Welcome to GMR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s turn to our Edition…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bonfires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Elizabeth,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend, Gus

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

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

Fairport Convention’s ‘Tam Lin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Jack O’Lanterns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: All Hallows‘ Eve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: A Punjabi Meal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Why Contradances?

Dear Justina,

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

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

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

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

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

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

warmest regards, Gus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: On Tolkien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Chasing Fireflies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Kinrowan Estate Story: Mushroom hunters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Oh That Biography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Biscuits

BISCUIT

JAM

BUTTER 

BISCUIT 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJ Tucker’s ‘Ravens in The Library’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Cranachan

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Good Evening Ekaterina,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours with affection,

Gus

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

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

White Rabbit’, written by Grace Slick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Green Lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s New for the 15th of July: Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’, Music that Defies Classification, Indians from Day One, Patricia A. McKillip’s World-building, Gummi Butterflies, and Other Matters

Brown eyed women and red grenadine
the bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean
Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down
and it looks like the old man’s getting on

Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’

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It’s a wet day here with constant rain and wind enhanced by the sound of thunder as those storms roll through the region. By no means a day to be outside, so Kinrowan Hall is busy from the Kitchen in the lower basement to the private flats for senior staff on the top floors of this ancient, sprawling building. My Several Annies are managing Library affairs such as need doing so I’m putting together this Edition while sampling the just tapped Summerland Ale named after a certain novel  by a baseball loving staffer and munching on some Riverrun cheddar cheese.

More than a few of our contributors down the years have been writers of quite some talent — Charles de Lint, Kage Baker, Paul Brandon, Peter Beagle, Elizabeth Bear, Christopher Golden, Catherine Valente, Jennifer Stevenson, Cat Rambo, even Stephen Brust have done reviews or sometimes stories published here. We’re thrilled to have them involved here and certainly look forward to what they do here in the future.

Shall I get to this edition then? Then I shall.

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Cat R. does another multiple book wrap-up, focusing on independent and small press works, looking at works by Kyell Gold, Watts Martin, Gretchen Rix, N. J. Shrock, Tim Susman, and Ursula Vernon.

I was, perhaps not surprisingly, favorably impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘We’ve reviewed damn near every book that Patricia A. Mckillip has published over the many decades she’s been writing. Indeed the editing team is updating the special edition we did on her so that it can be republished this Autumn, as many of us here think of her as befitting the Autumn season. And so it is that I’m reviewing what I think is the first academic work devoted to her.’

Jennifer takes a look at a series she wishes she’d discovered sooner, namely Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series: ‘Once in a while I find out I’ve missed something important in the book world, some classic that’s been out forever that I somehow never noticed when it was first published, something that turns out to be wonderful. Then once in a very great while I find something I wish I’d read thirty years before it was ever published.’

Speaking of Jennifer Stevenson, Wes finishes our book reviews off with one of her entertaining novels: ‘A storm’s a’brewing, the women restless, the men conflicted, and there are the strangest foxes you’ve ever seen running wild along the bucking river. Trash Sex Magic isn’t just a lurid, sexually charged magical romp. Complex characters drive an organic plot, elegantly woven of mythic resonance and familial metaphors.’

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Cat R. looks at some candy that is a favourite of hers: ‘Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.’  Now go read her insightful look at what makes for a great candy treat.

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Neverwhere was rumoured to have been planned as a film by the Jim Henson Company but this never happened but you’ll love the graphic novel I think as April tells us about it here: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

Robert has a series for us that did get the video adaptation experience but that’s not what he’s looking at here for us: ‘Preacher is one of those series that was always on my list of things to check out someday. I had a vague idea that it involved some guy walking around in a cowboy duster shooting things up. It’s not that, although there is a character that fits that description. He’s not one of the good guys. (There’s a lesson there: browse carefully.) The first collection, Gone to Texas, sets the stage.’

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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.’

Brendan gives us a detailed look at Grateful Dead’s So Many Roads (1965-1995): ‘So often dismissed as a anachronistic hippie band that would somehow never die, the Grateful Dead actually formed a keystone of sorts between the traditional forms of American roots music and the rock music of the 60s. Looking past the psychedelic trappings and bizarre skeleton images, one can easily see that foundations of the Dead’s music consist mainly of the American Musical Triumvirate: jazz, blues, and country, with of course a healthy dose of rock and roll to keep things interesting’

Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife is a prolific, controversial and well-known composer, singer and player of the oud. Gary takes a look at his latest work, Andalusia of Love, which draws on the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. He’s joined by his sons, pianist Rami and percussionist Bachar, and Jilbert Yamine on the hammered dulcimer called the kanoun. ‘Throughout this work there is virtuosic playing, some of a solo nature but mostly by the ensemble,’ Gary says. ‘It’s a moving performance of music that is complex yet welcoming.’

Robert has something that defies description. Almost: ‘Classifying things seems to be, for some reason, a basic human need. And it is axiomatic that our systems for classification have built-in limits and conceptual gaps: Archaeopteryx lithographica is, therefore, a bird. And Wolfsong Night, a collaboration between Tim Clement and Kim Deschamps, is New Age.’

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This week’s What Not is another visit to one of Chicago’s cultural treasures: The Field Museum of Natural History, specifically “The Ancient Americas”. Says Robert: ‘When I offered to take my cousin to the Field Museum, showing off my new membership, and suggested that we see the permanent exhibition “The Ancient Americas,” she said, “What’s that?” “Indians,” I said, “from Day One.” She said later that it wasn’t what she was expecting. (What? Cowboys?) To allay any mistaken assumptions about the exhibition, read on.’

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I rather like ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ quite a bit but my favorite version isn’t the one with Garcia singing that the Dead did, but rather is one someone here found some years back. Robert Hunter who wrote much of what they played including this song and my favourite version is done by him during a show at Biddy Mulligan’s in Chicago on the tenth of October some thirty years ago. So let’s now listen to him doing that song.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Palimpsests (A Letter to Justina)


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Dear Justina,

You asked why it’s so hard to say what the beginning of the Estate was. As you know, the accepted beginnings are a complete fabrication by a Steward some centuries ago who decided we needed a history that made sense. So he created one that sounded good but had no basis in truth that we can reasonably verify.

The truth is that the accepted practice we now have of journals kept by the Cook, the Gardener, the Librarian, and the Steward only go back a mere four hundred and fifty years. And the Pub Journals barely go a hundred and fifty years.

I suspect that the Estate records were destroyed deliberately at some point for reasons unknown to us now. And that disrupted the flow of history that’s a palimpsest. Oh, the Estate itself no doubt is well over a thousand years old but everything, including the Estate name, likely as not came much later.

The trustees at the Scottish bank that holds the monies that underwrite us claim that the the trust is many centuries old but say that they aren’t at liberty to say who set it up. All they’ll say is that it’s generous and that it’s quite flexible on what it can be spent on so long it benefits the Estate.

So our palimpsest is really only a half a millennium old — old enough that traditions have been created and evolved that obscured what came before that time.

Your friend, Iain

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What’s New for the 8th of July: Kage on Time Bandits, Olivier Greif’s Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano, The Haiku of Basho, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger gets panned, Charles de Lint in conversation, A History of Ice Cream and other matters…

I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) —  Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder — A Novel of Borderlands

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There’s a contradance going on just now, but my left knee, injured many decades ago, is acting out, so I decided to stay in the Pub and listen to the Neverending Session which has been playing a lot of hambos, think of them as a sort of a mazurka, this evening as I write up these notes. It makes for a pleasant eventing particularly with a wee dram in hand  for searching through the Archives for interesting reviews and of course to see why the current staffers turn in for reviews as well…

Speaking of the latter, we should welcome sone folk who are both great writers and all around nice to have around, Cat Rambo who’s been here for some months now, Jennifer Stevenson who’s done some reviews in the past and is the amazing author who does our Solstice stories, to the present fold, as well as John O’Regan, one of our more prolific Celtic music reviewers who’s back with us. Welcome all!

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Cat starts off our book reviews with a good listen: Simon R. Green’s Ghost Finders 6: Forces from Beyond audiobook: ‘Michael, in his review of the second Ghost Finders novel, Ghost of a Smile, has the perfect introduction to the series: ‘When you have a problem with ghosts, you call the Carnacki Institute. They’ll discreetly handle everything from poltergeists to Big Black Dogges, exorcising or just plain terrorizing phantoms until they go away.’

A novel by Emma Bull and Steven Brust that’s now available as a digital book gets this comment from Richard: ‘Thankfully for readers of Freedom & Necessity, the two authors’ collaboration, the safe money is right this time. The book, while completely unexpected in its content, delivers on all the implied promises its authors have made with careers of sustained excellence. It’s just that Freedom & Necessity, perhaps inevitably, does so on its own, very demanding terms.’

A consummate storyteller in the form of one of his newest works also gets a look-see by Richard: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong is an exercise in masterful, hopeful heartbreak. Deeply steeped in mythology yet relentlessly modern (if a bit sentimental), it tackles the big questions of love, compromise, dreams, and what you might do – or forgive – in the face of the sublime.’

Robert takes a new look at an old favorite: ‘I have a reread list of books that have impressed me one way or another over the years. One that I only recently took up again is Sean Russell’s duology, The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds, which really is one work, a huge, sprawling epic that nonetheless remains intimate in scale.’

And in keeping with the milieu in that pair of books, Robert brings us some poetry: Basho’s On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho: ‘Basho is, to many, synonymous with haiku. He took his name from a wide-leaf banana tree, rare in Japan, given to him by a student, which stood beside the door of his hut near Edo (modern Tokyo). Basho wrote during a time of renascence in Japan, the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th Century, when the power of the Emperors moved from Kyoto to Edo, although the Emperors stayed in Kyoto, and purely indigenous forms in the arts regained their popularity.’

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Meanwhile, West Coast Cat is sadly disappointed by Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger. Her review however is not ‘tall disappointing.

Denise dives into more dark chocolate; this time it’s Butterfinger Dark. A twist on the usual milk chocolate and toffee everyone knows, though Denise wasn’t particularly impressed. “…with Butterfinger Dark, these two great tastes don’t quite make a satisfying whole.” Read why she was let down in her review!

