as it does difficult truths and disturbing stories. No, the scruffiness is not accidental, it’s the product of long years looking clearly into corners that might have preferred not to see the light of day. After awhile knowledge sticks to a person, so that you don’t just see their face when you look at them, you see some of what they’ve seen as well. In our case those memories are bolstered through an appreciation of a certain beverage, aged in wooden casks, and bottled only after some years in the cellar. It’s clear why he likes it — they have a lot in common!

It’s best not approach the Librarian with trivial requests — after all, the magic of our library is the unexpected things one finds when searching. But more than that, he must find the applicant worthy, or he’ll send you on a goose chase down a maze leading to a dead end. Or perhaps it’s just hazing — but we’ve found that it takes more than breezy persistence to crack the code — you have to know your stuff, and be willing to accept what you find — whether or not it’s what you are expecting. In these days of search engines, it’s important to remember that wisdom trumps knowledge is a living thing, and her keeper is not to be approached without caution.

P

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What’s New for the 17th of May: Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, “Bad Moon Rising” by Credence Clearwater Revival live, Max Barry’s Providence, Irvine’s The Life of Riley, Two Hellboy animated films, Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J and Other Tasty Matters

I am what I am. I would tell you what you want to know if I could, for you have been kind to me. But I am a cat, and no cat anywhere ever gave anyone a straight answer. — Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.

Spring Peeper Ale is what you’re enjoying — one of our long-standing traditional May offerings here in the Green Man Pub. Drink up — it’s an ale that stands up to several pints being consumed! And they’re perfectly paired with the Estate native apple, bacon and cheddar biscuits.

It’s officially Spring today and we’re getting one of those rare days where the temperature is over twenty Celsius, there’s full sun and not a hint of a cooling breeze, so Ingrid, our Steward who’s my wife, has declared there shall be an outside feast under the stars followed by a contradance in the evening in the slate-covered Courtyard with Chasing Fireflies being the band and Gus the caller.

My staff has set up the outdoor taps — I see a cask of that Spring Peeper Ale, another cask of the Shut Up and Dance IPA and yet another of a three-year aged cider that Bjorn, our Brewmaster, calls Cheddar Cider as its got a nice sharp bite like an aged cheddar. Join us if you can as it’ll be a lovely evening!

Steven Brust and Emma Bull’s Freedom & Necessity epistolary novel elicited this comment from Richard: ‘There are enough fantasy authors out there intent on sidestepping clichés to keep readers who crave something different and challenging on their toes. Chief among their ranks are Steven Brust, who had the chutzpah to go Milton one better in To Reign in Hell, and Emma Bull, whose War for The Oaks ever more clearly revealed these days as one of the cornerstones of modern low fantasy. Put the two of them together on one project and the safe money is that the book is going to be witty, urbane, fast-moving and utterly fearless.’

Robert brings us a novella by an author who is destined to become a perennial favorite, Alexander C. Irvine’s The Life of Riley: ‘Take Escape from New York, mix in an echo of A Mirror for Observers and a generous helping of The Book of Revelations as interpreted by your worst nightmare, and focus very tightly on the crisis point. You’re coming close to Alexander C. Irvine’s The Life of Riley.’

Warner’s first review is a Holmsian pastiche: “C.S Harris’ latest mystery Who Speaks for the Damned is another fascinating tale of the early Victorian period. As part of a long running series the reader may see a returning character or two, or fear that as a new reader they will be lost and confused as to the nature of relationships and past events in the book. The latter turns out to be a great concern, with a story that is accessible and characters who have a history but do not rely on unexplained past events for narrative purposes.’

Warner brings us his thoughts on a work of classic, or nearly classic, gothic fiction: ‘Rebecca James’ Woman in the Mirror represents a return to classic gothic fiction in many ways, and a proof that that storytelling style still has some vitality to it. The book is filled with classic mysteries, questionable supernatural occurrences, loves real and false, hopeless and destined. Featuring a plot that spans time from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, the story centers around one estate, and the women involved with the family that inhabit it. Yet connections between times do exist, some predictable and others somewhat less so.’

He also ran across an early science-fiction novel subject to a variety of interpretations: ‘Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses is a mostly forgotten piece of fascinating early 20th century science fiction recently brought back to the fore by the British Library. A first person narrative looking back at a set of events surrounding one man, he finds that he is telling a different story than the one others might wish.’

Robert was a little ambivalent about Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J Minis, but decided that, on the whole, they’re a plus: ‘I don’t know if I’ll go searching for these at my local Trader Joe’s, but they are a nice treat if you’re in the mood for PB&J and don’t feel like making a sandwich. And the chocolate is a plus. But be warned: it occurs to me that it would be very easy to work through a whole bag without realizing it.’

Denise dug into a packet of Huang Fei Hong Spicy Crispy Peanut, and she’s a fan. ‘Peanuts are my jam. Okay, my butter. My soup. My sauce. My everything. *cues up Barry White*  Any way I can get ‘em, I get ‘em. I especially love a touch of spice to my peanuts, so hello Huang Fei Hong!’ Read her review to see exactly why she was so impressed.

Denise also decided to balance spice with sweet this week, as her review of Family Volcano Popping Candy – Lychee shows. ‘You’ll want to sit back and enjoy this posher version of those ice cream truck candy favorites, remembering the good ol’ days, when our greatest worry was where we were gonna come up with the next bit of change for a wee candy packet of fun.’ Looks like somebody‘s not pleased about those murder hornets…

Cat ended up in-hospital this past week, needing surgery for a dislocated right knee, so he turned to some favourite films to pass the time. One of them was the animated Hellboy film, HellBoy: Sword of Storms: ‘If you’re looking for a fix as you wait for the long-awaited Hellboy film, this animated film along with the other animated film, Hellboy: Blood and Iron, will hopefully tide you over. They certainly fulfilled my Hellboy jones!’

Robert was catching up on the Avengers and had some thoughts on yet another reboot, named, appropriately enough, The New Avengers: ‘OK — I’ve encountered the Avengers, the Young Avengers, the Dark Avengers, and now, the New Avengers. All this goes to show, as far as I’m concerned, that the new generation of comics writers are real patient with strict continuity. But it’s Brian Michael Bendis doing this script, a definite plus, with David Finch’s pencils — another real plus.’

He wasn’t quite as happy with the second collection, The New Avengers: Sentry: ‘New Avengers was a series that grabbed me right off the bat, and I finally got my hands on the second collection, Sentry. As you might imagine, it focuses on Robert Reynolds, the Sentry, who doesn’t remember who he is. The problem is, neither does anyone else, which, when you consider that he’s probably the most powerful superhero ever, is pretty strange.’

Heartbreaker Please gets thirty lead-off from Gary; ‘It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Teddy Thompson’s recording career. He’d been singing and playing guitar on mom Linda’s and dad Richard’s recordings since the mid ’90s when he released his self-titled debut (which Lars reviewed here) in 2000.’

Gereg says of a CD he reviewed before the artist passed on that ‘Let’s start with the obvious. David Bowie is a genius. Musician, composer, actor, and mime, his versatility is always impressive. He defined — and very nearly created — glitter rock; he was the first white man inducted into the Soul Hall of Fame; he narrated a superb version of Peter and the Wolf; his film performances have ranged from Pontius Pilate to the Goblin King to the most alienated alien in cinematic history.’ So now you’ll need to read his review of David Bowie: Rare and Unseen to see why it left him rather underwhelmed.”

Robert brings us a commentary on a nineteenth-century work that may be very appropriate for today, Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem: ‘Giuseppe Verdi is one who should need no introduction. However, not as many people as should know that in addition to writing many, possibly even most of the most popular operas in the repertoire, he also wrote a stunning requiem mass.’

This week’s What Not is a special deal. Last week we published a review of Max Barry’s Providence. The publisher has kindly offered a special treat for GMR readers. Courtesy of Putnam, one of our readers will be getting a complimentary copy of the book. To enter, simply send an email with your name and shipping address here, and a winner will be chosen at random. This give-away is open to those in the continental US, and ends on June 15. Please enter and enjoy. Good luck.

Our music coda this time is “Bad Moon Rising”  by Credence Clearwater Revival. Recorded exactly fifty years ago at Madison Square Garden. The band initially consisted of lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter John Fogerty; his brother, rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty; bassist Stu Cook; and drummer Doug Clifford. These members had played together since 1959, first as the Blue Velvets and later as the Golliwogs. Fogerty and the other band members would become bitter foes over who had the rights to the name and use of the vast catalog.

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A Global New Service story: Strange Libraries

PLondon
21 December 1927
Global New Service

All of the great cities of the world have hidden depositories of knowledge. Some are hidden beneath public such as the Gotham Library which is connected to the New York Public Library by stroking one of  the stone lions just right, or the Alexandrian Library which is accessed by entering a certain doorway that’s there when you really need it.

Oddly enough, I found finding the London Library much harder to find as I’ve been searching for it for over centuries now ever since a man who believed he was a descendent of one of the founders of London two years said his family held one of the maps to its location. Unfortunately he died before giving the map. And his family had not a clue what he meant.

So I did research in the hidden libraries across the global. Well I could find the Tokyo one and a few others stayed hidden, one tried to kill me and ruined a leather jacket I cherished, and another apparently was now missing as the doorway led to nothing. And I do mean nothing.

But clues showed slowly — a palimpsest of the history of all of them was hidden in a book authored by Sir Isaac Newton, a Roman scroll showed that it was not fixed in geography and possibly time as well.

So where was it? No, that’s not the right question as each Library is more of a what than a where. Some Libraries, say the Tesseract Library, are effectively infinite in size as they hold all knowledge; others are contained within a single room with books blank ’til a question to The Librarian who is The Book is asked

And I’ve heard of one that’s a sphere composed of back stone that gives you access to all the knowledge in  the multiverse when you hold it  and if it thinks you are worthy of that knowledge. That one I’m convinced a story told late at night by Librarians trying to top the other Librarians.

Need I say that The Librarian is just a physical extension of one Library? The Librarian for the Gotham Library updates her look to current standards and prides herself on knowing the latest gossip concerning the other Libraries. So what is the London Library?

I got a lead from Lady Alexis, the most amazing Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I met her in Cairo one cool winter morning and we had tea at my hotel where I told her of my quest which was they hadn’t seen me for some decades. When she returned home, she asked Laith, a Fey who was the Archivist for all of the Libraries, where it was.

Laith cryptically said it was with Odin’s Ravens. It was, and wasn’t I surprised, contained in the memories of every raven that ever existed. Huginn and Munin were but a small part of that Library but they were the gateway to getting in. Ask them the right questions and you got in, ask the wrong questions and, well, let’s just say you wouldn’t know that you’d ask the wrong questions.

That’s enough for this time. I’ll be back soon with the rest of the

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What’s New for the 10th of May: Music by smallpiper Kathryn Tickell, The Faeries’ Oracle, English folk music, A Golem Factory, Vietnamese Chocolate, and Other Neat Things

All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. ― Steven Brust’s The Paths of the Dead

That’s Midsomer Nectar, an India Pale Ale, that Bjorn, our Brewmaster, is rightfully rather proud of. All organic, of course, as are all our libations. Shall I pour you one? I was just discussing with him what he had cellared for barley wines and  porters this past Fall that are now ready for the Pub here. Oh, the tale I was going to tell? It concerns the Rat Fiddlers… The staff is engaged in a discussion to name the group that the Rat Fiddlers are thinking of putting together — medieval music with small pipes, hurdy gurdy, and fiddles.

Who are these Rat Fiddlers, you ask? And why haven’t I heard of them? They play mainly in London Below stations where their appearance is not an issue. What they were before they became ‘rodents of unusual size’ is a tale known only to themselves — and who transformed them into their near human shapes is something even Reynard doesn’t claim to know. All I know is that they are some of the best dance music fiddlers I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with!

And they work for cheese and ale! One staffer suggested The Merrie Vestry, whereas another one, after a few pints of Brasserie Artisanale Du Tregor, put forth two ideas — Couer-de-Lionor or Lacklands Consort. The Rats aren’t sure if they like any of those…

Cat found a lot to like in Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories: I don’t normally purchase a collection for just one story but the community over at File 770 was saying in a discussion of AIs that the Hugo Award-winning ’Cat Pictures Please’ was a story that the folks there who hadn’t read it should really read, so I went to iBooks and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories.’

He also was intrigued by Simone R. Green’s The Dark Side of the Road: ‘The first thing you need to know is that all of the fiction that Green has done over the past several decades is interconnected, with shared characters and settings. Some of the series are deeply interwoven, some connected just enough that you know that they are. This series involving Ishmael Jones is one of the latter. Indeed, except for the occasional infodump that one of the characters does, it really doesn’t show that it’s part of his universe at all.’

Robert has a look at the first volume of a series by a perennial favorite, Tanya Huff’s Blood Price: ‘Tanya Huff has developed at least two ways to approach the genre of horror/dark fantasy. One, as evidenced in The Keeper Chronicles, is smart, topical, zany, and – well, smart-alecky. The other, which begins with Blood Price, is equally smart, just as edgy, brittle, and leads to a slightly more “white-knuckle” reading experience.’

Robert also had a very positive reaction to Alexander C. Irvine’s The Narrows: ‘There are too many authors in the world. Too many, at least, for me to keep up with. So it is that I treasure being able to write reviews, because I have the chance to encounter those whom I might never have encountered otherwise. Alexander C. Irvine, for example.’

Warner brings us a story that’s a blend of science fiction and horror — sorta, kinda? at any rate, read what what he has to say about Max Barry’s Providence: ‘Often, a really good book manages to just straddle the line between genres. Providence by Max Barry represents such a book. While it contains elements of science fiction, and the trappings and narrative also quickly point to horror, the story doesn’t rely on those tropes: there is a strong focus on character, with a small number of figures getting a good deal of examination, and there is a very obvious war narrative throughout the story.’

We have chocolate, this time three varieties from Vietnam. Yes, Vietnam. Robert says: ‘The latest goodies to come my way are three bars of chocolate from Vietnam. No, I didn’t think of Vietnam as a source for chocolate either, but when you stop to think about it, although cacao originated in South America, it can grow anywhere in the tropics, so Vietnam makes as much sense as anyplace else.’

From our Archives comes Craig’s discussion of Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books: ‘Prospero’s Books, director Peter Greenaway’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is a perfect example of using the cinematic form to its fullest extent. Greenaway’s films are always very visually interesting, but here he has pulled out all the stops. It almost doesn’t matter what the story is. One’s visual centers are so stimulated, there’s little space in the brain left for following the story, anyway.’

Robert takes us to one of his early experiences with Japanese manga, Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight: ‘A few years ago I started getting interested in manga, largely because I like the graphic style of many of the titles — at their best, they are lean, clear, and solidly grounded in the Japanese woodcut tradition. I ran across a couple of titles that got me interested, and then found Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight.’

Blowzabella is one of our favourite groups here, so a tune book by them is a great treat and a nice lead-off this time! Barb, a practicing musician and music teacher, is the reviewer for Blowzabella — New Tunes for Dancing. She says it is ‘a fabulous collection of 130 tunes that have been composed by various members of the band over the years and is supplemented by a wealth of other information: a history of the group, dance instructions, personal histories by ten musicians, photos, discography, and a membership history (complete with a listing of instruments and makers). It is a volume both dancers and musicians will appreciate.’

Gary note that ‘I daresay that many, if not most, readers of Green Man Review know all there is to know about Fairport Convention. If you’re not among them, there’s no dearth of information about this most venerated of English folk rock bands elsewhere in GMR, including a recent omnibus review. So I’ll skip any long historical introduction and say that Who Knows Where the Time Goes is a solid addition to the band’s discography.’

Steeleye Span & Maddy Prior’s A Rare Collection 1972-1996 is a keeper, says Michael: ‘The basis of this release is two Australia-only releases from the early 1980s: a compilation called Recollections and a live album called On Tour (both released on Chrysalis and now deleted). This new set picks some of the choicest tracks from those LPs, and adds more up-to-date rarities to provide a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining look at some of Steeleye’s more unusual moments. If you’re looking for a “Greatest Hits” album, this isn’t it. But to fill in the gaps and discover some performances you may not have known existed, this album is sure to satisfy.’

Vonnie was our foremost fan of the Oysterband and she reviewed more of their albums than anyone else: ‘The songs resonate with the riffs and themes and lyrics of so many previous works that Rise Above feels like a “Best Of” album — of all new songs. Rise Above isn’t as exciting as the roaring defiance of Holy Bandits, nor is it as quiet and story-laden as Deep Dark Ocean. The Oysters have been at this business long enough to know what they’re doing, and their roots are showing. If you’ve liked previous Oysterband albums, you’ll find something to like here.’

Our What Not this Edition is a Brian Froud and Jessica Macbeth project, The Faeries’ Oracle, a lovely book and deck set. which gets a review by Andrea: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and playing with the cards. Because of the high quality of the artwork and text, I think The Faeries’ Oracle would be well worth owning even for someone who, like me, is not lucky enough to posses any oracular prowess.’

So let’s leave you with something rather lively this fine Spring day to wit Kathryn Tickell’s ‘Herd on the Hill’ and ‘Elsie Marley’ as recorded off the soundboard at the Shoreditch Church in London on the 15th of June ten years ago. Tickell’s the great Northumbrian smallpiper who’s a great favourite around here and I’ll refer to just two of the many albums by her that we’ve reviewed, Debateable Lands  and Air Dancing as that gives you a look at her both early and later on in her career.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Early Morning (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 Spring 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.

