What’s New for the 14th of April: Joanna Russ, Live Music from Altan, Outlander, Really Great Brownies, Haunted Gotham and Other Neat Stuff

Of all the things a man may do, sleep probably contributes most to keeping him sane. It puts brackets about each day. If you do something foolish or painful today, you get irritated if somebody mentions it, today. If it happened yesterday, though, you can nod or chuckle, as the case may be. You’ve crossed through nothingness or dream to another island in Time -― Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead

The weather was sublime this afternoon for nearly the middle of April: somewhat over twenty degrees, light breezes and full sun. Anyone who could get outside did, so I took advantage of the weather to continue my reading all things Zelazny by re-reading Isle of the Dead, a novel I hadn’t read in some thirty years but figured I’d let my Several Annies staff the Estate Library while I did some recreational reading. My book is a signed copy of the 0ver fifty-year-old Berkley Ace edition I had him sign at a con where he was a Guest of Honour some years back.

So I grabbed the novel, a large thermos of kickass Sumatran iced coffee with a generous splash of cream and an even more generous splash of Baileys, some sharp cheese, some dried meats, both pork and beef,  and salted smoked almonds as well.  There’s a spot near the Cricket pitch where there’s a few seats out of the wind but in full sun that’ll do for a reading spot.

I’ve got this Edition ready for you and it’ll be posted at four in the morning Sunday as they always are. Or it was posted at four in the morning Sunday — time’s something that’s kind of flexible oft times here…

Camille looks at a work that was the first novel in what has become a global cultural phenomenon: ‘It’s 2006, and the sixth novel of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, has just recently won the 2006 Quill Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. For some of you, it may be 2007 or beyond, but like Gabaldon does in this series, I’m going to allow that time may have a more elastic quality than we have hitherto thought. In fact, like Outlander heroine Claire Randall, I’m going to step through my ring of magical stones here, and. . . . Ah! Here I am in 1991, with the first book of Gabaldon’s series, Outlander, newly published under the title Cross Stitch.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

An edition of The Grimm Tales edited by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. and Alexander H. Krappe wins the favor of Michael:  ‘So what’s so good about this particular volume, as opposed to the numerous other Grimms’ Fairy Tales out there on the market? Quite simply, accuracy. I have to admit a great deal of respect for anyone who can translate this many stories from German, and still manage to keep the authentic flavor of the text, and the colloquial language intact. And if some of the stories seem just a tad … surreal, you can thus blame it on the original text involved. Trust me, some of the originals -are- a bit on the surreal side. It’s a safe bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to publish the Grimms if they were alive and submitting manuscripts today.’

Robert takes a rather detailed look at a critical study of one of the key voices in science fiction in the twentieth century: ‘Anyone who wants to discuss science fiction since the mid-1960s, particularly with reference to sf’s increasing willingness to ponder questions of sexuality and gender, had better know their Joanna Russ. Happily, Farah Mendlesohn has, in On Joanna Russ, made that not only possible, but enjoyable.’

Asher states forthrightly that Mists of Avalon which is based on the Marion Zimmer Bradley novel ‘is a revisionist Arthurian tale. The film opens much like Braveheart‘s “Historians in England will say I am a liar…” with an agonized and weary, almost crucified Morgaine narrating — “No one knows the real story. Most of what you know… is nothing but lies” — as her boat glides into the mists, a device that welded this viewer to his seat, not wanting to miss any of the necessary adjustments to the legend.’

Kimberly has a choice bit of popcorn viewing for us: ‘As a made-for-television flick, Merlin is watchable fantasy fun. But if you want any fidelity to the original Arthurian legends, f’get-about-it! It ain’t gonna happen in this movie. Still, there aren’t tons of fantasy pieces on television that don’t require a barf-bag, so enjoy what you can from this one — particularly the special effects. The fairies in the magic woods are delightful, and so is the early scene where young Merlin is asleep in a hollow tree, where he meets Nimue for the first time and discovers his powers. Of course, Evil Queen Mab snatches Nimue from Merlin for revenge and scars her for life, but she is restored by Merlin’s love and last act of magic, to her youth. Merlin lives happily ever after with her. Awwwww.’


Don’t leave home with them. Jen certainly doesn’t as she says of her fabulous whiskey cherry brownies that she has been known to do this: ‘When I go to a conference or a doctor’s office or a small gathering of drunk authors, I bring these brownies in those tiny plastic “snack” boxes from the dollar store.’ H’h, I’m known drug dealers that started out that way..

Cat has some horror for us in a DC series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’

The atmosphere evoked by the south of France and the art made by the Impressionists who lived there informs guitarist Dominic Miller’s new album Absinthe, Gary notes. ‘Every track on Absinthe is almost like a short story.’

Gary also takes a close listen to the new CD from guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan, Epistrophy. ‘It is indeed all in fun, so grab this disc and prepare for epiphanies aplenty, of the musical kind.’

Robert takes us in quite a different direction with a look at Toru Takemitsu’s I Hear the Water Dreaming: ‘I’ve long been fascinated by the music of Toru Takemitsu, one of those post-War Japanese artists who incorporated Western ideas in music while maintaining a strong sense of Japanese traditions. My first run-in was with November Steps on vinyl, bought when I was in one of those experimental moods I get into in music stores. I loved it, which happens about 50% of the time with those purchases.’

And Robert follows that with a look at works by another contemporary composer, American Ned Rorem’s Winter Pages/Bright Music: ‘First, the confession: I have avoided Rorem’s music for years because I have an inexplicably deep-seated resistance to the art song in any form (whether this is because I was once a folk-singer or in spite of that fact, I’m not sure; the fact remains, the only “art songs” that have ever penetrated this reserve are Mahler’s great cycles, which are actually more symphonic than anything else). I then ran across selections from Rorem’s Nantucket Songs, performed by soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson accompanied by Rorem himself (part of the CRI disc Gay American Composers), and decided to think about it again.’

This week’s What Not is a bit out of the ordinary. Well, not really, not for us. Robert takes a look at the Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi (that’s ‘tarot’ for you non-speakers of Italian), with a bit of history thrown in.

So it’s Spring and I can hear the Neverending Session playing some spritely tune in the distance as they too are outside which I know I’ve heard on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, before. So let me pull Memoria, our music search app, up on my iPad and see what it says it is…

So it’s ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ which I forgotten had been added to their list of favourite tunes a fortnight or so back. It’s by Altan as recorded  at the Folkadelphia Session in  Philadelphia though I see Memoria has not a clue what year it was done. Tasty piece of music 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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