We have ripe banana dipped in sweet batter and fried, and green banana to boot. Cookie does fry them up nice-nice in olive oil, sprinkle them with a little coarse salt and some cayenne, then drench them in so much butter.―
Yes we’ve got bananas that we grow right here on this Scottish estate. They’re actually really easy to cultivate provided you can give them enough heat and humidity, which we can do in the Conservatory built during the Victorian Era under the auspices of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Gardener, and a true blessing, for fresh vegetables are in the off-season. And bananas as well. Lots of them.
Setting aside cultivating bananas for now, I’ve got an interesting edition for you including, of course, a history of bananas. There’s a neat look at Asimov, yet another Fables graphic novel, and a lovely look two early Dervish albums. So let’s get started…
James Gunn’s Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction is for diehard fans of the author: ‘ This is more a literary biography than anything else. While James Gunn hits the high points of Asimov’s life, they don’t get much attention. What does get page space is Asimov’s writing. Gunn does not linger over the non-fiction, but he summarizes most of Asimov’s important fiction, including several of his short stories and novellas, the Foundation and Robot novels, and The Gods Themselves. If you haven’t read much Asimov and think you might like to, this is not the book for you, because it gives away the plots. If you have read a lot of Asimov, this shouldn’t be a problem.’
Lenora fell in love with a certain author but that doesn’t mean she can’t critique her work: ‘I fell utterly and blindly in love with Nalo Hopinson’s first book, Brown Girl in the Ring, and I thought that love affair with her prose would continue without any blemish. It lasted through her second book without being tarnished, and through her short story collection, Skin Folk, with only a few minor bumps — about which I felt had to be understanding. I have yet to read a short story collection, even by an author I adore, which doesn’t have at least one story that strikes me as weak.’ So how does The Salt Roads fare with her? Read her review to see.
Once upon a time, there was an imprint called Firebird Books. It published a lot of really great books. But some such as a trilogy by Midori Snyder were as Robert tells us here not so great: ‘I’m not one who believes that every book has to be terrific. I have my own “guilty secrets” list of books that are flawed, some badly, but I reread them from time to time anyway because there is some quality in them that makes them deserve it, whether it be the lovable protagonist, the brilliant universe-building, a breathtaking plot, magical writing, or some other element that is just too appealing to consign them to the used book store. I can’t place The Oran Trilogy on that list — Snyder missed every chance she had, and above all, committed the unforgivable sin of boring me.’
Warner has something hardboiled for us: ‘Brian Panowich’s Hard Cash Valley presents a detailed look at a number of connected incidents involving the life of one middle-aged lawman and those around him as an underground activity intersects with his own areas of expertise and leads quickly down a road to disaster. This is a crime novel dealing in gambling, drugs and death, as well as a variety of specifically murderous individuals. It is also the story of one man disconnected from his life attempting to reconnect.’
So what do you do know about bananas? If not much, Eric has the book for you: ‘Virginia Scott Jenkins’s Bananas: An American History outlines the role that bananas have played in the United States since they first became popular in the 1880s. Bananas followed a complete circle in popularity — first they were a slave food, then a luxury item for the rich, and then “the poor man’s fruit.” This exhaustively researched and footnoted book explores every possible detail surrounding the transformation of bananas in American culture since the 1880s.’
Cat challenged Jennifer to come up with a banana recipe. This extreme ginger-carrot-banana bread is zippy enough to take your head off, thanks to all the grated ginger in it. But it’s still very bananary. It might be extra nice if you added some bitter chocolate drops…hm…she might have just one more ripe banana in the bowl…
Anton has a series he watched on DVD though these days you can find the episodes on the Acorn streaming service: ‘Talk about using your “leetle grey cellzz”! This DVD release is Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Collector’s Sets 11 & 12 of this 1989 series originally produced for television in England. David Suchet stars as the popular Belgian (not French or “Froggie,” as Poirot would tell you himself) sleuth made popular by everyone’s fave babe of British blood, Dame Agatha Christie. From the credits forward, I was treated to total immersion in the era, from the art deco feel of the ’30s right down to the most minor of costume details. A lot of care went into the production of this series and it shows throughout.’
April continues her look at a long running series: ‘With this twelfth collection of his award-winning series, The Dark Ages, Bill Willingham tackles the aftermath of the Fables’ victorious war with the Adversary, examining the effects on the Fables, Gepetto and the lands he formerly ruled. Winning, it turns out, isn’t always everything; nor is it necessarily an end, but more of a beginning.’
Brendan has some rather nice Irish trad for us: ‘ Dervish have been around since 1989, but apparently they didn’t bother recording themselves until 1992. This is perfectly acceptable, since it is clear that they used the time well, getting their chops and building a very justified reputation as one of Ireland’s premiere neo-traditionalist bands. After reviewing their ten-year “best of” CD, decade, I couldn’t wait to hear their music in more detail. I was not in the least disappointed. From the beginning, Dervish has helped keep the spark and imagination alive in the Irish musical tradition, as is clear from their work on these, their first two recorded CDs.’
Peatbog Faeries’ Faerie Stories says Chris ain’t for for the strictly trad music lovers: ‘ Folk traditionalists will of course hate this type of music. They would probably be perfectly happy with the pipes, bagpipes, guitar, bodhran and fiddle, all of which are sometimes played in traditional style, but I think the “Folk Police” would have trouble with the rhythm section which borrows freely from jazz, dub and rock. For the younger listener and other folk fans with open minds (among which I like to consider myself), this blend of ancient and modern not only gives some street cred to traditional music but displays it in a totally new and often amazingly flattering light.’
Gary found a lot of variety in Rivages by accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier and guitarist Kevin Seddiki: ‘The music here ranges from Gabriel Fauré’s “Les Berceaux” to the traditional “Greensleeves” alongside compositions and improvisations by both musicians. Influences abound, from film music to cabarets to ancient hymns to flamenco and Parisian cafes.’
And Gary is enthusiastic about Du milde verden, the latest release by Norwegian folk supergroup Morgonrode. ‘ “Morgonrode” is an old Norwegian word for the red sun rising at dawn. That’s a pretty apt description of their approach to making folk music, a blend of traditional and fresh, new.’
I reached back into the Archives for this summer concert remembrance by him: ‘It was a night of sublime “desert noir” for the fans of Calexico at Portland’s Aladdin Theater. The seven members of this road-tested Tucson, Arizona-based combo seemed relaxed but energized as they performed nearly 20 songs old and new in a one-hour and 45-minute show.’
For our What Not this time, Gary brings us news of Two Pints: In the Time of Corona. It’s an online extension of a successful play by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, consisting solely of conversations between two men of a certain age over pints at their local pub. You’ll want to go read about it and take in a video of Doyle himself explaining the concept.
So how about something from Aaron Copland this time? It’s quintessentially Americana as it’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing his ‘Hoe Down’ which was originally recorded on his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.