It being summer here that means lots of fresh hand churned ice cream with various fruits, especially those Borderland strawberries. 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.’

Raspberry dividerKage, author of The Company series featuring  time traveling cyborg immortals who loved chocolate, was a great film fan and it’s no wonder she liked this film: ‘Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’

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My favourite work by Alan Moore is by far the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which April reviews for us: ‘Moore and O’Neill’s premise is simple but elegant: bring together a motley crew of Victorian literary characters and drop them into a delightfully pulpy penny-dreadful. And so we have H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, Bram Stoker’s Mina Murray (Harker), Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jules Vernes’s Captain Nemo, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarity, H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, Edgar Alan Poe’s August Dupin and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu all rubbing shoulders in a Victorian England (and briefly Egypt and Paris) of Moore’s own devising.’

Alan Moore in many ways is akin to the late Harlan Ellison in benig a a brilliant crealtor and a pain in the arse to deal with. Rebecca looks at one depiction of him in  George Khoury’s The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore is a birthday toast. It’s an exploration of his life and works. It’s a collection of interviews, old Moore fiction and art, tributes from friends and family, and startling photographic portraits of the man himself.’

And Richard says that ‘The main draw of Alan Moore’s Exit Interview comes from the fact that Moore dishes, at great length, on where exactly his relationship with DC Comics went sour. To a lesser extent, Moore talks about upcoming projects, the origins of British comics fandom, and his take on the mainstream comics industry, but the sensational stuff is likely what’s going to draw the most readers. That’s as should be, as Moore provides a fascinating look into the inner workings of big-time comics publishing, and how the creative talent can get mangled in the gears of the machine once Hollywood gets involved.’

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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.’

Buss-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.’

Robert takes on the late twentieth century in two works by French composer Olivier Greif, Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano: ‘Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for any combination of strings and piano and sometimes voice. His works are not only a product of the last half of the twentieth century in terms of their musical foundations, but also in terms of the engagement with spiritual matters that marked his adult life.’

Robert also has something that may at first sound even more esoteric, Chants, Hymns and Dances by Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Vassilis Tsabropoulos: ‘The name Gurdjieff calls up images of mysticism, esoteric spiritual doctrines, perhaps to some extent a certain wild-eyed fanaticism. Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was, in point of fact, one of those restless wanderers in the realm of ideas who crop up from time to time in our history, seeking something a little more than most of us think about, and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.’

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Our What Not is a conversation with Charles de Lint held at the FaerieWorld Convention in 2013. You can hear the entire delightful affair here. We’re busy reworking and updating our last edition on him and his work for publication sometime this coming Autumn. Right now he, his lovely wife MaryAnn and their canine companion Johnny Cash are summering for a few months at their lake cottage. May they all have a wonderful time!

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Speaking of Cash, the Infinite Jukebox, our somewhat fey media server, has a song written and performed by his daughter that shows that she’s every bit as great covering her own material as she is covering his material as she did last week here. This week it’s ‘Runaway Train’ which comes from the same Bimbos concert in San Francisco that January evening. It details the end of a relationship that may or may not have been about her own such ending but it’s certainly heartfelt.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Summer afternoon (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

So, Spring is waning fast, but summer’s not an event that just happens — it sneaks up on us like a barn own gliding past in the night. No, now we’re in the golden eternity, that endless perfect afternoon that arcs from June to September, a rainbow in every shade of heat. The air smells of forges and plums, cool water becomes a lover, and the best room in any house is the bower under a tree.

The oaks are favoured for the best shade, one of the apricot or peach trees for snacks, or the rose arbors for the sheer overpowering delight of the perfume. With, of course, a book or three. It’s that way here of course. Most of the staff, including the Several Annies, are either out under the trees all day, or down in the cellar making sure the ale doesn’t evaporate in the heat. Reynard says that’s both a public service and a public trust, and tries to restrict it to his own staff; but when the heat hits triple digits, a lot of us turn dwarf and head for that little iron-bound door to the down-below beside the bar.

In defense, Reynard has posted the score sheets for the Summer Reading Club on the cellar door. MacKenzie is the judge, of course. He keeps a special cart in the hall outside, filled with select and unusual volumes: that’s the trick, see, you have to read and review whatever he selects. MacKenzie, I think, is trying to educate the lot of us. At least I think that explains the Baba Yaga stories in Russian. One got points for finding a Russian fluent staffer and providing the proper bribes to get their cooperation.

Next to drink, the regulars in the Pub like books best, so there’s hardly a one who won’t pause before he tries to dive down the stairs to check his standing in the ranks. There are dozens of little leather wallets hanging on that door, and every one in the Club has personalized theirs some way: poker work, horse brasses, Avery labels, glowing eldritch script. When someone finishes a book, they add a review to their wallet. Scores are kept for quantity, of course, but also for quality — a thoughtful analysis of my little monograph on pumpkins suitable for use in ales got twice the points garnered for someone’s exceedingly detailed review of the complete correspondence of Lady Raglan. And of course, a lot of the non-drinkers — well, people who drink somewhat less, anyway — are usually popping in to check their scores as well, so there’s a sort of automatic defensive cordon in front of the door.

And not only are all the readers checking the master lists to see who has read what and how long it took them, most of them are trying to peek in someone else’s wallet to check out their latest effort as well. It’s all anyone can hope for to get an ale they actually ordered! Of course, we all manage. You can’t keep us away from books or ale, not if those delights were guarded by the Queen of Air and Darkness’ guards themselves! I’ll keep you informed on the contest as it evolves over the Summer.

Affectionately Gus

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What’s New for the 1st of July: Cash’s ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’, A Raccoon in a Garbage Can puppet, Mouse Guard short stories and other Summery things

Stories require faith, not facts. ― attributed to T.A. Barron

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I’ve been reading Joy Chant’s The High Kings: Arthur’s Celtic Ancestors in which a Storyteller in Arthur’s Court tells tales of his ancestors and the many deeds that they did. Need I say that they all do Great Things? If you’re interested in our take on all things Arthurian, just go read our one-off on those matters which we did several years back.

Ahhh that smell that’s making your mouth water is Salmon in Puff Pastry per a recipe from Deborah. The salmon are caught here in the river that runs through this Scottish Estate. We’ve a long and abiding interest in food here and we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink, shared recipes and thoroughly vetted a lot of superb books. You’ll find a sample in our food and drink section this time.

I’ll note here that Harlan Elision has passed on after some years of declining health. We’ve got a review of one of his so-called New Wave collections called Deathbird Stories here, but I’m remembering him best for the screenplay of ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ that he wrote for Star Trek. The experience led to considerable bile between Ellison and Roddenberry for the rest of the latter’s life, in particular over a public statement by Roddenberry that Ellison had the character Scotty dealing drugs in an early version of the script. I note this because Ellison will be remembered for his perpetually angry attitude as much as for his writings.

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Cat considers Emma Bull’s Finder to be the best look at the Terri Windling created Bordertown series: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled “A Novel of The Borderlands”, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’

Cat R. gets down to the nitty gritty of writing and gaming. You don’t think there’s an intersection? Well, read her review of three authors on where writing and gaming meet: ‘My recent nonfiction reading has tended to be driven by the fact that as a writer and gamer, I’m always looking for new tools to put into my virtual toolbox. Here’s three recent reads aimed in that direction.’

A novel full of music and myth should make great Summer reading and Grey has a recommendation: ‘Charles de Lint dedicates The Little Country to “…all those traditional musicians who, wittingly or unwittingly, but with great good skill, still seek to recapture that first music.” A traditional Celtic musician himself, de Lint has peopled The Little Country with musicians and filled it with music. All of the chapter titles are titles of (mostly) traditional tunes, and there is an appendix of tunes written by Janey Little, the book’s main character — tunes actually written by de Lint himself. (‘Tinker’s Own’ on their Old Enough to Know Better CD recorded de Lint’s “The Tinker’s Black Kettle,” one of the tunes in this novel.) Any readers who are at all musically inclined may find themselves itching to reach for their instruments and try out the tunes.‘

Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Summer reading? Robert has the work for you: ‘I was surprised some while back to discover that Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master Trilogy was marketed as young-adult fantasy when it was first published. I don’t think I’m particularly backward in terms of understanding what I read, and I was in my thirties when I first read the books (which have earned an unchallengeable place on my “reread frequently” list), and I knew there were things I was missing. Even in a recent re-reading, the trilogy is a complex, subtle and evocative story that lends itself to much deeper examination than one might expect.’

And, speaking of evocative, Robert shares a poetry collection, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Black Mesa Poems: ‘Baca is one of those rare poets whose work is immediately accessible and yet indefinably rich, dense and profound. His diction is seemingly very basic and direct, but he maintains the ability to shift from the mundane to the magical in a phrase, making his everyday life into a lens that examines events with no pity, but with a great deal of compassion and love.’

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Denise brings us beer! Well, not literally (at least, not this time), but she does take a look at a seasonal treat, Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale: ‘As a DC gal born and bred, I love cherry blossoms. I think it’s the law of the local land. So when I moved up and away, I longed for those delicate blooms around the Tidal Basin. (Still do.) So I’m glad Baltimore brewers Oliver Brewing Company catered to my cherry blossom loving heart with their season offering, aptly titled Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale.’

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Robert comments that ‘Given the popularity and critical acclaim of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard series (as witness our own very positive review of the first book, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152), it was almost inevitable that there would be spin-offs. And indeed, Peterson has brought us one himself, with the aid of a number of collaborators: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. So will you like it? Ahhh you’ll need to read his review to see!

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Our Editor Cat leads off with The Little Country based on the compositions in the de Lint novel Grey reviewed above: ‘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 band describes itself as ‘a band made up of classically trained musicians who also have fun exploring other musical styles. We arrange all of our own music, pulling themes from the Celtic tradition, Chinese and Spanish folk melodies, bluegrass, pop/rock, film soundtracks, ragtime, the Classical era, and even composing original pieces!’’

