What’s New for the 18th of March: Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf, Lindt dark chocolate, music from Planxty, some very different approaches to “traditional” music, and Neverwhere in various forms

Is it more foolish and childish to assume there is a conspiracy,
or that there is not? — China Mieville’s The City & The City

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Come I’m. I was discussing with Bjorn, our brewmaster, 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 . . . So have you got any ideas?

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Not all rats are the kind you’d want to share ale and cheese with as Cat notes in this review: ‘China Miéville writes fantasies that would do Clive Barker or Neil Gaiman proud. But no one will mistake his prose for anyone else’s, as he has a style as unique as either of those two gents, who are among my favorite writers. King Rat, his first novel after years of writing short fiction, is both a fine urban fantasy and a well-crafted horror novel.’

Un Lun Dun, a fantastic look at a London that is just out of sight, gets a very detailed review by Kathleen: ‘China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council) is renowned for the world he has created around the great, multi-species, many-storied city of New Crobuzon. Those are adult works, beyond a doubt: ferocious and frightening, full of the incandescent mysteries and fatal sins of maturity. At the same time, one of the conundrums of Mieville’s style has been the sense of a small boy peeking through his writing; the kind of little boy who delights in snot and crawly bugs, who chases his sister with a frog and forgets to take that interesting dead bird out of his lunch box. Sometimes this gleeful grossness amuses the reader in turn. Sometimes it seems unnecessarily provoking. But it has always reminded me of how young Mieville is.’

Another fantastic look at London is reviewed by Kestrell: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Speaking of urban fantasies, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is but one facet of what turned out to be a multi-media event. Richard says that ‘Neverwhere is the story of a not-quite-nebbish named Richard, who is a perfectly archetypal young executive. He’s got a suitably generic job, a suitably socially climbing fiancee and a suitably mundane existence being harried along by the demands of each. Richard’s is exactly the sort of life that could do with a swift kick of magic, and that’s exactly what he gets.’ Now read his review to see why this tale of London Below is worth reading.

The audiobook verosion of this novel has a review by Kestrell that starts off this way: ‘I’m not a big fan of audiobooks. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy having someone read to me, because I do — I’m even married to a man who reads to me as often as I let him.’  Now read her review to see why Gaiman narrating it won her over!

Richard finds another excellent book in that genre: ‘Hidden, magical London is all the rage these days. First there was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, then China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. And now there’s Mind the Gap, a collaborative effort between American novelist and comics writer Christopher Golden and British horror novelist Tim Lebbon. To be sure, that’s fast company for any book to be in, but Mind the Gap manages it more than respectably, and is an enjoyable, engrossing read that delivers plenty of thrills while deftly avoiding the numerous clichés lurking in wait for it.’

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The ‘multi-media’ event that is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was, not unexpectedly, a television series as well as a novel. Rebecca takes a look at it here: ‘Like most American fans of Neil Gaiman, I read the novel Neverwhere years before seeing the BBC television series he based it on. Having written the script for the show and been aggravated by the changes he’d been forced to make in it, he started writing the novel on the set so he could put all the bits back in. A&E finally put the show on a region-free two-disc DVD set. And there was much rejoicing.’

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While most are indulging in various forms of Irish delicacies this weekend in honor of St.Patrick, Denise dug into a chocolate bar.  A Lindt Excellence Roasted Hazlenut Dark chocolate bar, to be precise. And she was pleased.  ‘A nice balance of creamy dark chocolate and hazelnut that tastes like a praline filling all grown up.’ She also says it goes well with a stout, so perhaps you should head to her review here and see if you need to add a bit of chocolate to your weekend festivities.

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Graphic novels are an art form in themselves, as we see in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. As April notes in her review: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

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Fifteen years after they first appeared on stage and some twenty years ago as we count time, Gary saw The Knitters At the Aladdin Theater: ‘A near-capacity crowd in the 600-seat Aladdin on a Friday night in December hung on every lyric and jest of Exene Cervenkova and John Doe, as The Knitters ran through every song from Critter, plus several countrified versions of X songs, and a few cover tunes thrown in for good measure.’

Robert brings us a different take on traditional music in the form of the Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf: ‘Last Leaf is the Danish String Quartet’s second foray into “traditional” music. Their previous album in this vein, Wood Works, focused on music of the Faroe Islands and various small Nordic towns and villages. Last Leaf, although still focusing on Nordic folk music, is somewhat more far-ranging, including tunes from Sweden, Denmark, the Shetland Islands, and a few written by members of the quartet.’

Another look at tradition, in this case two very different approaches to a traditional instrument, as evidenced in Jody Marshall’s Cottage in the Glen and Malcolm Dalglish’s Jogging the Memory. Read Robert’s review to see his reaction to two very different approaches.

Stephen looks approvingly at Baba Yaga — ‘Annbjørg Lien is a Norwegian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and singer, who occupies an artistic space where clumsy attempts at easy definition are irrelevant. With this CD she’s created a music in which traditional fiddle tunes are pop songs, string quartets are folk dances, electronic rhythms are an element of symphonic composition, and the sound of human breathing is both rhythm and melody.’

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Our What Not is another Gaiman affair as Kestrell notes for us: ‘Thus, when I sat down to view Lifeline Theatre’s live stage production of Neverwhere, I had my doubts. Works of fantasy offer a particular challenge for live theatre in that the fantastic often translates poorly to the limitations of the flesh and the material world, resulting in bad fur suits and the omission of many favorite passages.’  Read her review to see if this adaptation worked for her.

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Our  coda this time is in rememberence of  trad Irish musician Liam Og O’Flynn who played Uilleann pipes and tin  whustle with Planxty that passed away this week. As a founding member, he played alongside Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny. Folk armadillo Uak ha a full look st his I’ve and music here.

This Planxty tune, ‘Rambling Boys of Pleasure”  was recorded at the De Doolen,  a concert venue in Rotterdam some thirty years ago. Splendid, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Cold, Haily Day

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If you’ve visited us and been here when it was raining, you know why we put in a modern heating system. Heating with wood was cold, really cold in the winter, and miserably damp when it rained. I mentioned that as we’re in the middle of what is forecast to be a week of heavy rain.

Even I who love all things outdoor in some pretty miserable weather have curtailed all outdoor activities as much as possible. I’ve gratefully let my staff, many much younger than me, do the duties needed to keep Estate livestock safe while I and my wife stay in our modernised crafter cottage reading, listening to music, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Mind you even that much rain impacts everything. It’s far worse in its own way than a blizzard as folks know that’s really dangerous in a blizzard but forget that a torrential rain storm can both cause hypothermia and cause anyone to get lost under the worst possible conditions. It’s certainly possible at this altitude to die within a handful of minutes. And the livestock has to be kept inside (save the ducks and geese who really like getting wet) in order to be safe.