There is a quickening in the air and in the oaks in the Courtyard that reminds you that the dark winter months are now over even though there’s still a chill in the morning air.

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 Sumatran 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 her as  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

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What’s New for the 3rd of May: Swedish group Tummel live, Sherlock’s Little Sister, Picaresque Novels, a Nyckelharpa Orchestra (!) and Other Lively Matters

Any moment called now is always full of possibles. ― China Miéville’s Kraken

I’ve been out on a long walk since just past dawn here on this lovely Spring morning. I left my lovely wife Catherine sleeping soundly, dressed and got several bacon and cheddar cheese rolls, a spiced apple muffin and a thermos of Lapsang Souchong tea to have breakfast some distance out by the Standing Stones. Some of the Estate Irish Wolfhounds decided to join me, so off we went.

Now I’m back from that walk with dogs settled near the fireplace and I’ve  in the meantime moved on this week to reading Roadmarks by Zelazny, having finished off his Isle of The Dead novel, so the book awaits my attention shortly. No, not one of his better known works, nor arguably one of his best written ones, but an interesting one nonetheless, with its apparently ever branching road and constantly being created timelines.

So let’s see what we’ve got for you this week… First Robert got to play with the entire book section with I think pleasing results. Likewise Denise took our sweets reviews in hand. The coda is some very nice Swedish music, and, as always, there’s more, so read on.

Robert here, to talk about books. I was sitting in the Pub talking to some of our visiting writers — well, yes, it’s not only musicians who visit us, as you should have realized by now — and we got on the subject of ‘picaresque novels’. It’s a type of story that goes back to Elizabethan times, if not before — my own feeling is that there are elements of the picaresque in The Odyssey, although the heroes in picaresque stories are usually not what we consider “heroic”.

Later I got to thinking about it and realized that the picaresque shows up in a lot of different genres. The first one that came to mind, perhaps not surprisingly, is that great classic of American literature, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: ‘ Frankly, I see it as being a picaresque odyssey, a journey down the Mississippi through America then that has a lot to say about America now.’

Edgar Pangborn took off on that idea in his own classic, Davy: ‘Like most picaresque novels, Davy is satire, of a very vivid and enjoyable sort: Davy is an astute commentator, learning the ways of the world and setting them against a frame of mind firmly grounded in common sense, and, as we learn, a great deal of compassion.’

Another work that falls into the “”picaresque’ category is Robert Charles Wilson’s novella, Julian: ‘This is a brief story, and as beguiling as it is — Wilson is a fluent writer with a sure sense of context and milieu — it feels truncated, as though it were the beginning of a much longer and more complex narrative.”

It turns out I was right on that comment: Wilson later expanded the story in Julian Comstock: ‘The novella has reappeared as the first part of Wilson’s Julian Comstock, a Bildungsroman that gives the story of the rise of Julian Comstock, a high-born aristo, nephew of the President (and the most likely rival for that august position), as related by his friend Adam Hazzard, just barely a member of the leasing class.’

‘Picaresque’ has been called a genre, and I suppose that’s correct in a sense, but it’s also an attitude — as you can see from the examples I’ve noted, it’s more often than not a framework for satirical commentary, and spans a number of what we normally consider ‘genres’. There are many examples throughout the history of literature, and not just the literature of the West — consider that great Japanese classic, The Tale of Genhji, not to mention stories from many different peoples relating the adventures of characters such as Loki, Anansi the Spider, or Coyote. I’m sure you can think of others.

And now back to Iain for the rest of this issue.

Denise dove into two types of ‘prestige’ chocolate this week, both from the house of Hu. Firstly, she tried the Hu Almond Butter+Puffed Quinoa Dark Chocolate. ‘I don’t know how Hu is able to craft such a delectable bar from these basic ingredients. Yes, it’s all in the proportions and whateverall. But it’s amazing and I love it.’ Read her full review to find out more!

Next, she dove into the Hu Hazelnut Butter Dark Chocolate. ‘I loved the nutty taste of this filling, and I’ll definitely be coming back for more; this ain’t no praline, it’s full nut y’all, and it’s glorious.’ Interested in a hazelnut bar that goes a different way from the usual sweet hazlenut goodness? Give her review a look and see if this bar is for you.

April wasn’t too happy with the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentelment: ‘When I first heard that a movie was planned for Alan Moore’s exquisite graphic novel League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I thought to myself, “This could either be a very good thing … or a very bad thing.” When the advertising campaign hit, unveiling the preposterous LXG acronym, my hopes took a downturn. Still, I held out hope that something good might come of the effort. Alas, it was not to be. The product that director Stephen Norrington and screenwriter James Robinson have foisted upon unsuspecting viewers is 110 minutes of lifeless celluloid cleverly masquerading as a movie.’

Warner has a very favorable reaction to a graphic novel about Sherlock’s little sister: ‘Serena Blasco has produced a wonderful adaptation of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series. This volume, The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, is the third in that run of graphic novels. This series deals with a third Holmes sibling, this time depicted as a significantly younger sister named as the series title suggests. She has decided to go out on her own in a quest to find her missing mother. As a result, Enola funds herself not only searching for her mother but hiding from her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft, even as she gets embroiled in a number of different complications and adventures all her own.’

Our Editor Cat finds balm for the soul in The Quiet Room, a release from Americana duo Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. The album, which came out of a time of personal hardship, contains both new material and some of the best of their extensive back-catalog. ‘Everything here, new and old, I hope will delight you as much as it does me,’ Cat says.

Otis Redding and His Orchestra’s Live on the Sunset Strip says David is great: ‘ This 2 disc set of live recordings from one of Soul musics icons has been getting rave reviews everywhere. Even before it was released the buzz was buzzing and the spin was spinning. People were right to be excited.’

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.’

The Mollys, a now defunct Arizona band that merged Celtic music with music from that region gets their this is my round reviewed by Richard: ‘It’s that kind of CD, pure and simple, where all listening to it does is make you start scanning the paper to see if they’re in town at a place that has good beer on tap. There’s a kick to the music that doesn’t quite translate off the disk, and that’s what keeps this is my round from getting beyond just good.’

Well. When this quarantine started, I thought to myself ‘self, it’s time to get healthy! You’ll be away from temptation, with little to do but work out and plan healthy meals!’ So that lasted for about a week or so. Now? I’m prepping for this Tuesday’s International No-Diet Day by wolfing down the last of my Easter stash; a Dove solid dark chocolate bunny. Chewy dark chocolate melting on the tongue, a solid foil wrap that keeps my hands smudge-free as I binge chocolate and one Disney animated film after another. Of course, International No-Diet Day is more about body positivity and being healthy without judging yourself or others harshly…but can we agree that a treat every now and then makes things better? In fact,  can we make this ‘holiday’ the whole month? I think every change starts with a small step. Or in this case, another small bite (followed by a short walk.) Happy No-Diet MONTH, everyone!

Our Coda this week is a peek behind the scenes, so to speak: the Swedish group Tummel in a recording session for their album Payback Time. The song is ’This Ship Is Sinking’, and if nothing else, these guys are having fun.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cornish Breakfast

G’Evening Anna,

Oh, I meant to tell you that you missed a culinary treat last week. Iain asked Mrs. Ware to have the Several Annies prepare a traditional Cornish breakfast, including hog’s pudding (simply a white pudding) and Cornish potato cakes alongside the usual bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, egg and toast which is what we serve here normally as the weather stays stubbornly cold. We’re getting a period of cold, damp weather, unusual for April I grant you,  which makes working outside challenging, so Mrs. Ware decided to do this.

Mrs. Ware made it more interesting by adding to the menu gerty meat puddings, a Cornish dish somewhat similar to haggis. Oh, that did turn a few of them a whiter shade of pale unlike the pig butchering which they took well, as offal in cooking always looks, errr, awful, no matter how much Iain, the consummate Scot that he is, thinks it looks good and tastes better. Mind you that’s only after three or four shots of single malt taken neat that he is seen to actually consume haggis!

Chy Spriggan (Cornish for ‘Shifter-Beast House’), our resident theatre group this winter, later put on a play of the Mouse Hole Cat story, which is based on the legend of Tom Bawcock, the stargazy pie, and the cat who goes with its master on a fishing expedition in rough seas. It was a most excellent experience!

Until next time, Gus

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What’s New for the 26th of April: Live Cornish Music, Ancient Egypt (or not), X-Men Again, Hamlets, Baroque Plus, a belated Easter Bunny, and more

The dead are too much with us. — Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead

The weather was perfect this afternoon for nearly the end of April: somewhat over twenty degrees, light breezes and full sun. Anyone who could get outside did, so I took advantage of that to continue my year long reading of all things Zelazny by re-reading Isle of the Dead, a novel I hadn’t read in a decade at least, but figured I’d let my Several Annies staff the Estate Library while I did that. My book is a signed copy of the over fifty-year-old Berkley Ace edition I had him sign at a con where he was a Guest of Honour quite some years back.

So I grabbed it, along with a large thermos of kickass Sumatran iced coffee with a generous splash of cream and an even more generous splash of Bailey’s, a loaf of sourdough bread, a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese and a generous chunk of smoked salmon.  There’s a spot near the Cricket pitch where there’s a few seats out of the wind but in full sun that make for a fine reading spot.

I’ve already got this Edition ready for you and it’ll be posted at four in the morning Sunday as they always are. Or it was posted at four in the morning Sunday — time’s something that’s kind of flexible oft times here…

I was thinking earlier this morning about fiction where music plays a strong role in the story with the prime example I thought of being Charles de Lint’s The Little Country  where the protagonist, Janey Little plays smallpipes in the style of Billy Pigg, the Northumbrian piper. The back of the novel has the tunes that the author composed for this novel. You can read Grey’s review thisaway.

The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, I’ll  note, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Now this bibliography is admittedly only something that diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong  sf emphasis will consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy here in the Kinrowan Estate Library.

Robert has a collection of the works of a poet who is, he thinks, undeservedly obscure. Of The Collected Books of Jack Spicer he says: ‘The poetry itself is explosive – Duncan compares Spicer to Orpheus, and I think there’s some truth in that. It is best taken in small doses, but it’s hard, very hard, to have just one or two – like pistachios, one finds oneself suddenly very full and wondering where all those poems went. No, it’s not immediately accessible, but it’s dazzling stuff, worth the work.’

Warner has a look at a book that may or may not be historical fiction: ‘The Egyptian adventure story is a very old tradition, going back centuries. Cries From the Lost Island by Kathleen O’Neal Gear is a contemporary example of such storytelling. It is also a tale that manages for much of the text to straddle the question of “Magic or Mundane?” fairly well, though the fact it was published by a celebrated SFF firm like DAW makes the reader automatically lean towards the more supernatural explanations.’

And I have a treat for you this time in the form of the first few chapters of Jane Yolen and Adan Stemple’s Last Tsar’s Dragons made possible by the courtesy of the authors and the publisher. Their story is a charming merging of  Russian history and folklore. You can read Warner’s review here.

Robert got to try a couple of chocolate-covered candies from Alli & Rose — which seems to be a brand rather than a maker: ‘Alli & Rose’s website tells us only — and that largely by inference — that Alli & Rose is a brand owned by CAL Marketing, which supplies “both retail and wholesale customers with quality and innovative products at an every day low price.” Take that as you will.’

Jennifer tasted two flavors of high-end Finnish chocolate bars, one conventional, one more on the freaky side. Would you go for a dark chocolate bar with Licorice Pearls and Raspberry Pearls in it? Yeah, she had her doubts, but she gave ’em a shot.

Instead of a film this week, we have a bunch. Craig looks at film adaptations of Hamlet in his essay A Hawk from a Handsaw: Hamlet in Film: ‘Hamlet is arguably both the greatest play in the English language and perhaps the most film-adapted tale of all. A work so ingrained in global consciousness that people introduced to the play for the first time have seen it as “nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together.” A character so much a part of modern culture that A&E’s Biography has profiled him with experts such as Orson Welles giving their interpretations of his “life story.”‘

In the world of comic-book superheroes, there’s one constant: reboot. Robert has a look at two out of a new X-Men series, starting with Warren Ellis’s Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Box: “Astonishing X-Men is one of those series that caught me immediately — after all, the first series was written by Joss Whedon, and then Warren Ellis picked up the reins. Ghost Box is Ellis’ first offering in the series, and it’s a good one.’

He follows that one with his reaction to Xenogenesis: ‘From the title of this one, you might guess that Warren Ellis hasn’t finished with the genetics theme that he started with Ghost Box and continued in Exogenetic. Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis is a stand-alone miniseries that finds the X-Men haring off to a remote village in Africa on getting a news of a spate of “mutant” births. Children are being born malformed, with strange powers — some hover in the air, some are insubstantial, some just explode.’

Robert here, with some music that’s a bit outside of our usual focus. We’ve actually reviewed a number of recordings of music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods — I’m sure you remember our comments on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (which we’ve done here, here, and here), but there’s much more.

Let’s start with a survey of four albums by the Baroque ensemble Red Priest, who have their own approach to this music: ‘As you can tell from the titles to these collections, the approach adopted by baroque ensemble Red Priest is not what you’d call “reverent.” It’s not slapstick, or anything like that — these are serious musicians. It’s more that they appreciate the music, but they see it as a real, everyday sort of thing, which I consider an admirable attitude.’

Angela East went solo on a couple of albums, which we looked at here: ‘Angela East is the cellist for Red Priest, the baroque chamber ensemble noted for its innovative approach and flamboyant public style. In the two recordings presented here, East has gone solo, pretty much, and brought this approach to the smaller-scale works of Johann Sebastian Bach and other baroque masters.’

A little farther back in time, we have Silvius Leopold Weiss’ Lute Concerti: ‘Silvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1750) was, during his lifetime, hailed as the greatest lutenist and composer for the lute in Europe, known among connoisseurs for the largest surviving body of solo works for the lute. Lutenist and Weiss scholar Richard Stone has established that there is also a body of Weiss’ surviving works for the lute in concert, including duets, trios, and full concerti.’

And lest you think this was purely a European phenomenon, we ran across an album from the New World, Bolivian Baroque: ‘When we think of baroque music, we are likely to hear in our mind’s ear the towering architecture of Bach, the brilliant conceits of Handel, perhaps the shimmering confections of Scarlatti or Corelli or Vivaldi, played against a carved and gilded backdrop in Vienna, London, perhaps Venice or Milan. What we don’t think of is the natural grandeur of Bolivia or the Colonial period of Spanish rule in the New World.’

I’m sure there’s more out there, if not in our Archives. But I think that’s enough Baroque for today, so I’ll leave you to go on with the rest of today’s edition.

Denise is a bit late with the Ostara festivities, but she couldn’t help but celebrate when she got her hands on a Folkmanis Baby Dutch Rabbit Puppet. ‘He’s absolutely the best dancer. He can dab!  He can waltz!  He can shimmy!’ What else can he do? Well, he can wow an audience! Read her review to get the scoop…

Let’s see what I can find in the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, for some lively Celtic music to see us out. Ahhh that’ll do very nicely —‘Nightside to Armagh’ by Kan, a Cornish group. It’s from their Sleeper demo released eight years ago. We’ll see you back here next week.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Booking Your Band

From: Jack Merry, Booking Manager, Kinrowan Estate
To: Simon Sterling, Agent for Banish Misfortune

In talking to you last week about wanting to book one of the bands you represent, Banish Misfortune, I told you our terms for booking them and you agreed that they were indeed good terms. So imagine my surprise when I received not one, but four separate contracts totaling thirty pages in length!

No, we do not pay the band fifty percent in advance in order the ensure they get here. Our fee for performing is generous and I’m not daft. And where did you get the idea that we’d pay for transport here? Have you ever had a venue do so? I think not!

No, we do not accommodate vegan and vegetarian dietary needs. (Not that I believe a touring Scottish band has any such members.) We’re a working Estate that includes everything from bacon and sausages at breakfast to a really tasty roast chicken at supper.

We do not pay extra so that bands can afford to have their own sound technician come with them. If they need a sound technician, we’ll handle it, as there’s three of us who do sound.

We do record every show played here and I told you that when we talked. (And see my email to you for this as well.) So no, we will not ask the band’s permission to do so.

Publicity for this concert on local radio stations and in the area papers? Did you listen at all when I stated that the Kinrowan Estate is a remote Scottish land holding nearly twenty miles from the nearest village? And that the audience consists of Kinrowan Estate community members? I suppose I could tack a note to the Estate community bulletin board…

Accommodations in a hotel, not crash space where we have room? You do know that the nearest hotels, save the small ones in the village, are three to four hours away? They’ll stay in the guest yurts here.

Sorry we won’t be booking you despite your music sounding great. Better luck elsewhere!

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What’s New for the 19th of April: Ailette De Bodard’s Xuya Universe, Mutants, A Fairport Boxset, A Trip Up the Thames, Dinosaurs, of a sort, and other neat stuff

You had to draw lines, and that choice was in itself dangerous; all boundaries had a double edge, were like swords that could always be turned against you in the end. But you still had to choose. ― Melissa Scott’s Trouble and Her Friends

So the weather turned warm enough that I’ve thrown open all the windows ‘ere in the Green Man Pub to give it a good airing out. And I do believe that I can hear spring peepers from the marshy area just below the stone bridge where The Troll lives. Nice to have Spring finally here!