Gary has a recording for us that sounds like a lot of fun: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home. Amarillis is a Pennsylvania-based trio: Maro Avakian on piano, Donna Isaac on fiddle and Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina. They play a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish, English and North American jigs, reels and slip-jigs in medleys or sets. Of course, no contra dance is complete without a few waltzes now and then, and this collection has several good examples.’

Some composers 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.’

Robert, as might be expected, has something a little out of the ordinary as a music offering: ‘Harold Budd is one of those composer/performers who pops up periodically and wanders around like a medieval jongleur just doing his thing and collaborating with everyone. Noted for his piano improvisations, he has worked with the Cocteau Twins and Brian Eno, who seems to have given him a good swift kick in the ambient, reflected on the first part of Lovely Thunder.’

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This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience. . . . )

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I just added some performance recordings to the our media server, The Infinite Jukebox, so let’s see what I’ll finish this week out with… ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’ is performed by Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny and June Carter Cash. The recording comes from a concert she did on the 16th of January 1988 at Bimbos in  San Francisco. The story goes that she recorded it at the insistence of her then husband Rodney Crowell and neither of them knew her father had written it. He was pleased she had covered it and a reconciliation between them happened because of it.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Strawberry Ice Cream

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During the early Victorian Era, the Head Gardener at the time, Jacob Niles, persuaded the Steward, Allison MacPhee, to invest in a conservatory. According to the Journals kept by him and the Steward, the deciding factor was that it could be used for growing fruit in the long winter, including oranges and bananas. It wasn’t cheap and was costly to heat as it needed lots of seasoned wood to make it warm. Fortunately, triple glazed glass was used (at no small expense), and that helped. Certainly the fresh tropical fruit was a hit during our long Scottish winter. We still use it for that purpose but now we use solar power to heat it more efficiently than the original builders could possibly have imagined.

So what does that have to do with strawberry ice cream? Well, that was my idea. You see, we exist on The Border with the Faerielands. Several decades back, I made friends with the Head Gardener for the Red Dragon House, who had no luck growing their version of strawberries — the ones that start red and turn white when fully ripe — when it turned cold there. So he asked me to see if I could make them flourish.

It took several years before I figured that it needed a symbiotic bacterium that didn’t like being cold ever, so I started growing them for the Red Dragon House with the proviso that we could also use them. Would you believe that took a contract signed by all parties? Elves are big on formality! Three pages of contract to be precise. And that’s how we came to have strawberry ice cream in the winter. The whole milk comes from High Meadow Farm, the ever so costly vanilla from Madagascar, and it’s sweetened, just a bit, with honey from our hives. It’s quite delicious!

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What’s New for the 24th of June: Ian Macdonald‘s King of Morning, Queen Of Day, ‘Kashmir’ by Page and Plant, Beef jerky, Baseball films, A Spanish Christmas candy, A Dragon honours Ursula Le Guin and other matters as well

I’ve always been impulsive. My thinking is usually pretty good, but I always seem to do it after I do my talking—by which time I’ve generally destroyed all basis for further conversation. — Conrad in Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal which started out as the Call Me Conrad novella

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As for calendar matters, this is the first edition of Summer, but as is usually the case here, we’ve had warm weather since mid-May. Now Ingrid, the Estate Steward who’s my lovely wife, tells me that the Estate Head Gardener in his Sleeping Hedgehog article this month says there’ve been times this month in past centuries which saw the temperature struggling to get to ten degrees for weeks on end.  I’ll definitely take the pleasant twenty-three degrees we’ve got this afternoon!

Strawberries just started bearing ripe fruit in the Estate gardens, which means a New England favourite that a staffer from coastal Maine brought to the Cook as a dessert possibility generations back. It uses just three ingredients, the berries with biscuits (not our cookies, but a risen baked good that somewhat resembles a dinner roll but isn’t) and lots of whipped cream or, if the kitchen is feeling like doing it, freshly churned vanilla ice cream. Yummy is an understatement for how good it is!

Denise has a review of some exemplary beef jerky this outing, a first for us I think, and Gary sent us film of a dragon doing honours to the late Ursula K. Le Guin, along with reviews of some tasty English folk-rock and other great things worth  your attention. Our Coda music is a live performance of hmmm… Kashmir’ by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant!

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One of my fave Summer reads gets a look-see by Mia, a  Charles de Lint novel to be precise: ‘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.’

An 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.’

Kim found a book that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals. This novella, she says, takes the reader ‘..into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up.’

Michelle offers up a book themed to the Summer game: ‘It’s already been established that baseball exists primarily to serve as a metaphor for the meaning of life. If you didn’t get that from Malamud’s The Natural or Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, then surely you got it from Mays’ Say Hey or Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. So it should come as no surprise that Summerland, the most recent novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, reiterates this all-important theme. And should you be a reader who is only happy when the Red Sox are winning or who actually doesn’t like baseball — should you fail to appreciate that “a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day,” to quote Chabon — then Summerland is even more important for you.’

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MIchelle begins her look at a number of baseball films in this manner: ‘In the big inning, God created baseball. Or perhaps it was Loki, patron of athletics and other tricks; the origins are shrouded in antiquity. There is also debate about which mortal first received the divine inspiration. Abner Doubleday often gets credit, though some historians claim the game was played in England in the 1700s. What is known is that, in 1845, a team called the New York Knickerbockers adopted the rules of the game we know as baseball. In New Jersey that summer, they played the first organized baseball game, and America acquired its own pantheon.’

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Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’

As it’s summertime, a woman’s thoughts turn to beer infused beef jerky.  Denise dives into a bag of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel’s Victorious B.I.G. Beef Jerky, and in-between licking the bag for stray crumbs, managed to write a review. ‘…this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’ Want to know more? Read her review!

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Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of the other Cat but comes with a caveat: ‘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 than I can count as it simply has not a less-than-stellar cut on it.’ 

Gary looks at some English folk-rock from a duo that includes yet another member of the Thompson clan. ‘Kami Thompson and James Walbourne are gifted musicians with something to say as artists. That makes The Rails’ Other People a deeply engaging folk-rock excursion.’

Speaking of English folk music, Gary also reviews the latest from Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy. Their Anchor, he says, is ‘another album of traditional and contemporary songs, drawing on their extended family and a crack band.’

Gary also reviews a new release by a new group, the self-titled disc by Oliver the Crow. ‘These classically trained musicians based in Nashville make a progressive, stripped-down Americana that draws on everything from Appalachian ballads to classic rock on their beguiling self-titled debut album.’

One of the most amazing things we were sent to review was the Folk Music in Sweden series, all twenty-five discs. Yeah, you read me right, twenty-five discs of Swedish trad music. Lars got the honour of reviewing this set from Swedish label Caprice and he has a word to the wise at the end of his most excellent review: ‘Well, a summary of this project would be: A very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.’

Richard rounds our music review with a look at Ma Rosalie: ‘Monsieur Pantin is not the name of some newly discovered French or Belgian or Swiss or Québécois musician. It is, as the CD’s skimpy documentation (see last paragraph below) informs us, the French title of a Scottish air found in an English collection from the 18th century. This may seem to be a piece of trivia too far! Monsieur Pantin is also one of the newer musical ventures of the multi-talented French piper and woodwind player, Jean-Pierre Rasle. It is not clear why he has chosen to give the trio this name, and there is no explanation included in the already deplored skimpy documentation. Moreover, the tune in question does not appear on the CD, but lots of other fine tunes do.’

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On June 13, Portland, Oregon, had a big send-off for Ursula K. Le Guin, who had lived there for several decades before she died in January. Fans, family members, readers and literati packed the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland on a lovely late-spring evening, to hear fellow writers, artists and activists pay tribute to Le Guin. They included Le Guin’s editor at Harcourt Andrea Shulz, her biographer Julie Phillips, as well as writers Molly Gloss, Jonathan Lethem, China Miéville and, by videotape, Margaret Atwood. She was remembered as a Dragon of art and storytelling, and the evening ended with a dragon dance featuring a drum-and-cymbal ensemble and a huge dragon puppet from the Portland Chinatown Foundation.

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It being Summer, let’s have something warm and sprightly for our music this time. Hmmm… ‘Kashmir’ by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant will do nicely! It was recorded  apparently thirty three years ago, possibly st Glastonbury but I wouldn’t bet the farm on how truthful that is. It’s definitely a lovely take by them on this Moroccan influenced work.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Midsummer

ivy

This time of year, my heart is full. Everything that can bloom is blooming, or has bloomed and fruited already, like mayapple and shooting star and trillium and the flowering trees that line my street. All the plants are up. Every rain sees them shooting up another few inches. If you leave your lawn another week, aw, it’ll be fine, I can mow it Sunday, well, better bring a scythe. Out in the country they’ve already cut the first hay.

My allergies play up the most in this season, too, but I welcome them, crazy at as that sounds.

Today I’m thinking about two mysteries I inherited from my mother’s father.

I’m thinking about people, and how each one of us has a radiance of our own, detectible but not necessarily visible. Certain members of my family have … rather more of that radiance than most people. I’m not sure why. It follows a line through my mother’s father, a German whose forefathers came from Baden Baden, I’m told. Maybe that’s why we have this connection to nature as well. Those are the two mysteries that come to me from my maternal grandfather, then: this personal energy, which is so very powerful that some of us seem to walk around inside a weather balloon that extends far outside our bodies, and inconveniences people standing quite far away. The other mystery is what I’m going to call … our religion.

I shouldn’t call it that. Not only because it has no name and no rituals and no liturgy and no priesthood and no history, but because those of our bloodline have been careful never to call it that; we keep our worship secret, and our practice is disguised in a hundred little ways so that even we ourselves do not have to think, I could be burned at the stake for this. We just quietly and joyfully … do it.

The first time I ever heard it referred to as religion by a member of the family was at my father’s funeral, where I met my mother’s cousin for the first time. This cousin announced that she and her husband were evangelicals, and proudly told me of having visited my mother in her hospital bed after my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, and tried to sell her religion. Catching her when her fear of death was strong, like a good saleswoman. ”But, you know, Carol and I have always been…” a hand gesture “…on different planes, spiritually. Her and her nature thing.”