Not to mention that I and my staff will have very long work days as soon as it stop raining as there’ll be paths to rebuild, gardens to check for damage (good practices help minimised damage), forests to survey for dangerous hanging branches and such, and so forth.

But for now, we’ve got the Penguin Cafe Orchestra playing, I’m writing this post up, my wife is reading some mystery novel, one by Tony Hilllerman I think, and we’re nice and toasty. That’s enough to make us as content as our cats are right now.

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What’s New for the 11th of March: Well, It’s Still Winter I See

I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.― Corwin in Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber

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I had a brisk walk outside today with the Estate wolfhounds, as there’s a freezing rain falling that started off late yesterday afternoon, which makes it bloody unpleasant out. I’m now warming myself in the Library near the fireplace on the outside wall of the New Library here in Kinrowan Hall.  Indeed, there’s a goodly number of staffers here reading and talking quietly which isn’t surprising.  Corwin’s right: libraries do hold back the darkness.

Music holds it back as well, which is why you’ll always find trad and not so trad music playing here. Right now it’s Red Molly doing their cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, which they did at the Center for Arts in Natick several years back. We reviewed their Love and Other Tragedies recording here.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you. I’ll be in the a Kitchen if you’ve got any questions as Rebekah is baking up an array of Jewish and Palestinian nibbles for all of us…

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Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’

Joel ends his review of Neal Asher’s first Polity novel in this manner: ‘The danger of reading an early work by an author after later entries to a series, or even later stand-alone novels from the same author, is that one might discover the writer is still feeling things out, and perhaps stumbling a bit, lacking the experience his later works will reflect. While Asher has certainly found a somewhat firmer footing in later books (relatively speaking), this first novel is anything but clumsy. So I can happily recommend Gridlinked as the logical place to start for new initiates to the series. If you’re like me, you will be rewarded with a long and happy relationship with the Polity universe.’

Robert does a little catching up, bringing us a review of the most recent installment of Glen Cook’s Instrumentalities of the Night: Working God’s Mischief: ‘It’s hard to know how to lead into this one, so I’m going to let Cook do it: Arnhand, Castauriga, and Navaya lost their kings. The Grail Empire lost its empress. The Church lost its Patriarch, though he lives on as a fugitive. The Night lost Kharoulke the Windwalker, an emperor amongst the most primal and terrible gods. The Night goes on, in dread. The world goes on, in dread. The ice builds and slides southward.

And as long as we’re talking about fantasy noir (and we were, no two ways about it), Robert has some thoughts on the first five books of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Books of the Fallen: ‘I’ve been listening to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen and I’ve been reading Midnight Tides, book five of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Although it may seem a little odd, the two fit together quite nicely: both are vast in scale, both have a strong basis in myth — not necessarily the stories of myth themselves (although that’s obviously true of the Wagner), but the resonances of myth — and both push against our perceived boundaries of what is possible.’

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It’s still very much Winter here, so Gary picks these lovely Winter Ales: ‘Full Sail’s Wassail is very good. As I recall, it’s just a good strong winter ale, no flavorings used. Another excellent Oregon winter brew is Pyramid’s Snow Cap ale. It’s my favorite winter brew so far. Deep, dark and caramel-y, perfect for a cold night in front of the fire with a good book — although after a while, my eyes always cross and I have to switch to an audiobook or some music. The Decemberists, say.’

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Robert once again brings us something a little out of the ordinary for GMR as our film offering this week: BBC’s South Pacific (no, not the musical): ‘South Pacific is another of the BBC’s “nature” series that I’ve been watching recently — “nature” in quotes because, while it does deal with the wildlife on the islands of the Pacific, it also focuses on the people and their adapations to island life.’

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Interested in a really great graphic novel series? If so, go read April’s look at the first deluxe volume of this series: ‘As might be surmised from the subtitle to this collection, Vertigo has given Bill Willingham’s long-running series Fables the deluxe treatment, much as it has with other top series, such as Sandman, V for Vendetta and Death. This gorgeous volume reprints the first ten issues of Fables, previously collected in Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, along with a sketch gallery. If somehow you’ve missed out on reading Fables, this is a perfect opportunity to dive in feet first.’

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Asher starts our music reviews off with a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairy tale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.’

Big Earl looks at Grow Fins: ‘So Green Man Review has come to this: the inevitable “who or what is a Captain Beefheart?” paragraph. I’ll reduce it to a sentence: Captain Beefheart is the all-encompassing focal point of all 20th century American music idioms, rolled into one composer. Better still, I’ll reduce it to one word: genius. I’ve seen that word used with many musicians, but if it had to apply to only a select few, Beefheart would be on that list. Brahms, Beethoven, Beefheart… I’ll refer you to the absolutely wonderful Beefheart Web site if you want more background information on the man. Time and space don’t permit…‘

Cat has some thoughts on an EP from Boiled in Lead, The Well Below: ‘I’ve heard Boiled in Lead in person but one time, and that was twenty years ago when they played in a field one late summer. Lovely they were, and their live sound carries over very well to being recorded.’

Judith was thrilled by Robin & Linda Williams’ Visions Of Love! She says, ‘Visions Of Love is, by my count, the sixteenth album by American music harmonists Robin and Linda Williams. It is produced by Garrison Keillor and, unlike most of their other releases, it contains no originals but rather covers of old songs they’ve “known for a while.” The songs are indeed about love.’ Keillor was touring with the Williamses when news broke about the accusations  against him and that tour was canceled. The show that replaced that show is Live from Here which is hosted by Chris Thile and Cat’s upbeat review is here.

Robert brings us a recording by someone who has become a household word, even for those who don’t follow classical music — it’s Arturo Toscanini’s complete recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra: ‘The legend of Toscanini springs from a remarkable career. He was one of the first to bring order to what had been the sometimes barely restrained anarchy of the nineteenth-century European orchestra, demanding, for example, that all the instruments be in tune and that the performers all play at the same tempo, somewhat revolutionary concepts for the time.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert has a brief commentary on a small offering from Folkmanis Puppets, which you can read here.

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So let’s end with Richard and Linda Thompson doing ‘Shoot Out the Lights’ which was from their show at the Paradise in Boston way back on the 19th Of May thirty six years ago! The deluxe edition of the Shoot Out the Lights album gets reviewed by Gary here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Bloodied Kings

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There are stories of hauntings here at the Kinrowan Estate going back centuries. Of ghostly patrons of our Pub in the Kinrowan Hall who came back again and again at last call to hoist just one more pint of their favourite ale, of the gameskeeper (in those long ago days when we had such a post) who is still spotted watching over the deer as they eat acorns in the late fall, of the piper heard playing in the distance as the dawn breaks over the hills where High Meadow Farm is.

