All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. ―
That’s Midsomer Nectar, an India Pale Ale, that Bjorn, our Brewmaster, is rightfully rather proud of. All organic, of course, as are all our libations. Shall I pour you one? I was just discussing with him what he had cellared for barley wines and porters this past Fall that are now ready for the Pub here. Oh, the tale I was going to tell? It concerns the Rat Fiddlers… The staff is engaged in a discussion to name the group that the Rat Fiddlers are thinking of putting together — medieval music with small pipes, hurdy gurdy, and fiddles.
Who are these Rat Fiddlers, you ask? And why haven’t I heard of them? They play mainly in London Below stations where their appearance is not an issue. What they were before they became ‘rodents of unusual size’ is a tale known only to themselves — and who transformed them into their near human shapes is something even Reynard doesn’t claim to know. All I know is that they are some of the best dance music fiddlers I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with!
And they work for cheese and ale! One staffer suggested The Merrie Vestry, whereas another one, after a few pints of Brasserie Artisanale Du Tregor, put forth two ideas — Couer-de-Lionor or Lacklands Consort. The Rats aren’t sure if they like any of those…
Cat found a lot to like in Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories: I don’t normally purchase a collection for just one story but the community over at File 770 was saying in a discussion of AIs that the Hugo Award-winning ’Cat Pictures Please’ was a story that the folks there who hadn’t read it should really read, so I went to iBooks and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories.’
He also was intrigued by Simone R. Green’s The Dark Side of the Road: ‘The first thing you need to know is that all of the fiction that Green has done over the past several decades is interconnected, with shared characters and settings. Some of the series are deeply interwoven, some connected just enough that you know that they are. This series involving Ishmael Jones is one of the latter. Indeed, except for the occasional infodump that one of the characters does, it really doesn’t show that it’s part of his universe at all.’
Robert has a look at the first volume of a series by a perennial favorite, Tanya Huff’s Blood Price: ‘Tanya Huff has developed at least two ways to approach the genre of horror/dark fantasy. One, as evidenced in The Keeper Chronicles, is smart, topical, zany, and – well, smart-alecky. The other, which begins with Blood Price, is equally smart, just as edgy, brittle, and leads to a slightly more “white-knuckle” reading experience.’
Robert also had a very positive reaction to Alexander C. Irvine’s The Narrows: ‘There are too many authors in the world. Too many, at least, for me to keep up with. So it is that I treasure being able to write reviews, because I have the chance to encounter those whom I might never have encountered otherwise. Alexander C. Irvine, for example.’
Warner brings us a story that’s a blend of science fiction and horror — sorta, kinda? at any rate, read what what he has to say about Max Barry’s Providence: ‘Often, a really good book manages to just straddle the line between genres. Providence by Max Barry represents such a book. While it contains elements of science fiction, and the trappings and narrative also quickly point to horror, the story doesn’t rely on those tropes: there is a strong focus on character, with a small number of figures getting a good deal of examination, and there is a very obvious war narrative throughout the story.’
We have chocolate, this time three varieties from Vietnam. Yes, Vietnam. Robert says: ‘The latest goodies to come my way are three bars of chocolate from Vietnam. No, I didn’t think of Vietnam as a source for chocolate either, but when you stop to think about it, although cacao originated in South America, it can grow anywhere in the tropics, so Vietnam makes as much sense as anyplace else.’
From our Archives comes Craig’s discussion of Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books: ‘Prospero’s Books, director Peter Greenaway’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is a perfect example of using the cinematic form to its fullest extent. Greenaway’s films are always very visually interesting, but here he has pulled out all the stops. It almost doesn’t matter what the story is. One’s visual centers are so stimulated, there’s little space in the brain left for following the story, anyway.’
Robert takes us to one of his early experiences with Japanese manga, Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight: ‘A few years ago I started getting interested in manga, largely because I like the graphic style of many of the titles — at their best, they are lean, clear, and solidly grounded in the Japanese woodcut tradition. I ran across a couple of titles that got me interested, and then found Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight.’
Blowzabella is one of our favourite groups here, so a tune book by them is a great treat and a nice lead-off this time! Barb, a practicing musician and music teacher, is the reviewer for Blowzabella — New Tunes for Dancing. She says it is ‘a fabulous collection of 130 tunes that have been composed by various members of the band over the years and is supplemented by a wealth of other information: a history of the group, dance instructions, personal histories by ten musicians, photos, discography, and a membership history (complete with a listing of instruments and makers). It is a volume both dancers and musicians will appreciate.’
Gary note that ‘I daresay that many, if not most, readers of Green Man Review know all there is to know about Fairport Convention. If you’re not among them, there’s no dearth of information about this most venerated of English folk rock bands elsewhere in GMR, including a recent omnibus review. So I’ll skip any long historical introduction and say that Who Knows Where the Time Goes is a solid addition to the band’s discography.’
Steeleye Span & Maddy Prior’s A Rare Collection 1972-1996 is a keeper, says Michael: ‘The basis of this release is two Australia-only releases from the early 1980s: a compilation called Recollections and a live album called On Tour (both released on Chrysalis and now deleted). This new set picks some of the choicest tracks from those LPs, and adds more up-to-date rarities to provide a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining look at some of Steeleye’s more unusual moments. If you’re looking for a “Greatest Hits” album, this isn’t it. But to fill in the gaps and discover some performances you may not have known existed, this album is sure to satisfy.’
Vonnie was our foremost fan of the Oysterband and she reviewed more of their albums than anyone else: ‘The songs resonate with the riffs and themes and lyrics of so many previous works that Rise Above feels like a “Best Of” album — of all new songs. Rise Above isn’t as exciting as the roaring defiance of Holy Bandits, nor is it as quiet and story-laden as Deep Dark Ocean. The Oysters have been at this business long enough to know what they’re doing, and their roots are showing. If you’ve liked previous Oysterband albums, you’ll find something to like here.’
Our What Not this Edition is a Brian Froud and Jessica Macbeth project, The Faeries’ Oracle, a lovely book and deck set. which gets a review by Andrea: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and playing with the cards. Because of the high quality of the artwork and text, I think The Faeries’ Oracle would be well worth owning even for someone who, like me, is not lucky enough to posses any oracular prowess.’
So let’s leave you with something rather lively this fine Spring day to wit Kathryn Tickell’s ‘Herd on the Hill’ and ‘Elsie Marley’ as recorded off the soundboard at the Shoreditch Church in London on the 15th of June ten years ago. Tickell’s the great Northumbrian smallpiper who’s a great favourite around here and I’ll refer to just two of the many albums by her that we’ve reviewed, Debateable Lands and Air Dancing as that gives you a look at her both early and later on in her career.