At the end of the season of sorrows comes the time of rejoicing. Spring, like a well-oiled clock, noiselessly indicates this time. — Roger Zelazny’s “Passion Play”, found in Threshold: Volume 1, The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny
She arrived bearing a tray covered with a thick, colourful cloth. ‘It is’, she said, ‘your full Scottish breakfast, complete with rashers of bacon, eggs cooked in the bacon fat, fat pork sausages seasoned with dried herbs, baked beans, fried tomatos and mushrooms, black and white puddings, hash browns, toast dripping with butter and Fey strawberry jam, and a very large mug of tea thick with cream. Now shall I sat it on the desk or the side table?’ I gestured to the desk and she left it there.
I set aside Threshold and picked up my iPad to read my overnight emails. I see that the Kitsune statue I want is available, there’s a niche picked out for it in the Pub admidst the Japanese folklore books that I’ve collected over the years. And one of my my sources says he’s found the cider craft books that Gus and Bjorn wanted. Nice. Those are very hard to find as they were printed in small runs.
Another friend wants to know if I and Ingrid might be interested in using their Reykjavík flat for a fortnight around Jónsmessa as they’ll be be out of the county on business. Certainly we will — we adore Iceland that time of year and Finn said she’s willing to cover for me anytime. Lastly I see that there’s the last of the contracts for the curling contest this coming Winter being signed and returned which means it’s a go!
Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life was a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’
Iain reviewed the audiobook edition of The Owl Service when it came out several years back: ‘Listening to The Owl Service as told by Wayne Forester, who handles both the narration and voicing of each character amazingly well, one is impressed by his ability to handle both Welsh accents and the Welsh language, given the difficultly of that tongue, which make Gaelic look easy as peas to pronounce by comparison.’
Margaret Lane’s The Tale of Beatrix Potter garners this intro by Laurie: ‘I like biographies, especially author biographies. When I was a small child, I was absolutely fascinated by a copy of a children’s biography of Louisa Mae Alcott that I found in my elementary school library; I thought it was an even better story than Little Women. I had a copy of a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and I loved to read it and look at the pictures included in the center. And Humphrey Carpenter’s Tolkien has long been a favorite of mine.’ Read her review to see why this biography measured up to those works.
Robert has a look at a pair of short fantasy novels from a master of fantasy literature: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of Kinrowan — Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’
Warner brings us his thoughts on The Future Is Female!, an anthology with a different point of view: ‘The Future is Female! represents The Library of America’s continued efforts to provide authoritative volumes on any given subject. This is a large collection, featuring twenty five stories that show a wide rang of fiction. In addition, there are notations both in the text proper and on a convenient website that the jacket links the reader to, detailing the history of the authors in question and their work.’
Robert has a look at an exceptional anime, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: ‘When I first encountered Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, I had not read the manga nor seen the TV series — which actually left me with no expectations, which is a good thing. The basic story is your standard action/adventure with terrorist plot, future universe variety.’
Denise takes one for the team by reviewing Reese’s Outrageous! Pieces bar, and is less than impressed. ‘I’d much rather have each item separately, or simply wait for them to re-issue their vastly superior Reese’s Nutrageous bars that has peanuts instead of minis.’ Want to know why she’s wishing for candies of yore? Read her review!
Jen brings another quick ‘n’ dirty favorite with a ‘tump’ recipe for corn ‘n’ crab soup. It’s ideal for shoveling calories into a sudden bunch of guests. The crab makes them think it’s fanc-ay!
Robert has some thoughts on the dark side, as portrayed in Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda’s Stormwatch Vol. 1: The Dark Side: ‘It’s significant of something or other that so much in comics and comics-related work in recent years stresses “the Dark.” One of those is DC’s new version of Stormwatch, titled The Dark Side, which is something of a prequel to later (chronologically) Stormwatch teams and the Authority.’
The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper and fiddler, that her live show features ‘… tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving.’ Ed certainly agrees, as his review of Debateable Lands, her eighth album, is glowing.
We get the nicest things in the post, which is how Lahri ended up reviewing Celtic singer-songwriter Jez Lowe’s Live at the Davy Lamp. He comments, “Jez Lowe is one of the consummate performers in Celtic music today. Hailing from the Northumbrian lands of Northeast England, near the Scottish Borders, he brings a distinctively northern edge to his music. Lowe grew up among the coal miners and working class people of the region. The fact that he is Irish on both sides of his family gives him a bit of an outsider’s perspective, and a perfect viewpoint for his novelette style songs. Over his long career he has made many fine albums, each a little gem, and has been backed by some of Britain’s most understated and finest musicians.”
Classical music from Argentina? Yes, says Robert, in discussing Bernarda Fink and Marcos Fink’s Canciónes Argentinas: Piazzola, Guastavino and Others: ‘We don’t normally think of Argentina when we think of “classical” music. Well, time to do some re-thinking. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a group of composers emerged in Argentina, the “Generación de 900,” that in many respects echoed movements in Europe and America at the time, particularly their emphasis on establishing a “national” music.’
Scott takes us through two albums by the all-woman vocal group Kitka: ‘Kitka are an all-female vocal ensemble from the the San Francisco Bay area that started in 1979. While members have come and gone over the ensuing forty years, Kitka remain firmly committed to promoting and celebrating the rich and diverse musical traditions of Eastern Europe and the women who shaped many of these traditions with their voices. This past year, Kitka decided to revisit the musical themes they explored on Wintersongs with a new CD called Evening Star. Both albums are worth a close look, not simply to assess the quality of the music but to see how Kitka have evolved over time.’
Our What Not is on Tolkien, which means the reply to our question as to what’s your favourite work by him comes from Christopher Golden this time: ‘As much as I love The Hobbit , the trilogy always appealed to me more, even as a child. There’s a terrible wisdom that hangs over The Lord of the Rings, a thematic undercurrent that is all about mortality and acceptance of the limits of humanity. In so many ways, it’s about twilight. Yes, there’s love and magic and the brotherhood of human society that we must embrace and relish, but the joy that brings is a wistful joy, draped with melancholy. In the midst of orcs and songs and grand battles and fellowships, those are the things that have always spoken most intimately to me, and what make The Lord of the Rings, in my heart and mind, Tolkien’s greatest achievement.’
It’s April and the Neverending Session has finally decamped itself from the Green Man Pub so I’ve started thinking about what I’ll be doing for playlists in the evening. It’ll be mostly trad Celtic and here’s a sample of what I’ll be playing in the guise of The Braes of Moneymore by the legendary Patrick Street, as recorded off the soundboard at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on the tenth of April fourteen years ago. So not strictly trad Celtic but you get the idea, I take it?