What’s New for the 28th of July: Lord Dunsany, The Mother Tongue, Chocolate Cake, Anime, Cajun Music, and more

I don’t trust memory, anyway. Why should I? Memories, however undependable, ought to be the stuff on the sand when the tides of experience recedes. As long as they’re part of that process, there’s something valid about them, something that ties them to real life. — Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles

It’s not only the hottest time of the year on this Scottish Estate but also the busiest, as we host a number of music and cultural events here, with the attendees staying in the clusters of yurts we’ve built starting back in the Sixties. They’re low-impact and easy to maintain,  and we’ve even got a cluster just for summer gardening and event staff.

I’m Nicholas Winter filling in this week as both Iain and Reynard were too busy with those events. I’m here working on an article on a possible second Scottish independence vote for the Global News Service so I volunteered to fill in. So let’s get started and see what I’ve  got for you.

But first, I’ve got the first chapter of Bone Dance for you to read. It’s a wonderfully weird work by her set in a future Minneapolis after civilisation has largely collapsed and concerns, well, go read the first chapter to meet Sparrow and the world of that time. The book itself is available in print and digital formats.

Laurie leads off our book reviews with with a novel by Lord Dunsany: ‘This is a magical, lyrical novel, not at all like the run of the mill, Tolkien-clone quest novels to be seen on shelves these days (witness the hunting of the unicorn, for instance), which is to be expected, since it was published thirty years before The Lord of the Rings. Del Rey should be congratulated for presenting The King of Elfland’s Daughter to a new generation of readers.’

Robert starts his insightful look at a John Brunner novel in this manner: ‘Stand on Zanzibar  is a novel that any student of science fiction has to know. It’s not a pleasant book — not one I would recommend for a cold gloomy evening, cheerful fire or no. But it’s good. It’s really good.’

For you language buffs, Robert has a real treat: “Being the purist that I am, I wince when people talk about the evolution of this, the evolution of that – evolution has nothing to do with automobile design or cell phones or political systems. It is, however, a legitimate concept when discussing language: language does change over time, languages do descend from common ancestors, and there are exchanges and mutations of “genetic material” – words. Merritt Ruhlen, a prominent linguist, has, in The Origin of Language, given us a fascinating, hands-on investigation of that evolution. He also gives us a history of linguistics and in particular, brings us up to date on developments in historical linguistics over the past fifty years.”

Sometimes a book gets the attention of more than one reviewer, which is how we get Warner looking at a novel that Cat R. reviewed last week: ‘Richard Kadreys’ The Grand Dark is an interesting combination of alternate history and the strange genre that is often called steampunk but more suitably termed “gaslamp fantasy”.’ Read his review to see his take on this novel.

Jennifer flashes back to a consulting firm’s typing pool, where every birthday was celebrated with all that was good and fattening. This sour cream chocolate cake lives on long after its creator, alas, has left the red dust of earth.

Robert dips into his library of anime to bring us a delightful romantic comedy/drama from Japanese TV, Sukisyo!: ‘You may notice that the title of this DVD is spelled “Sukisho” on the cover: these are alternate transliterations of the title, which is actually pronounced somewhere in between the two spellings: it’s another one of those sounds that Japanese has and English doesn’t. And there’s an alternate title, Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shōganai!, that translates roughly as “I like what I like, so deal with it”, which should give you a good idea of the tone of this Japanese TV series.’

David Doucet’s 1957: Solo Cajun Guitar, says Gary, is ‘a sterling collection of songs, made even stronger by the dynamic tension Doucet has wrought between melody and rhythm. He has not only transformed these fiddle and accordion pieces into minor masterpieces of guitar picking, but he has lifted them out of the realm of dance tunes and placed them squarely in the realm of folk art.’

John has a solo album from the lead vocalist of Steeleye Span: ‘Maddy Prior has become synonymous with the voice behind Steeleye Span. It was as much to escape the ghost of Steeleye as to make her own mark that she embarked on a solo career in 1978. That move caused both a sensation and consternation within the UK folk press and folk community. While Maddy as a writer had been involved in re-writing and editing epic traditional ballads as part of the Steeleye Span repertoire, her own progress as a songwriter in the singer/songwriter framework had not been documented. It was with this in mind that Woman in the Wings was conceived and recorded.’

Dead Can Dance’s Toward the Within says Kate is ‘From the very first eerie opening bells, percussion and crystalline notes of the yang ch’in of “Rakim,” it becomes clear that this is music unlike any you’ve ever heard. Amend that: it’s certainly unlike any I had previously heard.’ H’h. Sounds, errr, interesting.

Michael has a recording from a band many of you of are very familiar with: ‘The Wood & The Wire is unmistakably an album that fits well into the Fairport Convention discography. In fact, if you include compilations, official live tapes and the like, this is actually their 51st release, so that’s quite a back catalogue! The spirit of the band is still evident. Although the album is not groundbreaking, it will certainly please the band’s legion of fans to at least a healthy degree.’

This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience…)

Now let’s what I’ll leave you with this time for music. Ahhhh, this will do very nicely — ‘Safety Dance’ by The Men Without Hats which was recorded in Toronto in December thirty seven years ago. No idea what venue it was recorded at as no other details were given. This was one of a few hits by this band and it was ubiquitous in the early Eighties as I heard it in the States, in the U.K., everywhere in Europe it seemed and of course in Canada as the band was from Montreal.

About Nicholas Winter

Nicholas is a friend of the Estate who’s been around since st least the early Forties and possibly quite a bit longer. Isin’s sure he’s not Fey but is uncertain as the source of his longevity.

He’s a writer by trade, preferring to freelance instead of working for any one publication. He  a polyglot when it comes to languages— Reynard saw him late one evening in a London pub  simultaneously hold conversations in Turkish, French, Hebrew and Spanish while being somewhat obviously intoxicated.

He’s a reader of pretty much of mystery fiction in English, Grrman, French and even Turkish. He’s a drinker of whiskey and ale mostly but’s very fond of Raki, the Turkish national alcoholic drink.

He’s been associated with the Estate  long enough that he actually has a room permanently ser aside for him tucked up under the eaves. An honoured statement indeed.

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