I’ve been reading many of Ailette De Bodard’s Xuya Universe stories set in an interstellar empire that is descended rather improbably from the Vietnamese culture.  I’d recommend you read them, provided she actually publishes them in a single volume someday. Some, like The Tea Master and the Detective and On a Red Station, Drifting   are somewhat easy to find, but others, like “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” exist only in digital one-offs. Worth seeking out but I do wish for that possible collection!

In the meantime, I’m sure there’s plenty to keep you entertained here…

Kelly has a book on writing by a writer most of us know well: ‘Take Joy: A Book for Writers almost bursts with enthusiasm: enthusiasm for story, enthusiasm for writing, enthusiasm for reading. As I note above, the book doesn’t really give any advice that a person who has read many of these books will not have seen, but that advice is framed in Jane Yolen’s own metaphorically-rich, and often hilarious, way.’

Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered, says Moira, is rather good: ‘Bear’s novel is global in scope, and although it’s not a pessimistic dystopian novel, it shares much with John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up as a sobering projection of unchecked current social, political and environmental trends. It would be difficult to show all this through the eyes of one first-person character, and wisely, Bear doesn’t attempt it; instead, Jenny shares narration with four other major third-person characters, all of whom are deftly introduced in the first twenty-five pages.’

Robert brings us what he claims is one of the funniest books he’s ever read, Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In a Boat: ‘Jerome K. Jerome was an English writer of the late nineteenth century who had considerable success as a novelist and playwright. If his other works are marked by the same wry, off-the-wall humor as this one, I can see why he was successful.’

Warner has a look at Jean Stafford’s Complete Novels: The Library of America’s edition of the complete novels of Jean Stafford presents a nice collection of satirical works, including the well known Boston Adventure but also two shorter and just as interesting pieces, The Mountain Lion and The Catherine Wheel. Over time The Mountain Lion has gained its share of fame, although the third work is still comparatively forgotten. It is these latter two stories that provide an interesting and entertaining reading experience together, serving as thematic companion pieces.’

Robert found some chocolates — well, they found him, actually — from Trader Joe’s: ‘Among the latest goodies to cross my desk are two tins of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Wedges. Since Trader Joe’s sells everything under its own label, there’s no way to know, without doing a lot more sleuthing than I care to, who actually makes their chocolates, but the quality is generally quite good, so it’s a moot point.’

Cat looks at a group of episodes from the popular BBC series Midsomer Murders, which do not represent a complete series. Not a problem, says Cat: ‘Now the fact that this is a rather scattered set is not a terribly major problem, as there’s not much for continuity in this series. About the only plot string that develops is Cully and her career as an actress. Otherwise one can easily watch them in any order whatsoever without getting confused; which is a good thing, as the mysteries themselves can be frightfully complex!’ These are now available on the Acorn streaming service along with the rest of the Midsomer series.

Robert takes a look at X-Men ‘after the fall’ — that is to say, in X-Men: Curse of the Mutants: ‘One thing you can count on in superhero comics: reboots. This particular reboot is the aftermath of Brian Michael Bendis’ House of M, in which the Red Witch removed the powers from the majority of Earth’s mutants. Now the X-Men, including all the mutants and former mutants who have sought refuge in their new home, Utopia, off the California coast, are finally looking forward to some peace and quiet when a new threat emerges.’

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.’

Fairport Convention has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’

Lars has a goodie for us: ‘Steeleye Span must have more lives than a cat. Every so often the group seems to have called it a day, but, like a phoenix, they rise again. So here they are, for the umpteenth time, with They Called Her Babylon that their record company claims is to be a classic Steeleye Span album.’

Robert went rummaging through his music library and came across an album by Miriam Makeba. Welela, he thinks, deserves another listen — he sums it up thusly: ‘ In all honesty, anything by Miriam Makeba is worth listening to. Although not every song on this album is a “favorite,” even the ones I don’t like are good.’

Here at GMR, we have always been a bit tucked-in. We mostly do our partaking, reviewing, and writing in a cozy nook all our own. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been rough with what’s going on in the world today. Social distancing, quarantines, and being stuck at home is quite different from choosing to do what we need to do in our comfortable spaces. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as well, you’re not alone; Gilian Sisley wrote a piece for Medium that speaks to all of us who may be introverted, but are still overwhelmed.

‘We truly underestimate how much energy it takes from us to be able to navigate and manage life when being bombarded with harmful, negative messaging at all hours of the day…. So be gracious with yourself during this time.’

And so, it’s the hope of all of us here at GMR that our weekly tidbits help lift your spirits during these trying times. We lift a glass to you, our lovely readers, and hope that in your world, all is as well as can be.

Remember Disney’s Fantasia? Did you know there was an Italian version — well, not actually a version of the Disney classic, but a whole new animated feature based on the same premise, Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro Non Troppo. And there’s one dynamite sequence set to Ravel’s Bolero that’s a real show-stopper.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Lord of The Forest

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 bullocks as there’s really no Green Men in English myth either no matter what Lady Raglan claimed backed 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 who 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 12th of April: Music from Aaron Copland, A History of Bananas, Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints and Other Matters

We have ripe banana dipped in sweet batter and fried, and green banana to boot. Cookie does fry them up nice-nice in olive oil, sprinkle them with a little coarse salt and some cayenne, then drench them in so much butter.― Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids

Yes we’ve got bananas that we grow right here on this Scottish estate. They’re actually really easy to cultivate provided you can give them enough heat and humidity, which we can do in the Conservatory built during the Victorian Era under the auspices of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Gardener, and a true blessing, for fresh vegetables are in the off-season. And bananas as well. Lots of them.  

Setting aside cultivating bananas for now, I’ve got an interesting edition for you including, of course, a history of bananas. There’s a neat look at Asimov, yet another Fables graphic novel, and a lovely look two early Dervish albums. So let’s get started…

James Gunn’s Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction is for diehard fans of the author: ‘ This is more a literary biography than anything else. While James Gunn hits the high points of Asimov’s life, they don’t get much attention. What does get page space is Asimov’s writing. Gunn does not linger over the non-fiction, but he summarizes most of Asimov’s important fiction, including several of his short stories and novellas, the Foundation and Robot novels, and The Gods Themselves. If you haven’t read much Asimov and think you might like to, this is not the book for you, because it gives away the plots. If you have read a lot of Asimov, this shouldn’t be a problem.’

Lenora fell in love with a certain author but that doesn’t mean she can’t critique her work: ‘I fell utterly and blindly in love with Nalo Hopinson’s first book, Brown Girl in the Ring, and I thought that love affair with her prose would continue without any blemish. It lasted through her second book without being tarnished, and through her short story collection, Skin Folk, with only a few minor bumps — about which I felt had to be understanding. I have yet to read a short story collection, even by an author I adore, which doesn’t have at least one story that strikes me as weak.’ So how does The Salt Roads fare with her? Read her review to see.

Once upon a time, there was an imprint called Firebird Books. It published a lot of really great books. But some such as a trilogy by Midori Snyder were as Robert tells us here not so great: ‘I’m not one who believes that every book has to be terrific. I have my own “guilty secrets” list of books that are flawed, some badly, but I reread them from time to time anyway because there is some quality in them that makes them deserve it, whether it be the lovable protagonist, the brilliant universe-building, a breathtaking plot, magical writing, or some other element that is just too appealing to consign them to the used book store. I can’t place The Oran Trilogy on that list — Snyder missed every chance she had, and above all, committed the unforgivable sin of boring me.’

Warner has something hardboiled for us: ‘Brian Panowich’s Hard Cash Valley presents a detailed look at a number of connected incidents involving the life of one middle-aged lawman and those around him as an underground activity intersects with his own areas of expertise and leads quickly down a road to disaster. This is a crime novel dealing in gambling, drugs and death, as well as a variety of specifically murderous individuals. It is also the story of one man disconnected from his life attempting to reconnect.’

So what do you do know about bananas? If not much, Eric has the book for you: ‘Virginia Scott Jenkins’s Bananas: An American History outlines the role that bananas have played in the United States since they first became popular in the 1880s. Bananas followed a complete circle in popularity — first they were a slave food, then a luxury item for the rich, and then “the poor man’s fruit.” This exhaustively researched and footnoted book explores every possible detail surrounding the transformation of bananas in American culture since the 1880s.’

Cat challenged Jennifer to come up with a banana recipe. This extreme ginger-carrot-banana bread is zippy enough to take your head off, thanks to all the grated ginger in it. But it’s still very bananary. It might be extra nice if you added some bitter chocolate drops…hm…she might have just one more ripe banana in the bowl…

Anton has a series he watched on DVD though these days you can find the episodes on the Acorn streaming service: ‘Talk about using your “leetle grey cellzz”! This DVD release is Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Collector’s Sets 11 & 12 of this 1989 series originally produced for television in England. David Suchet stars as the popular Belgian (not French or “Froggie,” as Poirot would tell you himself) sleuth made popular by everyone’s fave babe of British blood, Dame Agatha Christie. From the credits forward, I was treated to total immersion in the era, from the art deco feel of the ’30s right down to the most minor of costume details. A lot of care went into the production of this series and it shows throughout.’

April continues her look at a long running series: ‘With this twelfth collection of his award-winning series, The Dark Ages, Bill Willingham tackles the aftermath of the Fables’ victorious war with the Adversary, examining the effects on the Fables, Gepetto and the lands he formerly ruled. Winning, it turns out, isn’t always everything; nor is it necessarily an end, but more of a beginning.’

Brendan has some rather nice Irish trad for us: ‘ Dervish have been around since 1989, but apparently they didn’t bother recording themselves until 1992. This is perfectly acceptable, since it is clear that they used the time well, getting their chops and building a very justified reputation as one of Ireland’s premiere neo-traditionalist bands. After reviewing their ten-year “best of” CD, decade, I couldn’t wait to hear their music in more detail. I was not in the least disappointed. From the beginning, Dervish has helped keep the spark and imagination alive in the Irish musical tradition, as is clear from their work on these, their first two recorded CDs.’

Peatbog Faeries’ Faerie Stories says Chris ain’t for for the strictly trad music lovers: ‘ Folk traditionalists will of course hate this type of music. They would probably be perfectly happy with the pipes, bagpipes, guitar, bodhran and fiddle, all of which are sometimes played in traditional style, but I think the “Folk Police” would have trouble with the rhythm section which borrows freely from jazz, dub and rock. For the younger listener and other folk fans with open minds (among which I like to consider myself), this blend of ancient and modern not only gives some street cred to traditional music but displays it in a totally new and often amazingly flattering light.’

Gary found a lot of variety in Rivages by accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier and guitarist Kevin Seddiki: ‘The music here ranges from Gabriel Fauré’s “Les Berceaux” to the traditional “Greensleeves” alongside compositions and improvisations by both musicians. Influences abound, from film music to cabarets to ancient hymns to flamenco and Parisian cafes.’

And Gary is enthusiastic about Du milde verden, the latest release by Norwegian folk supergroup Morgonrode. ‘ “Morgonrode” is an old Norwegian word for the red sun rising at dawn. That’s a pretty apt description of their approach to making folk music, a blend of traditional and fresh, new.’

I reached back into the Archives for this summer concert remembrance by him: ‘It was a night of sublime “desert noir” for the fans of Calexico at Portland’s Aladdin Theater. The seven members of this road-tested Tucson, Arizona-based combo seemed relaxed but energized as they performed nearly 20 songs old and new in a one-hour and 45-minute show.’

For our What Not this time, Gary brings us news of Two Pints: In the Time of Corona. It’s an online extension of a successful play by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, consisting solely of conversations between two men of a certain age over pints at their local pub. You’ll want to go read about it and take in a video of Doyle himself explaining the concept.

So how about something from Aaron Copland this time? It’s quintessentially Americana as it’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing his ‘Hoe Down’ which was originally recorded on his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Beef Pot Pie

We don’t eat a lot of beef here, as we don’t raise any beef, which means we either purchase or trade for it with other farms in our area. So what beef we do consume is combined with other ingredients so as to stretch it out. And an excellent way to do this is in the ever so tasty form of beef pot pie.

An advantage of this meal is that it doesn’t require the better cuts of beef, as making the beef taste good is in the preparation. We slow cook it basting it with its juices. Garlic is inserted into the meat and onion slices cover it, giving the beef some needed additional flavour.

While the beef is cooking, the vegetables get slow roasted with fresh ground black pepper, cumin, and just a bit of salt. Since we consume beef pot pies only in colder weather (which we’re still having with this wayward Spring), the veggies are all root crops from last year’s harvest, which is to say we use potatoes, carrots, onions, and beets. We also use mushrooms gathered in our woods and dried for later use. This is very slowly cooked on the wood stove with scraps of bacon added in for extra fat.

Mrs. Ware uses a whole wheat flour for the crust, as she rightfully thinks it’s better for us than the standard white flour most cooks are addicted to. She uses butter and a bit of salt, nothing else in it.

The beef is chopped into small pieces, the veggies the same. A lattice crust is put over the contents, the pies are put in an oven at a slow heat and cooked until a hour before the Eventide meal when they’re set out ’til being served along with whole wheat rolls served with warm butter. That’s a very fine meal in my opinion!

 

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What’s New for the 5th of April: Amano dark chocolate bars, Terry Gilliam’s Fisher King, Béla Bartók, Ellen Kushner on Steeleye Span, Danish String Quartet Live and Other Matters

We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual abilities. ― Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch

Traditional Central European and Jewish comfort foods are common here in Kinrowan Hall. Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook, says ‘It’s not the sexiest cuisine in the world, but it’s so satisfying and perfect for this time of year. When Rebekah, our Jerusalem born and raised Several Annie, decided to join my kitchen family,  her knowledge of Jewish food was a decided blessing.’ And that’s how I came to be sipping on a most delightful cardamon spiced coffee along with some chocolate rugelach on this tempestuous morning weather-wise.

You’ll find several reviews of books concerning Béla Bartók, the Hungarian composer of no small repute. That’s because I’m  playing Muzsikas and Marta Sebastyen’s  Live at Liszt Academy which makes use of his compositions. Cheerful, lively music that warms the soul on this cold, blustery day. Now let’s see what else I’ve got for you this edition…

Brendan looks at Béla Bartók and Albert B. Lord’s  Yugoslav Folk Music, Volumes 1-4: ‘ Ethnomusicology — like many of the humanities — has changed a lot since the early 1940s. There is more emphasis on the content and context of the lyrics than on the morphology of the tunes themselves. Nevertheless, this is an invaluable aid to the scholar of East European music. And it is also interesting to anyone just interested in the field. Be warned, though, it’s a tough read but well worth it.’

Robert came across a couple of books on that composer he considers sadly underrated: ‘Any genuine understanding of the role of Béla Bartók in twentieth century music is contingent on knowing about the cultural context in which he was formed — or in which he formed himself, as seems likely to be the case. The understanding is two-pronged, as Judit Frigyesi, in Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest and Peter Laki, in Bartók and His World, make clear.’

Warner has another offering from the Library of America: ‘The Library of America’s collection Robert Stone features three novels by the titular author. Included are Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise, and Outerbridge Reach. It is an impressive little volume. Filled with extras on top of these books, the volume certainly has the production values one has come to expect from Library of America, though the novels inside present some interesting choices.’

April says that ‘I can only speak for myself as a chocolate addict, but I loosely categorize chocolate into three general categories: cheap chocolate to be scarfed as needed, mid-grade chocolate that’s to be enjoyed more slowly . . . and then there’s the really good stuff, chocolate to be savored and hoarded and mourned when it is gone. My guilty pleasure, Reese’s, falls into the first category. Ritter Sport, Godiva and Ghirardelli fall into the second. And the third … well, it’s sparsely populated, but now includes, courtesy of Green Man Review, Amano dark chocolate bars.’

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 has a Hellboy goodie for us: ‘In the introduction to this first volume of Weird Tales, editor Scott Allie has penned a loving homage to any fan who’s ever taken up a pen or pencil to write or draw their favorite comic book characters. He indulges in a bit of hyperbole, perhaps, when he says that the character of Hellboy has probably inspired more artistic fans than any other character. However, judging by the contents of this volume, comic professionals sure have a hankering to draw Big Red. Their clamoring for a chance to draw him led directly to the creation of this series — their own outlet for indulging in their wildest Hellboy imaginations. Weird Tales, Volume One collects the first four issues of the series, with thirteen stories that differ vastly in art style, tone and subject matter.’

Muzsikás’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartók’s  Yugoslav Folk Songs which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikás discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartók’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions’.

Gary is enthusiastic about Tamotaït, the new offering from the Malian band in exile Tamikrest. ‘With rock band instrumentation that’s common the world over – a couple of electric guitars, bass and percussion – they sonically evoke the shimmering heat, lonely vistas and rolling dunes of their particular environment, while lyrically they evoke their people’s determination to live their own lives within that environment.’

And Gary says Call The Captain, the third album from the rocking country band Western Centuries, deals with weighty themes. ‘They’re singing a lot about life-and-death matters this time – religion, war, mortality in general. Maybe that’s why so many of the tracks ended up as soul songs.’

