What’s New for the 31st of May: A Science-Fiction Legend, Licorice, A Superhero Reborn, Russian Folk Music, and other goodies

Words, he decided, were inadequate at best, impossible at worst. They meant too many things. Or they meant nothing at all. ―Patricia McKillip’s In the Forests of Serre

While our Librarian has been indulging his fondness for the fiction of Roger Zelazny, I’ve been reading deeply of the literature created by Patricia A. McKillip, one of our best fantasy writers ever. She’s been at her craft for almost fifty years now, so she’s done a lot of brilliant work.

My short list? The Riddle-Master trilogy should be read by anyone who loves a good story; the Winter Rose duology of Winter Rose and Solstice Wood is really interesting, as it is two different stories linked in surprising ways; Something Rich and Strange is a quiet book full of wonders; and my last pick, Dreams of a Distant Shore,  is a collection of  short stories, a form she excels at. This list should get you started, but it really barely scratches the surface of her work, so a lot of pleasurable reading awaits you!

Faith notes that ‘Before starting this review I want to set some parameters. I have never been a Calvin and Hobbes fangirl. I’ve never lived anywhere that the paper carried the strip, so I have only very rarely seen them. I’m so out of touch that I didn’t even realize that Calvin and Hobbes’ adventures had ended n 1985. After reading Looking for Calvin and Hobbes I now want to start saving up for The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.‘

Robert has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust, a work I believe is one of his best ever: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

He also has a look at the life of one of science fiction’s legends, as told by himself: ‘Reading Jack Williamson’s autobiography, Wonder’s Child, is in many ways like a walk through my own childhood — not that my life has had that much in common with Williamson’s, but that his friends and colleagues were in many cases the authors I was reading when I was young. To many people, Jack Williamson is science fiction.’

Warner brings us a collection of scary stories: ‘The Outcast and Other Dark Tales is editor Mike Ashley’s latest collection of dark fiction by E.F. Benson. Containing a number of short works, this collection attempts to give a survey of the disturbing genre fiction Benson produced over the course of his life. These stories cover a range in terms of year of publication, complexity, and subject matter.’

Denise delights her quarantine sweet-tooth with Katjes Salzige Heringe. ‘…[W]hen my lovely editor sent a packet of these my way, I gasped in delight…because this happens to be my absolute favorite form of straight-up black licorice.’ Read her review, and how she waxes poetic about these candies!

Kage says ‘With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, alas, the malign gods were paying attention and behaving not unlike Terry Pratchett’s Auditors, practically warping time and space to mess with Terry Gilliam. They failed to ruin the film — Munchausen is magnificent, and a fitting conclusion to the Trilogy of the Imagination — but they ruined everything they could, to such an extent that Munchausen is unfairly and incorrectly called one of the most expensive disasters in cinema history.’

Robert takes a look at the resurrection of a superhero (in more ways than one) in Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”: The New Adventures: ‘The name “Will Eisner” is practically synonymous with “comics,” and even “graphic novels,” which he did so much to champion as a medium. In spite of that, however, I can’t claim any familiarity with Will Eisner’s very popular creation, the Spirit, one of the comic book superheroes to come out of the 1940s. Eisner retired the Spirit to move on to other things before I was in my first comic-reading phase, and it was only in the 1990s that he allowed a group of writers and artists to create a series of new adventures for the resurrected detective.’

Gary has a review of a new album of American stringband music by Jake Blount (and a few friends) called Spider Tales: ‘The title of the album is a nod to Anansi, the trickster-god in the pantheon of west African religion of the Akan peoples, which were repurposed as illustrations of the deception through trickery of the oppressive authority figure.’

Gary also reviews Nous III, the third release from the eponymous experimental rock ensemble based in New York. Here’s how he describes one of the songs on this album: ‘ “We Hope The Weather Will Continue” is a six-and-a-half-minute blast of minimalist rock, with the straight-up hard-rocking kit perched out front of a bed of polyrhythmic percussion and a one-note bass line, punctuated occasionally by flute and blasts of industrial guitar noise.’

Finally, Gary has a review of a sprawling set of contemporary Russian folk music, because of course he does. He says on Folk & Great Tunes From Russia …’There is some throat singing – which I happen to enjoy – but as far as I can tell there’s nary a balalaika in sight.’

Our What Not is not unexpectedly of a Dragonish manner, and let’s have Camille explain for us: ‘Like every Folkmanis puppet I’ve so far seen, the Baby Dragon Puppet is a marvel of workmanship for the price: carefully stitched seams, articulated wings, darts along the inside of the limbs and belly to allow for movement and keep shape. The tag tells us it’s made in China, so we know who to thank.’

So it’s the end of May, which means Summer is nigh upon us. Let me see what I can find for suitable music to part with to note that lovely condition … Ah! De Danann (originally Dé Danann and later, following a nasty legal fight,  two bands with slightly different spellings) has been one of my favourite bands as long as they’ve been around, so let’s  finish off this edition with them performing ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’. It’s from their performance at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, sometime thirty eight years ago. It’s an exceptionally great recording, so it’s most likely off the soundboard, either by the engineer or someone allowed to tap into it.

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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