And there it was. Wow. Someone actually came out and said it.

In my twenties, I found out that there was official, actual, named nature worship, when I met some pagans. ”Pagan” is a very random word. It covers everything from ”people not like us” to “hicks” to “nature worshippers” to practicers of syncretic homemade religion and Greek revival. And so much more. I rather liked the idea of a religious denomination that didn’t tell anyone a damn thing about your beliefs and practices. It fit in with my own nameless, traditionless, secret faith.

But I began to pay a little more attention to certain aspects of nature in my adult years. Befriended certain animals, took certain plants deeper into my heart, as it were, than others. Or maybe I just recognized that those plants and animals had always been there, deep in my heart, beloved and trusted. With the example of my mother and her parents alive inside me, I could skim right past the world’s efforts to screw a name and a law onto the things that sustain me the most.

They can’t burn me for taking a walk in the woods, I would think. Or for gardening. Or for feeding the birds. Or for planting a tree.

My father worked nights, and my mother was forbidden to work or to have friends, so we were alone with her a lot. Her parents would pick us up and we’d load the dogs and us kids and my mom into the station wagon, along with a giant cardboard banana box full of provisions, and drive maybe an hour or so to a forest preserve in the Chicago area. There are hundreds of such preserves. Some are prairies, some are decorous parks with shaved lawns and picnic benches and cast iron barbecue grills, some are wild woods whose paths were, in those days, just dirt … no asphalt, no graveled jogging paths, just dirt. Mud, if it rained. It was heaven on earth.

I suggest you think about that phrase very specifically. It’s the key to everything real in my world.

The car door would open, we would lug the provisions and crappy aluminum folding chairs to the chosen picnic bench, and then my mother and her mother would turn us loose. My brother and I and the dogs would go helling off into the woods, following every path that offered, looking for edible berries and fruits, wondering at the fungi, hoping to see a raccoon or a skunk or a woodpecker, throwing sticks for the dogs, clambering up hills and down ravines, soaking our feet and finding crawdads in the creeks, or just running, running in the woods.

Nowadays I walk. I see and hear more. I smell the woods better. The woods enter me through all my senses if I’m standing still.

So, of course, do the mosquitoes. There’s always something.

That, I think, was a big part of what made nature realer to me than any religion could have been: the mosquitoes and the mud and rain and poison ivy and the things you shouldn’t eat. Nature wasn’t manufactured. It didn’t have all the sharp edges milled off and painted. No chrome cross, no smooth pew, no carefully printed and illustrated list of official prayers and songs, no indoor plumbing.

Nature pretty much ignored us. We yodeled and ran about and picked berries and climbed trees and nature paid us no mind. We marveled at lady’s slipper or jack-in-the-pulpit or mayapple, and we knew not to eat that one big green berry, and we were careful not to pester hornets or damage the big stands of mushrooms where they erupted from the soil. Nature could kill us, break our ankles, make us vomit, or give us a nasty rash, and nature wouldn’t even notice.

Instead, we noticed. We found the fallen sparrow. We looked for the rainbow. We attended the wars of ants, but we didn’t have to intervene in order to feel validated or loved by our creatrix. Knowing it was happening was our reward, our validation.

At the end of the afternoon, my mother would whistle for us, and we’d come back to the picnic table on the lawn with “squaw wood” to cook our weenies and marshmallows.

With my mother’s family gone, I share all this with my husband. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a building and a day where we could come together with other people and confess our love for all of this, sing some songs, eat more weenies and marshmallows. But that would be littlifying the enormity of nature.

She might poison us, or drown us, or carry our houses away in the wind, or bury us in molten lava, but she will never leave us, or threaten to put us out of heaven. Whether we die unregarded in a crevasse while mountain-climbing, or in a hospital bed surrounded by a lot of very expensive attention, we are part of her, and she is part of us. We can’t lose her. We can’t be excommunicated from her. Our faith in her and our understanding of her don’t matter to her. She knows she owns us. She takes us for granted. In death as in life, we are part of her system, which is so big that we are not the center of it.

It seems to me that some people cannot be comforted by this knowledge. They have to construct a different system, one where they are the center and crowning achievement, the end of creation. It often seems to me that all of human endeavor is an attempt to claim a bigger place than the one we were born into, to demand more attention than our species warrants, to devour all, to “find a use”–a human use–for everything, everything. We remake our environment until it is immaculately unnatural. Or we try.

So far, that’s not working. Thank goodness.

I’d still like to plumb the first mystery my grandfather left me. Why am I different? What can I do with this difference, besides try not to annoy other people with it?

But those are questions I think every human being asks themselves, at some time or another. Maybe an ant here or an ant there pauses in the middle of a war and asks itself, What am I doing here?

I suspect it wouldn’t be good for our egos to know.

ivy

Copyright 2011 by Jennifer Stevenson who has granted Kinrowan LTD exclusive online rights (except for her use on her website). All print rights are retained by the author as is any other use such as ePub publication. Re-use by other parties in any form online is prohibited.

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What’s New for the 17th of June: family friendly rootsy music, a look at queer comics, offbeat Columbian music, Peanut butter cups, Folkmanis’ Narwhal puppet, ‘City Of New Orleans’ and other stories

If I told you the whole story, your head would burst. There is no one story, there are branches, rooms… corridors, dead ends. — John Hurt as The Storyteller in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

ivy

All stories including our reviews are never the whole story as every story is made neat, made more understandable, or sometimes deliberately less,  in its telling. And everything has a story behind it including that novel you’re reading out on this stone paved patio at Kinrowan Hall on this nicely warm Summer afternoon enjoying our Special Reserve pear cider. Most times neither you nor I know the whole story of a story but if we’re lucky the author tells us in a preface about how the story came to be. And if she doesn’t, rest assumered that an academic will be glad to do so.

Our book reviews this outing have a few of the latter books including some academic looks at the works of Robert Holdstock and Diane Wynne Jones, and, well, you’ll just have to see. And I’m sure that the new reviews this Edition will be be interesting to you as well. If not, please do remember that everything’s just a story…

ivy

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

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature gets a review by Kestrell: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.’

Richard looks at Donald E. Morese and Kalman Matolcsy’s The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction: ‘The myth-infested landscape of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood would seem to be fertile ground, not only for walking legends and “mythagos”, but also for literary criticism. After all, in the sequence Holdstock tackles not the structures of mythic fiction – dark lords, questing heroes, magical macguffins and so forth – but rather the concept of myth itself, and how the same core stories have echoed down through the millennia, amplified and distorted and reflected by centuries of human experience.‘

Robert has a somewhat unusual book for us this week — a werewolf story, in verse: ‘I’ve had one previous experience with fantasy in verse (well, unless one counts the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the like), and it wasn’t a happy one. Nevertheless, when Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth crossed my desk, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, as they say, and I’m happy to report that my valor was justly rewarded.’

ivy

Robert brings us a film developed from a game. Don’t groan — it’s not bad. It’s not bad at all. It’s Battleship, and it takes place in Hawai’i: ‘There’s a lot in this film that’s thoroughly predictable, but it’s a lot of fun, the effects are effective, and the action sequences are real edge-of-the-seat sorts of things. It’s tight and focused and the pacing is excellent. Perfect if you want to spend a couple of hours cheering on the good guys.’

ivy

Denise does something she never thought she’d do; review a confection made with – GASP! – milk chocolate.  The dark-chocolate-or-bust member of GMR dug into Justin’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, and didn’t mind them in the least. ‘The combination of smooth milk chocolate and that gritty, chewy, substantial peanut butter makes me reconsider my ennui over milk chocolate in general.’ Read her review for more!

ivy

Robert has a look at a very special book of and about graphic literature, Justin Hall’s No Straight Lines: ‘It’s tempting to say that comics underwent a radical transformation in the 1960s and ’70s. They didn’t. What did happen was that comics as a medium, with the rise of underground comics through the agency of R. Crumb and his peers, underwent a radical expansion of style, genre, and subject matter as an addition to the “mainstream.” Part of that was the advent of what Justin Hall, in No Straight Lines, has termed “queer” comics.’

ivy

Cat R. tells us about a couple of rootsy albums that she calls ‘family friendly’. She says both Why Why Why and Old Barn qualify as ‘… music I can share with my godkids, ages 6 and 8, on roadtrips without anyone’s sanity or boredom being threatened.’

Epilogue, a tribute to mandolinist and singer John Duffey, got Gary’s toes tapping. ‘Duffey was a founding member of both The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene, two of the most important groups in the history of modern bluegrass.’

He found something new in Bienaventuranza, the latest release by the Argentinian musician who goes by Chancha via Circuito. It’s called digital cumbia. ‘This musical style combines Colombia’s highly popular folkloric music, cumbia, one of the most popular in Latin America, with electronic beats and other modern touches.’

We finish off our music reviews with Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham’s Spring The Summer Long which solicits this lead-in by Jack: ‘Yawn, another bloody brilliant album from a duo, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, who can do no wrong. So why should you get excited? Are you completely daft, man? This is Aly Bain on fiddles and Phil Cunningham on damn near everything else (accordion, whistles, cittern, piano, keyboards, mandolin) with more than capable assistance from Malcolm Stitton acoustic guitar, and bouzouki and Stuart Nisbet on acoustic guitar, dobro and pedal steel. How can you not like it? Do you ‘ave not a touch of magic in your soul?’

ivy

Puppetry is our What Not theme this time.  In his review of Figures of Speech Theatre’s Anerca, Chris writes of a puppet theater that owes as much to Japanese drama and American-Indian Mythology as it does to Jim Henson and Sherri Lewis. ‘Among the complex issues they set out to explore with Anerca are cross-cultural interactions, the misunderstandings of language, and direct emotional communication. Rather than putting Western words into another language, they focus on the emotional tone, physical world and spiritual quest of the characters.’

