One should never mistake pattern for meaning. — Iain Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata
Québécois Style pork pies, spiced with nutmeg, are the main entree for the eventide meal on the Autumn day along with roasted carrots, beets and onions as the weather turned decidedly nippy over the past week with even some nasty periods of freezing rain and sleet. Before heading into the Pub for my evening shift, I was assisting Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and all around groundskeeper, with the harvesting of the fall squashes which had to be harvested before a hard frost harmed them beyond them being usable. And I so look forward to squash and smoked pork soup with pickled ginger on a cold Winter evening!
Autumn more than any other season is when you’ll find lots of reviews themed to that time of year. Oh Bradbury is fairly obvious as an Autumnal creator but some of the content and where it came from I expect will surprise you such as our look at The Call of Cthulhu, a 1920 silent film in this edition, or our look at the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which ran last edition. So grab your favourite Halloween candy, say those skull shaped dark chocolates with those oh so soft centres, and settle in for some delicious reading…
Carter looks at a Ray Bradbury that is indeed a classic of fantasy literature: ‘The Illustrated Man is a short tale wrapped around eighteen short stories. The framing story is of a tattooed man whom the narrator meets, and whose tattoos foretell the future. The eighteen short stories inside the frame give Ray Bradbury’s visions of our future and, in the process, let us see ourselves as we are in the past and present. Bradbury always asks probing questions in his work, but seldom provides definitive answers. He leaves it to the reader to find his or her own answers inside.’
Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, says Rebecca, requires that you take ‘Take a deep breath before you start this book. It’s a heavy 701 pages of adventure and sex. It’s also one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time. I recommend it highly.’
Robert came up with a treasure while going through the Library: Wisława Szymborska’s View With a Grain of Sand: ‘Wisława Szymborska is a highly regarded Polish poet who has a long and distinguished career. Born in 1923 in Kornik, in western Poland, she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at Jagiellon University in Krakow, and has published sixteen collections; her work has been translated into over a dozen languages. In 1996 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”’
Sara looks at Clive Barker’s Abarat: Book One of the Books of Abarat quartet: ‘Candy herself is a mild but very likeable heroine, just a bit spunky, just a bit bewildered. She is the perfect Alice for a new Wonderland. And, of course, the veritable cornucopia of strange and delightful denizens of the Abarat boggles the mind. Barker’s dry humor sparkles throughout the book, and lends a needed jaunty air to a book otherwise filled with danger and a delightful creepiness. This is, after all, Clive Barker and not some sweet-minded YA author of happy rabbit tales. Barker knows creepy, and there’s plenty of it.’
James says that ‘The works of H.P. Lovecraft have enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the cinema. While his writings have influenced movies from the Evil Dead trilogy to Creepshow to In The Mouth of Madness, full-length adaptations such as Dagon and From Beyond tend to lose the mythology and focus on sensationalistic gore. (For a great look at Lovecraft and movies, I recommend the book The Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H.P. Lovecraft by John Strysik and Andrew Milgiore.) And Lovecraft’s most seminal story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” has not been filmed — until now. The good people at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have tackled this tale by giving it the silent treatment: Their movie The Call of Cthulhu is a 1920s-style silent movie.’
Denise looks at some very tasty chocolate: ‘There are lots of tastes that taste great together. Peanut butter and jelly. Buttered popcorn and champagne. (Seriously, try it.) And, of course, chocolate and licorice. But there’s one that doesn’t get enough love here in the States, and that’s chilies and chocolate. But we need to fix that right now. Taza’s Guajillo Chili chocolate is just the thing to make converts out of all chocolate lovers.’
Stork’s Toffifay really delighted Denise as well: ‘I remember being a kid and seeing Toffifay. It looked so elegant, so grown-up. Now this was a classy candy, obviously made for ADULTS, thought Little Me. Naturally, I had to try it. And I loved it. But I seldom wander the candy aisle anymore, so when I got a box in for review, I snapped it up.’
As a warm-up for the coming festivities, Robert brings us a look at an old favorite, Tite Kubo’s Bleach: Strawberry and the Soul Reapers: ‘Tite Kubo’s Bleach is a wildly popular manga and anime series (which was initially rejected when Kubo offered it to his publisher) that went on for 74 volumes of the collected manga and 300 episodes of the anime before Kubo finally called it quits. It’s also one of the most imaginative series I’ve seen.’
Gary reviews a new archival release by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard. Sing Me Back Home, he says, ‘is a compilation of home recordings by Hazel & Alice from the mid to late 1960s, when they were a rarity – a female duo in the nascent bluegrass world.’
Kjell-Erik Arnesen’s Calls and Jrgen Larsen and Frydis Ree Wekre’s Ceros are recommended by Joel: ‘Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven’t heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.’
Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’
Robert has a look at an opera that is, perhaps, more relevant than we might want to acknowledge, Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony: ‘Philip Glass, bless his heart, keeps turning out operas, and with a couple of near-misses, they’re among the best in the contemporary canon. In the Penal Colony takes as its foundation Franz Kafka’s chilling short story of the same title.’
And another opera, which Robert notes is usually performed at Christmas but is equally appropriate heading into Halloween, wicked witch and all: Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretal: ‘The idea of making an opera out of a fairy tale was not unique to Engelbert Humperdinck (this is the nineteenth-century composer I’m talking about, not the mid-twentieth century crooner). Actually, in the case of Hansel und Gretel, it wasn’t even really his idea.’
As thoughts turn to mulling spices, apple-picking and all things pumpkin, there’s another seasonal tradition that we here at GMR are fans of; Renaissance Festivals. In Maryland, their ‘RenFest‘ has been going strong for over forty years, and people come from miles around (and even nearby states) to get their garb on. Shakespeare in the open air, aerial silk performers, crafts that take the breath away (and have parted many a happy customer from a dollar or three), and of course those smoked turkey legs. It feels like coming home, but with more velvet and tapestry.
Our coda is Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ as performed by the Rolling Stones. Yes the Rolling Stones! A number of bands including Styx and Emerson Lake and Palmer have also adapted it for use. So here’s their decidedly offbeat version.