Gary also reviews one by a British ex-pat musician who makes music in Chicago. ‘There’s no way James Elkington could have known about the trauma that we’d all be feeling in the midst of a pandemic when he tracked the 11 songs on his sophomore “solo” release Ever-Roving Eye. But somehow he put out a record that is balm for the weary and fretful soul, just when we need it.’

Robert almost got lost in an album of what we can only call ‘new music’ by a duo calling itself D1V1N1T1: ‘I’ve encountered several collaborations between Canadian musician Tim Clément and other artists — readers here may remember Wolfsong Night, in which Clément and guitarist Kim Deschamps delivered a complex and multi-faceted album that stands up under repeated listenings. Clément’s latest effort is a collaboration with Ben Watson; calling themselves D1V1N1T1, the two have created Terra Divina, which they describe as “a balanced exploration of what the external world offers our soul and the introspective space of our individual acquiescence.”‘

He also found much to appreciate in the debut album by a Belgian trio, Down the Track: ‘There is, in the history of “classical” music a — call it a “genre” — of what is known as “program music” going all the way back to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (at least), and including works by such luminaries as Richard Strauss (who can forget Also Sprach Zarathustra?), Hector Berlioz, and even Beethoven (Symphony No. 6, the “Pasorale”, with a really spectacular summer storm). It was with that in mind that I approached a new album by Down the Track, Landscapes.’

Our What Not this edition is a question; to be exact, ‘What’s is your favourite Steeleye Span recording?’ Ellen Kushner, author of the Riverside series (Swordspoint, The Fall of the Kings, and The Privilege of the Sword), like everyone else favours the early albums — ‘The only one I actually owned as a teen was Below the Salt.  I played it into the ground, though, and can do all the parts on all the songs!  And then . . . Well, I don’t think I’d listened to it for 20 years, until a solo trip in a rented car last summer had me begging for anything, anything for the road from the friend I visited en route . . . On the long highway to Maine, I stuck it in the player, and was electrified.  Amazing work!  I played it over and over, singing along, marveling at the mix, until I got to where I was going.  Great album.’

For our Coda this week, Robert has come up with a choice selection: the Danish String Quartet performing a work from their album Last Leaf, a group of traditional tunes arranged for string quartet. Here they are performing ‘Æ Rømeser’  Oh, and they also do ’classical’ music.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bad Wolf

Some of the, errr, visitors we get here would rival anything from the Inn called World’s End. Such was The Crooked Man, as he called himself. Again I stress that only those with The Sight, the ability to see the weird shit that blissfully escapes the notice of nearly all of humanity, would know he was more than a queerly dressed man. Oh, they might find him making them uneasy but never know why …

He was oddly assembled — his face not quite right, his eyes a colour that couldn’t be discerned, hair like a hedgehog, skin more rough hewn than humanly possible and a physique that struck me as just wrong. He was dressed in a suit that fit no era I had known down the centuries and he wore it badly. Add in lack of any accent what-so-ever and even my hackles were raised. I who had been hanged on That Tree and still bore the scars from battles long forgotten just didn’t feel comfortable near him.

Reynard offer a whisky, nothing special I noted, and turned his back on him. He turned to me and said that I might be able to help him. Help with what, I asked. Finding The Nightmare (yes I could hear the caps) that had kept him from sleeping for time beyond counting anymore. The Nightmare that kept him awake, unable to sleep for fear it’d catch up to him.

Why me, I queried. Because I think it’s the Bad Wolf. Ahhh, Fenris, I said. Why is He haunting you? Because I know how to chain him up. That caused me to shut up. Even I had never chained Fenris up. Killed him, yes, but he always came back in a rather foul mood.

Now I know why my hackles were up. Anyone who could chain Fenris up could likely kill me, as that being would have Power that I just didn’t have. Yes, I was the head of an entire pantheon of godlike beings but we had limitations imposed by our shapers. He apparently didn’t. And that was a tale for another time …

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What’s New for the 29th of March: the first real Celtic Rock album, a Celtic history, Holy Molé chocolate, Ray Bradbury poetry, Silly Wizard live and Other Neat Stuff

For one crazy moment he had the notion of a vanished tribe of librarians, lost in the deep underground caverns of the Bodleian, a wild and savage tribe that fed on unwary travellers. ― Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman

I’m having a meal of peppers, tomatoes and ground lamb rolled up in just grilled to be warmed up naan. The peppers and tomatoes are from our Conservatory built during the Victorian Era under the auspices of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Gardener, and a true blessing for fresh vegetables in the off-season. I’ve also got a pot of chai masala tea sitting on my Library desk to be enjoyed as I listen to some sweet music.

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 hail from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we have, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments which make for a very sweet sound.

Their music is a superb merging of Celtic and Bluegrass, something that might be Appalachian Trad, oh and more than a bit of Tex-Mex, so if you’ve heard  and enjoyed The Mollys, you’ll definitely like them. We’ve got them here for several contradances and a performance as well.

Now let’s get started on this edition..

We occasionally review a single tale and  Cat does does so here: ‘I have mentioned in other reviews of Simon R.Green’s work that everything he writes is connected over and over again until a Gordian knot looks easy to untangle in comparison. If you haven’t been paying attention to that being true, now is a good time to do so as as Harry goes on in that bit to say that he ‘Had a bit of bad business with an angel in the Nightside, and now I find it necessary to do good works, for the sake of my soul . . . You know how it is.’ Those few words stated in Harry’s off-hand manner are spun out here into a well-crafted story aptly titled ‘Some of These Cons Go Way Back’.’

John has a choice piece of verse for us: ‘Ray Bradbury has explored mankind’s present through its future in his science-fiction novels Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. With his poetry collection, They Have Not Seen The Stars, Bradbury relaxes a bit, writing on matters both deep and trivial, musing and rambling in a multitude of areas.’

For the scholars among us, Robert has a choice offering: ‘Jane Frank’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century is a successor volume to Robert Weinberg’s Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, published in 1988. Given the labor-intensive quality of a project such as this one, it is fortunate that Frank had Weinberg’s full cooperation in the creation of this volume.’

Warner has the origins of a well-known mystery series for us: ‘The idea of writing a prequel is less than adored in many circles and fandoms, and there are a wide assortment of generally disliked examples. With The Last PassengerCharles Finch proves that one can write a good end to a prequel trilogy. His historical mystery series gains an interesting element in this book, and the reader will certainly find that .’

Brooklyn Born Chocolate’s Holy Molé gets an appreciative review by Robert: ‘At first glance, the idea of chocolate laced with spices more often found in South American cuisine might seem a little off-putting. But hey, they’re all from South America, so there’s got to be some affinity there, right?’

Robin has some some some easy on the eyes and ears Irish history for us: ‘The Celts: Rich Traditions and Ancient Myths, a 6 hour series, was aired on the BBC in 1986, a documentary written and narrated by Frank Delaney, with Music by Enya. It was apropos that the video release would coincide with St. Patrick’s Day 1998.’

Robert wasn’t too happy with the latest incarnation of DC’s Suicide Squad: ‘I was fairly enthusiastic about the last version of the Suicide Squad, written by John Ostrander. Well, in the DC Universe, when all else fails, reboot: the latest version of the “team” (and you’ll see why I use the quotes) was part of the overall reboot, DC’s “The New 52.”‘

Cat looks at 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 word of a new release by a band from Halifax, Nova Scotia: ‘Frontman, singer and songwriter Nigel Chapman gives himself a good talking to on Snapshot of a Beginner, the new album by Nap Eyes.’

Jennifer looks at a recording from a member of De Dannan: ‘Fierce Traditional is the long anticipated new solo album from Frankie Gavin, and it sees him paring the sound right down, getting back to the essence of the music. With the usual stalwart suspects in the studio, long term partner Alec Finn, piano/banjo extraordinaire Brian McGrath and brother Sean Gavin, this album is all about the tunes, pure and simple.

Joe finished off our music reviews with a look at the creation of an entire genre: ‘It’s not many bands that can claim to have invented a whole musical genre, but that’s what Horslips are credited with. Without them we wouldn’t have Celtic Rock. Of course Fairport Convention had been rocking up jigs and reels for a few years before the Irish band released their debut single “Johnny’s Wedding” in 1971, but with their first album Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part in ’72, the first real Celtic Rock album came into being.’

Another Jennifer suggests a literary escape for couples suffering cabin fever in plague times. The Marriage Box Rule could be the saving of you! And if it doesn’t, at least the sex scenes might help.

The world of Celtic music and those who enjoy it is a little bleaker these days as Andy Stewart of Silly Wizard fame passed on several years back. I’ll leave you this time with him as lead vocalist singing ‘Queen of Argyle’ as performed by that group at Canon University in Atlanta on a November evening some thirty years or so ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Library Card Catalogue

A library catalogue is an index of all bibliographic items found in a library such as the one here at Kinrowan Estate. Our catalogue covers all thirty thousand or so books, chapbooks, maps and even art. The Catalogue includes data about the physical location of items; for instance, the extensive collection of culinary related material that the Kitchen staff has in their library space (which is also their break room), the Estate Gardener’s collection is kept in his library (which includes centuries of Estate Gardener journals and gardening and animal husbandry material going back a very long time).

We even include the personal libraries of the permanent staff here so that their collections can be used by staffers. Indeed we ask them if this will be permissible when The Steward does their final hiring interview. If they enthusiastically say yes, it counts a lot towards being hired.

Any book or other item entering the permanent collection, no more than a few hundred each year as space is limited (even the Estate chapel, unused since The Restoration, is now part of the Library), is inventoried: author(s), title, subject, date, type of media and even language the works in, are all part of the information on the card.

Now that’s after a Several Annie reads the book and summarizes the contents in a single paragraph that will be entered on the card, so that Kinrowan Estate staff and visitors alike can get an idea of what the work is like.

That only applies to material we’ve ordered specifically for here. Works sent here unbidden that aren’t picked up for review rarely make it over the threshold, as at least one community member must be enthusiastic enough about it to recommend it for inclusion. Oh, it might end up in a pile to read later or a staffer might find it worth keeping but doesn’t recommend it be added to the Library collection.

Every decade the group of Several Annies here then get the task of checking the card catalog against the actual item. Yes we’re making sure it’s still there, but every item has a geas, a traditional Gaelic prohibition against removal from a particular place, so items simply don’t disappear. They’re also checking to see what condition it’s in as some of the older items either need work or, in the case of heavily used books, need to be replaced if possible. That gets noted into our Master Catalogue, forty thick oversized volumes with a page for everything in the Card Catalog plus a notation on its condition. The condition and status information’s only a few lines long but it’s invaluable as a safeguard against forgetting what happened to a work here a century ago.

The Annies are assisted by the staffer who has a separate collection, say Bela whose collection is exclusively in French and Hungarian, which means the Several Annie must speak one of those languages or receive assistance from a staffer fluent in one of those tongues. Those are relatively quick tasks as there’s rarely more than a thousand volumes to be checked.

(The catalogue for Fey material we have here is maintain by Laith as only a Truebood could possibly understand the convoluted system that their Librarians use.)

And of course The Annies are learning the taxonomic structure of books and other media which means they’re assimilating the structures underlying information itself. They may never work somewhere else that has a card catalogue, hard copy or digital, but they’ll know how information is structured better than anyone who hasn’t grasped the fundamentals of it.

Now let me show you our card catalogue. It’s handcrafted out of white oak by an Estate carpenter working from plans we got in 1885 from the office of Thomas Dewey himself. He built extra space into the wall where it lives, so it’s got room enough for centuries to come …


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What’s New for the 22nd of March: A Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese, Wim Wenders’ Once, Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Live music from Skerryvore, Hot Chocolate, A Parcel of Steeleye Span and Other Matters



Schrödinger’s cat has far more than nine lives, and far fewer. All of us are unknowing cats, alive and dead at once, and of all the might-have-beens in between, we record only one.” ― Yoon Ha Lee’s Conservation of Shadows

I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try. It’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain brewery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it, as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way. If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single drams ever done.

It’s our usual grey ending to March here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most diehard of Estate staff, unless their duties require going outside, are quite willing to stay inside. Iain has been keeping to his hiding spot and I myself am spending time off duty in the Kitchen, quite content to play tunes and nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating, such as strawberry cobbler made with those exquisite frozen berries. 

So there’s no theme this edition, but rather it’s whatever the Editors found interesting with our usual mix of new materiel along with some older material from the Archives. We might even have something from Sleeping Hedgehog, our in house newsletter for staff and visitors. So let’s get started…

Brendan has a classic for us: ‘N. J. Dawood has translated the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights into an extremely easily-read format, apparently reflecting the every-day language in its original Arabic setting. In fact, any 12-year-old child could easily read this translation and enjoy it. Not that you’d want your 12-year-old child reading it: the various authors of these stories seemed to have been absolutely fascinated with infidelity, decapitations and gratuitous sex and violence, in general (Well, come to think of it, this is normal everyday stuff for any American 12-year-old).’

Iain was not surprisingly quite impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘What she does very well is show that Mckillip has taken the often cliched fantasy conventions, say that of a harper with magical abilities, or the Norns themselves, and give them a fresh, lively feel embedded in stories that are exemplars of world-building. And she never loses track of McKillip herself, an all too common problem with such work.’

Robert has a fairly ambivalent reaction to a study of Hans Christian Andersen: ‘Hans Christian Andersen is quite arguably the best-known writer of fairy tales in the world, or at least that part of the world that derives from European traditions. In Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller, Jack Zipes argues that he is also the most misunderstood, an argument that at times is cogent, but just as often seems strained and in a large sense seems to me to miss the point.’

His reaction to Theodore Roethke’s last published collection, The Far Field, was far from ambivalent: ‘American poetry has given us a host of names that everyone knows – the household words, the people we all studied in high school: Frost, Sandburg, Dickinson, Whitman, Plath. There are others known to more than aficionados, if not to high school students. Among them, somewhere, is Theodore Roethke.’

Let’s see what got for cocoa ideas on this cool March day. Denise starts us off with a a look at Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix. She found it a lovely way to start the day, and perhaps even enjoy the evening; “…if you’ve a mind, a splash of Kahlua and/or Bailey’s wouldn’t be amiss.” Now go see what she thinks cocoa lovers should give this one a try.

Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.

Richard had a recommendation reprinted from Sleeping Hedgehog on where you can find great hot chocolate in a place called Matthews: ‘Now, North Carolina’s not what you’d call a hot chocolate hotbed, at least east of the mountains, on account of the fact that it’s generally pretty warm. Which is why I never expected the hot chocolate in this shop which my wife practically dragged me into (she’d done some scouting, having previously infiltrated Hillsborough with friends on a yarn-shopping expedition) would blow my socks off.’

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.’

Every once in a while we run across a work that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our categories, which is how Wim Wenders’ Once became, for our purposes, graphic literature. Says Robert: ‘Wim Wenders is, of course, a noted filmmaker. His first book, Once, reveals that, just in the photographs themselves: they are, in many respects, akin to movie stills, but not necessarily the ones that a studio would choose to release. The images come with stories, and sometimes the stories come by themselves.’

Gary reviews something different from the singers in the English big band The Unthanks: ‘Rachel and Becky Unthank grew up in a musical family in Tyneside, North East England, and came up singing unaccompanied traditional folk songs. With Diversions Vol. 5 they’ve come full circle, making their first album of unaccompanied songs as a trio, along with Niopha Keegan, who usually plays fiddle and sings.’

Gary also has something different from jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen – the debut album from his quintet Big Vicious. ‘And it flat rocks at times. Not really a surprise for a band that’s made up of two electric guitarists (one who doubles on bass guitar), two drummers and Cohen on trumpet.’

Iain has a look at a great release: ‘Are you looking for that perfect  gift for your lover of English folk rock? Oh, do I have a gift that’s perfect! EMI has served up A Parcel of Steeleye Span. This triple disc set contains the entirety of their first five albums for Chrysalis, from 1972’s Below The Salt to 1975’s All Around My Hat with Parcel of RoguesCommoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.’

Robert brings us a look at a CD by a group that‘s definitely not British — in fact, it’s from the other end of Europe: Boban Marković Orkestar’s Boban i Marko: ‘There seems to be, in the Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, an affinity for Western jazz. This does not mean that the music performed by the Boban Marković Orkestar is jazz, but simply that jazz wanders in and feels very much at home. What the music is, is lively, often exotic, and yet somehow familiar.’

Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’

Our tune for you to hear the Edition out is ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ by Skerryvore, a Scottish group formed some fifteen years ago, as performed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 2013.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Absinthe

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No, we don’t serve absinthe here, nor do we ever intend to make it available. However, I do find it a fascinating drink. And yes I sampled it once while in Paris where you can find damn near anything you desire, particularly if it’s bad for you.

(We stock whisky, Irish whisky and poitin, brandy, and vodka. And we carry our own ales such as India Pales, Belgian, Imperial and Chocolate Stouts, along with our ciders, cysers and meads. Of the liquors, only the first three really sell though the vodka sold very well when the Finnish and Russian curling teams played here several winters back So we’re not exactly a full service pub but than we never claimed to be so.)