Speaking of puppets, Denise dives back into our stock to review Folkmanis’ Narwhal puppet. She was smitten with the sea creature, and took to him right away. ‘I soon had him tootlin’ around while I sang “Octopus’s Garden”.  He seemed to be the type that’d like that song.’ Read her review for more about this puppet!

ivy

All songs are stories and Arlo Guthrie’s ‘City of New Orleans’ is certainly one of the better told ones. Recorded at a Stanhope, NJ performance on the eighth of August, twenty nine years ago, it tells the melancholy story of a train as it’s headed to New Orleans one night. Arlo, son of Woody as you most likely know, is in particularly fine voice here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Memory Maps

ivy

What, you ask, are memory maps? Well, all of us use maps all our lives, printed or digital, be they for traveling, locating something, or just out of sheer curiosity. But memory maps are the other type of maps that we all use.

Say you’re in Glasgow and a cute girl asks you where your favourite pub is. Without thinking, you tell her to go up this street, cut down that kill (alley to you Yanks), and go past the news agent and you’ll find The Wolfshead Pub. She thanks you and heads off to the Pub for a pint or two.

But memory maps are beyond that, as they form deep structures in our minds. When you decide to walk from your flat to The Wolfshead Pub, you don’t consciously map out the route in you mind, as you already instinctively know where you’re going. So I’m betting you’re listening to music, thinking about the girl you directed there, or admiring that it’s not raining in Glasgow, a rare occurrence indeed.

Before you know it, you’re at the Pub, standing at bar and enjoying that Glenglassaugh single dram that you’ve been anticipating. All without actually thinking about the journey you made there.

Now imagine living on this immense Scottish Estate for a few decades. In that time, you’ll develop a memory map that’s so detailed that you’ll know everything you need to know about spaces, interior and exterior, that you’ve memorized over the years and the routes that get you from, say, the gardens on the south sloping hill to the Kitchen to the Main Building. You’ll also know just where everything is to prepare the carrots you dug from the MacGregor carrot patch.

So Mrs. Ware asks you to drop the carrots off and to see if you can get someone to forage for some mushrooms. You decide to do it yourself, grab a basket, and take a stroll to where you know where the best ones are in late March after a few mild days. All the while thinking about Chasing Dragonflies playing at the contradances tonight.

So what’s your favourite memory map? Or is it so deeply rooted that you aren’t even aware it exists?

ivy

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What’s New for the 10th of June: Weezer’s rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, two by Jane Lindskold, Anthony Bourdain, Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect, an impressive TBR pile, WF organic dark chocolate, Skara Brae’s only album, Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet and other matters

Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying. ― Iain Banks’ Against a Dark Background which may or may not be a Culture novel. 

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Ahh I see that you’re reading Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Since you’re obviously a lover of truly great whiskies, may I pour you, neat of course, a dram of the Craigellachie 23 year old single malt? Good — there you are. I assume you know about his Culture series, which are sort of space opera but far better done than most such books are? If not, go read Gary’s review of The Hydrogen Sonata which will give you a good look at this series.

if you’re in the mood for some great fantasy instead, Robert has two books he thinks are worth your time, Cat has a space opera audiobook he really liked, the other Cat has a look at her recent readings;  and, among other things, Denise looks at Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet.

With great sadness, I must note that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide a few days ago. He was a personal favourite of many staffers here. Joseph looks at his No Reservations: Iceland episode: ‘Whoever chose to create and release this DVD is a genius. By showing the misery of his job (albeit with funny commentary and cutting remarks), Bourdain reveals his human side. He becomes one of us with good days and bad.‘

Now I’ll take your leave, as I see you’re eager to read this edition and I’m off to see if the installation of the two meter tall brass Ganesh in the library is complete. It’s rumoured that it was acquired from an antiquities dealer in Mumbai who said it might date back to Raj years.  Neat, eh?

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Cat delves into an audiobook this edition, giving a listen to Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect. ‘Reynolds is among the best writers of sf I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. … John Lee, who narrates, is perhaps my favorite male narrator.’ But does this combination make for an engaging listen?  Tune into Cat’s review and see!

Our West Coast Cat does away with a bit of her book pileup this edition, posting nutshell reviews of several books that have come her way in a single article. An editor has made it known that she’s extremely impressed with Cat’s brilliant idea, and may just ‘borrow’ it in future. But for right now, read all about what Cat thought about books featuring Wolves, Wives, Knives, Curses, A Hospital, and a Henchgirl. A few of these look worthy of making it to summer reading lists, so dive in to her reviews!

Robert brings us two novels by Jane Lindskold, who has proven to be a very versatile fantasist. The first is Changer: ‘Urban fanstasy is a subgenre with as many sets of criteria as there are practitioners. Ranging from the Celto-Amerindian universe of Charles de Lint’s urban Canada and Neil Gaiman’s eclectic universe of the Dreaming, with even hybrids such as Mark Anthony’s Last Rune paying tribute to fairies and hobgoblins, Lindskold has stepped neatly in and taken as her purview the myths and legends of all places, all peoples, and set them down in the contemporary American Southwest.’

He follows up with the sequel, Legends Walking: ‘Jane Lindskold has followed up Changer with Legends Walking, which opens a few weeks after Changer closes. The same characters appear, many in expanded roles, new athanor characters participate, and the story takes on added complexity as several plot lines develop.’

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Robert has a look at a French film that almost defies description: ‘I hardly know where to start with Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups) – it’s sort of outside my normal range of subject matter, but the DVD case looked interesting enough, and the price was right, so I thought, “Why not? A historical-costume-mystery-revenge-monster flick – what could be better?”’

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Robert has chocolate! (Big surprise.) This time it’s organic dark chocolate from Whole Foods Market: ‘As might be expected from a chain with Whole Foods’ reputation, all ingredients are organic, fair trade, and socially conscious. (Well, the ingredients themselves aren’t socially conscious, but you get my drift.)’

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

Gary explores Drift, the second release by Seattle-based trio Duende Libre. ‘Though based in American and Latin (especially Cuban) jazz, Duende Libre’s music makes some significant departures, even more so on Drift than on their debut.’

Gary also enjoyed Anima, the debut album from Uruguayan-born singer Valeria Matzner. ‘It wasn’t until after she moved to Canada as an adult that she studied jazz, and it was there that she also eventually reconnected to her roots – in South America and in her own family as well. I’m very glad she did.’

And then, Gary says, there’s Waterdrawn by the Chicago-based duo The Horse’s Ha. They’re influenced by the singers and songs of the 1960s British folk revival, but with a twist: ‘Folk songs that sound like lovely pastorals on the surface – the delicate acoustic instruments plucked and bowed and the singers’ oddly matched voices – but which hide dark undercurrents.’

Shining Down, an album from a member of the North Carolina based Red Clay Ramblers, gets high praise by Judith: ‘Craver’s piano playing is marvelous, and to add to the quirkiness his vocals are plain, as if he were singing on a kids album. As on Wagoner’s Lad he plays most of the backing music himself.’

Jack has an oddity for us in ‘a quaint remnant from an earlier, less driven-by-commercial-interest society where quality of production was higher than it is today. This artifact, The Road Goes Ever On — A Song Cycle, comes from an earlier age, the Sixties, when readers were madly obsessed with Tolkien and his work. Here in this book composer Swann gives Tolkien characters Bilbo, Treebeard, Samwise Gamgee, and Tom Bombadil tunes for their ballads of the road. Tolkien approved of this and added a tune of his own, along with a glossary of Elvish terms and lore.’

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Denise has decided to give puppets a try this issue, with a review of Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet. And she came away impressed. ‘Holy cow this puppet is beautiful.’ But how does it actually…puppet?  Read her review to find out!

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As warmer weather creeps in, thoughts turn memories of summers past, and to this year’s summer plans that will soon become cherished memories. Weezer ties together past and future nicely with their rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, a cover they dropped late last month.

Why cover such a classic favorite? Because a fan (@weezerafrica, to be precise) asked them to. Many, many times. And with Weezer being very responsive to social media requests, the decided to go for it. And I’m glad they did. Rivers Cuomo was made to cover this song, his smooth, beautiful voice doing the lyrics justice. Weezer performs this song in a slightly different key, but it works perfectly.

As the band has covered many performers, from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd and even Toni Braxton, who knows what they’ll do next? Meanwhile, enjoy ’Africa’, and think of all the lovely summer memories you’ll get to make this year.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: 3 a.m., When The Veils Are Thinnest

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Sometimes I believe that the door off the Courtyard into the Pub here is just a little too close to The Border with, oh, let’s just call it somewhere else and possible somewhen else. It would certainly explains some of the strange things and people that end up here, usually late at night.

Such was the case one late Fall evening when several strange beings wandered in here, one seeking refuge and the others seeking him. What happened is the story I tell here.

The first was a dead bluesman, or at least it was assumed he was dead given he was murdered long ago, who showed up with his guitar slung over his back. Clad in a sharp suit and elegant hat, he sat down in a corner table, back against the wall, and started playing the blues, really old tunes at that. Never said hardly a word, but ordered whisky which was paid for with silver dollars that were truly collectors items.

Several weeks after he appeared, two very dark-skinned impressively large individuals equally well-dressed as the bluesman showed up and attempted to remove him from the Pub. (You should realise that only those with The Sight such as myself could See that any of these individuals was unusual. All others thought they were just human.) He smiled at them, showing a lot of teeth and played a low chord that made them turned sharply around and leave.

Not so his luck with the red-haired, green-eyed, leather-clad woman who, for those with The Sight, had black wings, more like those of a crow than an angel. I thought She was The Angel of Death but the look on his face suggested something much more dire. She ordered one of the best whiskies we had and sipped it as she looked at the bluesman. It was a sad smile, a smile that suggested she had a job to do but wasn’t a job she wanted to do.

I’m old enough to know who she was, but was surprised she was here as I’d only seen her a few times down the centuries and I knew she was never the bearer of good news.

She finished drink, nodded to Reynard and walked towards the bluesman. She talked quietly with him for a while and then left without him, which surprised me as the stories about her always say she never leaves without her, errr, prey.