And any other of the myriad  tales passed down generation after generation ’till they past from being remembered to being part of our history into being simply stories…

There is one ghost, or rather a set of ghosts, that I See in my vision when I’m unable to sleep and leave Catherine sleeping soundly in our bed to roam around Kinrowan Hall and nearby grounds in warmer weather. So it was when some decades back that I first encountered them.

At first all I noticed was the crickets chirping loud in the warm night air.  Then I heard the Irish wolfhounds we have to keep the sheep and pigs safe from wolves and other predators growling lowly in their throats as if something was well beyond their ken. So I walked out to where they were and stopped awfully fast when I saw them.

They were I thought that they were just some waking dream I was having, not really there but I son realised that they were really there. They were a King, stocky and red haired, terribly wounded but still standing,  fucking huge sword unsheathed and covered with blood and gore, and his foe, equally stocky and blond haired, obviously Viking from the runes etched on his equally bloodied sword. Dead men walking. As I watched, they resumed hacking at each other. Over and over again.

They went on, silently, never saying anything, cutting at each other ’til they were far past the point where they should have been dead, but they went one cutting at each other. They were still having at each other as they faded away.

I’ve seen them several times since, always on the same date. I’ve tried researching the old battles, the old kings of Scotland, but never found anything that even vaguely matches up properly to what I saw. I do know that there are several barrow mounds on the Estate that may indeed be those of Kings lost now to even myth as they live and died so long ago that no one even remembers them  even in stories.

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What’s New for the 4th of March: G. Willow Wilson’s Cairo, Chinese magic, a first from the Archives, Frigg’s Frost on Fiddles, gamelan complete with dancer, and Other Matters

Happiness, in the land of Deals, is measured on a sliding scale. What makes you happy? A long white silent car with smoked-glass windows, with a chauffeur and a stocked bar and two beautiful objects of desire in the back seat? An apartment in a nice part of town? A kinder lover? A place to stand that’s out of the wind? A brief cessation of pain? It depends on what you have at the moment I ask that question, and what you don’t have. Wait a little, just a little. The scale will slide again. — Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy For Technophiles

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It’s  cold, near minus ten and with blowing snow from the tHiroyuki cm storm we just got this week, so most Estate residents are inside our various buildings doing needed chores, such as getting the scarecrows ready for the growing season or assisting in the cleaning of the sub-basements, which are always surprising in what they hold. That miniature construct of Kinrowan Hall that’s in the halleay near here was found during one such cleaning several years back. Magnificent, isn’t it?

Speaking of cleaning out, we were going to move musical reference guides to storage but Reynard pointed out that he sees them being used in our Bar rather often. He says such works as the Walton’s Guide to Irish Music and the Rough Guide to the Music Of India simply don’t exist on the web. Oh, there are websites that talk about specific  artists but there’s nothing on the depth like such works as  Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music: The Sliabh Luachra Story and but very little that looks at a genre of music. So they stay after all.

So you’re in the mood for  a cider? May I suggest our Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider? And for appropriate reading while you’re savouring that drink, there’s Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide.

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Another Cat joins us this week, writing about photographer Tim Cooper’s book, The Reader: War For the Oaks, as well as the Emma Bull novel inspiring that book, which was originally a Kickstarter project. She predicts varying reactions to the book; read her review to find out what category yours may fall into.

She also has a look at Catherynne M. Valente’s forthcoming book, Space Opera: ‘It is difficult to describe how Catherynne M. Valente’s new book Space Opera manages to be so wonderfully resonant of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy yet so insistently, inimitably her own. And yet, that’s the challenge.’

Jane Lindskold is an author who has done some adventurous things with urban fantasy. Mike got hold of a copy of her Thirteen Orphans, the first book in Lindskold’s ambitious urban fantasy series Breaking the Wall, which is, he says, ‘one of the best things I’ve seen from her in quite a while. Drawing from Chinese history, mythology, and astrology, she’s created a fascinating new setting, one that straddles two very different worlds.’

He also had a copy of the next book in the series, Nine Gates: ‘Nine Gates is a wonderfully-told story, using the mythic resonance of the Chinese Zodiac along with elements of history, gamescraft and magical theory to build a world almost entirely divorced from the European traditions that make up so much of urban fantasy. It’s new and different, but not enough to create culture shock.’

Happily, Robert had a copy of the third (and final) installment, Five Odd Honors: ‘Five Odd Honors continues the story begun in Thirteen Orphans and Nine Gates, leading the Orphans and their allies back to the Lands of Smoke and Sacrifice from which they were exiled years before. . . . The group decides on reconnaissance as the first necessity, but the scouting party runs into Lands bizarrely changed by a ruthless emperor determined to remake the Lands according to his own somewhat rigid and limited sense of what should be. (Yes, one can read a political subtext into this, if one wishes.)’

While poking around in the Archives, we ran across something of a milestone: Robert’s first review for Green Man Review‘s prior incarnation, Jim Grimsley’s Kirith Kirin: ‘Jim Grimsley is a successful playwright and novelist who has produced, in Kirith Kirin, a singular work of fantasy. The story revolves around Jessex, a boy of fourteen when the story opens, who narrates the tale of his entry into the service of Kirith Kirin, the Prince who lives in Arthen Forest, awaiting the call from the Queen, Athryn Ardfalla, to fulfill the next round of the Cycle and succeed her as King.’

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Denise looks at Swamp Thing — the film version of the DC Comics hero. She very much liked the 1982 offering now on DVD. Read her very entertaining review of Swamp Thing to find out why she says ‘The only way this film could have been any better is if it had been in Aroma-Vison.’

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Jack looks at a work by a Muslim writer now better known for her endeavours for Marvel Comics: ‘The first graphic novel by journalist G. Willow Wilson, Cairo is a rather well-crafted retelling of the Aladdin story set in contemporary Cairo. With a riff that will please fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues, here too are very old gods who find themselves confronting humans who are very much of the modernity. Here, residents of Cairo, human and otherwise, several Americans, a Leftist journalist and a djinn meet in a journey from the streets of Cairo to Undernile, the fabled river said to run deep below the Nile, in the opposite direction.’

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Capercaillie’s Dusk Till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie, and Karen Matheson’s (lead vocalist of Capercaillie) solo album, The Dreaming Sea got a review a quarter century ago by April who says these recordings ‘are the perfect introduction to the band’s sound and history.’ Yes we’ve been reviewing, well, the roots and branches of global culture a very long time.

