I’ve always been impulsive. My thinking is usually pretty good, but I always seem to do it after I do my talking—by which time I’ve generally destroyed all basis for further conversation. — Conrad in Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal which started out as the Call Me Conrad novella
As for calendar matters, this is the first edition of Summer, but as is usually the case here, we’ve had warm weather since mid-May. Now Ingrid, the Estate Steward who’s my lovely wife, tells me that the Estate Head Gardener in his Sleeping Hedgehog article this month says there’ve been times this month in past centuries which saw the temperature struggling to get to ten degrees for weeks on end. I’ll definitely take the pleasant twenty-three degrees we’ve got this afternoon!
Strawberries just started bearing ripe fruit in the Estate gardens, which means a New England favourite that a staffer from coastal Maine brought to the Cook as a dessert possibility generations back. It uses just three ingredients, the berries with biscuits (not our cookies, but a risen baked good that somewhat resembles a dinner roll but isn’t) and lots of whipped cream or, if the kitchen is feeling like doing it, freshly churned vanilla ice cream. Yummy is an understatement for how good it is!
Denise has a review of some exemplary beef jerky this outing, a first for us I think, and Gary sent us film of a dragon doing honours to the late Ursula K. Le Guin, along with reviews of some tasty English folk-rock and other great things worth your attention. Our Coda music is a live performance of hmmm… ‘Kashmir’ by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant!
One of my fave Summer reads gets a look-see by Mia, a Charles de Lint novel to be precise: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’
An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’
Kim found a book that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals. This novella, she says, takes the reader ‘..into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up.’
Michelle offers up a book themed to the Summer game: ‘It’s already been established that baseball exists primarily to serve as a metaphor for the meaning of life. If you didn’t get that from Malamud’s The Natural or Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, then surely you got it from Mays’ Say Hey or Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. So it should come as no surprise that Summerland, the most recent novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, reiterates this all-important theme. And should you be a reader who is only happy when the Red Sox are winning or who actually doesn’t like baseball — should you fail to appreciate that “a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day,” to quote Chabon — then Summerland is even more important for you.’
MIchelle begins her look at a number of baseball films in this manner: ‘In the big inning, God created baseball. Or perhaps it was Loki, patron of athletics and other tricks; the origins are shrouded in antiquity. There is also debate about which mortal first received the divine inspiration. Abner Doubleday often gets credit, though some historians claim the game was played in England in the 1700s. What is known is that, in 1845, a team called the New York Knickerbockers adopted the rules of the game we know as baseball. In New Jersey that summer, they played the first organized baseball game, and America acquired its own pantheon.’
Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’
As it’s summertime, a woman’s thoughts turn to beer infused beef jerky. Denise dives into a bag of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel’s Victorious B.I.G. Beef Jerky, and in-between licking the bag for stray crumbs, managed to write a review. ‘…this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’ Want to know more? Read her review!
Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of the other Cat but comes with a caveat: ‘Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household than I can count as it simply has not a less-than-stellar cut on it.’
Gary looks at some English folk-rock from a duo that includes yet another member of the Thompson clan. ‘Kami Thompson and James Walbourne are gifted musicians with something to say as artists. That makes The Rails’ Other People a deeply engaging folk-rock excursion.’
Speaking of English folk music, Gary also reviews the latest from Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy. Their Anchor, he says, is ‘another album of traditional and contemporary songs, drawing on their extended family and a crack band.’
Gary also reviews a new release by a new group, the self-titled disc by Oliver the Crow. ‘These classically trained musicians based in Nashville make a progressive, stripped-down Americana that draws on everything from Appalachian ballads to classic rock on their beguiling self-titled debut album.’
One of the most amazing things we were sent to review was the Folk Music in Sweden series, all twenty-five discs. Yeah, you read me right, twenty-five discs of Swedish trad music. Lars got the honour of reviewing this set from Swedish label Caprice and he has a word to the wise at the end of his most excellent review: ‘Well, a summary of this project would be: A very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.’
Richard rounds our music review with a look at Ma Rosalie: ‘Monsieur Pantin is not the name of some newly discovered French or Belgian or Swiss or Québécois musician. It is, as the CD’s skimpy documentation (see last paragraph below) informs us, the French title of a Scottish air found in an English collection from the 18th century. This may seem to be a piece of trivia too far! Monsieur Pantin is also one of the newer musical ventures of the multi-talented French piper and woodwind player, Jean-Pierre Rasle. It is not clear why he has chosen to give the trio this name, and there is no explanation included in the already deplored skimpy documentation. Moreover, the tune in question does not appear on the CD, but lots of other fine tunes do.’
On June 13, Portland, Oregon, had a big send-off for Ursula K. Le Guin, who had lived there for several decades before she died in January. Fans, family members, readers and literati packed the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland on a lovely late-spring evening, to hear fellow writers, artists and activists pay tribute to Le Guin. They included Le Guin’s editor at Harcourt Andrea Shulz, her biographer Julie Phillips, as well as writers Molly Gloss, Jonathan Lethem, China Miéville and, by videotape, Margaret Atwood. She was remembered as a Dragon of art and storytelling, and the evening ended with a dragon dance featuring a drum-and-cymbal ensemble and a huge dragon puppet from the Portland Chinatown Foundation.
It being Summer, let’s have something warm and sprightly for our music this time. Hmmm… ‘Kashmir’ by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant will do nicely! It was recorded apparently thirty three years ago, possibly st Glastonbury but I wouldn’t bet the farm on how truthful that is. It’s definitely a lovely take by them on this Moroccan influenced work.