And the bluesman was now playing ‘Cross Road Blues’.

ivy

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What’s New for the 3rd of June: Some Things Turkish and Ottoman Empire Related

Legends should stay legends otherwise they just become history, when the natural course of things is the other way around, from history to legend. ― Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House

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The Several Annies, Apprentices to me, the Estate Librarian, come from all over the world. And several years back one of them was from Istanbul. Sümeyye, now on our Grounds staff,  is responsible for the  incredible spread you see in the Kitchen this morning, a spread which includes breads, soft, creamy cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, a spicy Turkish sausage, and an amazing range of jams, marmalades, and honeys for your sweet tooth. Of course there’s menemen which are really yummy eggs, and lots of tea.

You’ll find some of our many reviews of things Turkish this time as we’ve done a number of such reviews down the decades. And there’s certainly some stories to tell as well such as Zina’s look at the the Turkish coffee she was served one evening at the Estate.

Shall we get started?

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Walter Jon Williams’ Deep State gets a review by Cat as he notes Dagmar Shaw is once again in trouble in this series: ‘So now she finds herself trying to keep Great Big Idea, the ARG running company, afloat. Not an uneasy task given she’s an über geek, not an über money person. All of which explains how she ends up in yet another unstable country, Turkey this time, running an ARG just as those Generals decide to throw out those democratically elected leaders, a situation that has played itself out before in that both young and very old state.’

That we Westerners find Turkey and the Ottoman Empire it came out of fascinating is not surprising to me. Indeed a certain Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, in his Best Of a decade back picked an Ottoman Empire mystery as one of his favored novels: ‘And there’s this English writer named Jason Goodwin, whose novels take place in the Istanbul of 1830 or so, and whose hero is a eunuch whose best friends are a transvestite dancer, and an ambassador from a Poland that literally doesn’t exist anymore, having been swallowed up by Russia, where it remained for 150 years. Gruber, Furst and Goodwin…’ So it’s not surprising that Donna loves it as she says in her review: ‘In spite of these minor quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed The Janissary Tree and look forward to seeing more of ‘Inspector’ Yashim in the future!’

Donna also has a look at  Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure  and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, which has a nice article on the actual history of the so-called Tulip Period of the Ottoman Empire. Do beware that these papers are dry at times as they’re intended for other scholars.

Gary says the Istanbul of Ian McDonald’s near-future novel The Dervish House is rather like what our own world could be very soon: ‘…hotter, more crowded, with an even starker divide between rich and poor, and teeming with technology. … It’s also brimming with Anatolian spirits that sometimes seem indistinguishable from the effects of nano-technology.’

Robert notes that the Ottoman Empire included a dizzying array of peoples and traditions, which necessarily led to a less-than-monolithic culture, as outlined in Suraiya Faroqhi’s Subjects of the Sultan: ‘In many ways it is a dizzying survey: Faroqhi’s coverage is extensive, the very richness of the subject is somewhat daunting, and the fascinating sidebars she explores almost lead to severe input overload — but I didn’t care. (She even devotes a section to cooking and dinner parties, and how many “cultural histories” do that?)’

A more historic/political perspective is found in a pair of books, Suraiya Faroqhi’s The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It and Handan Nezir Akmeşe’s The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I. Says Robert: ‘The Ottoman Empire and its successor, modern Turkey, have time and again played an important role in European politics, and yet there are vanishingly few sources in English to bring us the viewpoint of the Turks themselves, or, indeed, to focus on the Anatolian peninsula as other than an adjunct to the doings of European states. Addressing that lack is one of the aims of two recent histories.’

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Zina has a story for us about something quite wonderful: ‘For me, the inky little cups of Turkish coffee are exactly that — it’s not so much the coffee itself that’s so wonderful, but what tends to happen over the cups of it, even if I’m drinking it alone. I was in a tiny, tiny village in the pastoral English countryside visiting friends a bit ago, and after dinner we had Turkish coffee, some tunes, and a great deal of talking and laughing, in the lovely, warm, hospitable dining room of that unbelievably old house.’

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And then there’s Turkish music. Big Earl Sellar has quite an absorbing overview of some of the many traditions involved: ‘Turkey is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions on this planet. With the Karain cave giving us evidence of Anatolian civilization beginning at least 10 000 years ago, the people of this corner of our planet have had a long time to develop a musical culture with the same complexity as India’s, a tradition to rival Celtic, and a beauty that is truly universal.’

He follows up with a look at several CD’s of Turkish classical music: ‘Although I’m familiar with Turkish popular and traditional music, the first three of these discs mark my introduction to Turkish classical music. This is a relatively recent musical invention, dating back 1000 years: composers, inspired by the tradition and the court music, creating a new vocabulary of written, organized works, and defined frameworks for instrumental improvisations.’

Gary has a look at an interesting four-volume set of Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio. First he looks at Volumes 1 and 2,Sultan Composers and Music of the Dancing Boys, followed by Volumes 3 and 4, Minority Composer and Ottoman Suite: ‘The Lalezar Ensemble is part of a current revival of classical Ottoman music under way in Turkey. The group — four instrumentalists and three vocalists — have created four CDs that give a sampling of some of the best and most representative of the five centuries of the Ottoman Empire’s art music.’

A bit of something different is next up: ‘My favorite musical discovery of 2017 was Turkish psychedelia’ Gary says. As an example, he explores an album called XX, which he explains is ‘a two-disc set celebrating the 20-year career of a band called Baba Zula.’

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Our What Not comes from The Armenian Weekly, Armenia once being part of the Ottoman Empire and is entitled What Was Left Behind: Music of the Ottoman Empire:  ‘Record collector Ian Nagoski has been buying up cheap 78 rpm discs for over a decade. The 36-year-old music junkie and record store owner always had one rule: “My policy was to buy anything in a language other than English,” he said in an interview with the Armenian Weekly. In June 2011, Nagoski, in collaboration with Tompkins Square Records, released the three-disc album set “To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929,” which features polished tracks from Armenian, Greek, and Turkish records, etched mostly in New York.’

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For our Coda, Robert went searching and came across this performance by one of the many groups we discussed this week, Kardeş Türküler. It’s pretty catchy and more than a little interesting.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Cats

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While our Kinrowan Hall is justly famous for the music that keeps the old place resonating nicely, we’re also home to a fair number of our feline friends. While some of the cats just come and go (not unlike the notoriously peripatetic musicians of The Neverending Session), there are a select few who’ve taken up permanent residence, albeit sometimes in the cellar while the music’s going on, especially if there’s whistles.

Collectively they’re generally known simply as ‘the cats’ (original, huh?), but we figured that it was time to introduce them to you; it’s usually polite — and politic — to greet a cat by name (using his or her sensible, everyday name, or at the very least using ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’), and one often comes across one of our feline inhabitants in one nook or other around the Building.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the moggies . . .

First up is Ysbaddaden (‘King of all Giants’ from the story of Culhwch & Olwen), who’s sometimes affectionately known as ‘Bad Daddy’ by the human staff. He’s the alpha tom of the place, and you mainly find him guarding the gardens, or stalking the great hall. He’s probably tortoiseshell, but it’s difficult to be entirely sure given the amount of ‘markings’ that he’s picked up over his long life of battles. Fiercely loyal and protective towards the other cats, he still packs a hell of a wallop and a frightening turn of speed for an old ‘un!

Didjan is a smaller-than-average tabby female, probably the runt of her litter. Something of an outsider, ‘Didjie’ somehow manages to thrive on any food scraps left unattended for more than a second by the others — and occasionally the inattentive human as well. She can generally be found in the windows of the kitchen passageways. Both feline and human rumours of her forming an unholy alliance with Maggie Pye are probably completely accurate. . . . (A ‘didjan’ is a morsel of food — the bit of pasty crust that the dirty fingers hold, left by Cornish tin miners to appease the ‘buccas’ in the ‘bal’ (mine).

Phynnoderee is a very sleek, black Manx tom cat. ‘Finn’ is of the ‘rumpy’ (no tail) rather than the ‘stumpy’ variety of Manx, and seems rather proud of the fact. He’s hugely popular with the she-cats (which may explain the high percentage of oddly-tailed kittens mewling around underfoot.) He can often be spotted in the Reading Room, on some high spot overlooking his domain.

Wattie mysteriously arrived as a kitten in the Green Man cellars, shortly after a touring Scots band (friends of Our Jack) stored their flight cases down there . . . Growing up to be quite burly, his indescribably long and shaggy ginger fur means that he’s sometimes known as ‘that orange brute.’ Wattie has claws like claymores, and pursues his favourite sport of ‘moosing’ in the storerooms with an intensity that borders on the psychopathic.

Maddy and June (aka The Silly Sisters), are two tabby females, very alike, and usually seen together. June is the slightly larger of the two and is distinguishable by the white patch below her neck. Maddy is probably the wilder-natured cat (and has been known to bear a few ginger kittens). One stumbles across them gamboling together wherever their fancy takes them.

Blodeuwedd is the youngest of the females. Denise found her by the Green Man entrance, hiding among the flowers (in a hanging basket, strangely), and invited her in for a saucer of milk. While ‘Blod’ co-exists quite happily with the other cats, she frequently seeks the company of humans in the offices of the building, and has the unnerving ability to magically appear on desks like a very sudden Cheshire Cat.

Maeve is a splendid and stately black and white female of indeterminate age; she’s at least as old as Ysbaddaden, who she’s clearly known from kittenhood. Largely sedate and inactive these days, and usually to be found on the velvet cushions of the second floor landing window seat where proper homage may be paid to her when one goes past, when Maeve does go for a stroll, she does so as queen of all that she surveys. Though well past breeding age, Maeve will still (when no ‘prying eyes’ of the younger cats are about) invite Ysbaddaden to assist her with her grooming.

Cats, underfoot and in unexpected places, skulking in the cellars, haunting the hems of the drapes, purring to themselves on sunny windowsills, licking each other’s ears before the fires, and, while you’re reading this edition of the Review, probably draping themselves over your reading material. It’s in their nature.

ivy

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What’s New for the 27th of May: Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale, Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos, Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, another treat from Folkmanis, the interconnectedness of our reviews, Oysterband’s ‘Red Barn Stomp’, ‘Places’ in fantasy novels, and other cool things

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

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So what was the best book you’ve read this year? Or the best recording you’ve had  a listen to? Do you have a favourite dark chocolate? Mine’s the Ritter dark chocolate with hazelnuts which is the perfect size for an afternoon snack while walking out and back to our Standing Stones.

