Death is the only god that comes when you call. — Roger Zelazny’s 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai
I’ve been reading a lot of Zelazny this winter as he’s one of the writers I go to when I want to be absolutely sure of a good read that’s interesting but not too challenging. He’s not a perfect SF writer by any means but his characters are interesting, his settings reasonably thought out and his stories generally well developed. Right now I’m reading Donnerjack which just perhaps was written mostly by Jane Lindskold whose relationship with him is uncertain. It certainly wasn’t completed before his much too early death since it consisted, or so it is said, largely of notes and story fragments.
There’s been ample reading time as no one’s been going outside on the Kinrowan Estate ground save essential staff as our most recent storm by the name of Freya brought dangerous amounts of snow and freezing ice this week here. The Kitchen staff has as always been making lots of soups and they gotten into serving American style biscuits with them which means that I can get those for breakfast when I want them. Ham, egg and cheddar cheese, Border strawberry jam and butter… I’m drooling now.
Denise dug into her almost toppling To Be Read pile and has three non-fiction reviews for us, Jen has two very yummy recipes, our What Not is a double dose of de Lint’s Crow Girls, our music reviews include lots of interesting music and the Tim O’Brien Band sees us out this time. So let’s get started…
Denise digs into her stash of nonfiction this go-round, and reviews My Beer Year by Lucy Burningham, a memoir of Burningham’s studies for a Master Cicerone certification. ‘ [S]he tackles her year of living with beer just as dutifully as she did her beer studies, delivering a fun real-life tale.’
Ever wonder what it must be like to run a kitchen? Wonder how an award winning female chef does it? That’s all in Jen Agg’s I Hear She’s A Real Bitch. ‘Agg’s unflinching look at her life feels like a master class in the art of running a restaurant…’ Well, read Denise’s review to find out more!
And Denise finishes her hat-trick of nonfiction book reviews this edition with Reading Stephen King, a collection of essays from Cemetery Dance. ‘This collection has the vibe of King’s Danse Macabre – a feeling that you’re not really reading, you’re having a mind conversation.’ If you’re into Uncle Stevie – or just enjoy essays from very talented folks – check out the review to find out who’s got what to say about King’s oeuvre.
The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, I’ll note, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Read my review on this bibliography which admittedly only diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong sf emphasis will consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy here in the Kinrowan Estate Library.
If there is one essential work by Zelazny, it’s the The Great Books of Amber which Rebecca says of that ‘Zelazny has a distinctive and entertaining voice, and an easy way with a story. I highly recommend the Amber series.’ Read her detailed review to see why, despite some reservations, why she really likes this series. For a second take on the first five books which form the first story in the series, read Cat’s review of the audiobooks here.
For those who are still enjoying a winter refrigerated by frequent polar vortices and ornamented with snow, snow, snow, Jen cooks up a cold-weather stew of beef chunks with smoky dried guajillo peppers and fresh mushrooms, splashed with wine and served with beer.
Do you love the tastes of Thai? She also brings us coconut milk, ginger, lime, garlic, cilantro, and mild curry together in a thick, hearty seafood chowder with shrimp, scallops, and … peanut butter? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar gets a review from Rebecca: ‘Pepicek (very small) and Aninku (his sister, even smaller) have a problem: their mother is very sick. The doctor told them to go to town to get milk, but how can two children who have no money buy milk? And how can they get money when they have nothing to sell? They could sing for money … except that Brundibar (Czech slang for bumblebee) can sing much louder than two small children, and he chases them off. With the help of three talking animals, three hundred schoolchildren, and eventually the whole town, they chase off bullying Brundibar, get money and milk for their mommy, and so are happy again.’
Gary must’ve liked the self-titled debut by Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves, for he says ‘this is a highly entertaining album of old-time music drawn from a wide variety of sources, played by two very talented young people who sound like they’re having a great time.’
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.’
Robert, as we’ve come to expect, has something a little out of the ordinary — or at least, ‘ordinary’ for GMR. The Dowland Project’s Romaria is a contemporary collection of early music: ‘I’ve remarked often enough on the relative importance of tradition and innovation in performance (which I consider variables) that I have no real need to repeat myself here, except to note that any performer who is working with material that he or she has not personally created is really negotiating with the past.’
He follows sup with Stephen Emmer’s Recitement, which — well, as Robert says: ‘I love it: pop culture invades the avant-garde. OK – now I’ve got that off my chest and am sitting here listening to Stephen Emmer’s Recitement. It’s really popular music, and Emmer has boosted it up a level in the “serious” vein by coupling it with spoken word segments from a wide range of speakers: actors, authors, artists, performers, many of whom are household names (at least in this household), and some of whom are total strangers.’
Our What Not is something that strictly speaking should’ve gone up over Christmas but it’s such a charming story that I decided to share it again now. So let’s start off this time with a look at Charles de Lint’s Newford Stories: The Crow Girls. Of all the immortal shapeshifting beings that inhabit the Newford stories, the most charming, at least for me, are Maida and Zia, the two Crow Girls, who look like pinkish teenagers — all in black, naturally. After you read Cat’s review, you can experience them first hand in ‘A Crow Girls Christmas’ written by (obviously) the author and charmingly illustrated by his equally talented wife, MaryAnn Harris.
With St. Patrick’s Day coming up soon, we’re pleased to be able to feature a special track from American roots musician Tim O’Brien’s new release. Tim O’Brien Band‘s self-titled CD drops on St. Paddy’s day itself, Friday, March 15. It’s a sprightly cover of the tune set of “Hop Down Reel / Johnny Doherty’s Reel,” from Irish fiddlers Kevin Burke (The Bothy Band, Patrick Street, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and, well, Kevin Burke) and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan, String Sisters, T With the Maggies). It’s a lovely blending of Irish and bluegrass styles and traditions. More about the album at O’Brien’s website.
It’s a double celebration, too, because the day after St. Patrick’s Day, O’Brien will mark his 65th birthday! Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on March 16, 1954, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist first toured nationally with Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize, which last year marked 40 years as a band. Over the years, Tim has collaborated with his sister Mollie O’Brien, songwriter Darrell Scott, and noted old-time musician Dirk Powell, as well as with Kevin Burke, Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler, Bill Frisell, and Steve Martin.
Without further ado, here’s Hop Down Reel / Johnny Doherty’s Reel with the Tim O’Brien Band. Sláinte!