Gary is very fond of Muzsikas and Marta Sebestyen’s  Live at Liszt Academy : ‘The music of Hungary is a rich gift to the world. Muzsikas is the best-known of the ensembles that have brought this mesmerizing tradition to the world since the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990s. This recording is yet another demonstration of the power of this music and the mastery of Muzsikas. It documents a series of concerts in 2003 at the Liszt Academy. Several tracks feature the ethereal vocals of the ProMusica Choir of Nyiregyhaza, 50 young women directed by Denes Szabo.’

Robert came up with something of historical interest — no, wait, it’s much more than that: Odetta at the Gate of Horn: ‘Albert Grossman, who among other things managed Bob Gibson and a number of other prominent folk artists, opened The Gate of Horn in Chicago in 1956. It became quite arguably the performance venue for the burgeoning folk music scene in the 1960s and early 70s — everyone played The Gate: Gibson and Camp, Glenn Yarborough, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Odetta.’

Somehow, while we were busy blinking, the group Frigg went from being promising newcomers in the Finnish folk music scene to being seasoned veterans.  Now Scott reviews Frost on Fiddles, their eighth album that came out this past year.

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Our What Not this week is another offering from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert was, he says, a bit unnerved by this one, for a couple of reasons. You can read his explanation of his reaction here.

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Our Coda this week is something a little out of the ordinary, but not as much as you might expect. We’ve done quite a bit of commentary on Indonesian gamelan (if you don’t believe me, just do a site search for ‘gamelan’  and see what you get); one of our earliest forays into that area was an album by Çudamani, a gamelan from Bali. (Just to remind you, ‘gamelan’ is not only the music, but the orchestra that performs it.) But a recording can’t give you the whole spectacle, so we thought it would be nice to give you a sample of a gamelan in action, so to speak, complete with dancer, which you can see here.

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A Global News Service story: Clockwork Beings

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15 January 1880
Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Global News Service

I’ve been chasing rumours of a true clockwork man for decades now. Not a pale shadow of a living being called automatas, but one that looks like and acts like a true human being. I’ve thus far seen a clockwork go player in Imperial China who could play a decent game, a fortune teller in Berlin who spoke German and Romany, an amazing working approximation of a Riverside sword fighter, and something that appeared to be a crossing for no apparent reason between a human and a pig. But even when they looked human, I could tell instinctively they weren’t human.

The creatures that I saw and examined in my travels were far more impressive. There was a full-sized tiger in Rajasthan that looked and moved as it were flesh and blood.; a raven in Paris that quoted Poe impeccably; and  a scarecrow that tilted its head in a manner that made me not want to meet it ever again. Each of them was a marvel of complexity with workings so fine and intricate that they would each fetch a godly sum in any of the shadow markets that handled fenced goods as their owners had no intent of parting with them. Indeed the creator of the tiger said that two different thieves had tried to steal him and both were turned to bloody bits by him.

I encountered fakers, the most common of which was to use a dwarf ensconced within a body working the puppet and speaking when asked questions. I was told that one of these dwarfs met a bloody demise when a perspective owner used a sword to make sure on-one was inside.   And the perpetrator made his own bloody demise shortly thereafter. No one likes being taken by this sort of chancer.

So I came to Istanbul as I had heard tales of the Grand Vizier offering extraordinary wealth to anyone who could create a clockwork storyteller who could entertain him with tales from <strong>The Arabian Nights</strong>. Failure of course would most likely mean death. I asked for in a most polite to meet with to ask about his desire for such a creation.

In due course, that being several years as the request had to pass upwards from one clerk to another clerk and so one until it reached his personal secretary  who could have made a decision but really did wasn’t keen on losing his head if the Grand Vizier decided his decision was wrong. Indeed this personal secretary got his appointment to that post by having information about such a decision by the previous personal secretary. The the Grand Vizier was so displeased that he made the death last a full month ending in a beheading of course.

When I finally met with him, a date set a year in advance, we sipped sweet tea and listened to music from a trio of oud players. After a decent interval of me telling him the latest from Imperial India which fascinated him, I asked my question.

He admitted that he was not the one that suggested this affair, but rather was what he took to be a djinn. The djinn found itself unable to be fully tangible in our world and wanted a body that it could inhabit. Mortal bodies were too fragile and failed within a few days, so a mechanical man would have to suffice. Or so the djinn thought was the deal with the Grand Vizer was. But the latter thought he was going to capture and imprison that djinn thereby binding him to his service.

We shall see what happens when that mechanical man is finished. If indeed the Grand Vizer ever found someone that met his and the djinn’s exacting needs!

P

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What’s New for the 25th of February: Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’, Wild China, identity in science fiction, ‘hedgehog highways’ and other neat stuff

He tried to reconstruct the story in his mind, but it kept getting confused, bleeding into itself like watercolors. ― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden

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If you like Irish whiskey, I’ve got a definite treat for you as several bottles of Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt came in from our Dublin Agent and the Casker site noted ‘that it is distilled through traditional Irish pot stills and aged for eight years in oak barrels before being re-casked in first-fill bourbon barrels.’ Shall I serve you up a dram, neat of course?

I’m not quite ready for you, so let’s give you a bit of a story to listen to while I finish off this edition. ‘The Girl in the Garden’ from the Sirens recording by SJ Tucker does this nicely. It tells the tale of the orphan in Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale:  In The Night Garden. If you like what Tucker does here, you’ll love this work by Valente, the first of two volumes with  the second being The Orphan’s Tale: The Cities of Coin and Spice. There are many stories told here, all brilliant, in a metanarrative that connects everything together.

So now let’s look at this edition, which has many tales for you — even music tells its own tale if you pay attention carefully…

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Cat had, not a look but a listen to Rita Mae Brown’s Crazy Like a Fox audiobook: ‘It’s a joy to listen to, with a skilled narrator, great setting, compelling mystery, and distinctive characters, both human and otherwise. Highly recommended, as are the previous audiobooks in this series, which are all read by the author as well.’

John Has a look at a book by contradancer and historian Allison Thompson: ‘The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances set to airs by Turlough O’Carolan: ‘This book is at once fascinating and difficult to review. The fascination lies in the idea of combining the music of Turlough O’Carolan with modern English country dances. The difficulty lies in my own lack of experience in the world of choreography, which renders me unable to offer objective criticism or judgment to this project. Having said that, the work is an interesting collection in its own right.’

Robert has a look at a work of fantasy? Science fiction? Both? Not either? See what he has to say about Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Arms: ‘Nalo Hopkinson gave a speech (“Looking for Clues,” reprinted in The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3) in which she addressed one of science fiction’s quandaries with great wit and eloquence. The thrust of her remarks involved the problem of finding someone she, a Caribbean woman of mixed, mostly non-white ancestry, could identify with in stories written usually from a white, male, mostly middle-class point of view.’