I’d heard of this nigh unto mythical drink decades before I actually decided to search it out a few years back. I’ll tell you my opinion of it after I talk about its history for a bit. You might have heard that it’s mildly or dangerously poisonous as it’s made in part with wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, which has minute amounts of thujone, but not enough to have any effect unless you drank really a lot of it. But its reputation was enough to get it banned in most countries over a century ago even in France. And though it was banned, it was more or less easily available in such cities as Amsterdam, New Orleans and of course Paris.

It was wildly popular among writers and artists alike with such folk as Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Wilde, Hemingway and Joyce all known to be absinthe drinkers, almost all because they spent time in Paris. Some historians believe that Toulouse-Lautrec died from excessive absinthe consumption but more likely he just drank himself to death and died of kidney failure.

Nonetheless it has entered popular culture to the extent that it shows up in a lot of literature including as wormwood brandy which is the favoured drink of detective John Taylor in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. And pretty much any novel set in Paris that takes place in the seedier side of that city will mention it. Its reputation is based largely on its mythical story much more than on its realty.

So what does it taste like? It’s is, errr, quite sweet as sugar is one of its major components making it more of a liqueur than a spirit. The herbs in it give a bit of an edge but nothing like peated barley does in an aged single malt. The anise and other herbs gives it both a mild herbal taste and some bitterness but nothing objectionable. All in all a forgettable liqueur that I don’t regret trying but feel no need to drink again.

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What’s New for the 15th of March: It’s Almost Spring!

We can never be gods, after all — but we can become something less than human with frightening ease. ― N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

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I’ve been reading Haunted England which is the work of Jennifer Westwood who correctly notes in another book of hers titled Albion that ‘legend-making is not something that took place in the dim and distant past but a continuing process.’  We’ve reviewed more books than I care to count where contemporary authors such as Jane Yolen (The Wild Hunt), Pamela Dean (Tam Lin), Charles de Lint (The Cats of Tanglewood Forest) and Terri Windling (The Wood Wife) use folkloric stories and give a fresh feel to them.

We all tell stories as it’s an intrinsic aspect of our humanity. How we retell a story is already shaped by our minds, say that cup of Mexican cocoa your housemate made for you when you came in on a cold, haily evening, or that new novel sought out in hard cover because that’s what you wanted to read — there’s a story behind that decision as well.

Those are some of the stories we all tell. Green Man Review is a set of stories told by everyone who has been a part of it down the many decades.  Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this edition…

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Though this author is best known for her Pern series, Grey gives us a review of her sole Arthurian novel: ‘”No hoof, no horse,” say the Worshipful Company of Farriers. “Farriery,” the craft of shoeing horses, was even more vital in the days when every mobile enterprise was dependent on horses, especially the enterprise of war. And what more famous warrior-king has there ever been than Arthur? What might it have been like to have been Arthur’s farrier? Anne McCaffrey gives an answer to this question in Black Horses for the King.’

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.’

Joseph takes a look at Bill Barich’s A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub, which he describes as ‘a brilliant hybrid of new journalism and memoir: ‘By his own admission, Bill Barich is a dreamer on a mission to recapture his youth. But he greets each illusionary fishing hole, village, and forest with clarity and wisdom. In the end, the reader — not the author — feels nostalgic and thirsty for something never really existed.’ And Joseph even tells you how he did it.

Robert has I think a most superb novel for us: ‘Patricia A. McKillip does something in In the Forests of Serre that I don’t think I’ve ever noticed her doing before: there are recognizable elements of traditional folklore in the story. In fact, they are critically important parts of the story. And to top it off, in spite of the more-or-less Celtic-inspired feel of most of her work, they are from Slavic folklore.’

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Jennifer brings us a new bebida she’s invented called La Bruja Te Prende Fuego, or, The Witch Sets You Afire. Please sip it responsibly. And call her next morning to report on your dreams.

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April gives us a nice, succinct look at the next installment of Bill Willingham’s Fables — this volume titled War and Pieces. How succinct? She starts with this quote: ‘And that, my friends, is how the great war ended. Not with a bang, but with a wienie roast.’

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Gary reviews a new offering from Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, Angular Blues. He says of Muthspiel’s current trio, which includes Americans Scott Colley on double bass and Brian Blade on drums: ‘None of these three players are what you’d call flashy, but together this trio makes powerful and moving music.’

And Gary says a new EP by Anna Lynch, Apples in the Fall, consists of five country-folk songs with plenty of variety. ‘One thing they all have in common, though, is their emotional resonance. Lynch’s songs are rooted in personal specifics that are universal enough that every listener can see themselves in them.’

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.’

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Robert decided to upgrade the speakers for his computer and came up with a happy solution: ‘I spend a lot of time at the computer, surfing, writing, editing, and I like to listen to music from my rather extensive library, all of which is also stored on the computer. . . . Then I started thinking maybe I should upgrade, and started looking at speaker systems, but nothing clicked. Then one day I walked into Best Buy to pick up a replacement USB cable for my MP3 player, and spotted the Bose Companion 2 speakers. The price was reasonable, they were small and easy to deal with, so I bought them.’

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It’s been just about a month since St. Valentine’s Day, which is time enough for reality to set in. With that in mind, here’s a beautiful live ‘bootleg’ recording of The Everybodyfields singing the classic country song’s  ‘Love Hurts’. It was recorded in the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon, on Aug. 4, 2008, not long before they broke up in early 2009.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Raggedy Man

PDear Katrina,

You missed the Raggedy Man this week. Only Hangadróttinn and Liath Evergreen remember his last visit which means that visit was a very long time ago. Centuries, perhaps, even.

And an odd creature he is. Clothed in Autumn colours of brown, red, and orange, he was tall and broadly built, more like an oak tree than anything else. Brown eyes, brown hair, and skin like old leaves, he walked into the Library asking for a Librarian who had passed over the Border one does not cross back over from a very long time ago. A Several Annie hurried off to get Mackenzie who as current Librarian might be able to assist him.

Mackenzie obviously knew who he was as he gave a rare gesture not seen of him before — a deep bow to him! They then moved off where we couldn’t hear them and conversed very quietly for quite some time. They then bowed deeply to each other and the Raggedy Man moved off across the fields into the woods. 

Mackenzie rebuffed all attempts to find out what they had talked about, saying only that he would talk to the House Steward about what the Raggedy Man wanted. And the House Steward later on would only say the request was ‘unique but appropriate for the Estate’.

Just another day here . . .

Love, Gus

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What’s New for the 8th of March: A Book About Writing, a Film from the Rom, Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Music by Moby, Fables, a Short Story, and there’s always more. . .

She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

PIt’s the time of year that it actually starts to feel warm enough to sense that Spring is here or nearly here. We got that this week and it’s a welcome break from the long, cold Winter weather that we’ve had this past year. Residents of this remote Scottish Estate took advantage of those days and spent as much time as they could outside walking around and doing needed chores under the guidance of Gus, our Estate Groundskeeper.

Now mind we’re in the third day of an icy rain storm that barely sees temperatures a few degrees above freezing and with a wind that would guarantee anyone outside would be soaked to the skin in minutes even if they were wearing proper  storm gear. So we’re all inside until it passes, staying warm.

I hope that if you’re in the regions of the globe where it’s still Winter, you’re warm and comfortable as you read these words. Hopefully you’ll find much to entertain yourself here. Me, I’m off to get some more hot chocolate and maybe a peanut-butter and chocolate bar or two.

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In looking at The Time Quartet, Naomi has a confession to make: ‘As far as I am concerned, Madeleine L’Engle’s books should be required reading in all schools, as they open doors — not only in the imagination, but also in the academics, math and science especially. These wonderful tales could inspire the next Einstein to take the proper courses and feed his mind. I enjoyed the journeys that Mrs. L’Engle’s works took me on, and yet, I am saddened by the fact that I never read them as a child. I will rectify this mistake by introducing my own children to them posthaste!’

Vonnie says Patricia McKillip’s Something Rich and Strange ‘is nearly a prose-poem. The writing is lyrical, the events mysterious, the metaphors shadowy and aquatic. The plot suffers from it, as it does from turning the ocean into a character. This is a diffuse mystery, and the reader has to trust the writer that a point will eventually emerge from the pages. McKillip is both good enough and well-known enough to entitle her to our trust, but at its best, this novel is not a page-turner. Even more so than most of her books, the best way to enjoy Something Rich and Strange might be to read it aloud, enjoying the leisurely trip rather than racing to the destination.’

Warner has a book on writing for us: ‘The written word has been the standard mode of conveying information across time and distance for centuries. There was in Spring of 2019 an exhibit at the British Museum dedicated to the very topic of writing and its history. To accompany it the British Library put together Writing Making Your Mark with editor Ewan Clayton. Clayton is an excellent choice for editor, being already experienced in the subject and having written a celebrated volume on the subject, (The Golden Thread).  The British Library’s offering is a large and impressive volume, giving a brief history of the written word as well as a look into its potential futures.’

He also says ‘Providence After Dark and Other Writings collects much of T.E.D. Klein’s nonfiction. This includes his introductions, critical articles, and even reviews. There is a fair assortment in the book, and, being gathered together for the first time, this collection gives the reader an opportunity to both better understand a respected name in the genre and also to more easily get a view on the various works and writers he dealt with.’

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HandMade Films was a British film production and distribution company founded by that George Harrison. Notable films from the studio included Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits, The Long Good Friday and the film Cat’s reviewing for us, The Raggedy Rawney. He says that it ‘is based on traditional Rom folklore — something I personally found fascinating. This adaptation of folk tradition to contemporary times makes it more fully comprehensible, compared with portraying it in the ancient long, long ago time. At least for me.’

The Michael Kamen soundtrack is equally fascinating for him, as he tells us: ‘Some pieces of film music stick with you long after you’ve seen the film. And if it’s a really interesting tune or song, it may make you seek out the soundtrack and see how it sounds outside of the film. Such was the case with the specific piece that got my mojo rising: the Blowzabella-style music that showed up in the wedding scene in Raggedy Rawney’.

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Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups doesn’t sound like the sort of roots and branches of our shared global culture that we’d bother to comment upon but our resident Summer Queen explains why we are doing so: ‘I have a confession to make. Yes, I have a problem. And that problem’s name is Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I’m the person at Hallowe’en who looks at the bowl of candy designated for trick or treaters and asks, plaintively, “Could we hold the Reese’s in reserve? Or at least hide them on the bottom of the bowl?” and who will blatantly pilfer from the bowl throughout the evening. And if there’s any left over? Bliss!

PApril is more than a little enthusiastic about another installment of Bill Willlingham’s Fables: ‘When a series is as consistently excellent as Fables, it can be extremely difficult to decide which is the finest issue or volume. However, The Good Prince, the tenth volume, certainly makes a strong case for itself as the best of the best.’

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Cat has some comments on a very non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’

Gary liked Land of Milk and Honey from Texas singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson: ‘This album is a satisfying and deeply felt blend of overt political comment and intimate personal observation.’

Kelly has a look at a splendid neo-traditional Nordic recording: ‘When last I heard of the Swedish folk band Ranarim, they had just performed at the 2001 Nordic Roots Festival in support of their debut album Till the Light of Day. Over the next five years, they expanded from a quartet to a sextet and recorded one album that didn’t get released outside Sweden, but had otherwise kept a low profile since 2003. As often happens with Nordic folk bands, the members of Ranarim had all sorts of other projects to work on. They have most definitely benefited from the time off, though, as their new album Morning Star is as fresh and vital as any Scandinavian album I’ve heard in quite some time.’

Robert once again takes us somewhat out of our usual music focus with Moby’s Innocents: ‘I have to admit, when I first listened, my reaction was “What have I done?!?” but it all makes more sense now. It’s definitely a strong album, although I’m not sure that’s the right word to use – maybe “substantial” is better.’

PSo here’s an interesting What Not for you. When Christopher Golden was Oak King here some years back, he gave us ‘The Art of The Deal,’ a short story that I’ll not detail at all as it’s best to read without being told about it, so go here to read it.  And do not post it elsewhere as we’ve got exclusive digital rights for it.

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So let’s finish out this week with some more music from Altan. It’s ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ from their performance at the Folkadelphia Session, 7th of March, 2015. It’s a really sweet piece of Irish if I must say so myself.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Kitchen Tales

PCome in! Just give me a few minutes to finish the House books for the last year (or three), and I’ll be right with you. So, you’ve applied to work in the Kitchen, eh? Pleased to meet you. Let me tell you a little about what the job entails.

In all the decades that I’ve been on the Estate staff, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t some sort of celebration involving culinary treats and interesting drinkables. Certainly the accounts kept by my predecessors (going back centuries, I should add), show just how expensive their tastes could be. Importing caviar fit for the Winter Court of St. Petersburg could be considered excessive, but, in fact, rates as frugal compared to some of the gastronomic tales that abound here! The wedding feast of Jack and Brigid included wild boar on the menu, but getting the beast here from France involved a certain amount of, ahem, ‘fiscal diplomacy’ in our dealings with the customs men. I suppose that seeing as how the boar was, on arrival, very much alive, very large, very angry, very musky and very incontinent, they had a right to feel a little inconvenienced. Still, once the chef had roasted it slowly over a hickory fire it was simply delicious!

As you might have noticed, we also brew our own drink. Bjorn is the latest of a long line of brewmasters that have carried out their arcane craft here. So what shall we discuss? Oh, you want to know about those raggedy shaggedy bears. The story is that Walter, Brigid’s uncle on the Germanic side of her family, is visiting us right now. He’s a great, shaggy man with a full beard and long, long ponytail who goes waltzing with bears. Really. Truly. Now, Brigid notes that her fiddler of a husband (me) has been known to do some very odd things, so she says that Walter’s not all that odd — everyone likes to dance. He’s also keen on having a long conversation with Bjorn, our brewmaster, as he thinks that Bjorn is a long-lost relative of his . . .

Bjorn showed up here a long time ago in a raggedy long coat with a cask of Applejack on each of his oversized shoulders. He volunteered to make us all the ale and other libations that we lusted after so long as the bears he brought with him could stay in Oberon’s Wood. After some serious discussion, during which one keg got consumed, we agreed, as long as the bears only ate such things as the salmon from the river, berries, morels, and honey! (The latter provided by us as they must not touch Gus’ centuries old bee colonies.) And that’s how the bears came to live in our woods!

Now do I hear the sound of a fiddle playing ‘The Berne Bear Waltz’? Let’s see if the bears and Uncle Walter are at it again . . .

One rather long-lived member of the Neverending Session claims he remembers a Scottish bloke by the name of Burns that dropped in to the Pub one cold day. (Was it Robbie Burns? The teller of the tale won’t say.) The publican that day had a large cauldron of hot spiced Applejack going in the fireplace. This Burns drank some, then drank some more, and started telling tales. Almost caused the musicians of the Neverending Session to stop playing to listen to him. He only stopped (after many hours) to go for a much needed piss…

Another brew exclusive to us is Dragons Breath XXX Stout. Have you ever encountered a Brazilian brew called Xingu? If not, think Guinness on steroids. It’s that thick. But compared to Dragons Breath XXX Stout, Guinness is as weak as one of those American beers that we won’t mention here. One swallow of Dragons Breath will cause . . . oh, just drink it and you’ll will know what I mean. Good, eh? Here’s a health!P

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What’s New for the 1st of March: Bacon and Tea Considered, John Fogerty Live, An SF Play and Other Interesting Things

No one owns you, I know that. No one owns me. No one owns anyone. We just get to borrow each for a while. ― Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s End of the World Blues

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It’s noticeably warmer this past week with Spring Equinox soon to be. You can see the trees beginning to bear buds, and  one can sense that Spring is upon us as it always is by now. That doesn’t mean that we cannot have more snow storms as we often do but it’s no doubt the turning of the year.

On a different subject, it’s  entirely possible that you’ve noted our fascination with all things consumable. Be it a British TV series such as Two Fat Ladies, an exploration of Scottish whisky distilleries, the perfect Scottish fry-up, a cracking good chocolate bar, preferably dark, or perhaps a look at bourbon, America’s whisky as it’s been called, we never pass up an opportunity to do a review wherever possible. So look for more such reviews here.

PAn Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

For your winter reading pleasure, we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets looked at by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Robert’s review of 9Tail Fox whittles down the general genre label and gets to the heart of the story. ‘The book cover claims that Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox is ‘A novel of science fiction.’ Considering what science fiction has become over the past generation, that could well be valid — with some qualifications. I’m going to call it ‘slipstream’ in honor of its genre-bending tendencies and let it go at that.’ Ahh, but is it any good? Robert’s review lets you know.

Warner says that ‘The written word has been the standard mode of conveying information across time and distance for centuries. There was in Spring of 2019 an exhibit at the British Museum dedicated to the very topic of writing and its history. To accompany it the British Library put together Writing Making Your Mark with editor Ewan Clayton. Clayton is an excellent choice for editor, being already experienced in the subject and having written a celebrated volume on the subject, (The Golden Thread).  The British Library’s offering is a large and impressive volume, giving a brief history of the written word as well as a look into its potential futures.’

He has la ook at a re-issue of a classic SF  work: ‘Richard Matheson has become one of the legends of horror fiction, a formative figure, and it takes only a glance at the novel I Am Legend to see why. A now classic tale of apocalypse in which the conflict is reduced to man vs. vampires, it asks questions about not only society, but the monstrousness of one’s own view of the world and that of a culture. Collectors editions of such works are rare. While I Am Legend has had several editions, a new one is welcome.’

