What’s New for the 19th of April: Ailette De Bodard’s Xuya Universe, Mutants, A Fairport Boxset, A Trip Up the Thames, Dinosaurs, of a sort, and other neat stuff

You had to draw lines, and that choice was in itself dangerous; all boundaries had a double edge, were like swords that could always be turned against you in the end. But you still had to choose. ― Melissa Scott’s Trouble and Her Friends

So the weather turned warm enough that I’ve thrown open all the windows ‘ere in the Green Man Pub to give it a good airing out. And I do believe that I can hear spring peepers from the marshy area just below the stone bridge where The Troll lives. Nice to have Spring finally here!

I’ve been reading many of Ailette De Bodard’s Xuya Universe stories set in an interstellar empire that is descended rather improbably from the Vietnamese culture.  I’d recommend you read them, provided she actually publishes them in a single volume someday. Some, like The Tea Master and the Detective and On a Red Station, Drifting   are somewhat easy to find, but others, like “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” exist only in digital one-offs. Worth seeking out but I do wish for that possible collection!

In the meantime, I’m sure there’s plenty to keep you entertained here…

Kelly has a book on writing by a writer most of us know well: ‘Take Joy: A Book for Writers almost bursts with enthusiasm: enthusiasm for story, enthusiasm for writing, enthusiasm for reading. As I note above, the book doesn’t really give any advice that a person who has read many of these books will not have seen, but that advice is framed in Jane Yolen’s own metaphorically-rich, and often hilarious, way.’

Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered, says Moira, is rather good: ‘Bear’s novel is global in scope, and although it’s not a pessimistic dystopian novel, it shares much with John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up as a sobering projection of unchecked current social, political and environmental trends. It would be difficult to show all this through the eyes of one first-person character, and wisely, Bear doesn’t attempt it; instead, Jenny shares narration with four other major third-person characters, all of whom are deftly introduced in the first twenty-five pages.’

Robert brings us what he claims is one of the funniest books he’s ever read, Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In a Boat: ‘Jerome K. Jerome was an English writer of the late nineteenth century who had considerable success as a novelist and playwright. If his other works are marked by the same wry, off-the-wall humor as this one, I can see why he was successful.’

Warner has a look at Jean Stafford’s Complete Novels: The Library of America’s edition of the complete novels of Jean Stafford presents a nice collection of satirical works, including the well known Boston Adventure but also two shorter and just as interesting pieces, The Mountain Lion and The Catherine Wheel. Over time The Mountain Lion has gained its share of fame, although the third work is still comparatively forgotten. It is these latter two stories that provide an interesting and entertaining reading experience together, serving as thematic companion pieces.’

Robert found some chocolates — well, they found him, actually — from Trader Joe’s: ‘Among the latest goodies to cross my desk are two tins of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Wedges. Since Trader Joe’s sells everything under its own label, there’s no way to know, without doing a lot more sleuthing than I care to, who actually makes their chocolates, but the quality is generally quite good, so it’s a moot point.’

Cat looks at a group of episodes from the popular BBC series Midsomer Murders, which do not represent a complete series. Not a problem, says Cat: ‘Now the fact that this is a rather scattered set is not a terribly major problem, as there’s not much for continuity in this series. About the only plot string that develops is Cully and her career as an actress. Otherwise one can easily watch them in any order whatsoever without getting confused; which is a good thing, as the mysteries themselves can be frightfully complex!’ These are now available on the Acorn streaming service along with the rest of the Midsomer series.

Robert takes a look at X-Men ‘after the fall’ — that is to say, in X-Men: Curse of the Mutants: ‘One thing you can count on in superhero comics: reboots. This particular reboot is the aftermath of Brian Michael Bendis’ House of M, in which the Red Witch removed the powers from the majority of Earth’s mutants. Now the X-Men, including all the mutants and former mutants who have sought refuge in their new home, Utopia, off the California coast, are finally looking forward to some peace and quiet when a new threat emerges.’

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Fairport Convention has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’

Lars has a goodie for us: ‘Steeleye Span must have more lives than a cat. Every so often the group seems to have called it a day, but, like a phoenix, they rise again. So here they are, for the umpteenth time, with They Called Her Babylon that their record company claims is to be a classic Steeleye Span album.’

Robert went rummaging through his music library and came across an album by Miriam Makeba. Welela, he thinks, deserves another listen — he sums it up thusly: ‘ In all honesty, anything by Miriam Makeba is worth listening to. Although not every song on this album is a “favorite,” even the ones I don’t like are good.’

Here at GMR, we have always been a bit tucked-in. We mostly do our partaking, reviewing, and writing in a cozy nook all our own. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been rough with what’s going on in the world today. Social distancing, quarantines, and being stuck at home is quite different from choosing to do what we need to do in our comfortable spaces. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as well, you’re not alone; Gilian Sisley wrote a piece for Medium that speaks to all of us who may be introverted, but are still overwhelmed.

‘We truly underestimate how much energy it takes from us to be able to navigate and manage life when being bombarded with harmful, negative messaging at all hours of the day…. So be gracious with yourself during this time.’

And so, it’s the hope of all of us here at GMR that our weekly tidbits help lift your spirits during these trying times. We lift a glass to you, our lovely readers, and hope that in your world, all is as well as can be.

Remember Disney’s Fantasia? Did you know there was an Italian version — well, not actually a version of the Disney classic, but a whole new animated feature based on the same premise, Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro Non Troppo. And there’s one dynamite sequence set to Ravel’s Bolero that’s a real show-stopper.

About Reynard

I’m the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I’m married to Ingrid, our Steward who’s also the Estate Buyer. If I’m off duty and in a mood for a drink, it’ll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider.

I’m a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!

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