Everything we like is unique to us as I noticed when Cat asked Deborah, author of the Haunted Ballad Series and the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, what her favourite Grateful Dead was and she replied, ‘I’m an old school Dead woman. Give me Aoxomoxoa, Anthem Of The Sun, Live Dead, Workingman’s Dead, and American Beauty. I helped Annette Flowers and Eileen Law stuff cartons of Europe ’72. After Pigpen died, they started losing me for good and never really got me back. But that was my period of Dead.’

 To me, one of the joys of this enterprise we are doing is reading what other staffers, both now and going back decades, has found that they really appreciate (and what they sometimes really, really don’t appreciate) as they’re often things I’d not a clue existed such as gremlins made physical from Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins: The Lost Walt Disney Production!

So let’s see what we found for you this time.

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Not all that uncommon is the tendency of one of our reviews to be linked to other reviews we’ve done down the decades. Such is the case this edition as everything Robert looks at is connected to other reviews by him…

Robert has a review of Winter Rose: ‘The story is told in McKillip’s characteristically elliptical style, kicked up an order of magnitude. Sometimes, in fact, it is almost too poetic, the narrative turning crystalline then shattering under the weight of visions, images, things left unsaid as Rois and Corbet are drawn into another world, or come and go, perhaps, at will or maybe at the behest of a mysterious woman of immense power who seems to have no fixed identity but who is, at the same time, all that is coldest and most pitiless of winter.’

He also looks at Solstice Wood, a sequel of sorts to Winter Rose: ‘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.’

Robert also found something that Solstice Wood has in common with Jane Lindskold’s Child of a Rainless Year — although that one can certainly stand on its own: ‘Jane Lindskold is one of the more adventurous authors working in the mode of speculative fiction. From her transparent contributions to Roger Zelazny’s last two books through the contemporary urban fantasy of the athanor novels through the more-or-less “classic” fantasy world of Through Wolf’s Eyes, she has shown not only great ease in moving among subgenres, but a remarkable proficiency in pushing the envelope stylistically without becoming precious, an affliction suffered by many in the field.’

And would you believe that Orson Scott Card’s Magic Street shares a –what? An image? A metaphor? — with those two novels? ‘Mack is nobody’s and everybody’s — he wanders the neighborhood and, eventually, is welcome wherever he happens to be. And then one day, when in his early teens, he sees a house that isn’t there, and goes in.’ivy

While the warmer temps have us gearing up for Summer, Denise’s review of Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale has us dreaming of Spring. But don’t assume it’s just a Spring beer; this is one that jumps seasons nicely. ‘Grab ’em while you can, or you’ll have to wait ’til next year. And you won’t want to wait.’ See why she’s a fan in her review!

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Robert has a look at a rather unusual graphic novel, Alex Woolfson’s Artifice: ‘The basic premise here is a science-fiction trope that goes all the way back to Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories — how smart does an artificial intelligence have to be to be considered human?’

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Chuck looks at an offering from a well-known Nordic musician: ‘Mats Eden is a founder and the only original member of the Swedish contemporary folk group, Groupa. With Lackerbiten (which, I believe, translates to “Little Bits”), Eden goes solo and traditional, performing thirty — yes, thirty — tunes originating in the Varmland region, straddling the border of Sweden and Norway.’

Gary took a shine to a new recording from Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos. ‘If like me you appreciate deeply rooted folk music that’s recorded with the sort of post-modern studio wizardry that enhances that music’s moods and meanings, then you owe it to yourself to check out Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light.’

Lars was favorably impressed with Strata by the Scottish singer Siobhan Miller. ‘I have played Strata continuously for more than a week and it still grows on me with every new listening. A good selection of songs, very well sung and nice, varied arrangements; what more could you ask for?’

Michael looks at an album from Maddy Prior: ‘An icon of English folk rock, Prior knows how to set her impressive vocal talents among supportive instrumental accompaniment. I won’t repeat the history of her career with Steeleye Span and Carnival, because Lahri Bond has already done that in his retrospective review which gives a great summary of personnel changes and albums, while Naomi de Bruyn covered her decision to leave the band after 28 years in her review of Prior’s compilation album Memento. Known and loved for her sweet, clear voice, Prior continues the tradition of fine vocal delivery with Ravenchild.’

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Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

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I think a bit of rather lively music in the form of ‘Red Barn Stomp’ to show us out this edition will do very nicely.  Recorded sometime in June of 1990 in Minneapolis by the Oysterband  with June Tabor joining them there as well. The lads were on tour in support of their Little Rock to Leipzig album where you can find another version of this tune.

Ian Tefler, a band member, tells us that the name of this piece was chosen to sound trad. It features John Tefler calling the tune and very neatly incorporates the actually trad tune, ‘The Cornish Six-Hand Reel’ in it as well.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Béla

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I noticed that Béla was enjoying a meal of  goulash and dark beer, something that the Kitchen being fond of him cooks him frequently. (I’ve had that goulash — it’s as good as any I’ve had in Hungarian eateries!) Like many here at this Estate, I’ve pondered just who he is as no one here now is clear quite how he fetched up here.

He’s been here at least forty years and was a man of middle age when he got here according to what I remember from being told by the previous Steward. I’d guess that he’s in his eighties now but quite hale still.

He speaks German, Hungarian and French but not a bit of English after all the time he’s been here. It doesn’t seem to be a problem as there’s usually someone here who shares at least one language with him.

I though he was Hungarian but Iain, our Librarian, says what Béla claims is quite a bit stranger. Iain says that he claims to have been born in the Ottoman Empire long before it became Turkey. Now that it would make him well over a hundred! Not impossible give we’re situated on The Border, but still odd as that usually only effects those who spend time in what Yea called The Celtic Twilight.

His room is sparse with just his clothes, his books in the languages he knows, and his violin. That violin is a Strad. Yes, one of those rare instruments. I’ve been told by Max, the resident luthier here at the Estate, that it’s definitely the real thing. Béla won’t say where he acquired it, nor does he think it’s anything extraordinary that he has it.

I’ve never heard him play anything except various folk tunes, be they of European origin, or of the Celtic traditions. He’s very fond of learning new tunes and actually had Sara ap Morgan, a  cwrth  player who stayed with us for a summer that turned into several years, teach him Welsh fiddle tunes as she spoke French as well as English and Welsh. He even learned quite a bit of Welsh from her as well.

He always lends a hand, be it with Kitchen work or helping me with work outside. He’s as handy with a cross-cut saw at his age as workers fifty years his junior. Th local GP who does his annual physical says he’s in his late fifties or early sixties.

So the mystery remains…

ivy

 

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What’s New for the 20th of May: Some Terry Riley works for string quartet, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a Charles de Lint novel and video fiction, a new Fairport album, Mast Sea Salt Chocolate and other matters


We’re all such beings because we tell every story from our oh so personal viewpoint with little or no regard for what most of you know. Nor do we often care what you know. — A patron to Reynard late one night in our Pub

ivyGutmansdottir, our resident botanist and now junior only to Gus in terms of tending the Estate gardens and grounds, has been cultivating orchids in the Conservatory on the quite logical grounds that everyone needs flowering plants nearby. That’s why you’ll see them here in Kinrowan Hall pretty much everywhere they can be.

Likewise books are to found everywhere in this ancient Hall as books are creature comforts as well.  Be it a well-used and beloved cookbook, a mystery that has entertained generations of readers or a novel from a favoured writer of fantasy,  you won’t go far here without seeing someone reading something or a book sitting somewhere carefully marked with a personal bookmark to note where the reader left off.

So let’s see what works tickled the fancy of our reviewers this time. And we’ve got other good things for you to consider as well, so let’s get started…

ivy

Cat has a mystery for us: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read. It is every bit as good as Foyle’s War, the BBC series I watched, where the Second World War has just begun and England’s fate looks bleak indeed in the face of an inevitable German invasion, bur someone still has to fight crime on the home front. Who better than Christopher Foyle in that series, and who better in this mystery series than Arthur Bryant and John May of the newly formed Peculiar Crimes Unit?’

Craig has some prime horror for us: ‘Robert E. Howard wrote short stories during the heyday of the pulp era, mostly for Weird Tales, from 1924 until his death by suicide in 1936 at age 30. Howard wrote in various genres, but he is now best known for his stories popularizing the fantasy subgenre “sword and sorcery,” and especially the hero he created, Conan the Barbarian. His range of talent, however, is becoming better known as pulp-era fiction regains a modern readership. Del Rey Books is doing their part to keep his name in front of book-buyers with their affordable trade-paperback collections of his work, of which The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard is only the most recent.’

Richard says reading Elizabeth Bear’s New Amsterdam ‘for the mysteries is missing the point. As mysteries, they’re nothing special. There’s usually one suspect, who gets introduced late in the game, and their motivations are often given as exposition as opposed to revealed. If the mysteries themselves were the point, that would be aggravating.’ Need I note that it’s an alternative history with vampires and zeppelins?

Robert got to read Charles de Lint’s newest book, The Wind In His Heart, and was suitably impressed: ‘Let me put it this way: I’ve been reading de Lint’s fiction for about thirty years now, and a lot of it has been good enough to stand up under repeated readings. This one kicks the whole game up a notch.’

ivy

OK I’m not sure this exists anymore and I’m reasonably certain it was only released on VHS but Michael says it’s worth seeking out: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first showed in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.‘ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’

ivy

Denise decided to give Mast Sea Salt Chocolate a try, and liked what she tasted. ‘However you decide to indulge, you’ll be happy you did.’ If you’re a dark chocolate fan, you’ll want to read her review!

ivy

Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is a graphic novel that comes with a warning from April: ‘The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it’s not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon’s work.’ Read her full review to see why she liked this.

ivy

Gary says American guitarist Steve Tibbetts’ latest album Life Of draws on world, ambient, jazz and experimental musics, but ‘at its root, this music is a deeply Midwestern sound of wide-open space.’