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Jennifer L.S. Pearsal’s Big Book of Bacon gets reviewed by Gus: ‘Yes bacon. We use a lot of bacon at this Scottish Estate. Bacon in cheddar and bacon rolls, bacon and tomatoes in eggs, bacon in beef stew for a little extra flavour. Even one enterprising Kitchen staffer even created ice cream with smoky bacon and chocolate as its flavour. It actually tasted rather good. Well you get the idea. So when I discovered this book in a pile of galleys sent to us, I decided to give it a review.’

Jeff Koehler and Fajer Al- Kaisi’s  Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea audiobook gets reviewed by Reynard: ‘Tea is my favourite beverage since I was resident in southern Asia some decades ago as it was much easier there to find good tea than it was to find even one cup of coffee that was anything but horrible except in the high-end tourist hotels which I generally didn’t frequent. ’

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Kage loved video with a fierce devotion that showed in her reviews, as we see here with her lead-in to the Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series that gleefully screwed historic accuracy royally in favour of a more entertaining story: ‘In the soul of every history geek, there is a hidden volume wherein are listed the names of History Geek Guilty Pleasures. Don’t try to deny it, fellow history geeks; you know it’s true.’

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Robert has some thoughts on Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call: ‘If any comic published in the last couple of decades typifies the intrusion of a “noir” sensibility into the field, it’s 100 Bullets. . . . In this first collected edition, we’re given two episodes in which the mysterious Agent Graves approaches people who have suffered unjustly. He gives them an attache case with a gun and 100 bullets, all untraceable, with the assurance that they can use them however they choose for redress and as soon as those bullets are recognized, any investigation will be called off.’

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Muzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s Yugoslav Folk Music which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’

Cat found a concert recording, John Fogerty’s The Long Road Home, to be a keeper:Though Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the best bands of the Sixties, I’m more fond of the recordings of the post-CCR career of vocalist John Fogerty. And his best recordings are by far the concert recordings, both the legit ones like this release and of course the many bootlegs done as soundboard recordings.’

Deb has an essay about Maddy Prior that she’s titled …And Maddy Dances: ‘Warning, up front, in advance: if you’re expecting a scholarly historical restrospective of Steeleye Span, you’re doomed to disappointment. (You also don’t know me very well, but that’s a different issue.) I’ve been a fan of theirs for over three decades, and I’m going to write about the way I’ve always listened to them, perceived them, felt them: prismatically, split into streams of sound and light over a central rock at the heart of the prism.’

Gary reviews Shalhevet by Divahn, a women’s ensemble singing religious songs of Middle Eastern Jews set to tunes from other cultures. ‘Led by the powerful Persian-American singer and composer Galeet Dardashti, Divahn’s latest release brings these traditional Sephardi and Mizrahi songs up to date with Western and Middle Eastern stringed instruments, Indian, Middle Eastern and Latin percussion, and lyrics in Hebrew, Persian and Arabic.’

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Our What Not this outing is by Jennifer who reviews a new science fiction play: Generation Red by Alexander Utz. It’s a fabulous illustration of The Marriage Box Rule. It’s belly-rubbin’-good meta. It’s like Kabuki, only, you know, science fiction.

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John Fogerty is a fascinating musician having been a very long time ago member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, but an artist in his own right for close to fifty years. So give a listen to him a few years back performing ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Blues’ which recorded a decade in Canada on a summers night. The song itself isn’t his but was was written by Cliff Hess and was first recorded and released by George Reneau in 1924, the same year it was written.

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What’s New for the 23rd of February: A Collaboration between Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett, Two of the Best-loved Fantasy Movies of the 1980s, Eight Classic SF Novels of the 1960s, Ritter Chocolates, Jazz Drumming, A Choice Zelazny, Live Nightnoise and Other Lively Matters

All of these things considered, it is not surprising that one can detect echoes, correspondences and even an eternal return or two within the work of a single author. The passage of time does bring changes, yea and alas; but still, I would recognize myself anywhere. — Roger Zelazny in his Unicorn Variations collection

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Yes, we’re hunkering down from the effects of the worst rains we’ve seen in generations here. Gus, our Estate Grounds Keeper, has his hands full making sure that none of the buildings get damaged from the high winds and torrential rains, but otherwise everyone’s inside until this passes, which it should by the time you’re reading this Edition.

So I’ve put together our usual eclectic Edition of books, music, food and such to tempt to open your purse strings. There’s everything from classic Sixties SF alongside the latest in a beloved offbeat detective series. There’s chocolate and hedgehog puppets and of course music.

So I’ll take your leave now as I smell Toll House cookies being delivered to the Library right now and I think they’d go very well indeed with a very large mug of hot chocolate made in my Office from that gift of Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix. Do join me after you read this Edition. I’ll try to save some cookies and cocoa!

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Cat has an interesting work 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 co-author and companion, Jane Lindskold. But unlike so many of this sort of collaboration, Donnerjack has Zelazny written all over it. This is important to emphasise as the online reviews that I looked at for it generally trashed it as not being true to the spirit of Zelazny!’

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.’

Warner has a look at the latest in a beloved detective series: ‘The Hap & Leonard series is one of Joe R. Lansdale’s most engaging works, a series of strange and fragmented crime stories which showcase two men who care for one another like brothers and find themselves frequently in complicated situations of one sort or another. The latest collection of these stories is Of Mice and Minestrone and follows Hap and, to a slightly lesser extent, Leonard through some of their childhood formative years up to the time the two reunite after a Vietnam-war related separation.‘

Looking for some classic SF to read on these long Winter nights? Well, Warner has the collection for you: ‘The Library of America’s Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s is another impressive feat by editor Gary K. Wolfe. As he explains in his introductions, stories in this two volume slipcase set were chosen both for quality and impact. In addition, he includes information about the selection process to avoid including volumes that appear elsewhere in the Library of America collection. Of those included, two are very worthy of note.’

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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.’

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Michael has a double bill for your viewing pleasure: ‘Some of the greatest fantasy movies in recent memory have come from the incomparable, unbeatable, and sadly never to be repeated collaborations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud. Take the magical madness of Henson’s muppets and the bizarre mythic imagery of Froud’s faeries, throw in some special effects and superb actors, and you get two of the best-loved fantasy movies of the 1980s, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.’

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April reviews the first volume in an ongoing series by David Petersen: ‘The year is 1152, treachery is afoot, and the Mouse Guard, defenders of all mice, must suss out the traitor in their midst before the Guard is destroyed. So goes the basic plot of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a graphic novel collection of Petersen’s award-winning comic. And just so there’s no confusion, Mouse Guard isn’t a nickname or colloquialism — the protagonists really are mice, the small, furry rodent kind.’

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Gary  enjoyed Wild Wild East by jazz drummer Sunny Jain. ‘It’s as wild a mashup of genres and styles as I’ve encountered in 30 years of reviewing music, and one of the most engaging and exciting releases of this young decade.’

Let’s have Michael say a few words about the next recording: ‘It would be easy to say that a collaboration between Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett was always inevitable, given their respective histories and their proclaimed admiration of each other’s work. It may be an example of retrospective inevitability now that it has actually happened in the form of the Wintersmith CD, however. In any case, the end result is one that is overwhelmingly a credit to all concerned; worthy of the names involved and their reputations.’

Robert has a look at a couple of concert hall staples, none other than Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 6: ‘There isn’t much to be said about Beethoven: there he is, take it or leave it. It is doubtful that anyone had more influence on the music of the 19th century than he did — even the archenemies Brahms and Wagner both claimed Beethoven as their artistic forebear.’

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From the Archives a long time ago, comes our What Not this time: ‘“OK, you do know that we have a resident hedgehog at this Scottish Estate by the name of Hamish? So it won’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.’”

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So let’s finish off with some choice music from Nightnoise, to wit ‘Toys, Not Ties’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-six years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and also included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Spring is Coming. Eventually.

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The time of the year  when cold, nasty weather here at the Estate is more common than not is upon us as I sit writing these words in my office behind the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room. A freezing sleet is being driven by a steady wind and even Gus, our Head Gardener who is outside in all manner of weather, is inside consulting with Mrs. Ware, the Estate Head Cook, on how many of the Estate geese she’ll need for our Candlemas feast this year.

I think the promise of yet more bread pudding with rum and dark chocolate also figured into his desire to be in the Kitchen. And I see that a goodly number of the Neverending Session musicians have taken up residence in the sitting area of the Kitchen where I heard then playing a hornpipe attributed to Billy Pigg when I passed by the Kitchen earlier today.

The Kitchen here is quite large as its been expanded several times down the years, most recently thirty years ago, when we added more yurts for visitors to stay in. And the Kitchen’s actually in an area of the sub basement though it’s got lots of windows facing the back courtyard there.  That expansion added a cozy sitting area where the Neverending Session as I noted above is oft times playing in the Winter. And it’s not at all  unusual to the Stitchers group to take up residence there.

It’s a mostly throughly modern with gas stoves, four eight burner Vikings, along with walk-in coolers and of course restaurant sized walk-in freezers. There’s always a stone soup of whatever the staff there thinks is appropriate to toss in — one time it might be lamb, lentils, and onions, another time it might be beef from High Ridge Farm with veggies we grew, or my favourite, smoked turkey with veggies and dumplings.

Mostly throughly modern because we do have an eight burner wood stove with a griddle area that those lovely soups and stews, plus other slows cooked food gets done on. Not to mention  superb pancakes and thick sliced bacon.

The best thing I think about the Kitchen is the fresh baked goodies from muffins with Turkish dates in the morning to a late night snack of double dark chocolate cake with a scoop of Madagascar vanilla ice cream. Or the warm enough to melt butter whole wheat rolls with the soup of the day for the Eventide meal.

Damn I made myself hungry! Shall we head down to the Kitchen for a snack? I heard that there might well be carrot cake. With cream cheese frosting. Doesn’t that sound tasty?

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What’s New for the 16th of February: On Breakfast, Judy Collins Live, Cats, Tolkien in Person, Champagne, Music from Just About Everywhere, and much more

One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast. — Robert A. Heinlein’s Friday

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Potatoes… Onions…  Smoked salmon… Well-aged cheddar cheese… Oh the eggs? Chicken, duck or goose? Your choice as we’ve  got all of ‘em. They’ve all got their own unique colour, flavour and, yes, texture.  The Kitchen has decided to do omelets on this Winter morning along with thick sliced bacon and oh so delicious corn bread with warmed butter for breakfast on this Winter morning. Oh and of course coffee. With cream.

Yes we like breakfast here a lot. It’s been covered here in the form of baked eggs, a history of breakfast, a Bison Uncured Bacon and Cranberry Bar (really it tastes great), Spam: A Biography (it is a superb breakfast food, particularly with eggs and sharp cheese) and Charles Stross on the full Scottish breakfast to name but a few of the things we’ve covered. Care to join us? Of course you do!

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Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest with illustrations by Charles Vess is based on A Circle of Cats by the same talented duo, which Mia reviewed here. Cat found a lot to like in this charming novel, so read his review to see why he liked it.

Jack has a rather charming book for us to consider: ‘Not surprisingly, the Kinrowan Estate library where the Green Man offices are contains many items related to J. R. R. Tolkien and his works. Tolkien is one of the best creators of fantasy that ever lived, period. And the recent films based on The Lord of The Rings have caused a resurgence of interest in him and his works. I have no doubt that you’ve read both The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, as you wouldn’t be reading this review if you hadn’t, but have you ever encountered the man who wrote those works? Well, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien will give you a look at Tolkien himself in ways that are both charming and perhaps surprising.’

Robert has a look at an entry in Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age series, this one titled Blood and Iron: ‘One of the freshest and most interesting developments in fantasy literature over the past decade or two has been the emergence of what I tend to call “contemporary fantasy.” Known also as “urban fantasy” or sometimes “mythic literature,” it combines the trappings and motifs of classic fantasy and sometimes horror with a modern-day, usually urban milieu. It also moves freely into other genres. Call it fantasy’s answer to cyberpunk: it has that kind of fluidity and, more often than not, that kind of hard-edged, dark vision.’

Warner has a choice bit of Sherlockian fiction for us: ‘Interesting new points of view for Sherlock Holmes tales are difficult, and even finding a new way to express an old point of view is impressive. Michelle Birkby, in All Roads Lead to Whitechapel, has produced a very nice mystery, one that simultaneously feels true to Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories while also producing an interesting and unusual read. The beginning of the unusual approach can be seen in the simple fact that rather than focusing upon Holmes and Watson, the story features them as secondary characters, with none other than Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson as the leads.’

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Denise decided to go with the Valentine’s weekend vibe and pop open a (mini)bottle or two of  Cook’s Brut Champagne 187ml Bottle 4 pack. Wait, you ask; has our resident beer snob decided to slum it? Yep, and she’s just fine with that. ‘Sure, the purists will scoff, but it’s a lovely bottle to crack open on a Taco Tuesday when you’re feeling a bit Treat Yo Self.’ So why not treat  yourself and read her in-dept review of this bubbly!

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Jennifer loves the new Edward Norton film Motherless Brooklyn, which tears a strip off the unholy trinity of commercial real estate, public works projects, and corrupt government with a big fat creamy jazz-soaked noir project full of stuff to love.

Motherless Brooklyn talks explicitly about the role of racism in the (re)building of New York, but class is implicit, too, in everything from characters’ dress to their accents, homes, and the way they walk: class and race, race and class, joining and dividing these New Yorkers. PS, if you think you can’t get a crush on a guy with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome, tough girl, give this a look.

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Gary takes an extensive look at three publications that marked the 25th anniversary of Maus, Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking graphic novel about his family’s experiences in the Holocaust. They included the original books, Vol. 1, My Father Bleeds History and Vol. 2, And Here My Troubles Began; and a hardcover volume called MetaMaus, about the making of the original works.

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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.’

He next has a review of an album by jazz saxophonist Oded Tzur. The mostly mellow music on Here Be Dragons is a blend of jazz and Indian classical styles and techniques. He says that if you listen closely, ‘you realize that this isn’t some variant of smooth jazz, just utterly controlled melodicism.’

He then says of porous structures a recent release by an acoustic quartet led by Belgian multi-instrumentalist and avant garde composer Ruben Machtelinckx: ‘Each of the eight performances recorded here is a variation on gently plucked guitars, high-pitched droning from reeds or voice, and a compendium of percussion.’

Gary rounds out our music reviews with a recording by Amarillis which has Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina and it gets high praise from him as a  contradancer: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home.’

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Our What Not is our perennial question of what’s your favourite Tolkien. Catherynne picked The Silmarillion: ‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’

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It’s been bloody cold here so let’s se if I can find something to remind us that every season will pass on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server. Ahhh Judy Collins will do very nice. ‘Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)’ was recorded by her at the Newport Folk Festival fifty five years ago this coming July. (Now I’m feeling old.) It’s a lovely take on a very old story that reminds us that everything is transient, even this time of bitter cold.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pub Rules

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Like any good pub, there are of course rules at The Green Man Pub. Everyone is welcome, provided they can behave like a reasonable being. (I don’t say human as some of our visitors are most decidedly not human, although most are humanoid in shape.)

No one gets drunk in our Pub, no one. And no one, other than visiting musos, drinks for free (with a few exceptions) here. Even raising your voice in what the Barkeep thinks is an agressive manner will get you banned from the Pub. Never have a staff — save one several decades back that was coming off a bad breakup — been banned as it effectively meant being ostracized from the Estate, but we’ve had several visitors to the Estate, band members all, who thought high spirits meant being really rowdy. Neither they nor their bands got invited back.

All manner of currency are excepted from the local pound scots to the decidedly odd such as the Roman coins the Traveling Doctor, as she called herself, offered that were as if newly minted. And no one runs a tab that extends beyond closing time. Yes, we close — generally between four and noon for cleaning and restocking as need be. Besides nobody should really be drinking that early in the day.

Buying rounds is allowed but the barkeep on duty has the right to ask for payment upon ordering. And we will ask for payment before pouring the decidedly expensive single drams, some of which cost over a hundred euros a shot. Just prudent policy on our part.

Though talking and general goings-on are expected when the Neverending Session is playing, respect and paying attention to visiting musos, storytellers, and such are indeed expected. And you will be asked to leave or be quiet by someone rather quickly.

That’s pretty much it. Otherwise just enjoy yourself.

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What’s New for the 9th of February: Horslips live, Bourbon, Definitive Earthsea, Traveling the Pacific, Robin Hood, and more

Every good fiddler has a distinctive sound. No matter how many play the same tune, each can’t help but play it differently. Some might use an up stroke where another would a down. One might bow a series of quick single notes where another would play them all with one long draw of the bow. Some might play a double stop where others would a single string. If the listener’s ear was good enough, she could tell the difference. But you had to know the tunes, and the players, for the differences were minute. — Fiaina in Charles de Lint’s Drink Down the Moon

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Ahhhh, you’re in the mood for a really great bourbon, eh? I’d recommend the WhistlePig fifteen Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey. We just got it in and it’s proved popular among bourbon drinkers willing to pay dearly for it. It’s finished off for six months in White Oak barrels harvested on the WhistlePig farm in Vermont. Bloody good if I must say so myself.

Oh and Gary has a loving look at Reid Mitenbuler’s Bourbon Empire which bears the subtitle of The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. A history of bourbon lovingly told? Need I say more to get you to read his review and afterwards the book itself which of course is in our Library? I think not!

Now let’s get this Edition started which again has Whovian reviews, along with anchovies (yes anchovies), music composed by de Lint, Carla Bley‘s newest recording, another exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and music from the Horslips. Shall we get started?

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Chris has a review of The Books of Earthsea: ‘Saga Press has 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.’

Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’

Warner has two Doctor Who reviews of which this is the first first: ‘The final novelization of classic era Doctor Who has arrived with Eric Seward’s adaptation of his own Revelation of the Daleks. This volume has been a long time coming, with over thirty years between the airing of the television story and this release. Working from the relatively well regarded Colin Baker Sixth Doctor story, Seward brings a tale of Davros re-engineering the Daleks, a strange and deliberately anachronistic behaving DJ to the dead, honorable and impressive assassins, food shortages with familiar solutions, and planet wide graveyards, to  simply name some of the elements.’

His other Whovian book is a look at a collection of short stories: ‘One of the noticeable oddities about Doctor Who as a franchise is the tendency to use and reference historical personalities. Vincent van Gogh, William Shakespeare,  Charles Dickens, and any number “of royal figures have appeared on the television series. Many more characters have appeared in the various books, comics and audio dramas featuring the the Doctor. The short story collection Doctor Who: Star Tales represents an interesting attempt to push this aspect to the fore by dealing exclusively in stories of the famous throughout history, and how their experiences and lives crossed with those of the Doctor. The celebrities range from actors to scientists, and from the recent past to the ancient.’

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Either you love ’em or you have to run screaming from any room containing them and flush your mouth and sinuses, or at least your brain, until the very idea that you have shared the planet with them has been washed away. Enter at your own risk, because Jennifer’s about to get anchovy.

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Tim recalls a film classic (from 1938, no less), 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.’

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April is back with the next installment of Bill Willlingham’s Fables series: ‘In this ninth installment in the ongoing Fables series, Bill Willingham is back in top form, delivering solid character development and intriguing plot in spades. A mix of multi-part and one-shot stories, Sons of Empire introduces new characters and provides insight into the lives of others while driving the over-arching story forward.’

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Cat has some comments on a very non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’

The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper and fiddler, that her live show features ‘… tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving.’  Ed  certainly agrees, as his review of her Debateable Lands is quite glowing.

We get the nicest things in the post, which is how Lahri ended up reviewing Celtic singer-songwriter Jez Lowe’s Live at the Davy Lamp. He comments, “Jez Lowe is one of the consummate performers in Celtic music today. Hailing from the Northumbrian lands of Northeast England, near the Scottish Borders, he brings a distinctively northern edge to his music.’

‘In addition to her prodigious output of composing, performing and recording in a wide variety of settings, 81-year-old Carla Bley has been playing in this trio with bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard for some 25 years,’ Gary notes in his review of their latest release Life Goes On. ‘Theirs is the kind of musical relationship that, when it’s right, is capable of producing astounding results.’

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Robert takes us on a tour of yet another exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: Traveling the Pacific: ‘The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on the planet, at its widest stretching about 11,000 miles across — almost half the diameter of the earth. This is just one of the fun facts that lead into the Field Museum’s exhibit “Traveling the Pacific”. The focus of the exhibition is the islands, of which there are 20,000-30,000 — a firm count is hard to determine, since many of the islands are too small to be seen from space — another fun fact from the lead-in.’

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It’s certainly quite definitely Winter here as the calendar reckons such things and it feels like it with cold mornings and snowy, chilly days. So let’s see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox, our server of all things digital, to brighten us up a bit… I’m choosing  the Horslips doing ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ as their cover of the John Playford composition is outstanding. It was recorded at The Spectrum, Philadelphia on the 24th Of March  forty years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Ghostly Librarian

PI haven’t seen him despite having The Sight but several persons down the years have said they’ve seen a man dressed in Victorian Era clothes and looking apparently quite solid. He looked to in his late fifties or early sixties, tall and skinny, wearing sliver rimmed glasses. He was putting away books on the shelves well after midnight according to one person and a Several Annie some sixty years ago was unable to sleep, as the Estate Journal of that time notes, and decided to get something and was surprised to see a person in the Library at three in the morning.

That’s when it got weird. She said what she called The Librarian turned to her and asked her what book she was looking for. She didn’t think anything of it beyond the oddness of the hour — no Librarian ever works that late, not even the very much unlamented and hopefully quite dead Grubb — and so she said she was looking for the latest Christie and he said it was on the desk waiting to be put away.

She said thanks, started to turn away, and remembered that she was also looking for any Sayers she hadn’t read, so she turned back and watched him fading away to nothing within a few moments. She decided that getting back to her bed was a very good idea and got out of there was fast as she could.

The last time that he was seen was by another Several Annie only twenty years back. She saw him in the early evening when Iain and Catherine were off on a trip to the Nordic region for a much deserved vacation. It appeared to her that he had simply decided to fill in as Librarian while Iain was elsewhere. Now that’s what I call a dedicated professional!

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What’s New for the 2nd of February: Johnny Clegg’s Final Album, More Fables Considered, Live Steeleye Span, Some Things Whovian, An Unusually Flavoured KitKat and Other Matters

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. — She Who is The Thirteenth Doctor

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Spring isn’t that far away with lambing season upon us, a sign of the coming warmth always, but you wouldn’t know it right now as we’re going a major clusterfuck of a snow storm starting yesterday and expected to be here ’til tomorrow. It’s kept the staff of Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and Groundskeeper, up around the clock. My Several Annies, the Library Apprentices, are off helping him out by watching the soon to give birth ewes. So I’m putting this Edition together by myself.

We’re avid fans of The Doctor here, and the Thirteenth incarnation has quite pleased nearly everyone saved reactionary fanboys, many of whom frankly hate the entire rebooted Who. Denise reviewed Her first season thisway and even looked several of Her figures including the Funko Rock Candy one. And Cat has a spoiler filled review of a Thirteenth Doctor episode that’s as much about the nature of spoilers as it is about that episode. So let’s get started. Oh and Warner looks at Doctor Who fanfic by an earlier Companion as well.

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A novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans  by Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden is definitely rated adult by Richard: ‘Readers who come to The Map of Moments looking for something similar to Mind the Gap are in for a rude shock. Where the first novel of the Hidden Cities was essentially YA, The Map of Moments is steeped in sex and death, a whirlwind ride through centuries of secret history marked by murder, cannibalism, and lust.’

Robert takes us into the adventures of a very unusual detective agency: ‘Daemon Eyes is an omnibus edition of Camille Bacon-Smith’s two novels of the half-demon Evan Davis; his father, known to mortals as Kevin Bradley; and Lily Ryan, another demon. The three set themselves up as detectives, doing business as Bradley, Ryan and Davis, specializing in cases that are, shall we say, something out of the ordinary. In addition to the two novels, this edition includes a prologue that fills in Evan’s history (which is very helpful).’

Warner has a sort of fanfic for us: ‘There is a long history in the Doctor Who franchise of actors taking on writing credits. Colin Baker, Mathew Watterhouse, Nicholas Briggs, Tom Baker, and others have written or co-written adventures featuring their characters. Sophie Aldred has (with the assistance of Steve Cole and Mike Tucker) joined this company with At Childhood’s End, a tale of her screen character Ace long after her adventures in the TARDIS have ended and she has instead taken to running A Charitable Earth. Starting as the story of a former companion still investigating, the book becomes an examination of coming to grips with the past.’

Next up is something a bit more toothy. (Sorry I couldn’t resist.) He says: ‘Carrie Vaugh has been writing urban fantasy for many years, and her Kitty Norville series is only one example of her work. It is a series focusing on a werewolf, and like many werewolf stories, vampires come into play. Feeling a bit like a side step away from the main narrative, and indeed barely dealing with Kitty or her other friends, The Immortal Conquistador deals with a particular vampire from the series.‘

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You know that there are lots of cool and unusual flavors of KitKats out there, don’t you? Well, if that’s news to you, let Denise start you on the road to knowledge with her review of Nestlé’s Kumamon Ikinari Dango KitKat. Though you may want to use her review as a way to discover other flavors… ‘I’d seen their delicious Matcha flavor…but missed out by not picking them up immediately. So here we are, with Dango “flavored” candies as a consolation prize. And to quote an old meme, I am disappoint.’ 

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Cat brings us his thoughts on another Dr. Who episode, “Fugitive of The Judoon” — but he starts with a warning: ‘Understand right now that if you really, really don’t like spoilers and you’ve not watched this episode, that you should go away now and do something else as this review consists of nothing really but spoilers. I’m serious — just go away.’

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April was not quite so enthusiastic about the eighth volume of Fables: ‘Wolves, the eighth installment of Bill Willingham’s long-running series of fairy tale characters alive and well in our world (and at war with a fierce Adversary) finds Mowgli of Jungle Book fame still hunting down the Big Bad Wolf on behalf of Prince Charming, embattled mayor of Fabletown. Mowgli’s travels take him to Russia, then back across the Bering Strait to Alaska. We get to see him show off his buff body, unarmed combat skills and preternaturally keen tracking skills. To Bigby’s dismay, he’s found all too easily (by his standards), and made a offer: perform a task for Prince Charming and a way will be found for Bigby to live with Snow White and their cubs on the outskirts of the Farm.’

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We lost another great one as Scott notes: ‘In the fall of 2017, South African singer Johnny Clegg released what he knew would be his last album.  Clegg had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and while he’d already managed to complete a world tour after getting the diagnosis, the disease was winning.  King of Time is appropriately titled.  The album is very short — it has seven songs spanning 24 minutes — but Clegg was a busy man trying to get as much done in whatever time he had left.’

Gary says up 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.’

Joselle doesn’t like this time of year but a recording called An Ancient Muse cheered her up: ‘Normally, I can’t stand winter. It’s cold, it’s dismal, and I tend to get sick a lot. Nonetheless, winter 2006 has made me one happy woman, in spite of the general nastiness. This is largely thanks to an event that I and several other folk/Celtic/world/eclectic music fans have been anticipating for nine years?’

The self-named 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.’

Richard wraps up our music reviews with high praise 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.’

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As some gear up for the annual football prom that is the Super Bowl, many of us here settle in to enjoy the commercials. One that’s gotten some advance notice is from Planters, who have decided to kill of their beloved mascot Mr. Peanut after 104 years of nutty service. (Gotta admit there were giggles when Michael Che did a “CREAM-ated” bit on the January 25th SNL.) But then Kobe Bryant, his young daughter, and seven other individuals died in a horrific plane crash…and death as marketing just isn’t feeling great right now. Planters is even pulling the social media hype for the commercial, though it may still play during the game as those spots cost companies millions and I’m guessing Planters doesn’t want to eat that loss.

Killing Mr. Peanut was a rather morbid stunt from the jump –  even though it’s sure to be a temporary thing –  and now it feels tacky too. Mr. Peanut dying in a fiery crash in one ad, then another for his funeral? It’s certainly bound to put an uncomfortable moment in this Sunday’s festivities. Cashew, anyone?

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So let’s have some music from what I consider the best electrified folk band ever that Great Britain gave birth to, Steeleye Span. Over forty years of live performances have produced a lot of excellent soundboard recordings. so let’s  start off with a perennial favourite of fans: ‘Tam Lin’ as performed at Fairport Convention’s Cropredy Festival, August of 2006, before finishing with  ‘Long Lankin’ from the same festival. Lovely, isn’t it?

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Enter The Sandman

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It was well past the witching hour on a night when a hard rain was beating against the windows in our Pub when the stranger clad in her woollen cloak dyed a black so dark that I wasn’t quite sure I could see it started her story: ‘The Sandman is a far more dangerous, feral creature than modern folk think of him as being. The Sandman of old didn’t make children sleepy.  No, he gave them nightmares that harmed them deeply for years after they became adults.’

I asked why had The Sandman became a fairly harmless bogeyman. She reminded me and the other listeners that the original versions of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were full of incest, murder, and even cannibalism, but were watered down substantially by the Victorian Era translators who brought them first into the English language.

So The Sandman as she told the story was a creature cloaked in darkness whose face is so hideous that it made children scream. He would get very close to them and whisper in a voice so low that only his victim, and yes they are his victims, could hear the awful things he said to them. Whatever it was that he said, it made children wake up screaming.

There is a much darker version of this tale that says that The Sandman was so hideous that his victims became literally blind from seeing him. Call it nightmare creature induced blindness. I hadn’t heard this version but it sounded plausible. It’s surely a scary idea.  She added that there was a rare variant of The Sandman myth that said he induced the fear in children so that he could be the last thing they saw before he tore their eyes out leaving them blind, and also so he could savour the salty tears of fear in their eyes as he ate them down like treats.

She drank deeply of her Winter Ale and ended by saying ‘Pleasant dreams, everyone.’

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What’s New for the 26th of January: Lit Crit, Pulp Fiction, More Beer, King Arthur, Nordic Music, and more

After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink. — Iain Banks in Raw Spirit

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Yes, that’s a very fine Laphroaig quarter-century-old, cask strength single malt. You can thank Reynard  for it. One of the jobbers we deal with sent him a note about it. Yes, it is very costly, which is why I saw you wince when he quoted the single dram price to you. And as always, both of us strongly recommend the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as we believe it’s simply the best look at single malts ever done.

Indeed, it is a fine whiskey on a winter’s night when it’s cold and there’s nowhere to go, so let’s look at what we’ve got for this edition for you. I know we’ve a bevy of interesting books, as always, and there’s great music too and we’ll just have to wait and see what else we got that will surprise you, as I’m sure there’ll  be something else that will tickle your fancy. So let’s get started…

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Gary reviews a book of literary criticism about Iain M. Banks Culture series. He says Simone Caroti’s The Culture Series ‘is valuable reading for anyone who wants to move into a deeper understanding of what that series is really about, where it stands in the history of SF and literature, and why it’s important.’

We’d be remiss not to direct you to one of his Culture reviews, so here’s his look at The Hydrogen Sonata which according to him is ‘a book of equal parts jaw-dropping wonder and world-shattering violence, relief is offered by the Ships: their names themselves and the droll and witty dialog between and among them as they go about debating their course of action and concocting rationalizations for once again meddling in the affairs of another civilization.’

Warner delves into a crime story that holds its own in the genre: ‘Blood Sugar is quite a good little crime story, and a very nice example of psychological horror. There are characters one wouldn’t expect, twists and turns in both narrative and development, and very clever stylistic developments. This is a very clever but extremely dark story, very well told and easy to recommend for a good quick read.’

Next, he goes further into pulp crime fiction with Max Allan Collins’ Killing Quarry: ‘There is something nice about seeing an old character, genre, or style revived. Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins once again delivers an adventure of his ’70s pulp character Quarry, a Vietnam veteran who finds himself dealing with frequent strange criminal conflicts in his role as a hit man.’

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Denise is back with yet another brew review – this go-round it’s Yuengling’s Hershey’s Chocolate Porter. ‘Yuengling knew what they were doing when they collaborated with Hershey’s. And the brewery definitely let the chocolatier take the wheel.’ Read the full review to find out exactly what she thought!

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We’ve got two films reviewed this time, both of the Arthurian mythos, and both by the same reviewer it turns out.

A rather  brutal take on the Arthurian mythos draws this comment by reviewer Asher: ‘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.’

He goes on to state forthrightly that Mists of Avalon which is based on the Marion Zimmer Bradley novel ‘is a revisionist Arthurian tale. The film opens much like Braveheart‘s “Historians in England will say I am a liar…” with an agonized and weary, almost crucified Morgaine narrating — “No one knows the real story. Most of what you know… is nothing but lies” — as her boat glides into the mists, a device that welded this viewer to his seat, not wanting to miss any of the necessary adjustments to the legend.’

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India shaped the British Empire every bit as much  the British shaped India over the centuries of ofttimes brutal occupation. Peter Milligan’s John Constantine: Hellblazer India, says Cat, ‘neatly plays off the British experience in India and what happens when that experience takes a horrible turn into the supernatural world that Constantine knows all too well.’

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Gary reviews aloha a new album by Son Little, whose stage name sounds like a Delta blues singer. ‘But although there’s a component of acoustic blues to his music, and some bluesy distorted electric guitar on a couple of tracks, what he’s making is old-school soul and R&B, liberally mixed with elements of classic rock and dare I say garage rock, and much more.’

Eclectic is the name of the game with Joe Russo’s phér•bŏney, which Gary says is a mostly instrumental album of electronic and analog music. ‘Not much like the majority of music I listen to, but it’s good to stray out of the comfort zone. These are some serious musicians having a bit of fun, which almost always results in something worth listening to.’

Finally, Gary brings us up to speed with music from the enigmatically named Squirrel Flower, ‘the stage name of the Boston-based singer-songwriter Ella O’Connor Williams, making her recording debut with the beautifully realized I Was Born Swimming … In an alternate universe I could hear a young Patsy Cline singing some of these numbers, which orbit around themes of movement and stasis, travel and home.’

Ranarop — Call of the Sea Witch is a recording Iain really liked — ‘Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.’

