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
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 assured 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…
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.’
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.’
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!
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.’
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?’
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!
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.