What’s New for the 17th of February: A Bevy of Nordic Recordings, Live Music from Skerryvore, Gaiman’s Books of Magic and Other Wonderful Things

Everyone thinks of them in terms of poisoned apples and glass coffins, and forgets that they represent girls who walked into dark forests and remade them into their own reflections.

Seanan McGuire’s Indexing

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I’ve been reading Haunted England, which is the work of Jennifer Westwood, who notes in Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain that ‘legend-making is not something that took place in the dim and distant past but a continuing process.’ We’ve reviewed more books than I care to count where authors such as Jane Yolen (The Wild Hunt), Pamela Dean (Tam Lin), Charles de Lint (The Cats of Tanglewood Forest) and Terri Windling (The Wood Wife) use folkloric stories and give a fresh feel to them.

We all tell stories, too, as it’s an intrinsic aspect of we do. How we tell a Story is shaped by who we are and what we know, say that cup of Mexican cocoa your housemate made for you when you came in on a cold,  stormy evening because that’s how you like it, or that new novel sought out by you in hard cover because that’s how you wanted to read it, has a story behind that decision as well.

Those are some of the stories we all tell. Green Man is a set of stories told by everyone who has been a part of it down the many decades. If you decide to email us, your comments become of that story too. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this edition…

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Gary looks at a perennial favorite of lots of us: ‘The long and colorful publishing history of Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with a new edition that seems to be aimed at reclaiming the written version of the story as a way to introduce it to young readers. It’s a handsome hardcover book with illustrations by the young Jemima Catlin, who was hand-picked for the assignment by the Tolkien Estate.’

Lory says of this mystery series: ‘Before there was Lyra Belacqua, there was Sally Lockhart. Prior to creating the unforgettable Lyra of The Golden Compass and its blockbuster sequels, Philip Pullman was perhaps best known for his trio of books featuring another kick-ass female: a pistol-packing, checkbook-balancing, mystery-solving Victorian orphan. I adored these books as a teenager (like Sally herself, I was sixteen when the first volume was published), but hadn’t read them in years when the chance came to review them for GMR. Would they still be as compelling as I remembered, half a lifetime later?’

Richard has this lead-in to a classic English work of fantasy: ‘The first fully fledged novel in the Robert Holdstock’s epic novel cycle is Mythago Wood. The book, which first saw print in 1984 (though part of it appeared earlier in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) is awash in both the Oedipal struggle and the Jungian subjective unconscious. At its heart, it’s a tale of family struggle. Sons war against each other for the love of a woman, and both struggle against their monstrous, inhuman father. Or so it seems.’ And though he’s doesn’t note it in that review, he does note in later reviews of other novels in the series that Mythago Wood is a character unto itself.

Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Winter 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.

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And something a little out of the ordinary for our film selection this week — but only a little. Robert has some comments on the Bleach Movie 2: The Diamond Dust Rebellion: ‘The Diamond Dust Rebellion is the second animated feature based on Tite Kubo’s very popular manga series, Bleach. It won’t leave you as completely at sea as did Memories of Nobody if you’re not familiar with the series, but the more you know, the more fun you’ll have.’

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Robert brings us a look at several takes on a new series with the first being the writer’s own: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic — the original story, not the series — began when DC Comics approached Gaiman about doing a series that would bring together the “magic” characters of the DC Universe. Gaiman created the character of Timothy Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who has the potential to become the greatest magician of the age — our age.’

And we continue with John Ney Rieber’s continuation of the series: ‘John Ney Rieber’s continuation of Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic is a complex, multilayered story that focuses not so much on Gaiman’s mythic connections (although they are there in full measure) as on Tim Hunter: finding his magic, and his bearings in the world(s) he inhabits is intimately tied in with growing up, which Tim does a lot of in this series.’

And finally, Robert brings us his take on the ‘update,” Si Spencer’s The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: ‘Life During Wartime represents a distinct break with The Books of Magic as it had been developed by Neil Gaiman and John Ney Rieber. Si Spencer, working with Gaiman, “updated” the characters and took them into a new set of trials that speak strongly to a contemporary audience.’

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April recommends Groove — ‘A sextet from Sweden, Hoven Droven live up to their name, which roughly translates to ”Helter Skelter.” To call their music merely sprightly would be an insult; to say they are just energetic, a gross understatement. The eighteen instrumental tracks on this compilation seem to quite literally pulse with vibrant life and energy, driven by Kjell-Erik Eriksson’s fierce (or one might say fearsome) fiddle playing, and embellished by instruments as diverse as flugelhorn, Harjedals-flute, saxophone and congas. Lest one assume though, that they are all sound and fury, with little or no talent, never fear, the music is never bombastic, but crisp, clean and well played.’

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Michael  looks at Karelia Visa — ‘A previous Hedningarna CD that I had the pleasure of hearing (Kaksi!) had far more of a folk-rock feel, which I believe is more typical of the band’s style. On this album, however, they have chosen to interpret the pieces in a more traditional, acoustic style. This may be due to the respect they afford the material, which is localised to the Karelia region, on the border between Finland and Russia.’

Scott has a look at two albums by a then young Nordic group, Frigg — namely, their Live album and a new studio album, Economy Class: ‘With their self-titled debut CD and their sophomore effort Oasis, Frigg have quickly established themselves as the best young band in Nordic folk music. . . . With an independently released live album from last year and a brand new CD called Economy Class released in Europe over the summer (Northside will release it in the U. S. in October), the core septet have been augmented by a number of frequently recurring guest musicians, including some vocalists. The basic concept of Frigg remains unchanged, though, as does their commitment to quality output.’

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It’s several weeks past Candlemas so there’s definitely a feel that we’re headed towards Spring even if Winter is still holding us in Her grip. So let’s see I can find some spritely music to see out off this Edition. So how about ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ recorded at the Shetland Folk Festival six years ago on a warm Summer evening by Skerryvore? This Scots band came together sixteen years ago and is quite splendid indeed.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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