He kissed her anyway, lightly on the cheek, before she turned to get her coat, thinking how long he had known her and how little he knew her and how little he knew of how much or little there was in her to know. — Patricia McKillip’s ‘’The Snow Queen’, first found in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Snow White, Blood Red
Damn, it’s nearly the beginning of Winter as measured by the calendar! The days no longer even have a bit of warmth, and they’re barely reaching freezing by afternoon, and Gus, our Head Gardener, has long since harvested everything including the root crops and pumpkins as we’ve already had several hard frosts.
Bjorn, our Brew Master, also long since has claimed the very best of the latter for his legendary spiced pumpkin stout, his take on that seasonal libation. Our Librarian, Mackenzie, said of this brew last year that ‘it was a remarkably well crafted stout — the pumpkin flavor is subtle and smokey.’ We expect an equally great libation this year!
It’s amusing for me as Head Publican to watch the shift that Winter brings to our Pub. With many fewer visitors, it once again becomes a more low-key affair, with even the music played by visiting bands kinder and more restrained, and the Neverending Session is noticeably smaller and leans towards Nordic, Breton and Celtic trad music, which is something staff and visitors alike are quite fond of. Now let’s see what the Editors have selected for this time…
Jo starts our book reviews off with this review she wrote for Folk Tales, the predecessor of GMR a long time ago.: ‘Folk legend merges with Jane Yolen’s creative world to create a work of pure magic in The Wild Hunt, which should be destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. Pitting the forces of light and dark against one another is a common theme, but it is rare for those forces to acknowledge the other as essential to their own existence, as done in this delightful tale. Yolen’s use of time and words have woven a masterpiece from the ancient threads of an old tale together with the modern threads of something totally new and different. The resulting tapestry is beautiful to behold.’
We of course have a look at The Snow White, Blood Red anthology, so let’s have Laurie explain why it’s for adults: ‘Snow White, Blood Red is the first in a series of books intended to bring fairy tales back from the nursery where they were relegated during Victorian times. Although there are light, frothy tales in this collection, dark, sensual stories predominate. There are very few “happily-ever-afters.” These are fairy tales for adults, where Little Red Riding Hood is a nubile teenager and the Big Bad Wolf is a gentleman who marries Red’s mother so that he has access to Red, who is a knowing accomplice.’
Lory finds Mark I. West’s A Children’s Literature Tour of Great Britain good enough to bring up remembrances of things past, but says it’s lacking in the fine details: ‘Mark I. West, a professor of children’s literature at the University of North Carolina, seems to have his facts pretty straight, but doesn’t include any personal anecdotes about his travels, or many juicy bits about his subjects. You would find the same in any respectable encyclopedia. There is a section of black and white photographs, taken by the author and not very atmospheric, but no maps or other illustrations. West also has little to say about the landscape or countryside that inspired so many great British children’s books; he focuses on houses, objects, or even statues associated with authors, some of which will only interest a real fanatic.’
Robert looks at a collection by Charles de Lint that he and his wife MarryAnn Harris, who did the cover art, just published in a digital edition on their Triskell Press: ‘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.’
Robert also has some thoughts on a group of stories that are somewhat out of the ordinary: Michael Cadnum’s Can’t Catch Me And Other Twice-Told Tales and Tim Powers’ A Soul in a Bottle: ‘It seems that more and more, the books that cross my desk don’t fit into any sort of traditional category. I have to assume that’s deliberate, since there is a whole generation of young writers who are deliberately blurring the lines between mystery, fantasy, surrealism, magical realism, what have you. Needless to say, the results are often mixed.’
We’re all adults here, so lets have a look at Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, which is classy porn perhaps, but porn none-the-less. No mere bodice ripper — oh indeed, it’s porny. Porn for everyone: women on women, men on women, men on men, boys on boys, voyeurism. . . . Or is it porn? April said in the editors lounge while reading Lost Girls that ‘Nah. I can’t really call it porn, in the end. It would have to be… exciting to be porn, no? I’m really not sure what to call something that’s cover to cover sex but isn’t really exciting or erotic. Aside from boring.’
Our fold and drink section this time concerns the time that Vonnie went to a lecture, David Ingle’s The Bacchanalian Tradition in British Isles Songs, 1600-1900, in a historic building with a bunch of fellow folk music lovers to experience, well, much more than a boring lecture. Read her write-up to see what she experienced that night.
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.“
Cat has some comments on a very non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’
Chuck has a trad album worth hearing: ‘On Midwinter Night’s Dream, Boys of the Lough include Aly Bain (fiddle), Cathal McConnell (flute, whistles, song), Dave Richardson (concertina, mandolin, cittern, accordion), and Christy O’Leary (uilleann pipes, whistles, song). They call on Christmas and winter traditions of Ireland, Scotland, Shetland, and Sweden to put together a fine CD.’
Richard went to experience June Tabor at Minnemeers Theater: ‘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.’
Robert takes us somewhat far afield with a look at two recordings by two distinguished artists of classical Indian music: Raga Madhukauns and Raga Piloo: ‘The Indian raga, which has enjoyed variable popularity in the West since the 1970s under the influence of a number of musicians from various backgrounds and, if we may speak of such a thing, “schools” (George Harrison and Terry Riley come to mind, and two more disparate musicians are hard to imagine), is the product of a musical tradition that may very well be the oldest still extant – or at least, the oldest with an actual history. (“History” simply because we can actually trace this tradition through written sources back for about four thousand years.)’
Puppetry is our What Not 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.’
Our musical coda befits the Winter season that’s here in force now. ‘Mojas Katrin’ is from Mari Boine Persen‘s Schauburg, Bremen, Germany performance of some twenty five years ago, though the exact date’s unknown. I think that both her voice and playing feel perfect for this season.