Michael looks at What We Did On Our Saturdaythe latest from a venerable English band: ‘Saturday, August 12 2017 to be precise. The final evening of Fairport’s Cropredy festival in their 50th year. It was always going to be a special occasion, and the likelihood of a recording was strong, after releases of similar previous anniversaries. The pun of the title, referring back to the band’s 1969 ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’ album, is carried over to the design of this new set, echoing the blackboard drawing of a now different and older grouping of band and friends.’

Robin Laing’s Ebb and Flow gets an appreciative look see by Peter: ‘This is the 6th album from Robin Laing, consisting entirely of his original songs. Robin, who is also a fine traditional singer, has, over the past 10 years, also established himself as one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary singer-songwriters. He draws a lot of his influences from everyday life, tales and stories, and some encountered by life on the road.

Robert brings us a group of works by Terry Riley: ‘Cadenza on the Night Plain (the disc, not the work of that title) presents four of Terry Riley’s works for string quartet, works that, if your only acquaintance with Riley has been pieces on the order of In C or other larger-scaled works, are going to be something of a surprise — no matter how complex and abstract their conceptual underpinnings, they are possessed of a refreshing liveliness and clarity.’

Scott has a look at a recording from the founder of Malicorne: ‘Gabriel Yacoub began his career singing and playing guitar in Alan Stivell’s band, before going on to form the legendary French Renaissance rock band Malicorne. Malicorne’s compilation CD Légende: Deuxieme Epoque exceeds the quality of any of the similar compilations from their English contemporaries Steeleye Span, and is on a comparable level with the best output from Fairport Convention. Malicorne split up twenty years ago, and I hadn’t heard any of Yacoub’s subsequent solo material until I recently got the chance to listen to 2002’s The Simple Things We Said. This album combines new songs with reworked versions of some older songs, with the specific intent of cracking the American world music market.’

ivy

Our What Not this week is a collectible from Guardians of the Galaxy, namely a figurine of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Says Cat: ‘Accurate representations of Rocket Raccoon, best known from the two Guardians of the Galaxy films are difficult to find without spending a lot of cash on the accurate one-sixth scale models costing in the hundreds of dollars. I wanted one such figure largely because I thought that Rocket and Groot were the most interesting characters in those films.’

ivy

Our Coda this time’s ‘Pierre De Grenoble’ by Malicorne, a band Scott noted in his review as being the French version of Steeleye Span for their blending of trad material and electric instruments. This was recorded at Hunter College, New York thirty-four years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Staging Shakespeare

ivy

Come in! Glad you got here in time for some theatre tonight. Let’s drop your kit off in the room you’re staying in for the next fortnight before heading out.

It shouldn’t surprise you at all that we do theatre in the long winters here at this isolated Scottish estate. And it further won’t surprise you that Shakespeare is a perennial favourite here century in and century out. So why is that playwright so popular?

Setting aside the literary genius of Shakespeare, he’s one of the easiest playwrights to stage, as the focus on the words allows for a minimalist staging to take place. Oh I’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged at summer solstice deep in an English wood, Macbeth performed in the ruins of a Scottish castle, and even The Tempest against the backdrop of a sullen sea. But those admittedly spectacular performances are only one side of a ha’penny.

The other side of that ha’penny is staged readings, just actors reading the words on a bare stage. Now that’s where you can really see who understands in their heart and soul the magic of Shakespeare, as you can hear that belief in the way they do the lines. Now if they’re lacking in that belief, the words feel as if they’re being read by a politician using a teleprompter for the first time.

We fall somewhere just off being a staged reading by making use of strategic props and even a bit of fey magic where appropriate, such as Lady Macbeth washing her hands in a basin on stage and her hands coming away in red that drips upon the front of her white dress, or using a skull in the gravediggers scene in Hamlet combined with an ever so convenient service stairway as the grave itself.

And I find that my Several Annies, the Library apprentices from around the world, all grasp the joy and agony of Shakespeare. Indeed one of them, I’m proud to say, is now a research fellow concentrating on the interstices between Shakespeare as a writer of fiction using history and Shakespeare as a chronicler of history without interpreting that history.

Enough of my prattling on, as it’s now time we headed off to hear the performance of Much Ado About Nothing in our Theatre in The Round, which is the former livestock auction house. Rebekah, one of my former Several Annies is directing it, a honour for her indeed!

ivy

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What’s New for the 13th of May: Nietzsche, Stephen King considered, chocolate of course and other matters

The advantage of a bad memory is that one can enjoy the same good things for the first time several times. — Friedrich Nietzsche

ivy

Yes, that’s lox and cream cheese on a toasted bagel I’m having along with Komodo Dragon coffee. The salmon are harvested from the river that runs through this Estate and smoked right here. The cream cheese is from Riverrun Farms, a neighbor of ours, and the bagels are created right here, all in all a quite delicious breakfast indeed.

That tasty music playing was recorded at the reunion concert of Skara Brae, an Irish trad music group from Kells, County Meath. The group consisted of three siblings, the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, with Dáithí Sproule from Derry. It is two tunes,  ‘Ar A Dhul Chun’ and ‘Chuain’ off the soundboard recording.

There’s no theme this edition, so you’ll find a bit of everything from two chocolate reviews by Robert to reviews of music such as those from the Scottish trad and Americana genres. Our What Not is a bit different as our Publisher delved into several recent pop culture purchases he made.  And I’ve been told that the Coda music is of a Nietzschean nature. H’h.

ivy

Denise delves into love of Uncle Stevie for a look at Tony Magistrale’s Hollywood’s Stephen King. ‘Tony Magistrale’s comprehensive but not all-inclusive review of King’s filmography not only stirred my interest in the deeper meanings of these films, but sorted their various themes and connections. Hollywood’s Stephen King shows that there are films in the author’s oeuvre that are just as worthy of discussion and critical review, and in some cases the stories these films tell are just as important as the original works they were based on.’

Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales From The White Hart, says Gary, is ‘is a series of superficially linked stories told by the fictional patrons of a fictional pub somewhere in London. The narrator is a fictionalized version of Clarke (the other patrons rib him for being a teetotaler), and I’ve no doubt some of the other patrons mentioned are probably based on others in his scientific and writing circles. These patrons are all either scientists or writers, and they tell each other science-based shaggy dog stories. Most of the stories are told by one fellow in particular, a Harry Purvis, who seems to have led several mortal lifetimes.’

He also looks at Geoff Emerick’s  Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles which he says is by one of the unsung heroes behind that group: ‘Inveterate reader of liner notes that I am, I’ve been aware of his name for some time, but it tended to blend into the amorphous blob of names of other guys on the periphery of The Beatles story, like their roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans. I wasn’t all that clear on what his role was. Eventually I figured out that George Martin was the producer and Emerick the engineer on most of The Beatles’ records – whatever that meant.’

And we have a book about writing, and history, and science fiction — Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Says Robert: ‘I was prepared to like this book just because of the publisher’s name — and, of course, the fact that it is by Kate Wilhelm, one of science fiction’s legends: aside from the quality of her stories, in the 1950s and 60s she was one of the two or three women of note in a field dominated by men.’

ivy

Cat has something a little out of the ordinary for our film selection this week — would you believe ‘Saturday morning cartoons’? Yep — a whole season of Justice League Action: ‘Justice League Action is the latest animated series to be set in the DC universe. Unlike earlier series that were roughly twenty two to twenty four minutes long and had seasons of no more that twenty or so episodes, this series has forty, yes forty, episodes running roughly twelve minutes each in what is called its first season.’

ivy

Robert seems to have had a ‘choco-rama’ week. First, he treats us to Lindt’s Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffle Eggs: ‘Lindt (more formally Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG) is a Swiss chocolatier founded in 1845 and known for, among other things, its chocolate truffles.’

And then he got to sample Ghirardelli’s White Chocolate Premium Baking Bar: ‘I have to confess that even in the days when I was an active cook, my baking was limited — I was much more a main dish sort of guy, and not really into sweets. Consequently, I didn’t essay any baking with this bar, but I will readily admit to having nibbled my way through it.’

ivy

Gary has a recording for us that he says is top-notch: ‘Beatrice Deer is a singer-songwriter from Nunavik, the icy region of Quebec north of the 55th parallel and home to Quebec’s Inuit people. My All to You is her fifth record since she left her tiny hometown of Quaqtaq for the big city of Montreal in 2007 to get serious about making music as well as for other personal reasons.’

He also writes about a new album by Kiran Ahluwalia, who was born in India, raised in Canada, and now lives in New York. On her seventh album 7 Billion, he says, ‘She embraces the desert blues of Mali, but she also incorporates Western idioms like the blues, rock, R & B and even a little jazz, into her own new hybrid artform.’

Ryley Walker says he wanted to change his approach on his new release Deafman Glance. Gary says, however, ‘Eschewing the “jammy acoustic” thing doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of really tasty guitar playing on this record. To the contrary.’

Robert looks at a recording where narrative boundaries get challenged: ‘Robert Wilson, Philip Glass’ collaborator on Einstein on the Beach, noted that until that work hit the boards, theater was bound by literature. Thinking on it, he’s pretty much right: stage plays, opera, even film were constrained by a narrative line that relied on a chronological sequence, all based on language. Not so Einstein.’

Terry Riley’s The Cusp of Magic also gets reviewed by him: ‘That’s the key thing to remember about Riley’s music, I think — he’s taken all those traditions, all those influences, all those idioms, and truly synthesized them into a new vocabulary — it’s far beyond references or quotations — and yet it’s very comfortable.’

ivy

Cat has our What Not for this week — they’re not exactly action figures, but close enough: Quantum Mechanix’s Pinky & The Brain Q-Fig Toons Figures: ‘Pinky and The Brain are two laboratory mice that were enhanced to be smart but only one ended up being a genius and one ended up, well, not insane as the intro to the show puts it, but definitely odd and hyperkinetic to boot.’

ivy

Robert, after reading our opening quote, immediately came up with our Coda for this week: Friedrich Nietzsche, by way of Richard Strauss and Stanley Kubrick.

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