And speaking of questions of identity and the James Tiptree Awards, Robert has a look at the first three anthologies of those prize winners. First, Volumes 1 and 2, followed by Volume 3: ‘Tiptree’s career, as much as her writing, led to the creation in 1991 of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award by Pat Murphy and Karen Fowler. As Murphy says in her introduction to the first anthology, “We did it to make trouble. To shake things up. . . . And to honor the woman who startled the science fiction world by making people suddenly rethink their assumptions about what women and men could do.”’

We finish out our books section with an announcement by Richard Thompson: ‘RT is excited to announce the title of his book: Beeswing: Britain, Folk Rock and the End of the 60s. Due for publication in Autumn 2019, Beeswing is a memoir of musical discovery, personal revelation, and social history written by Thompson with journalist and author Scott Timberg. In the title, Thompson will describe how this “intense and fertile” time in Britain led to a spiritual crisis both personal and culture-wide. The book will also detail his conversion to Sufi mysticism, the legendary partnership with wife Linda, years of musical experimentation, and how he wrote some of the “saddest and most emotionally resonant” songs in pop-music history.’

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Robert brings us something out of the ordinary for our film section this week: a documentary series from the BBC, Wild China: ‘I have a confession to make: I’ve become addicted to the BBC nature series on Netflix. It’s probably the natural result of a boyhood spent poking around in the empty lots and forest preserves around my childhood home, seeing what was there to see, aided and abetted by a father who encouraged my curiosity. One of the better series from BBC is Wild China, which examines not only the wildlife of a vast and highly variable country, but also the geography, geology, and the attitudes of the human populations.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons garners accolades from Brendan: ‘This is an amazing CD that manages not only to pay tribute to the rural style of life but the entire field of American traditional music as well. Ungar and Mason have created a unique blend of orchestral and folk music that manages to preserve the integrity of each style while enhancing each other.’

Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of Cat but comes with a caveat:’ Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household that I can count as it simply has not a less than stellar cut on it.’

A recording by Amarillis which has the aforementioned Allison Thompson on accordion and concertin getd high praise from veteran contradancer Gary: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home.’

As Richard Thompson noted above, he has a book coming this Fall, so let’s have this reviewer tell you about one of his legendary boxsets: ‘What can you say about a musician whose career began more than 40 years ago and whose creative and physical energies are still going strong? If the artist in question is Richard Thompson, you needn’t say anything. Just open the cover of the career-spanning box set Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009 and marvel.’

Jo wrote a review of the Labyrinth recording by a band created by Scots fiddler Alasdair Fraser: ‘All of the members in Skyedance are consummate musicians, who have honed their craft to excellence. It is pure pleasure to hear these six phenomenal performers work together with such precision and craftsmanship.’

Popcorn Behavior’s Hot Contra Dance Tunes, Journeywork and Strangest Dream meets with the approval of Naomi: ‘It is rather disconcerting at first to listen to this group. The music is impeccable and surpasses much of what I have heard in my life. This in itself is not all that remarkable. However, when you realize that the musicians are only 10, 13, and 14 years of age, it kind of makes you suck back and reload, if you know what I mean. These Vermont youngsters are all musical marvels who have been playing together for years!’

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Today’s What Not has a rather spiky subject. Now, you may be aware that just about every continent has a mammal that has found a way to protect itself with spines. New World porcupines, as might be expected, inhabit the Americas, while Old World porcupines are found in southern Europe, western and southern Asia, and Africa. Madagascar even has its own version, the tenrec, which is not related to any of the others. The one that has captured our hearts here at Green Man Review, of course, is the hedgehog — not the long-eared hedgehog of the Arabian desert that eats, among other things, snakes, but our own little fellow native to Britain. (If the name of our in-house newsletter, The Sleeping Hedgehog wasn’t a dead give-away — well, we couldn’t have made it much plainer. We’ve even commented on a hedgehog puppet.) Sadly, like so many other animals, our native hedgehog is having trouble adapting to urbanization — fences and walls have put a crimp in its normal wanderings, which has not had a good result. However, one man has decided to do something about that, and his solution is quite down-to-earth and simple. You can read about Barnes Hedgehogs and ‘hedgehog highways’ here.

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So I’ve got some music for you that I think fits pretty much any season. It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’from Rodeo from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Snow

Snow, especially heavy snow falling without any wind, quiets everything. And we’ve had such going on for three days now. It certainly changes the rhythms of this Scottish Estate!

Every winter season this happens several times when a weather front sets up just so. It’s not a blizzard as the winds are usually fairly light and the temperature doesn’t bottom out like it does in a really bad storm. It just starts snowing, keeps snowing, and then refuses to stop. It quickly becomes hazardous to be out in it, as there’s just enough wind to create whiteout conditions, so everyone except those tending the animals stay where they are.

It’s true that we’ve added lights along the path to the old renovated crofter cottages, where folks like Gus and his wife live, which assists in staying safe while getting around. But skiing or being out skating on the Mill Pond are not a good idea. So we stay put. Life slows down, chores get set aside, and we just enjoy ourselves.

Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff prepare lots of treats, such as cookies and s’mores, the musicians in the Neverending Session break up into smaller groups to play everywhere they’re wanted. Inevitably a contra dance gets organised by Chasing Dragonflies, the in-house dance band, to keep those interested from being too slothful. And the various informal groups, the chess players, reading groups and such take advantage of the downtime to engage intensely in their leisure activities.

I’m not saying everyone gets to take it easy — Gus and his staff, as I noted before, have the animals. They also try to keep the paths clear, watch for trees that might be hazards with heavy snow on their boughs, and generally keep a watch on the Estate.

I, on the other hand take the time to do some reading, say a mystery I want to read without interruption, just be with my wife, and enjoy the quietness.

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What’s New for the 18th of February: A New Album by Joan Baez, Bee Gees Down Under, Yet More Taza Chocolate, Jack Vance, Baby Groot and Other Matters

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but ifyou want to
test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACandlemas is past, which means Spring’s approaching. We mark Candlemas here not as a Church celebration but rather as the time when the days are noticeably longer. We’ve got a Several Annie by the name of Astrid, from Sweden, who initiated the present Estate residents into the tradition of St. Lucia’s Day.

Its been an unusually rough winter here with Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, suffering several broken ribs when one of our draft horses pinned him up against a stone wall. Not the horse’s fault, as he was startled by an owl swooping toward him. And our Head Cook, Mrs. Ware, has been away for a month as her daughter took ill and the grandchildren needed looking after. We’re just a a bit short on grounds staff, too, as the flu made its very much-lamented presence known.

