She was the greatest American writer of her generation. Her work deepened, expanded and challenged my expectations of literature, awed me with the power of an unfettered imagination, and obliged me to sympathize with and understand — and in some stunning measure belong to —cultures and societies far removed in space, time, and even biology from my own. — Michael Chabon on Ursula Le Guin
You can finally see the extra light during the day here which is nice as it’s still bloody fucking cold with temperatures below minus ten centigrade and nasty winds outside to boot. Several of the staff are suffering bad colds which have the Kitchen staff treating them to their special chicken soup (staff made noodles, heavy on garlic and Estate mushrooms) and Mrs. Ware swears by whiskey toddies so I’ve had to break out the bottle of not too expensive whiskey that serves just fine for that purpose.
Series like Doctor Who are interestng in cultural sense as they are generators of pop culture in a way that’s amazing. If you look behind the bar here in the Green Man Pub, you’ll see a TARDIS and a Thirteenth Doctor figure on a shelf there along with the jelly babies I mentioned lastioned last week. All came courtesy of that visitor who stayed here with us recently. Nice lady, brilliant conversationalist.
Given we’ve got a quote about le Guin, we can hardly not have a review of some of her fiction, so Cat has a look at something truly awesome which is The Selected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin: ‘The Found and the Lost is a complete collection of all thirteen of her novellas, while The Unreal and the Real, being published for the first time in a single, hardcover volume, brings together thirty-nine of her best-regarded short stories.’
Chuck says ‘Various Internet sources define a gruagach as a creature similar to brownie. In these tales, however — and Robin Williamson claims to draw from traditional Irish and Highland Scottish sources — a gruagach is a wizard, long of hair and beard, often red-haired, and usually malevolent. Williamson shows of his storytelling and story-composing talents on this double CD set, Four Gruagach Tales, telling of these wizards and those who dare to go up against them.’
Elizabeth exclaims that ‘Liz Williams creates the perfect second book in a series. While maintaining the best elements of the first book, The Demon and the City also maintains a distinctiveness in character, plot, and focus that makes reading it a different, albeit no less enjoyable, experience than Snake Agent.
Lory’s review of Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy which is an in-depth academic study of the fantasy genre, and discovers that academia and genre literature aren’t natural enemies after all: ‘Farah Mendlesohn takes fantasy seriously. Other scholars may tend to skip over the genre, or feel the need to explain or excuse their focus on popular fiction, but she takes for granted the worthiness of a body of literature which relies on the creation of a sense of wonder.’
Robert brings us a look at a Pulitzer Prize winning collection from a distinguished American poet: ‘Jorie Graham has been honored in just about every way it is possible for America to honor a poet, including the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for The Dream of a Unified Field, a selection of poems from 1974 to 1994. . . . She has been called “a European poet transplanted to America,” and speaks in a manner “that is both lush and hauntingly other.”’
Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.
Robert, with a little help, came across a comic collection that, believe it or not, won a Hugo for Best Graphic Story: ‘The very helpful and knowledgeable young man at my local comics store directed me to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, which is one of the more bizarre examples of graphic lit I’ve run across recently.’
Larry Grenadier is an in-demand jazz double-bass player releasing his first solo album, The Gleaners. Says Gary, ‘It doesn’t necessarily follow that even the best of bassists ought to record a solo album, but Grenadier seems to have loads of ideas that translate well to such a project.’
Gary also reviews the latest release by the prolific Americana act Mandolin Orange. ‘Tides of a Teardrop is their sixth since their debut in 2010 with Quiet Little Room, all featuring songs written by Andrew Marlin and sung by Marlin and Emily Frantz.’
Robert got hold of a recording of a live performance of music by one of our favorite composers, Philip Glass. Signal performed Glassworks and Music in Similar Motion — well, as Robert explains: ‘Philip Glass’ Glassworks had never been performed in New York until the contemporary ensemble Signal asked Michael Riesman, long-time music director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, to arrange it for live performance. (It was originally conceived for the recording studio.) It was performed at (le) Poisson Rouge on April 10, 2010, resulting in, among other things, this recording.’
And in a different vein, Robert has a look at two masterpieces of the Late Romantic repertoire, César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor and Igor Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka, conducted by Pierre Monteux: ‘Pierre Monteux brings magisterial authority to these recordings. Of course, if his reading of Pétrouchka satisfied Stravinsky, I’m certainly not going to argue. Equally intelligent and adept is his reading of the Franck; in spite of the Chicago Symphony’s strongly Germanic temperament at the time (1961), the Symphony in D Minor comes across as quintessentially French. Monteux himself was one of the most respected conductors of the twentieth century, and, thanks to sound recording, is still, among classical music buffs, a household word.’
Denise takes a gander at the thirteenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. No, not the real one. se7ven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver. And she’s excited. ‘So, my cosplayers and collectors. Is this one for the shelf? Yes. Yes it is.’ Read her review for all the details!
Our Coda this week is another live performance of music by Philip Glass, this time by the maestro himself: Philip Glass, performing at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal. The piece is titled “Mad Rush”: