I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) — Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder — A Novel of Borderlands
There’s a contradance going on just now, but my left knee, injured many decades ago, is acting out, so I decided to stay in the Pub and listen to the Neverending Session which has been playing a lot of hambos, think of them as a sort of a mazurka, this evening as I write up these notes. It makes for a pleasant eventing particularly with a wee dram in hand for searching through the Archives for interesting reviews and of course to see why the current staffers turn in for reviews as well…
Speaking of the latter, we should welcome sone folk who are both great writers and all around nice to have around, Cat Rambo who’s been here for some months now, Jennifer Stevenson who’s done some reviews in the past and is the amazing author who does our Solstice stories, to the present fold, as well as John O’Regan, one of our more prolific Celtic music reviewers who’s back with us. Welcome all!
Cat starts off our book reviews with a good listen: Simon R. Green’s Ghost Finders 6: Forces from Beyond audiobook: ‘Michael, in his review of the second Ghost Finders novel, Ghost of a Smile, has the perfect introduction to the series: ‘When you have a problem with ghosts, you call the Carnacki Institute. They’ll discreetly handle everything from poltergeists to Big Black Dogges, exorcising or just plain terrorizing phantoms until they go away.’
A novel by Emma Bull and Steven Brust that’s now available as a digital book gets this comment from Richard: ‘Thankfully for readers of Freedom & Necessity, the two authors’ collaboration, the safe money is right this time. The book, while completely unexpected in its content, delivers on all the implied promises its authors have made with careers of sustained excellence. It’s just that Freedom & Necessity, perhaps inevitably, does so on its own, very demanding terms.’
A consummate storyteller in the form of one of his newest works also gets a look-see by Richard: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong is an exercise in masterful, hopeful heartbreak. Deeply steeped in mythology yet relentlessly modern (if a bit sentimental), it tackles the big questions of love, compromise, dreams, and what you might do – or forgive – in the face of the sublime.’
Robert takes a new look at an old favorite: ‘I have a reread list of books that have impressed me one way or another over the years. One that I only recently took up again is Sean Russell’s duology, The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds, which really is one work, a huge, sprawling epic that nonetheless remains intimate in scale.’
And in keeping with the milieu in that pair of books, Robert brings us some poetry: Basho’s On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho: ‘Basho is, to many, synonymous with haiku. He took his name from a wide-leaf banana tree, rare in Japan, given to him by a student, which stood beside the door of his hut near Edo (modern Tokyo). Basho wrote during a time of renascence in Japan, the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th Century, when the power of the Emperors moved from Kyoto to Edo, although the Emperors stayed in Kyoto, and purely indigenous forms in the arts regained their popularity.’
Meanwhile, West Coast Cat is sadly disappointed by Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger. Her review however is not ‘tall disappointing.
Denise dives into more dark chocolate; this time it’s Butterfinger Dark. A twist on the usual milk chocolate and toffee everyone knows, though Denise wasn’t particularly impressed. “…with Butterfinger Dark, these two great tastes don’t quite make a satisfying whole.” Read why she was let down in her review!
It being summer here that means lots of fresh hand churned ice cream with various fruits, especially those Borderland strawberries. So it’s apt that Richard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’
Kage, author of The Company series featuring time traveling cyborg immortals who loved chocolate, was a great film fan and it’s no wonder she liked this film: ‘Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’
My favourite work by Alan Moore is by far the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which April reviews for us: ‘Moore and O’Neill’s premise is simple but elegant: bring together a motley crew of Victorian literary characters and drop them into a delightfully pulpy penny-dreadful. And so we have H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, Bram Stoker’s Mina Murray (Harker), Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jules Vernes’s Captain Nemo, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarity, H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, Edgar Alan Poe’s August Dupin and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu all rubbing shoulders in a Victorian England (and briefly Egypt and Paris) of Moore’s own devising.’
Alan Moore in many ways is akin to the late Harlan Ellison in benig a a brilliant crealtor and a pain in the arse to deal with. Rebecca looks at one depiction of him in George Khoury’s The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore is a birthday toast. It’s an exploration of his life and works. It’s a collection of interviews, old Moore fiction and art, tributes from friends and family, and startling photographic portraits of the man himself.’
And Richard says that ‘The main draw of Alan Moore’s Exit Interview comes from the fact that Moore dishes, at great length, on where exactly his relationship with DC Comics went sour. To a lesser extent, Moore talks about upcoming projects, the origins of British comics fandom, and his take on the mainstream comics industry, but the sensational stuff is likely what’s going to draw the most readers. That’s as should be, as Moore provides a fascinating look into the inner workings of big-time comics publishing, and how the creative talent can get mangled in the gears of the machine once Hollywood gets involved.’
Cat looks at Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part. Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’
Buss-Calle wins the approval of Naomi: ‘The Nyckelharpa orchestra is comprised of six top musicians from the younger generation of nyckelharpa players. They are all working at preserving the nyckelharpa tradition, as well as developing it, both as an ensemble, and as solo artists. Their playing is exquisite, all six are adding in passion and talent to a ensemble which has much potential. And after listening I would have to agree that this is a tradition which should be preserved.’
Robert takes on the late twentieth century in two works by French composer Olivier Greif, Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano: ‘Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for any combination of strings and piano and sometimes voice. His works are not only a product of the last half of the twentieth century in terms of their musical foundations, but also in terms of the engagement with spiritual matters that marked his adult life.’
Robert also has something that may at first sound even more esoteric, Chants, Hymns and Dances by Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Vassilis Tsabropoulos: ‘The name Gurdjieff calls up images of mysticism, esoteric spiritual doctrines, perhaps to some extent a certain wild-eyed fanaticism. Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was, in point of fact, one of those restless wanderers in the realm of ideas who crop up from time to time in our history, seeking something a little more than most of us think about, and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.’
Our What Not is a conversation with Charles de Lint held at the FaerieWorld Convention in 2013. You can hear the entire delightful affair here. We’re busy reworking and updating our last edition on him and his work for publication sometime this coming Autumn. Right now he, his lovely wife MaryAnn and their canine companion Johnny Cash are summering for a few months at their lake cottage. May they all have a wonderful time!
Speaking of Cash, the Infinite Jukebox, our somewhat fey media server, has a song written and performed by his daughter that shows that she’s every bit as great covering her own material as she is covering his material as she did last week here. This week it’s ‘Runaway Train’ which comes from the same Bimbos concert in San Francisco that January evening. It details the end of a relationship that may or may not have been about her own such ending but it’s certainly heartfelt.