I see from my notes that Robert has taken over the book reviews for a bevy of reviews of books on and by fantasy and science fiction writer Jack Vance; Gary’s got looks at two Americana recordings and one from … well, you decide; Cat reviews a very cute Groot sort of action figure.
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Robert’s been digging around in the library and ran across some treasures from one of the greats of science fiction’s Golden Age — Jack Vance. First, he brings us a look at a collection of early stories, Hard Luck Diggings: ‘Hard Luck Diggings collects fourteen of Jack Vance’s earliest published stories, originally appearing between 1948 and 1959. As editors Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan point out in their Introduction, what we see here is Vance not only mastering his craft, but finding his audience. As might be expected, these stories, while all capable, are not uniformly wonderful (although which are what is going to have a heavily subjective basis), nor are they all uniformly what we now think of as “Jack Vance stories,” although one can find here not only the beginnings of Vance’s distinctive voice, but some full-blown examples of what that voice would become.’

To add to the fun, he’s also looked at Tales of the Dying Earth, perhaps Vance’s best-known cycle: ‘Jack Vance has been, throughout his long career as a science-fiction writer, one of the most consistently creative universe-builders in the field. From the far-flung stellar civilization of The Demon Princes to Alastor and The Dying Earth, his creations are marked not only by imagination but by a degree of attention to how they work — the structure of the milieu — that makes them inescapably real.’

And, hearing from the man himself, we have Vance’s autobiography, This is Me, Jack Vance!: ‘There is a quality in this book, as there is in Vance’s fiction, that we used to call a sense of wonder, a wide-eyed look at a world in which everything is an adventure and life’s lessons, no matter how ruefully one looks back at them sometimes, are a preparation for the next part of the voyage. I think maybe that’s the word I would use to describe This is Me — a voyage. So hop aboard.’

If you thought that was enough (how can there ever be enough of Jack Vance?), well, Jerry Hewitt and Daryl F. Mallett came up with The Work of Jack Vance: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide: ‘This is not the first bibliography of Vance’s writings. It is, in fact, the fourth. It was simply, at its publication, the most complete (and the authors note that it probably is not completely complete).’ Robert thinks this is an adventure in itself.

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Robert had the happy opportunity to sample another offering from Taza Chocolate, this time their Coconut Almond bar: ‘[T]his is one I can recommend for those times when you just have to have a little bit of chocolate — more than two bites verges on overwhelming, even for a confirmed chocoholic like me.’

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In the realm of graphic literature, Robert came up with a manga series that deserves attention, Studio CLAMP’s Legal Drug: ‘Legal Drug is a series by CLAMP, with story by Ageha Ohkawa, illustrated by Tsubaki Nekoi, that, sadly to my mind, was dropped in 2003 when the magazine in which it was being serialized ceased publication. The first three volumes, however, are worth looking at.’

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Barb notes that ‘Mention Hungarian music in a sentence and the word gypsy will inevitably follow. But as is the case with stereotypes, that doesn’t give you the whole picture (a lot of it, but not all of it). The Rough Guide to Hungarian Music takes you all through this small country (as well as some surrounding areas) and gives you a peek at the diversity that lies within, from the many different traditional styles to the new music infused with influences from technology and other world music.’

Denise takes a look at the Bee Gees’ One For All Tour Live in Australia 1989, a concert video that has only just been given the Blu-ray treatment. And well it should have, she says. “The brothers Gibb at the top of their vocal game, playing just about everything. It’s truly a joy to listen to.”

We’ve lost count of the albums Joan Baez has released in her long career, but her new one is the first in just about 10 years. Gary says, ‘With Whistle Down the Wind Joan Baez proves she still deserves her standing as one of the voices of her generation.’

Gary also takes a look at Lord of the Desert, the fourth CD from the Utah-based Americana group 3hattrio. ‘This one’s an open range of a record, with this trio wandering like spirit animals over a landscape that covers cowboy poetry to airy space jams.’

And then there’s Bu Bir Ruya, the latest release from Dirtmusic. Gary says of it, ‘The multinational band Dirtmusic’s fifth album Bu Bir Ruya is a startling and timely recording that confronts the worldwide refugee crisis head-on.’

Robert, as might be expected, came up with something a little out of the ordinary: the self-titled debut album from an Austrian group, Wûtas: ‘“Wûtas” (pronounced “wuotas”) is an Alemannic word denoting the Wild Hunt. . . . It is also the name of a group formed in 2008 with the avowed intention of performing medieval music, which seems to be a going concern in the German-speaking world. However, Wûtas (the group) also evidenced a love of folk music and a tendency to get a little experimental, as well as a fondness for themes from myth and legend. The result, as presented on their eponymous debut album, can perhaps best be described as “medieval pagan folk rock.”’

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Abraham Lincon. Emancipator. President.  Wrestler?  In getting ready for this year’s President’s Day here in the States, I decided to forego my usual cherry pie and dig into the life of our 16th President. And I found out he was quite the grappler back in the day, and could ‘trash talk’ with the best of them. Who knew?  Well, anyone who’s visited the Wrestling Hall of Fame, apparently.  Because he’s there.  I tip my stovepipe to you, Mr. President.

And to add something fun to this week’s What Not, Cat reviews NECA’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Body Knocker Groot figurine.  Because who doesn’t love Groot? Cat marveled at the detail; “Even the Boom Box that he’s sitting on is nicely detailed and looks like it could actually play music.” And did I mention this figurine is solar powered?  Because it is.  Read the review here!

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Let’s have something different from our usual trad music Coda this time. ‘‘Volunteered Slavery’ is from an April 1971 Fillmore East concert in  New York  City by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was an American jazzman who played flute, tenor saxophone, and quite a few other instruments.

He was one of the liveliest musicians you’d have the pleasure to experience, as his verbal diologue during any concert was a mixture of lighthearted, often comic banter and political ranting while he played several instruments at the same time. He died from a second stroke at forty two, a much too young an age for anyone, let alone someone of his genius.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cookbook (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I’m going to pitch a book for that culinary folklore seminar you’re teaching next Winter here for those visiting food writers, as I really tkink it’ll be a good addition to that endeavour.

One of Several Annies, Iain’s library apprentices, was literally squealing with delight in the kitchen this week over a book that just got added to the collection of cookbooks and culinary history we have here at the Kinrowan Estate. It was Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook by Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple. And I would be remiss not to note that the illustrator is Sima Elizabeth Shefrin, whose work here is simply charming.

The recipes look really great, with easy to follow instructions that allow even an inexperienced cook to make each dish easily. Our reviewer noted that ‘When I think of the books I loved as child, I get hungry. There was Pooh lapping up honey and cream teas, Mary Poppins handing out magical gingerbread, while Frodo chowed down on mushrooms and lembas. Food surely is an integral part of children’s literature. After all, where would Cinderella be without her pumpkin coach? Would Alice in Wonderland be half as memorable without the magic mushrooms and the strange bottles labeled “Drink Me?”‘

This is traditional fare like you find here with lots of butter and the like: no thought about healthy cooking is here! But then food centered on Jewish folklore would hardy be concerned about counting calories and getting enough greens in your diet, would they? (Iain used it in a course on Jewish traditions for his Several Annies several years back, as he firmly believes learning should be fun. And this is a very fun book.)

