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
I had a brisk walk outside today with the Estate wolfhounds, as there’s a freezing rain falling that started off late yesterday afternoon, which makes it bloody unpleasant out. I’m now warming myself in the Library near the fireplace on the outside wall of the New Library here in Kinrowan Hall. Indeed, there’s a goodly number of staffers here reading and talking quietly which isn’t surprising. Corwin’s right: libraries do hold back the darkness.
Music holds it back as well, which is why you’ll always find trad and not so trad music playing here. Right now it’s Red Molly doing their cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, which they did at the Center for Arts in Natick several years back. We reviewed their Love and Other Tragedies recording here.
Now let’s see what we’ve got for you. I’ll be in the a Kitchen if you’ve got any questions as Rebekah is baking up an array of Jewish and Palestinian nibbles for all of us…
Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’
Joel ends his review of Neal Asher’s first Polity novel in this manner: ‘The danger of reading an early work by an author after later entries to a series, or even later stand-alone novels from the same author, is that one might discover the writer is still feeling things out, and perhaps stumbling a bit, lacking the experience his later works will reflect. While Asher has certainly found a somewhat firmer footing in later books (relatively speaking), this first novel is anything but clumsy. So I can happily recommend Gridlinked as the logical place to start for new initiates to the series. If you’re like me, you will be rewarded with a long and happy relationship with the Polity universe.’
Robert does a little catching up, bringing us a review of the most recent installment of Glen Cook’s Instrumentalities of the Night: Working God’s Mischief: ‘It’s hard to know how to lead into this one, so I’m going to let Cook do it: Arnhand, Castauriga, and Navaya lost their kings. The Grail Empire lost its empress. The Church lost its Patriarch, though he lives on as a fugitive. The Night lost Kharoulke the Windwalker, an emperor amongst the most primal and terrible gods. The Night goes on, in dread. The world goes on, in dread. The ice builds and slides southward.‘
And as long as we’re talking about fantasy noir (and we were, no two ways about it), Robert has some thoughts on the first five books of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Books of the Fallen: ‘I’ve been listening to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen and I’ve been reading Midnight Tides, book five of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Although it may seem a little odd, the two fit together quite nicely: both are vast in scale, both have a strong basis in myth — not necessarily the stories of myth themselves (although that’s obviously true of the Wagner), but the resonances of myth — and both push against our perceived boundaries of what is possible.’
It’s still very much Winter here, so Gary picks these lovely Winter Ales: ‘Full Sail’s Wassail is very good. As I recall, it’s just a good strong winter ale, no flavorings used. Another excellent Oregon winter brew is Pyramid’s Snow Cap ale. It’s my favorite winter brew so far. Deep, dark and caramel-y, perfect for a cold night in front of the fire with a good book — although after a while, my eyes always cross and I have to switch to an audiobook or some music. The Decemberists, say.’
Robert once again brings us something a little out of the ordinary for GMR as our film offering this week: BBC’s South Pacific (no, not the musical): ‘South Pacific is another of the BBC’s “nature” series that I’ve been watching recently — “nature” in quotes because, while it does deal with the wildlife on the islands of the Pacific, it also focuses on the people and their adapations to island life.’
Interested in a really great graphic novel series? If so, go read April’s look at the first deluxe volume of this series: ‘As might be surmised from the subtitle to this collection, Vertigo has given Bill Willingham’s long-running series Fables the deluxe treatment, much as it has with other top series, such as Sandman, V for Vendetta and Death. This gorgeous volume reprints the first ten issues of Fables, previously collected in Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, along with a sketch gallery. If somehow you’ve missed out on reading Fables, this is a perfect opportunity to dive in feet first.’
Asher starts our music reviews off with 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 fairy tale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.’
Big Earl looks at Grow Fins: ‘So Green Man Review has come to this: the inevitable “who or what is a Captain Beefheart?” paragraph. I’ll reduce it to a sentence: Captain Beefheart is the all-encompassing focal point of all 20th century American music idioms, rolled into one composer. Better still, I’ll reduce it to one word: genius. I’ve seen that word used with many musicians, but if it had to apply to only a select few, Beefheart would be on that list. Brahms, Beethoven, Beefheart… I’ll refer you to the absolutely wonderful Beefheart Web site if you want more background information on the man. Time and space don’t permit…‘
Cat has some thoughts on an EP from Boiled in Lead, The Well Below: ‘I’ve heard Boiled in Lead in person but one time, and that was twenty years ago when they played in a field one late summer. Lovely they were, and their live sound carries over very well to being recorded.’
Judith was thrilled by Robin & Linda Williams’ Visions Of Love! She says, ‘Visions Of Love is, by my count, the sixteenth album by American music harmonists Robin and Linda Williams. It is produced by Garrison Keillor and, unlike most of their other releases, it contains no originals but rather covers of old songs they’ve “known for a while.” The songs are indeed about love.’ Keillor was touring with the Williamses when news broke about the accusations against him and that tour was canceled. The show that replaced that show is Live from Here which is hosted by Chris Thile and Cat’s upbeat review is here.
Robert brings us a recording by someone who has become a household word, even for those who don’t follow classical music — it’s Arturo Toscanini’s complete recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra: ‘The legend of Toscanini springs from a remarkable career. He was one of the first to bring order to what had been the sometimes barely restrained anarchy of the nineteenth-century European orchestra, demanding, for example, that all the instruments be in tune and that the performers all play at the same tempo, somewhat revolutionary concepts for the time.’
For this week’s What Not, Robert has a brief commentary on a small offering from Folkmanis Puppets, which you can read here.
So let’s end with Richard and Linda Thompson doing ‘Shoot Out the Lights’ which was from their show at the Paradise in Boston way back on the 19th Of May thirty six years ago! The deluxe edition of the Shoot Out the Lights album gets reviewed by Gary here.