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Our What Not this edition is the matter of Arthur and the various tellings of his myth which  are writ both deep and wide upon the British folklore. (Robert Holdstock makes good use of that folklore in his Ryhope Wood cycle.) So let me offer you up A Gazetteer of Arthurian Onomastic and Topographic Folklore. Caitlin R. Green in her dense nineteen page article in Arthurian Notes & Queries lays out an argument for where Arthur fits in British folklore. It’s the usually dense academic prose but still worth reading if you got a keen interest in this subject.

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So let’s have some Nordic music to see us off on this not very pleasant Winter afternoon. ‘Vedergällningen’ by Garmarna, a Swedish band That has Emma Hardelin as their vocalist. The cut itself is of unknown origin but likely is at least twenty years old.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Old Ben

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Dear Anna,

You asked about the story you’d heard about Old Ben, the Steward in the early Sixteen Hundreds, who helped create the publishing house that is now here. I can’t tell you much about him as the records of where he came from or what he had for formal training as a printer is not recorded in the Estate Journals.

Yes, it’s true that the first thing Old Ben did was write and publish the first true history of the Estate. Or so they thought at the time. We now know that he, errrr, lied. Or if you prefer, Old Ben told his story in a way that he apparently thought was best for the Estate.

It’s a masterful piece of fiction accounting for all that a normal Estate would have, including a cleverly constructed history of the Kinrowan family all the way back to the Conquest. He even included genealogical charts for the family and insisted that somewhere on the Estate there was a Kinrowan family graveyard. There isn’t any such graveyard. A later Steward got the Head Librarian and his Several Annies to search the Archives and they also conducted a physical survey of the grounds that took a decade to complete. They found a number of unmarked grave sites but none that could possibly be a Kinrowan family graveyard.

Why Old Ben did this is unknown to this day, as he even lied in his Journal. Quite amazingly lied. And no one had the slightest clue he was doing this as they assumed he was just doing something he wanted to do. It was ap Owen, a much later Steward who realized that what he said was not what local folk remembered and ap Owen trusted them more than he did Old Ben.

Some of what — no, let me correct that — most of what he wrote became received history here. It’s even possible that he created the story of the Neverending Session, the myth of the Jacks and Jills, and certainly created the origins of the Estate itself. But since most of it is quite entertaining, no one cares if it’s really true. Well, Iain cares.

Until next time, Gus

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What’s New for the 19th of January: Mike Resnick, Beer, Dr. Who (Again), Music from Many Places, Egypt, and more

All that anxiety and anger, those dubious good intentions, those tangled lives, that blood. I can tell about it or I can bury it. In the end, we’ll all become stories. Or else we’ll become entities. Maybe it’s the same.  — Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder

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Ahh, that coffee. Yes, it’s cardamom spiced, which I admit that you Yanks most likely haven’t encountered. The Kitchen staff here’s been making it for those of us addicted to it since, oh, I think Alexandra Margaret Quinn was Head Gardener here, and I usually drink it every day. Ours is Turkish in origin. Well, Ottoman really. Nibbles to go with it, of course, are good. I favour freshly baked chocolate rugelach which Kitchen staffer Rebekah from Israel gave us.

We like chocolate a lot here, as you can tell from our reviews of many things chocolate, and we’re always pleased to see a new way of appreciating it, but even I was surprised by the amazingly good dessert Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff served up this past eventide meal: dark chocolate bread pudding with cardamon flavored ice cream! Sounds weird but actually tasted great!

Now  I suggest we  had down to the Kitchen as there’s Toll House cookies right out of the oven being offered up with eggnog per the recipe of Jennifer, one of our Winter Queens offered up once upon a Winter evening.

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Robert here. In honor of Mike Resnick, one of the most awarded authors in the field of speculative fiction, who passed away on January 9, 2020, this week’s book section is devoted to reviews of several of his works.

If I remember correctly, the first of Resnick’s novels that I read was Santiago. Just to give you a taste of this one, here’s the opening: ‘They say his father was a comet and his mother a cosmic wind, that he juggles planets as if they were feathers and wrestles with black holes just to work up an appetite. They say he never sleeps, and that his eyes burn brighter than a nova, and that his shout can level mountains.’ It gets better.

Resnick’s imagination was — well, rich, I guess, is the best way to describe it. He wrote several novels set in the ‘Weird West,’ an American West, peopled by characters who are part of our folklore, with a distinct twist. Cat got dibs on the first in the series: ‘Though billed as steampunk, The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale is far more original than most of that genre, as it is tightly focused on a small set of characters and what they will do over a fairly short period of time, so the technology never overwhelms the characters in this tale.’

The first of this series that I ran across was The Doctor and the Kid: ‘Mike Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid is an installment in his stories of the Weird West — an alternate universe in which the westward expansion of the United States has been halted at the Mississippi River by the magic of Indian medicine men. That doesn’t stop a few intrepid souls from making the journey to what would become the American West.’ I liked the series enough that I went to on read The Doctor and the Rough Rider and The Doctor and the Dinosaurs.

Resnick wasn’t finished with alternate history. Faith got to read and comment on The Other Teddy Roosevelts: ‘There are seven stories in the collection, all plausible (well, maybe except for the vampire and the extraterrestrials in Cuba), all nicely-researched to make them fit in with documented events in Roosevelt’s life, all fascinating. The eighth piece, “The Unsinkable Teddy Roosevelt,” consists of facts and anecdotes about Roosevelt.’

And yet again — Denise dove into Dragon America and emerged smiling: ‘I’d bet that early colonists were surprised, even frightened, by some of the strange new creatures America had to offer. But I’m sure nothing surprised them more than seeing dragons soaring overhead. Wait, you never heard about the dragons? Looks like schools just don’t seem to teach anything really important nowadays. Or maybe that’s because dragons don’t exist in the history we know. But what if they did? Well, they’d probably be pretty close to what Mike Resnick describes in Dragon America.’

Next in my adventures in the protean Mike Resnick was his series about John Justin Mallory, who — well, this, from my review of Stalking the Unicorn and Stalking the Vampire, should explain it: ‘“Protean” I say, because now Pyr has issued two of Resnick’s entries into the “fantasy noir detective” subgenre, tales of John Justin Mallory, a private investigator in a Manhattan that parallels our own and sometimes intrudes. Unless we’re intruding on it.’ And after that, of course, I had to go on to Stalking the Zombie.

Michael also had a go at the first volume in this series: ‘It’s supernatural investigation with a surreal twist, filled with sly humor, comic undertones, and pulp sensibilities. In short, it’s as though Ross MacDonald and Monty Python had gotten drunk with Lewis Carroll, and written a book together. Stalking the Unicorn is clever and funny, and one of those books I return to every so often just for the satisfaction of a familiar, well-told semi-urban fantasy.

Kilimanjaro could be considered a departure for Resnick, had he not already demonstrated a phenomenal range in his work. It’s a hard book to describe, so let me just give you this summation: ‘Kilimanjaro is a gentle book with a hopeful attitude and a somewhat dated moral, deeply concerned with good people in conflict for the best of reasons. For some readers, that may be enough, or it may be nothing at all.’

Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks is a collection of stories that, once again, is hard to describe, although there is a unifying theme: ‘The overriding metaphor of this collection is “on safari.” Take that in the widest sense: although there are a couple of stories that do deal directly with safaris (“Hunting the Snark” and “Safari 2103 A.D.”), the stories are about the hunt in a much wider sense.’

Resnick didn’t limit himself to fiction, as evidenced by a collaboration with Barry N. Malzberg. Faith lays it out for us: ‘The Business of $cience Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing is a collection of essays from “The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues,” a regular feature of the SFWA Bulletin. (The SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.) It’s another excellent example of WYSIWYG in the area of titles, because this is exactly what you get, a discussion of the business of writing and publishing science fiction by two experts in the field, for other authors and would-be authors.’

Another example of Resnick’s forays into non-fiction is a collection of WorldCon Guest of Honor Speeches, co-edited with Joe Siclari. Kellly got to wade through this one: ‘The World Science Fiction Convention is the most venerable of all the various annual gatherings of SF fandom, and it’s arguably the most important of them all, as it is at each Worldcon that the highest awards in SF, the Hugos, are awarded. Since the first Worldcon in 1939, there have been 66 such gatherings, with the only non-Worldcon years coming during the final three years of World War II. At each Worldcon there has been a Guest of Honor, usually selected on the basis of lifetime achievement in contributions to the genre; much of the time the Guests of Honor are authors, but there have also been illustrators, publishers, and editors named as Guest of Honor. The position of Worldcon Guest of Honor carries with it a single requirement: the recipient must deliver a speech to the convention. This book, therefore, gathers more than thirty of these speeches.’

That’s just the tip of the iceberg that is the work of Mike Resnick. As you may have gathered, he’s worth looking into if you haven’t already.

And now, back to Reynard for the rest of this week’s edition.

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Welcome welcome!  Denise here, and I’ve got a beer for you that’ll warm up a cold January night. Oliver Brewing Co.’s Creator Destroyer is a lovely espresso brown ale, with lots of twists and turns. ‘As the name suggests, this brew is a mix of contradictions. Sweet nose, peppery bite. Smooth pour, saucy bubbles.’ Ah, but what did I really think? Read the review to find out all the info!

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Cat looks at Doctor Who’s The Unicorn and The Wasp episode, a Tenth Doctor Story: ‘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.’

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April has a look at the next two collections in Bill Willingham’s Fables: ‘Bill Willingham’s wonderfully developed series about fairy tales living among us today extends two more volumes with Homelands and Arabian Nights (And Days).’ Dive in and enjoy.

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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.’

The intersection of Finnish and Balkan folk music for women’s voices is where Gary found Finn Emmi Kujanpää’s new recording Nani. ‘On this project, Kujanpää combines her strong, clear soprano with voices of the Bulgarian group on songs that address women’s lives – their joys and longing and sorrows, as well as what are now known worldwide as #MeTo topics.’

Jayme says that ‘Clannad is quickly becoming one of the most compiled bands in Celtic music. Already boasting two “Best Of” collections and a soundtrack collections, Clannad now adds An Diolaim to the list. Fortunately, An Diolaim isn’t just another opportunistic knock-off, for it repackages the majority of songs from Clannad’s hard-to-find second and third albums, Clannad 2 and Dulaman, respectively

A number of years into their career Lunasa got a best of treatment in The Story So Far of which Robert says ‘It’s easy to be enthusiastic about this collection. Yes, there is solid tradition here, from the haunting, intricate pipes that begin “Eanáir” to the intense fiddling that opens “The Floating Crowbar,” but there is a lot of contemporary sensibility that leads new places, not so much a matter of “hey, look, we’re being modern” as an integral part of the approach – guitar passages that could have come from R.E.M. (“Morning Nightcap”), a hint of Fauré by way of new age, perhaps (“The Miller of Drohan”), a bit of a jazz riff from time to time, never obtrusive, never really calling attention to itself, but undeniably there.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert takes on a tour Inside Ancient Egypt, courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History.

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In Roger Zelazny’s Isle of Dead, there’s a character frozen at the edge of death who has no heartbeat but instead always has music playing as a sort of substitute for the silence in his chest. If you visit me in the Estate Library, you’ll always find something playing and recently I’ve been listening to a lot of music by a Scottish neo-trad band called The Iron Horse who were active starting some thirty years ago. I’ve got two cuts from them performing live at the Gosport Easter Festival early in their existence,  ‘The 8-Step Waltz’ and ‘The Sleeping Warrior’.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bloody bones, and not much else

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Like visiting musicians who get food, drink, and a place to sleep, storytellers are treated in the same manner. So it was that a storyteller looking a lot like John Hurt’s character in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller came to be resident here this past week. He settled comfortably into the chair by the fireplace in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room and told us this tale . . .

Not all ancient barrow mounds are the resting places of warrior kings long forgotten. Some contain things far worse. Some of those securely buried with chains and magical bindings are human, some very much not so. Things that even hardened necromancers have nightmares about.

One of these has no name now, or at least no name remembered now. It was either a being to escort the dead into the next life or something far worse. All that storytellers from time beyond counting have said is that it be left well alone. And so it was for millennia until a Victorian archaeologist decided to dig that barrow mound up. And he didn’t live to tell the tale as whatever it was disposed of all that were there that evening. Only blood and very small bone shards remained of them.

It took a major league necromancer, one variant says it was actually Crowley, to put it back in its resting place, as it was not dead, just resting. The necromancer added an avoidance spell to keep everyone away.

Now won’t you sleep well tonight?

Raspberry divider

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What’s New for the 12th of January: An Alternate British Empire, Music from Latvia, SF by Women, a Haunted Violin, Cookies, Favorite Tolkien, and more

Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair, and the Doctor comes to call… everybody lives. — River Song in the Eleventh Doctor story,  “Forest of the Dead”

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I think Our Library is at its very finest in the deep of Winter.  Yes, I’m the Librarian ‘ere so I like it all the time, but it somehow seems warmer, more friendly now. The travelers that visit us now tend to be readers who enjoy spending many hours in the warm comfort of the Library, with either a old favourite book or a soon to be favourite book. I overheard two readers discussing Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer’s novel which is an expansion of her ‘Cat Pictures Please’ which won a Hugo Award for Best Short Story.  It’s now in my To Be Read pile after hearing their conversation.

Now I’m off to the Kitchen to see if I can snag a large mug of hot cocoa and one of those oversized chocolate chip brownies, as you Yanks call them. Yes I’ve the jones for chocolate, and may  I suggest the Toll House cookies also, which are right out of the oven, being served with eggnog per the recipe that Jennifer, one of our Winter Queens, offered up once upon a Winter evening, and will bee perfect for you as well this afternoon?
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Cat leads us off with an alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, where the British Empire decamps to India: ‘The much more Indian than English culture is a brilliant re-visioning of British history that reads like vintage Poul Anderson, particularly his Dominic Flandry series. It features rugged heroes — male and female — vivid combat scenes, exotic locales, and truly evil villains. Hell, it even has Babbage machines, the great analytical engines that Sir Charles Babbage never built but which also play an important role in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine.’

Mia looks at a Charles de Lint novel: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’ If you’ve read The Wood Wife by Terri Windling, you’ll get a treat as you’ll spot de Lints authorised use of a setting from there.

Robert brings us two companion volumes to two series by Gene Wolfe, Michael Andre-Driussi’s Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary of the Urth Cycle and The Wizard Knight Companion: A Lexicon for Gene Wolfe’s The Knight and The Wizard: ‘Together, these two volumes, the product of dedication, if not downright obsession, are, I think, valuable tools for the Wolfe scholar (yes, there truly are Wolfe scholars) and, what’s even better, fun to read in their own right.’

Warner has a great SF collection for us to considered reading: ‘Gideon Marcus’ collection Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) represents a narrow slice of writing from a historically marginalized group within the genre. Featuring stories by both forgotten and known authors, this volume plumbed the depths of old magazines to find women’s stories and present them to the reader.’

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Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up the matter of Two Fat Ladies whose DVD series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t good for you. And funny as all Hell as well. Which the review is as well. Like so many similar English series, there is a companion book which we’ll get around to reviewing someday.

PRobert has a second look at the second volume in an anime series: ‘I’m not sure why, but I remember The Devil’s Trill, the second chapter in the story of Asato Tsuzuki, his partner Hisoka Kurasaki, and the doings of the Summons Section of the Ministry of Hades, as being my least favorite segment of the season. It was a good idea to take a second look.’

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April continues our trek through Bill Willingham’s Fables series, starting with a volume that Robert reviewed last week: ‘These three volumes continue Bill Willingham’s fascinating tale of fairy tale denizens exiled to our own world, a story he began spinning with Legends in Exile and Animal Farm. Spanning issues 11-33 (albeit slightly out of order), these volumes provide further character development and some intriguing plot advancement, as The Adversary extends his reach far and wide to destroy those who escaped him.’

PGary reports back on Songs from Auleja, Latvian music by a women’s vocal group, Tautumeitas, whose name means folk maidens. ‘Their focus is the musical tradition of Auleja, a village in the eastern region of Latgale, which has a rich folk tradition, particularly in multipart singing of graceful, melodic song.’

Gary also reviews The Filter Bubble Blues by David Dondero: ‘The unjustly obscure blue-collar troubador who was once rated as one of the “best living songwriters” by NPR’s All Songs Considered, has made a good old-fashioned album of political folk songs to greet 2020.’

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…’

Scott has more Latvian music for us: ‘Kitka are an all-female vocal ensemble from the the San Francisco Bay area that started in 1979.  While members have come and gone over the ensuing forty years, Kitka remain firmly committed to promoting and celebrating the rich and diverse musical traditions of Eastern Europe and the women who shaped many of these traditions with their voices. This past year, Kitka decided to revisit the musical themes they explored on Wintersongs with a new CD called Evening Star. Both albums are worth a close look, not simply to assess the quality of the music but to see how Kitka have evolved over time.’

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Our What Not is our perennial question: ‘What’s your favourite Tolkien?’ Catherynne picked The Silmarillion: ‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’

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Our music this time is ‘Out in the Ocean (Jig and Reel)’ from Rambling House, one of the bands founded by Brisbane based Paul Brandon, author of two very excellent novels, Swim the Moon and The Wide Reel.

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