No one owns you, I know that. No one owns me. No one owns anyone. We just get to borrow each for a while. ―
It’s noticeably warmer this past week with Spring Equinox soon to be. You can see the trees beginning to bear buds, and one can sense that Spring is upon us as it always is by now. That doesn’t mean that we cannot have more snow storms as we often do but it’s no doubt the turning of the year.
On a different subject, it’s entirely possible that you’ve noted our fascination with all things consumable. Be it a British TV series such as Two Fat Ladies, an exploration of Scottish whisky distilleries, the perfect Scottish fry-up, a cracking good chocolate bar, preferably dark, or perhaps a look at bourbon, America’s whisky as it’s been called, we never pass up an opportunity to do a review wherever possible. So look for more such reviews here.
An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’
For your winter reading pleasure, we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets looked at by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’
Robert’s review of 9Tail Fox whittles down the general genre label and gets to the heart of the story. ‘The book cover claims that Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox is ‘A novel of science fiction.’ Considering what science fiction has become over the past generation, that could well be valid — with some qualifications. I’m going to call it ‘slipstream’ in honor of its genre-bending tendencies and let it go at that.’ Ahh, but is it any good? Robert’s review lets you know.
Warner says that ‘The written word has been the standard mode of conveying information across time and distance for centuries. There was in Spring of 2019 an exhibit at the British Museum dedicated to the very topic of writing and its history. To accompany it the British Library put together Writing Making Your Mark with editor Ewan Clayton. Clayton is an excellent choice for editor, being already experienced in the subject and having written a celebrated volume on the subject, (The Golden Thread). The British Library’s offering is a large and impressive volume, giving a brief history of the written word as well as a look into its potential futures.’
He has la ook at a re-issue of a classic SF work: ‘Richard Matheson has become one of the legends of horror fiction, a formative figure, and it takes only a glance at the novel I Am Legend to see why. A now classic tale of apocalypse in which the conflict is reduced to man vs. vampires, it asks questions about not only society, but the monstrousness of one’s own view of the world and that of a culture. Collectors editions of such works are rare. While I Am Legend has had several editions, a new one is welcome.’
Jennifer L.S. Pearsal’s Big Book of Bacon gets reviewed by Gus: ‘Yes bacon. We use a lot of bacon at this Scottish Estate. Bacon in cheddar and bacon rolls, bacon and tomatoes in eggs, bacon in beef stew for a little extra flavour. Even one enterprising Kitchen staffer even created ice cream with smoky bacon and chocolate as its flavour. It actually tasted rather good. Well you get the idea. So when I discovered this book in a pile of galleys sent to us, I decided to give it a review.’
Jeff Koehler and Fajer Al- Kaisi’s Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea audiobook gets reviewed by Reynard: ‘Tea is my favourite beverage since I was resident in southern Asia some decades ago as it was much easier there to find good tea than it was to find even one cup of coffee that was anything but horrible except in the high-end tourist hotels which I generally didn’t frequent. ’
Kage loved video with a fierce devotion that showed in her reviews, as we see here with her lead-in to the Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series that gleefully screwed historic accuracy royally in favour of a more entertaining story: ‘In the soul of every history geek, there is a hidden volume wherein are listed the names of History Geek Guilty Pleasures. Don’t try to deny it, fellow history geeks; you know it’s true.’
Robert has some thoughts on Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call: ‘If any comic published in the last couple of decades typifies the intrusion of a “noir” sensibility into the field, it’s 100 Bullets. . . . In this first collected edition, we’re given two episodes in which the mysterious Agent Graves approaches people who have suffered unjustly. He gives them an attache case with a gun and 100 bullets, all untraceable, with the assurance that they can use them however they choose for redress and as soon as those bullets are recognized, any investigation will be called off.’
Muzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s Yugoslav Folk Music which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’
Cat found a concert recording, John Fogerty’s The Long Road Home, to be a keeper: ‘Though Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the best bands of the Sixties, I’m more fond of the recordings of the post-CCR career of vocalist John Fogerty. And his best recordings are by far the concert recordings, both the legit ones like this release and of course the many bootlegs done as soundboard recordings.’
Deb has an essay about Maddy Prior that she’s titled …And Maddy Dances: ‘Warning, up front, in advance: if you’re expecting a scholarly historical restrospective of Steeleye Span, you’re doomed to disappointment. (You also don’t know me very well, but that’s a different issue.) I’ve been a fan of theirs for over three decades, and I’m going to write about the way I’ve always listened to them, perceived them, felt them: prismatically, split into streams of sound and light over a central rock at the heart of the prism.’
Gary reviews Shalhevet by Divahn, a women’s ensemble singing religious songs of Middle Eastern Jews set to tunes from other cultures. ‘Led by the powerful Persian-American singer and composer Galeet Dardashti, Divahn’s latest release brings these traditional Sephardi and Mizrahi songs up to date with Western and Middle Eastern stringed instruments, Indian, Middle Eastern and Latin percussion, and lyrics in Hebrew, Persian and Arabic.’
Our What Not this outing is by Jennifer who reviews a new science fiction play: Generation Red by Alexander Utz. It’s a fabulous illustration of The Marriage Box Rule. It’s belly-rubbin’-good meta. It’s like Kabuki, only, you know, science fiction.
John Fogerty is a fascinating musician having been a very long time ago member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, but an artist in his own right for close to fifty years. So give a listen to him a few years back performing ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Blues’ which recorded a decade in Canada on a summers night. The song itself isn’t his but was was written by Cliff Hess and was first recorded and released by George Reneau in 1924, the same year it was written.