None of us know for sure what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Keep your faith. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly. — Thirteenth Doctor in ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’
Can you smell it? No, not the Turkish coffee I’m drinking, which is earthy and most excellent. That other earthy smell. That’s spring here. Windows are open, everyone’s rambling around this old estate looking at the plants coming up, and I’ve even overheard more than one couple contemplating doing the two-backed beast in Oberon’s Wood when it gets just a bit warmer.
And there’re always contradances going on here — what better way to check out a new partner? After all, G B Shaw once said ‘dancing is the vertical expression of the horizontal desire.’ So there’ll be a dance tonight in the Courtyard with Chasing Fireflies which is currently myself on concertina, Béla on violin, and a lovely smallpiper-lass named Finch. It’s a truly sweet sound and you’ll want to step lively if you’re here.
Andrea looks at an Appalachian set tale for you: ‘Ghost Rider is the latest novel in Sharyn McCrumb’s “Ballad Series.” Ghost Riders is different from the others in the series in that there is no mystery (in the “mystery novel” sense of the word) to be solved. In the other books, the storyline goes back and forth between past and present, the stories linked sometimes obviously and sometimes tenuously. Usually in the “modern” story there is a mystery which the story in the past fleshes out or provides with a new insight. In Ghost Riders there are two separate tales from the past and a storyline set in the present. The narratives set in the past are linked by a chance meeting but still remain separate tales. One of these stories has a direct influence on the present. There are various characters, past and present, whose lives intertwine briefly in interesting and occasionally surprising ways.’
It being being Sping, 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.’
Marian looks at a trilogy by Jane Yolen that deserves to be a classic. First up is ‘The Books of Great Alta which is the compilation of Yolen’s two books in the series, Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. It is the story of the women of Dale, who worship Great Alta, the mother goddess and what happens to them for better or worse.’ If you’ve read these already, then do read Marian’s review of the final volume, The One-Armed Queen, but otherwise do not as it has major spoilers about what happens in the first two novels.
Warner says ‘The Gates of Stone is Angus Macallan’s first novel, and also the first book in the “Lord of the Islands” series. A first novel is a hard sell for many; this one also promises that it is a part of a coming series. For any series, the question of engaging the reader with the world and characters from the beginning paramount.’
Robert went out to see the new Marvel Comics film, and had a mixed reaction: ‘In spite of my reservations about the Avengers films (to be honest, aside from the first one, I haven’t found them all that satisfying), I decided to see Avengers: Endgame. It’s a lot more complex than I had expected, offering a deeper examination of character and psychology than one might expect from a “comic book” movie, and I’m not sure just how successful it is.’
Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! But if you’re full up on Tex-Mex and don’t want to look another nacho in the face, Denise is here with some beer and candy for you. First, she looks at Orchard Valley Harvest’s Sweetened Cherries in Dark Chocolate. ‘My only issue is the chocolate coating, with tends to crumble if you try to make each cherry a two-bite treat.’ But is it worth a try? Only reading her review will give you the full story.
Next is a look at McKeever & Danlee Confectionery Co.’s Liquorice Allsorts, Australian black licorice. ‘Think of this licorice as training wheel bits for the really hardcore European stuff. That said, they’re perfect with a cup of tea, or perhaps a glass of champagne if you’re feeling fancy. (Hint: I’m always feeling fancy.)’
And how about something to wash that candy down? Victory Brewing Company’s Storm King Imperial Stout, perhaps? ‘King ain’t one of those sweet stouts, people. It’s bitter, strong, and proud.’ Not sure if you’re ready to let your taste buds walk on the wild side? Then read her review for more info!
Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is a graphic novel that comes with a warning from April: ‘The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it’s not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon’s work.’ Read her full review to see why she liked this.
Our West Coast Cat has this to say about Rupa and the April Fish’s Growing Up: ‘It’s a complicated, layered, beautiful piece that is hopeful and fierce all at once, exercising that loving kindness and radical tenderness on the listener and challenging them to follow suit.’
Gary reviews the latest from the prolific musician Stephan Micus, a true solo effort. ‘On White Night, his 23rd solo album for ECM, Micus unleashes his visionary creativity to take his listeners on a journey through his imagined world, illuminated by the full moon and with a soundtrack out of his sublime dreams.’
For something completely different, Gary reviews a country-western record called O Bronder, Donder Yonder? ‘Forrest Van Tuyl, who performs as An American Forrest, is a young cowboy poet and horse wrangler from northeastern Oregon who slings archaic lingo around like flapjacks.’
Finally, Gary reviews Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s a five-disc box set from Smithsonian Folkways, documenting 50 years of the Crescent City’s signature cultural festival. ‘I can’t imagine anybody with a speck of soul who won’t absolutely dig this beautiful box set,’ he says.
Our What Not this time is sort of about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer. Extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions, Winter 2000. That’s the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.
We’ve got these reviews of other works by her, Dancing Through Time subtitled Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances which is set to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to what I like for music which is why the playlist here in the Pub when the Neverending Session isn’t, errr, in session leans heavily towards Celtic trad music. So it will surprise you that my selection for parting music today isn’t of that manner but rather it something a bit more modern, to wit ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’ by De Dannan, recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, in 1982. Well, as if something composed in the 1920s by John J. Kimmel is to considered modern…