Did she form out of the leaf- litter? Did wild animals carry sticks together and shape them into bones, and then, over the autumn, dying leaves fall and coat the bones in wildwood flesh? Was there a moment, in the wood, when something approximating to a human creature rose from the underbrush, and was shaped to perfection by the intensity of the human will, operating outside the woodland? — Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood
As I write these words up a few days before publication, all the windows on the three sides facing the outdoors of the four story cube that’s our new Library, well a century and some decades old new, are reflecting the snow that’s coming steadily down as the lights inside illuminate it. Even many of the Estate felines are intently watching it fall.
In scattered groups, Estate residents are reading or conversing; in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room, a book group’s enjoying the roaring fire there with Kushner’s Riverside series getting the liveliest commentary; and I see Ingrid, our Estate Steward, sitting with a cup of tea with Reynard, our Pub Manager who’s her husband, who’s in turn enjoying a wee dram of his private stock, conversing quietly as they watch the snow fall from their seats on the fourth floor of the Library.
So let’s see what’s my Several Annies who helped my select the contents of this edition found for you to consider for your pleasure over the holidays.
Gary leads us off with a truly epic novel: ‘The world is groping for a new mythology, one that makes sense in a world that has seen nuclear devastation and sent humans to the moon; a world that encompasses both communications satellites and children starving to death in the midst of plenty. Perhaps the new mythology will be found in the multiple collisions of cultures, histories, arts and religions; maybe it will be birthed through the agency of pop culture, which has supplanted classical music and art. Or so Salman Rushdie seems to be saying in his sprawling, entertaining and challenging novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.’
Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘Subtitled “The Sliabh Luachra story,” this book attempts to demythologize the heartland of Sliabh Luachra, a legendary area where Irish traditional music is concerned. To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’
Autumn passing into Winter which is a time of parting all too often so it’s apt that Richard has a look at this work: ‘Even before the untimely passing of author Robert Holdstock, it would have been impossible to read Avilion as anything other than a tale of partings, a resolution to many of the threads woven through the Ryhope Wood cycle. Now, it reads as a fond and graceful farewell to Ryhope and the Huxley family, an affectionate gift of endings to characters who, in their own ways, have all earned peace.’
Warner concludes his review of Nicholas Meyer’s The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by saying ‘ This volume is easy to recommend to fans of Sherlock Holmes, and fans of period mysteries in general. To anyone who enjoyed The Seven Percent Solution this book represents an obvious must read. To those looking for an interesting novel of the great detective featuring historical evils, it is similarly easy to recommend.’ Now read his review to see how he came to those conclusions.
Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’
Robert takes a look at a sequel to one of his favorite anime series: ‘Given how much I enjoyed (and still enjoy) Gensomaden Saiyuki, the first anime series based on Kazuya Minekura’s manga, getting my hands on the sequel, Saiyuki Reload, was a foregone conclusion. It’s only half the length of the first series, and left me with some mixed reactions.’
Robert thoroughly enjoyed two collections of Gail Simone’s Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation and Unhinged: ‘Gail Simone’s Secret Six is actually the third superhero team under that name. The first two were really, truly heroes; this group, not so much. They are, in fact, all bad guys from the DC Universe, some recycled from other stories, some created for this series, and brought together for the first time in Villains United.’
Our sole music entry this week is Gary’s look back at his favorite music from the decade that’s just about to end. He says he found the 2010s something of a turbulent decade, and that seems to be reflected in the nature of the music he enjoyed the most. ‘That probably helps explain why so much of my favorite music from the 2010s has been … not comforting, but evocative. Capable of arousing deep emotions of a pensive nature; inviting of contemplation; challenging but at the same time welcoming.’
Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.
And what shall we part company with for music on this Winter night? Something spriteLy I think, how about ‘Take This Waltz’? which is well not quite upbeat perhaps but interesting as this was Leonard Cohen some ten years ago at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. I won’t say more about it as it’s based off a Spanish poem which you can do a search on it after you listen to it.