I watched the people passing below, each of them a story, each story part of somebody else’s, all of it connected to the big story of the world. People weren’t islands, so far as I was concerned. How could they be, when their stories kept getting tangled up in everybody else’s? ―
Summer, meteorologically speaking, has a ways to go, but Tamsin, the hedge witch resident on this Scottish Estate, notes that late August really is the turning of the year from Summer to Autumn in all the ways that really count. The days have become noticeably shorter, the nights are definitely cooling off and the vegetable gardens are beginning their slow fade into being fallow.
So indeed Autumn will be soon upon us — Summer’s already waning as the plants in our gardens are just now showing their form of botanical entropy, which puts them on their last legs before first frost kills them off entirely. So Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, and his staff has been drying beans and apples, preparing root cellars for carrots and the like, braiding strings of onions and garlic, sending cornucopias of produce to the Kitchen for Mrs. Ware and her staff to pickle, can or freeze as they see proper.
The Changeling Sea sort of pleased Grey: ‘This is a pocket-sized paperback book of one hundred and thirty seven pages. The story inside is small, but potent, like a well-crafted spell. It makes perfect sense, but it’s fairy tale sense, not reasonable sense. To use a poetry metaphor, Patricia McKillip’s style isn’t like iambic quadrameter or pentameter, but rather like Gerard Manley Hopkin’s sprung rhythm. The story ebbs and flows naturally around the shapes and sounds of words and images. The ending feels right. I sense that there’s no other way for this story to end. Yet it leaves me, not deeply content and satisfied, but restless. Which is a good way for a story about the sea to feel.’
So Kelly realises something and he shares with us: ‘Confession time: as a working writer, albeit one who is as yet unpublished in the fiction realm, I have a weakness for books about writing by successful writers. I have quite the collection of them, sitting atop my desk — volumes by Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Cory Doctorow, and others. I used to wonder why I like this kind of book so much, since quite frankly, a lot of the advice you’ll find is similar from one book to the next. (“Write a lot, write every day, read a lot, read every day, avoid adverbs, avoid passive constructions, lather, rinse, repeat.”) It occurred to me, while reading Jane Yolen’s new book, Take Joy, that in these books I’m not really looking for advice or pointers for publishing at all. I’m not looking for “how-to” anymore. What I’m looking for is inspiration, a “pep-talk” of sorts.’
Patrick says ‘When Roger Zelazny died in 1995, his was one of the few “celebrity” deaths that actually saddened me on a deeply personal level. In some way I always identified with him and his characters. He was a role model for writers; a fountain of creativity whose waters could be bottled up and shared with others. I was saddened, too, by what I saw as the death of his characters: There would be no sequels to take me back to my beloved Changeling and Madwand worlds; no new Ambers.’ So now read his review of Lord Demon to see what he thinks of the work Jane Lindskold did in fleshing it out.
Robert brings us Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, a collection that’s actually fun: ‘Frank O’Hara is one of those American poets who hovers on the edge of what we are pleased to call “greatness.” Perhaps he hovers there because there is something tongue-in cheek about O’Hara’s work — and, one suspects, about his attitude toward life — which means that we can’t possibly take him as seriously as that. I suspect there is some logical fallacy there. As O’Hara himself wrote, “Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.”’
West Coast Cat strays to the sweet side as she tastes three different chocolate bars from Seattle Chocolate, finding two noteworthy and the third not so much. Read her tasty notes to see if they pleased her.
This past week marked the 54th anniversary of The Beatles’ only visit to Gary’s home state of Oregon. He has a review of a documentary that chronicles that visit where they played two shows at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum, which he says is a bit of a mixed bag.
Debbie says of Steeleye Span In Concert that ‘No matter how many times you’ve listened to your old Steeleye Span recordings, you’ve never heard these songs like this before unless you were lucky enough to see the performances from which the songs on this CD were taken. If you love this band and especially if you were not able to see them perform live, go out and get a copy!’
Gary reviews Pharmakon the debut album by indie folk band Humbird featuring singer-songwriter Siri Undlin. ‘This is such a brave album. Undlin puts her words and voice on the line, daring her audience to enter into her poetic explorations with song after song on themes that recur in our culture’s literature, tales, films, music.’
A band that includes cello, droning synthesizers and jazzy alto sax solos? That’s what Gary says of How to Live by Modern Nature, an English indie-folk group led by Jack Cooper. ‘The enigmatic songs themselves and repeated ideas and sounds both instrumental and lyrical, give this album a rich sense of layering and depth,’ he says.
Ranarop, Call of the Sea Witch in English, is a recording Iain really liked: ‘Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.’
Kim exclaims ‘Kila’s Lemonade and Buns, their latest offering, continues the wild instrumentals and hypnotic vocals that made Tog e Go Bog e such as delight. Melodies on the uilleann pipe sound as if they were lifted from a session, lured away from the safety of indoors into the night by a fairy lover with djembe and a rain stick. Then the saxophone takes over, and the music conveys the ease and warmth of the tropics, where we can really surrender to the need to dance. Vocal numbers are frenzied, with simple melodies that become a part of the texture of bass, percussion, and wailing middle eastern influences that blend with Irish tunes and insist on dancing — or why else would this music exist?’
Cat has a look at an aspect of Dr. Who (all of them) that you probably noticed but didn’t think about much: ‘Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is an amazing undertaking as it covers pretty much the entire history of the series from its inception some fifty years ago during the black and white era, when CGI didn’t exist, so costuming was how everything was created, to the modern era when a lot of what was costuming is now rendered as CGI.’
August has come to the end, so let’s have some fitting music to see it out. I’ve chosen ‘Herd on the Hill’ and ‘Elsie Marley’ by Northumbrian fiddler and smallpiper Kathryn Tickell as performed her at the Shoreditch Church down London way on the fifteen of June nine years ago. Sweet music indeed to see the month out.