“I am no king, and I am no lord.
And I am no soldier at arms,” said he.
“I am none but a harper, and a very poor harper
That has come hither to wed with thee.”
Peter S. Beagle’s ‘None But The Harper’
It’s a bright Summer evening a short time before Solstice as I write these words. Iain’s off with his wife on a short concert tour, so I get the honour this week of writing this up. Fortunately, the Pub will be quiet this evening, as there was a hand-fasting earlier today and they’re celebrating out in the old Church sancturary that’s now our gathering space — and there’s a contradance in the Courtyard starting shortly, so most everyone’s anywhere but here.
Oh that’s rhubarb wine sitting on the Bar. I’m not sure about the idea of rhubarb wine which a Several Annie convinced Bjorn, our brewer, to play around with. We’ve enough rhubarb growing on this Estate that it’s just possible we could commercially produce it but I doubt I’ll ever have anyone asking for it in the Pub… ale, cider, metheglin, whisky (Irish and Scottish) and bourbon are the main sought after libations here in the Green Man Pub. Though The Sleeping Hedgehog in the Victorian Age notes that we produced for our own consumption a number of fruit wines including blackberry, raspberry and elderberry.
Now let’s get started…
Iain looks at Angela Carter’s The Curious Room: Plays, Film Scripts and an Opera. As he says of her in his review, ‘Sometimes the Reaper is just too damn unfair. Angela Olive Stalker Carter died of lung cancer in 1992 at the far too young age of 52. Writer, feminist theorist, folklorist, opera buff, playwright, poet — she was these things and much, much more. ‘
Joel says ‘Jasper Fforde is the author of the Thursday Next detective series, starring the detective of the same name, whose specialty is crimes of a “literary nature”. The Big Over Easy marks the beginning of the Nursery Crimes series, a slight departure, though still well in the same quirky neighbourhood that Fforde’s chosen to explore.’
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.’
Richard was the lucky reviewer for this tasty literary treat: ‘Where Nightshade’s epic five-volume set gathered together all of Manly Wade Wellman’s extant short fiction, The Complete John Thunstone instead focuses on all of the appearances of that singular character. While not as well known as Wellman’s signature character John the Balladeer, Thunstone actually predates him; his appearance in “The Third Cry to Legba” dates back to 1943, nearly a full decade before the first Silver John story. In many ways, Thunstone lays the ground for John. It’s in these tales that the mythology of Wellman’s mysterious Shonokins first appears, and the fascination with and respect for folklore that marked Wellman’s later work is already present.’
Robert brings a look at a book populated by archetypes (or stereotypes, depending on your point of view) that actually works, Neil Bartlett’s Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall: ‘The story is a simple one, a romance set in a time not too far past, a place not too far away: London, probably, perhaps in the 1970s: boy meets older man, they fall in love, and after trials and tribulations, they live happily ever after.’
And Robert is very enthusiastic about a series he thinks you should check out: Leona Wisoker’s Children of the Desert. You can start the journey with Secrets of the Sands. For some background on the early years of a major, and very mysterious character, see our review of Fallen City.
Iain, our Librarian, is an open critic of the Peter Jackson film version of Lord of The Rings, but if you are looking for a fantastic film experience that will keep you engaged for a while, I’ll recommend all three films worth which get reviewed here, here and thisway respectively. If you’re a purist, you most likely won’t be happy, but I found them most excellent viewing with popcorn to munch on.
Robert takes a look at a film that he mentioned earlier in today’s reviews: ‘Shortbus is one of those films that comes apart if you try to look at it element by element. There’s not much of a plot, which we should all be used to by now. The characterizations are not startling for their depth: the people being portrayed are not much different than the rest of us, not particularly deep, not remarkably shallow, just awkward, charming, vulnerable, stubborn, funny and dumb. I will say, however, that they are right on target.’
A certain Elizabeth has a chocolate story for us: ‘Best chocolate? Here’s a story: About ten years ago, my sister-in-law gave my family, gathered some 20-odd strong in Vermont, a box of extremely expensive Belgian chocolates for Christmas. (I can’t recall the name of the company, but I’ll check later.) We spent the week eating them, and then when there were only a few left, my 8-year-old daughter Callie picked one out, bit into it and cried out; then held out her hand to display a small metal bolt. (Fortunately no teeth were broken.) I took the bolt, and when we got home to Maine, wrote a very nice letter to the chocolate company’s American office, explaining what had happened, and sent it off with the offending metal. I then told Callie and her four-year-old brother, “We will now be supplied with chocolate for life.” Well, we weren’t set for life, but a week later an ENORMOUS box of chocolates (huge box, and three layers deep) arrived with a very nice very apologetic letter from the company. We ate those chocolates for about a month. They were fabulous. Sadly, I’ve never been able to afford to eat them since.’
So let’s see what’s up for music reviews this time…
Kim looks at a very special recording in the form of Willie’s Last Session: ‘Imagine old friends getting together to play one last session, nine days before one of their members passes on from cancer. Folks who have an ease of playing together that can only come with the years. This is that album, recorded in 1993 and assembled on disc in 1999. …The selections are mostly happy tunes, as befits a dance band and a final musical celebration for an old friend.’
Not to be outdone, Gary reviews a new release by Golfam Khayam and Mona Matbou Riahi, Iranian musicians who play guitar and clarinet, respectively. Gary says that on their album Narrante, ‘these two are combining Persian and western musical traditions in unusual ways. Their music to my ears sounds like it draws heavily from Andalusian traditions, Spanish classical guitar and the like, with other influences from contemporary classical and avant-garde styles.’
Paul says of the Strange but True: 25 Years of Friends & Tunes that ‘Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell has long been one of my favourite musicians. I can’t exactly put my finger on why; whether it’s the sublime playing, the always eclectic choice of songs and tunes, or even something as frivolous as knowing she was the inspiration for the lead character in one of my most-loved books, The Little Country by Charles de Lint. A lot of it has a great deal to do with the wonderful instrument she plays, the Northumbrian smallpipes, which are neither as harsh as the Scottish bagpipes nor as low and mournful as the Uilleann pipes.’
Robert, a/k/a “The Weird Music Guy” here at GMR, comes up with some very unusual classical Indian raga in a performance by Dr. N. Ramani and Hariprasad Chaurasia: ‘When we think of Indian raga, most of us will think of the sitar, and perhaps the sarod, the most common instruments used in performing this classical Indian music. What we don’t think of is flutes, in the case of this performance of the Raga Hindolam/Malkauns as a flute duet (known as a jugulbandi) that sounds in places like “Benny Goodman Goes Subcontinental.” ‘
Our What Not this time is an excerpt from The Old Oak Chronicles: Interviews with Famous Personages by Professor Arnel Rootmuster which is published by the Royal Library Press. It’s an interview with Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, a young faery at just over two centuries old. Our thanks to Terri Windling for transcribing this from the Elvish it was published in.
Usually whoever of us is writing the weekly edition up would give you a song or tune as the coda to the edition. And so it is this week but we’ve got a treat for you that’s just a bit different — Peter S. Beagle, author and composer and musician, singing ‘None But The Harper’ which he wrote about the same time as The Last Unicorn which would be in the late Sixties! When it was recorded is not at all clear but his voice and playing is quite superb, so let’s listen to ‘None But The Harper’!
Oh and his first new novel in a long time, Summerlong, will be out this Summer. You can read the press release from the publisher, Tachyon Publishing, here. Of course we’ll have a review of it soon, as Cat’s reading the galley now.