Any moment called now is always full of possibles. ―
I’ve been out on a long walk since just past dawn here on this lovely Spring morning. I left my lovely wife Catherine sleeping soundly, dressed and got several bacon and cheddar cheese rolls, a spiced apple muffin and a thermos of Lapsang Souchong tea to have breakfast some distance out by the Standing Stones. Some of the Estate Irish Wolfhounds decided to join me, so off we went.
Now I’m back from that walk with dogs settled near the fireplace and I’ve in the meantime moved on this week to reading Roadmarks by Zelazny, having finished off his Isle of The Dead novel, so the book awaits my attention shortly. No, not one of his better known works, nor arguably one of his best written ones, but an interesting one nonetheless, with its apparently ever branching road and constantly being created timelines.
So let’s see what we’ve got for you this week… First Robert got to play with the entire book section with I think pleasing results. Likewise Denise took our sweets reviews in hand. The coda is some very nice Swedish music, and, as always, there’s more, so read on.
Robert here, to talk about books. I was sitting in the Pub talking to some of our visiting writers — well, yes, it’s not only musicians who visit us, as you should have realized by now — and we got on the subject of ‘picaresque novels’. It’s a type of story that goes back to Elizabethan times, if not before — my own feeling is that there are elements of the picaresque in The Odyssey, although the heroes in picaresque stories are usually not what we consider “heroic”.
Later I got to thinking about it and realized that the picaresque shows up in a lot of different genres. The first one that came to mind, perhaps not surprisingly, is that great classic of American literature, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: ‘ Frankly, I see it as being a picaresque odyssey, a journey down the Mississippi through America then that has a lot to say about America now.’
Edgar Pangborn took off on that idea in his own classic, Davy: ‘Like most picaresque novels, Davy is satire, of a very vivid and enjoyable sort: Davy is an astute commentator, learning the ways of the world and setting them against a frame of mind firmly grounded in common sense, and, as we learn, a great deal of compassion.’
Another work that falls into the “”picaresque’ category is Robert Charles Wilson’s novella, Julian: ‘This is a brief story, and as beguiling as it is — Wilson is a fluent writer with a sure sense of context and milieu — it feels truncated, as though it were the beginning of a much longer and more complex narrative.”
It turns out I was right on that comment: Wilson later expanded the story in Julian Comstock: ‘The novella has reappeared as the first part of Wilson’s Julian Comstock, a Bildungsroman that gives the story of the rise of Julian Comstock, a high-born aristo, nephew of the President (and the most likely rival for that august position), as related by his friend Adam Hazzard, just barely a member of the leasing class.’
‘Picaresque’ has been called a genre, and I suppose that’s correct in a sense, but it’s also an attitude — as you can see from the examples I’ve noted, it’s more often than not a framework for satirical commentary, and spans a number of what we normally consider ‘genres’. There are many examples throughout the history of literature, and not just the literature of the West — consider that great Japanese classic, The Tale of Genhji, not to mention stories from many different peoples relating the adventures of characters such as Loki, Anansi the Spider, or Coyote. I’m sure you can think of others.
And now back to Iain for the rest of this issue.
Denise dove into two types of ‘prestige’ chocolate this week, both from the house of Hu. Firstly, she tried the Hu Almond Butter+Puffed Quinoa Dark Chocolate. ‘I don’t know how Hu is able to craft such a delectable bar from these basic ingredients. Yes, it’s all in the proportions and whateverall. But it’s amazing and I love it.’ Read her full review to find out more!
Next, she dove into the Hu Hazelnut Butter Dark Chocolate. ‘I loved the nutty taste of this filling, and I’ll definitely be coming back for more; this ain’t no praline, it’s full nut y’all, and it’s glorious.’ Interested in a hazelnut bar that goes a different way from the usual sweet hazlenut goodness? Give her review a look and see if this bar is for you.
April wasn’t too happy with the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentelment: ‘When I first heard that a movie was planned for Alan Moore’s exquisite graphic novel League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I thought to myself, “This could either be a very good thing … or a very bad thing.” When the advertising campaign hit, unveiling the preposterous LXG acronym, my hopes took a downturn. Still, I held out hope that something good might come of the effort. Alas, it was not to be. The product that director Stephen Norrington and screenwriter James Robinson have foisted upon unsuspecting viewers is 110 minutes of lifeless celluloid cleverly masquerading as a movie.’
Warner has a very favorable reaction to a graphic novel about Sherlock’s little sister: ‘Serena Blasco has produced a wonderful adaptation of Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series. This volume, The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, is the third in that run of graphic novels. This series deals with a third Holmes sibling, this time depicted as a significantly younger sister named as the series title suggests. She has decided to go out on her own in a quest to find her missing mother. As a result, Enola funds herself not only searching for her mother but hiding from her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft, even as she gets embroiled in a number of different complications and adventures all her own.’
Our Editor Cat finds balm for the soul in The Quiet Room, a release from Americana duo Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. The album, which came out of a time of personal hardship, contains both new material and some of the best of their extensive back-catalog. ‘Everything here, new and old, I hope will delight you as much as it does me,’ Cat says.
Otis Redding and His Orchestra’s Live on the Sunset Strip says David is great: ‘ This 2 disc set of live recordings from one of Soul musics icons has been getting rave reviews everywhere. Even before it was released the buzz was buzzing and the spin was spinning. People were right to be excited.’
Byss-Calle wins the approval of Naomi: The Nyckelharpa orchestra is comprised of six top musicians from the younger generation of nyckelharpa players. They are all working at preserving the nyckelharpa tradition, as well as developing it, both as an ensemble, and as solo artists. Their playing is exquisite, all six are adding in passion and talent to a ensemble which has much potential. And after listening I would have to agree that this is a tradition which should be preserved.’
The Mollys, a now defunct Arizona band that merged Celtic music with music from that region gets their this is my round reviewed by Richard: ‘It’s that kind of CD, pure and simple, where all listening to it does is make you start scanning the paper to see if they’re in town at a place that has good beer on tap. There’s a kick to the music that doesn’t quite translate off the disk, and that’s what keeps this is my round from getting beyond just good.’
Well. When this quarantine started, I thought to myself ‘self, it’s time to get healthy! You’ll be away from temptation, with little to do but work out and plan healthy meals!’ So that lasted for about a week or so. Now? I’m prepping for this Tuesday’s International No-Diet Day by wolfing down the last of my Easter stash; a Dove solid dark chocolate bunny. Chewy dark chocolate melting on the tongue, a solid foil wrap that keeps my hands smudge-free as I binge chocolate and one Disney animated film after another. Of course, International No-Diet Day is more about body positivity and being healthy without judging yourself or others harshly…but can we agree that a treat every now and then makes things better? In fact, can we make this ‘holiday’ the whole month? I think every change starts with a small step. Or in this case, another small bite (followed by a short walk.) Happy No-Diet MONTH, everyone!
Our Coda this week is a peek behind the scenes, so to speak: the Swedish group Tummel in a recording session for their album Payback Time. The song is ’This Ship Is Sinking’, and if nothing else, these guys are having fun.