I’ve got other books that I’ll bring to your attention but the person skiing down to the Post in the village as the road’s closed again wants to get going.

Warmest regards Gus

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What’s New for the 11th of February: ’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’, Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boot, live Irish Music from De Dannan & Skara Brae, Hobos, Mary-Sues, Live from Here replaces Prairie Home Companion and other matters

Most times we only see things for the way we are. But we’re good at lying to ourselves. Sometimes we need somebody who’s not living in our skin to point out how things really are.  ― Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

What am I listening to? Well it’s a choice live performance of ‘‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ by De Dannan at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio nearly thirty years ago. This is before the band split into two, each faction not speaking to the other, with only a different spelling of the name as a way of telling them apart. As of five years ago, both bands were still active, and both are very much worth hearing live if they perform in your area.

There’s a not-at-all-gentle wind driven freezing rain battering itself against Kinrowan Hall on this rather dark afternoon. Needless to say there’s lots of Estate staff here in the Library — some reading, some holding conversations, some even napping as we we don’t have the usual Library rules here but everyone’s respectful of not being too loud. Even Ysbaddaden and his feline kin  aren’t raising their voices here as they’re all curled up near one of the patrons.

So let’s see what our staffers have for reviews for you this Edition; the Coda this time will be of a Celtic Music nature as well as you’ll see see when you get to it…

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Craig brings us a look at an anthology on an American icon, Cliff  ‘Oats’  Williams’ One More Train to Ride: ‘What does the average reader really know about the culture of the American hobo? Mostly they keep themselves out of sight due to the misdemeanor status of actions necessary to their survival (e.g., riding on freight trains). Still, there are hundreds of transients constantly traveling, making their way back and forth across the country — riding trains, working where they can, taking handouts, and just enjoying the freedom from society’s strictures.’

Denise takes us into uncharted territory (uncharted for GMR, at least) with a review of three romance/fantasy novels. Alas, the prospects don’t look good: ‘Mary Sue (n.) : (1) A type of story where characterization, plot and theme is supplanted by the author’s quest for his or her own wish fulfillment. (2) any character that is a thinly disguised idealized version of the author when the story suffers from such usage. The term is almost always derogatory.’

Robert was fairly enthusiastic about three chapbooks from small presses, to wit: Jack Vance’s The Kragen; Thomas M. Disch’s The Voyage of the Proteus: A Eyewitness Account of the End of the World; and Cat Rambo and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories: ‘You may recall that we here at GMR are extraordinarily fond of the small presses that publish so many of the things we discuss. We are fond of them because they bring us all-but-forgotten classics, exciting new works from important writers, and challenging new voices, all in attractive new editions — as witness the group of chapbooks that I have on my desk right now, representing successive “waves” in the history of speculative fiction.’

Robert brings us a look back at early — well, fairly early — Charles de Lint, with reviews of two of his novels set in and around Tamson House. First is Moonheart: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint.’

And next is Spiritwalk: ‘Spiritwalk is a loose sequel to Moonheart, a series of related tales, again centering around Tamson House and including many of the same characters. In fact, the House is even more important as a Place in this group of stories.’

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And now, something that has never happened before here at GMR, as far as we can determine: two reviews of the same work, namely, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. First, a very thorough, in-depth review from Rebecca, written back in the day: ‘The hype began months ago. The first I knew of it was the full-page ads in my monthly comics. Then I caught the teaser on Apple’s site. The concept caught me immediately: a movie in which everything but the actors themselves was created by computer. The more I found out, the more intrigued I became. Most of my friends were fascinated, too. We all agreed that, visually, this would be a terrific movie if things had been done even half-right.’

Next, from Robert, a more impressionistic review from someone who happened on the film by chance. Once again, Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: ‘I’m not sure when or where I first ran across Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but it has become one of my favorite “something to watch when I’m just up for some light entertainment” movies. (This is not a bad thing, and is no reflection on the quality of the film, as you’ll see below.)’

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, Denise leapt at the chance to review some candy and beverages for this issue.  She dug into Lovely’s Salted Cashew Chocolate CaramelsStarbucks’ Cherry MochaChocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company’s No 3 – Dark Strawberry Champagne Truffle Bar, and Contadino’s Pinot Grigio Vivace.

Some were hits – she says of the Vivace, ‘Not too shabby for a fiver! Seek this out.’ But there were some misses as well; of the No3 bar, she says ‘The strawberry may not be overkill, but the total amount of sweetness is. Instead of being happy, I feel over-sugared.’ If you’re trying to figure out what do add to your holiday table, check our these reviews!

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Cat looks at Live from Here, the show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Chris Thile: ‘Having sort of followed A Prairie Home Companion and the dreadful and frankly disgusting behaviour of Garrison Keillor, the very long time host and creator of APHC  before Chris Thile, Americana musician par excellence, took over. I listened to him in the early months of his hosting but it didn’t impress me as it felt too much that Kellior was haunting it from offstage.’ Now go read his review to see why he’ll be listening to this show!

A new recording by a trio of superb musicians in the Americana tradition caught Gary’s ear. He says of the album See You Around, by the group calling themselves I’m With Her, ‘I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here to predict it will be one of the top Americana albums of the year.’

Gary got some kicks out of an album called Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boots. ‘This is hard-rocking country, rooted in tradition but not afraid to sound modern.’

Author and musician Willy Vlautin has a new book out this month, and Gary reviews Don’t Skip Out On Me … not the book, but the soundtrack album he wrote for it. ‘Fans of Richmond Fontaine and of Willy Vlautin have a real treat in store with this book and its accompanying soundtrack,’ he says.

Huw finishes us off with some Classical music. Not bein’ a fan of anythin’ more classic than my old pair of Wayfarers I know absolutely zero about this music, but Huw knows his stuff. He wuzn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music / Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic in ‘…but, grouchy as I was when I put the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There’s no getting away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful music. Foot-tapping melodies, indeed!’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWe stumbled on this older post in the British Library’s Medieval manuscripts blog the other day. It’s the sort of combination of the ancient and the modern that we love: an animation inspired by one of the library’s Medieval bestiaries. Here is ’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’.Do read the credits and visit the websites or Facebook pages of the blog and the animator!
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Ysbaddaden and his brood are telling me that ’tis time for their eventide feeding, so I’ll take your leave now. Now where did the kitchen staff put that leftover smoked duck from last night? Ahhh, there it is! Let me feed them and I’ll see about some music to leave with you after their feeding, so one moment please…

I’m thinking that I mentioned here a few months back that I had been playing a concert recording by Skara Brae, The short-lived Irish trad group which the sorely missed Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill wa a member as he was of a number of bands including  Nightnoise, so I’ll finish off with a set of tunes, ‘Ar A Dhul Chun’ and ‘Chuain Dom’, from that performance. And I’ve no idea why they didn’t get a commercial release of this performance as both the music and the production are quite fine indeed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Burns Supper

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January and early February can be a rough timr. After the champagne glasses have been washed and returned to the cabinet following New Year’s Eve, it sometimes seems there’s not much to do but hunker down and wait for spring. So, when word spread around the office that a few special kegs of oatmeal stout were to be tapped in honor of Robbie Burns I made one of my rare visits to the pub to get a pint or two before they ran out. I’m glad I got there early.

