Stories require faith, not facts. ― attributed to T.A. Barron
I’ve been reading Joy Chant’s The High Kings: Arthur’s Celtic Ancestors in which a Storyteller in Arthur’s Court tells tales of his ancestors and the many deeds that they did. Need I say that they all do Great Things? If you’re interested in our take on all things Arthurian, just go read our one-off on those matters which we did several years back.
Ahhh that smell that’s making your mouth water is Salmon in Puff Pastry per a recipe from Deborah. The salmon are caught here in the river that runs through this Scottish Estate. We’ve a long and abiding interest in food here and we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink, shared recipes and thoroughly vetted a lot of superb books. You’ll find a sample in our food and drink section this time.
I’ll note here that Harlan Elision has passed on after some years of declining health. We’ve got a review of one of his so-called New Wave collections called Deathbird Stories here, but I’m remembering him best for the screenplay of ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ that he wrote for Star Trek. The experience led to considerable bile between Ellison and Roddenberry for the rest of the latter’s life, in particular over a public statement by Roddenberry that Ellison had the character Scotty dealing drugs in an early version of the script. I note this because Ellison will be remembered for his perpetually angry attitude as much as for his writings.
Cat considers Emma Bull’s Finder to be the best look at the Terri Windling created Bordertown series: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled “A Novel of The Borderlands”, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’
Cat R. gets down to the nitty gritty of writing and gaming. You don’t think there’s an intersection? Well, read her review of three authors on where writing and gaming meet: ‘My recent nonfiction reading has tended to be driven by the fact that as a writer and gamer, I’m always looking for new tools to put into my virtual toolbox. Here’s three recent reads aimed in that direction.’
A novel full of music and myth should make great Summer reading and Grey has a recommendation: ‘Charles de Lint dedicates The Little Country to “…all those traditional musicians who, wittingly or unwittingly, but with great good skill, still seek to recapture that first music.” A traditional Celtic musician himself, de Lint has peopled The Little Country with musicians and filled it with music. All of the chapter titles are titles of (mostly) traditional tunes, and there is an appendix of tunes written by Janey Little, the book’s main character — tunes actually written by de Lint himself. (‘Tinker’s Own’ on their Old Enough to Know Better CD recorded de Lint’s “The Tinker’s Black Kettle,” one of the tunes in this novel.) Any readers who are at all musically inclined may find themselves itching to reach for their instruments and try out the tunes.‘
Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Summer reading? Robert has the work for you: ‘I was surprised some while back to discover that Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master Trilogy was marketed as young-adult fantasy when it was first published. I don’t think I’m particularly backward in terms of understanding what I read, and I was in my thirties when I first read the books (which have earned an unchallengeable place on my “reread frequently” list), and I knew there were things I was missing. Even in a recent re-reading, the trilogy is a complex, subtle and evocative story that lends itself to much deeper examination than one might expect.’
And, speaking of evocative, Robert shares a poetry collection, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Black Mesa Poems: ‘Baca is one of those rare poets whose work is immediately accessible and yet indefinably rich, dense and profound. His diction is seemingly very basic and direct, but he maintains the ability to shift from the mundane to the magical in a phrase, making his everyday life into a lens that examines events with no pity, but with a great deal of compassion and love.’
Denise brings us beer! Well, not literally (at least, not this time), but she does take a look at a seasonal treat, Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale: ‘As a DC gal born and bred, I love cherry blossoms. I think it’s the law of the local land. So when I moved up and away, I longed for those delicate blooms around the Tidal Basin. (Still do.) So I’m glad Baltimore brewers Oliver Brewing Company catered to my cherry blossom loving heart with their season offering, aptly titled Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale.’
Robert comments that ‘Given the popularity and critical acclaim of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard series (as witness our own very positive review of the first book, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152), it was almost inevitable that there would be spin-offs. And indeed, Peterson has brought us one himself, with the aid of a number of collaborators: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. So will you like it? Ahhh you’ll need to read his review to see!
Our Editor Cat leads off with The Little Country based on the compositions in the de Lint novel Grey reviewed above: ‘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. The band describes itself as ‘a band made up of classically trained musicians who also have fun exploring other musical styles. We arrange all of our own music, pulling themes from the Celtic tradition, Chinese and Spanish folk melodies, bluegrass, pop/rock, film soundtracks, ragtime, the Classical era, and even composing original pieces!’’
Gary has a recording for us that sounds like a lot of fun: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home. Amarillis is a Pennsylvania-based trio: Maro Avakian on piano, Donna Isaac on fiddle and Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina. They play a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish, English and North American jigs, reels and slip-jigs in medleys or sets. Of course, no contra dance is complete without a few waltzes now and then, and this collection has several good examples.’
Some composers invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’
Robert, as might be expected, has something a little out of the ordinary as a music offering: ‘Harold Budd is one of those composer/performers who pops up periodically and wanders around like a medieval jongleur just doing his thing and collaborating with everyone. Noted for his piano improvisations, he has worked with the Cocteau Twins and Brian Eno, who seems to have given him a good swift kick in the ambient, reflected on the first part of Lovely Thunder.’
This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience. . . . )
I just added some performance recordings to the our media server, The Infinite Jukebox, so let’s see what I’ll finish this week out with… ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’ is performed by Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny and June Carter Cash. The recording comes from a concert she did on the 16th of January 1988 at Bimbos in San Francisco. The story goes that she recorded it at the insistence of her then husband Rodney Crowell and neither of them knew her father had written it. He was pleased she had covered it and a reconciliation between them happened because of it.