I decided to return to the library and see what I could learn there. Besides, I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows. — Corwin in Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber
Did you notice how colorful the tulips are right now? Most of them are rarer breeds, many acquired by Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, in trade with MacGregor, a fellow tulip enthusiast who goes to the Turkish tulip markets to get the rarer heirloom tulips. Just don’t get Gus talking about tuplips unless you’re planning on being there quite awhile!
If you’re really interested in the history of tulips, drop by his workshop late this afternoon as he’s giving the Several Annies, my Library Apprentices, a practical exercise in how history really happens, using the Dutch Tulip Mania as his example.
If you’re interested in this fascinating subject, Donna 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.
Robert brings us even more on the Ottoman Empire, first with a look at Suraiya Faroqhi’s Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire: ‘We tend to think of the Ottoman Empire as monolithic: a unitary state ruled from Istanbul and subject to a uniform system of laws. A moment’s reflection will lead to the inescapable conclusion that this couldn’t possibly be true: at its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from north of the Caucasus through the Balkans and over the Anatolian Plateau, across North Africa in the west and to the borders of Persia in the east.’
Next is a twofer, Robert’s take on 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: ‘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.’
The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, Iain notes, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Read his review on this bibliography which only diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong sf emphasis should consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy.
Robert starts his insightful look at John Brunner novel this way: ‘Stand on Zanzibar is a novel that any student of science fiction has to know. It’s not a pleasant book — not one I would recommend for a cold gloomy evening, cheerful fire or no. But it’s good. It’s really good.’
Sitting on my desk is the first book in a Neal Stephenson series that ran to nearly three thousand pages over the course of three books! Now let’s have Wes tell us what the first one is about: ‘Quicksilver certainly doesn’t fall under the traditional conceits of science fiction, instead falling into something resembling “history-of-science fiction.” Set during the heart of the Baroque period, Neal Stephenson’s mcarefully crafted book follows fictional and historical characters through a world torn by conflict and plague.’
Gary initially wasn’t impressed by the appearance and provenance of Purple Haze, a dark chocolate bar made by Lillie Belle Farms in the small town of Central Point, Oregon. Read his review to see if his initial impression survived his first taste.
Jack’s review of Inga Saffron’s Caviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World’s Most Coveted Delicacy is as much about Jack as it is about the book: ‘Being married to a culinary expert par excellence means that we collect more cookbooks and culinary histories than possibly one should. She insisted I review this book when she saw it in the mail room at our office, and how could I say no to such a lovely lass? Well, I didn’t. And that’s how I came to know more about these subjects than, well, I even learned about about Mother Russia from Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia.’
Brendan looks at So Many Roads (1965 -1995), a Grateful Dead box set: ‘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.’
A cool recording from Central Europe gets the nod from Donna: ‘Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts is the sixth CD released by Taraf de Haïdouks, a Romanian Gypsy band. Since the band formed in 1990, this CD also celebrates their 25th anniversary. Taraf de Haïdouks began as a group of individual musicians who came together to play for various village events, such as weddings and funerals. They all hail from Clejani, about 40 km south of Bucharest and not far from the border with Bulgaria. The area has long been recognized as a hotbed of traditional music; in fact, a number of the musicians in the band appeared on recordings from the area taken by ethnomusicologists who visited in the late 1980s.’
‘The Big Band isn’t dead!’ Gary exclaims in his review of The Distance. It’s a new release from jazz bassist Michael Formanek and his 19-piece band he calls Ensemble Kolossus. ‘The Ensemble Kolossus runs through a panoply of postwar jazz styles and some modernist music,’ which Gary says is pretty exciting for ‘an old band geek.’
Gary looks at a choice bit of chamber pop in Freeze-Die-Come To Life: ‘The music of the Wolfkings belies their name, if you equate wolves with something wild and muscular. The San Francisco-based ensemble fronted by singer-songwriter Michael Talbott makes gentle chamber-folk-pop in the confessional vein of Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, et al.’
Let’s find something sprightly to listen to on this fine Spring day… Ahhh that’ll do… Here’s De Dannan performing ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’, a trad Irish reel which was first was collected in printed form by O’Neill in his Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies (1903). This version was recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, sometime in 1982 by the incarnation of the band consisting of Jackie Daly on accordion, Alec Finn plying bouzouki and guitar, Frankie Gavin on fiddle and whistle with Colm Murphy playing the bodhran and Maura O’Connell providing the lovely vocals, which she amply demonstrates on ‘My Irish Molly’ from the same concert.