The dead are too much with us. — Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead
The weather was perfect this afternoon for nearly the end of April: somewhat over twenty degrees, light breezes and full sun. Anyone who could get outside did, so I took advantage of that to continue my year long reading of all things Zelazny by re-reading Isle of the Dead, a novel I hadn’t read in a decade at least, but figured I’d let my Several Annies staff the Estate Library while I did that. My book is a signed copy of the over fifty-year-old Berkley Ace edition I had him sign at a con where he was a Guest of Honour quite some years back.
So I grabbed it, along with a large thermos of kickass Sumatran iced coffee with a generous splash of cream and an even more generous splash of Bailey’s, a loaf of sourdough bread, a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese and a generous chunk of smoked salmon. There’s a spot near the Cricket pitch where there’s a few seats out of the wind but in full sun that make for a fine reading spot.
I’ve already got this Edition ready for you and it’ll be posted at four in the morning Sunday as they always are. Or it was posted at four in the morning Sunday — time’s something that’s kind of flexible oft times here…
I was thinking earlier this morning about fiction where music plays a strong role in the story with the prime example I thought of being Charles de Lint’s The Little Country where the protagonist, Janey Little plays smallpipes in the style of Billy Pigg, the Northumbrian piper. The back of the novel has the tunes that the author composed for this novel. You can read Grey’s review thisaway.
The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, I’ll note, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Now this bibliography is admittedly only something that diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong sf emphasis will consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy here in the Kinrowan Estate Library.
Robert has a collection of the works of a poet who is, he thinks, undeservedly obscure. Of The Collected Books of Jack Spicer he says: ‘The poetry itself is explosive – Duncan compares Spicer to Orpheus, and I think there’s some truth in that. It is best taken in small doses, but it’s hard, very hard, to have just one or two – like pistachios, one finds oneself suddenly very full and wondering where all those poems went. No, it’s not immediately accessible, but it’s dazzling stuff, worth the work.’
Warner has a look at a book that may or may not be historical fiction: ‘The Egyptian adventure story is a very old tradition, going back centuries. Cries From the Lost Island by Kathleen O’Neal Gear is a contemporary example of such storytelling. It is also a tale that manages for much of the text to straddle the question of “Magic or Mundane?” fairly well, though the fact it was published by a celebrated SFF firm like DAW makes the reader automatically lean towards the more supernatural explanations.’
And I have a treat for you this time in the form of the first few chapters of Jane Yolen and Adan Stemple’s Last Tsar’s Dragons made possible by the courtesy of the authors and the publisher. Their story is a charming merging of Russian history and folklore. You can read Warner’s review here.
Robert got to try a couple of chocolate-covered candies from Alli & Rose — which seems to be a brand rather than a maker: ‘Alli & Rose’s website tells us only — and that largely by inference — that Alli & Rose is a brand owned by CAL Marketing, which supplies “both retail and wholesale customers with quality and innovative products at an every day low price.” Take that as you will.’
Jennifer tasted two flavors of high-end Finnish chocolate bars, one conventional, one more on the freaky side. Would you go for a dark chocolate bar with Licorice Pearls and Raspberry Pearls in it? Yeah, she had her doubts, but she gave ’em a shot.
Instead of a film this week, we have a bunch. Craig looks at film adaptations of Hamlet in his essay A Hawk from a Handsaw: Hamlet in Film: ‘Hamlet is arguably both the greatest play in the English language and perhaps the most film-adapted tale of all. A work so ingrained in global consciousness that people introduced to the play for the first time have seen it as “nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together.” A character so much a part of modern culture that A&E’s Biography has profiled him with experts such as Orson Welles giving their interpretations of his “life story.”‘
In the world of comic-book superheroes, there’s one constant: reboot. Robert has a look at two out of a new X-Men series, starting with Warren Ellis’s Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Box: “Astonishing X-Men is one of those series that caught me immediately — after all, the first series was written by Joss Whedon, and then Warren Ellis picked up the reins. Ghost Box is Ellis’ first offering in the series, and it’s a good one.’
He follows that one with his reaction to Xenogenesis: ‘From the title of this one, you might guess that Warren Ellis hasn’t finished with the genetics theme that he started with Ghost Box and continued in Exogenetic. Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis is a stand-alone miniseries that finds the X-Men haring off to a remote village in Africa on getting a news of a spate of “mutant” births. Children are being born malformed, with strange powers — some hover in the air, some are insubstantial, some just explode.’
Robert here, with some music that’s a bit outside of our usual focus. We’ve actually reviewed a number of recordings of music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods — I’m sure you remember our comments on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (which we’ve done here, here, and here), but there’s much more.
Let’s start with a survey of four albums by the Baroque ensemble Red Priest, who have their own approach to this music: ‘As you can tell from the titles to these collections, the approach adopted by baroque ensemble Red Priest is not what you’d call “reverent.” It’s not slapstick, or anything like that — these are serious musicians. It’s more that they appreciate the music, but they see it as a real, everyday sort of thing, which I consider an admirable attitude.’
Angela East went solo on a couple of albums, which we looked at here: ‘Angela East is the cellist for Red Priest, the baroque chamber ensemble noted for its innovative approach and flamboyant public style. In the two recordings presented here, East has gone solo, pretty much, and brought this approach to the smaller-scale works of Johann Sebastian Bach and other baroque masters.’
A little farther back in time, we have Silvius Leopold Weiss’ Lute Concerti: ‘Silvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1750) was, during his lifetime, hailed as the greatest lutenist and composer for the lute in Europe, known among connoisseurs for the largest surviving body of solo works for the lute. Lutenist and Weiss scholar Richard Stone has established that there is also a body of Weiss’ surviving works for the lute in concert, including duets, trios, and full concerti.’
And lest you think this was purely a European phenomenon, we ran across an album from the New World, Bolivian Baroque: ‘When we think of baroque music, we are likely to hear in our mind’s ear the towering architecture of Bach, the brilliant conceits of Handel, perhaps the shimmering confections of Scarlatti or Corelli or Vivaldi, played against a carved and gilded backdrop in Vienna, London, perhaps Venice or Milan. What we don’t think of is the natural grandeur of Bolivia or the Colonial period of Spanish rule in the New World.’
I’m sure there’s more out there, if not in our Archives. But I think that’s enough Baroque for today, so I’ll leave you to go on with the rest of today’s edition.
Denise is a bit late with the Ostara festivities, but she couldn’t help but celebrate when she got her hands on a Folkmanis Baby Dutch Rabbit Puppet. ‘He’s absolutely the best dancer. He can dab! He can waltz! He can shimmy!’ What else can he do? Well, he can wow an audience! Read her review to get the scoop…
Let’s see what I can find in the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, for some lively Celtic music to see us out. Ahhh that’ll do very nicely —‘Nightside to Armagh’ by Kan, a Cornish group. It’s from their Sleeper demo released eight years ago. We’ll see you back here next week.