Not long after I’d settled into a seat in the corner and gotten my first taste of the stout . . . smooth as a baby’s bum it was, with a hint of chocolate in the finish and a head so creamy you’d swear you could whip it; but I digress . . . as I was savoring the stout the door burst open and a lanky fellow in a kilt arrived. He was leading a rag tag lot of close to forty. Tartans were in great abundance and there was no doubt that this self-selected voluntary clan was out to celebrate the poet laureate of Scotland with a Burns Supper here in the Pub. No idea where they came from given that the nearest village is twenty miles away from us!

What a sight they were. They ranged in age from a few who seemed to have slipped off from Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sporting their class emblems, to geezers with plenty of grey in their hair but spry of step and bright of eye. There was one bespectacled professorial chap in a tartan tie that you wouldn’t have noticed save for his face being painted blue. Some of the younger lot seemed to be returning to the old ways and sported druidic looking tattoos. By the time they all tumbled through the door there wasn’t a seat left.

I found myself sharing the corner with a few of them including a raffish young witch who tucked a fiddle case carefully behind her. Close by there was a hale fellow with a big drum, a balding gent with guitar and fiddle cases along with a book of Burns poetry, a wee little Goth lass and a vibrant woman who seemed to have forgotten that her lineage was more likely to include a leprechaun or two rather than Wallace or Bruce.

The ostensible head of this clan was enjoying his role as toastmaster, but it was clear that his lovely lady was really the one in charge. Belying the stereotype of Scots’ parsimony, I noted that the pub keeper was handed a well-weighted purse and told to keep the food and drink coming for one and all. Serving trays with steaming dishes were brought in and carried out to the kitchen to wait their proper serving time. And it seemed that for every one of the visiting crowd there also appeared a bottle of single malt; there were Highland, Lowland, and Islays of every description. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, what a night this is going to be!’ as Reynard poured a dram of a peaty 16 year-old Highland, refilled my stout and handed me a steaming mug of cock-a-leekie soup.

Now, I’d read a little about Burns Suppers and knew there were Burns Societies that held highly ritualized and formal affairs with specific toasts and a format that must be followed. One of the visitors explained that their approach was instead predicated on having the kind of party they assume Burns would have enjoyed, ‘Food and drink in abundance, shameless flirtation, jokes and poems, song and sentiment, how can you go wrong?’

Periodically someone would ring their glass to gather attention so that they might offer a toast or read a bit of Burns. A funny youngster with the ears of an orange tabby cat read the bard’s paean to the ritual center piece of the meal, haggis, that amalgam of oats and sheep parts you don’t want to know about, upon its emergence from the kitchen.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
A boon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.

Somehow, my own interest in the stuff waned at the lines:

Tenching your gushhing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

The several regular players in the Neverending Session were much expanded by the many guests who brought out instruments of all sorts once the haggis course was over and a sufficient quantity of single malt had been consumed. The lovely young witch with the fiddle case who sat in my corner played bewitchingly indeed. There were singers and dulcimer players and drummers and fiddlers. (Fortunately, no one brought bagpipes.) The material ranged from the expected, Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘John Barleycorn’, to the incongruous, ‘Rocky Raccoon’ seemed to be traditional with this crowd.

Well, as I said, I had just gone down to get a pint of oatmeal stout with every intention of leaving when the pint was gone. Instead, it was nearly three in the morning when I stumbled out the door. By then the pub was definitely out of stout, not to mention low on brown ale and a few other provisions. I was stuffed with haggis and salmon, tatties and ‘neeps, shortbread and Dundie Cake, all of which moderated the many wee drams of single malt that had been pressed upon me. (I tried to resist, really.) I’d heard poems by Burns and a few other Scotsmen, but I swear someone read Ginsberg or Kerouac, too. All in all, I think Burns would have enjoyed himself.

Now, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we might yet make it to Spring.

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What’s New for the 4th of February: Ursula Le Guin

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.

Ursula K. Le Guin in The Wizard of Earthsea 

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Before you read the rest of this edition, go to In Memoriam, Ursula K. LeGuin which writer Peter S. Beagle wrote this week amid his considerable sorrow at her passing: ‘It takes the shiny off everything. Everything. Including the pure shameless pride of being declared a Damon Knight Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. All of it.’

We indeed lost, as Peter makes apparent in his memorial, one of the nicest, most creative folk this civilization had when Ursula Le Guin passed on just a short while ago at the age of just over eighty-eight. Being somewhat younger than her and a fan of well-crafted fantasy and science fiction, she’s been part of my world ever since my teens. I started off, as many of you did no doubt did, by reading the Earthsea series when it came out oh, so many years ago, as just a trilogy before it expanded greatly. Saga Press is working on a Charles Vess illustrated edition of the first three novels, which should be eyecatching.

The Lathe Of Heaven is a quirky novel about a man in Portland, Oregon (her home town) who when he dreams makes changes in reality. His psychiatrist manipulates those dreams in an attempt to make the world what he wants. This being a novel by her, things really don’t go his way. I’ve read the novel, seen the first of I think three attempts to film it (needless to say she didn’t like any of them) and have heard the audiobook. The novel’s wonderful in print and audio forms, the films really not even mediocre.

I read The Dispossessed first in University not long after I came there in the early Seventies. Subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, it’s set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (part of the Hainish Cycle). I think it’s easily her most visibly political novel with its capitalist-to-the-max planet and the moon-based social democratic society that only exists because they’re effectively a mining colony for their former homeworld. A reading group I was once part of it was discussing it and that discussion got very heated.

Those are my picks for you to read. Now let’s see what our reviewers had to say about her works.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Cat reviews something that’s not a novel and which reflects that she was the was the daughter of anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber of the University of California, Berkeley, and writer Theodora Kracaw: ‘Some fifteen years ago, Le Guin created Always Coming Home, an ethnographic history of a people living in a future version of Northern California. Though it’s possible that this might be a far future version of our culture, Le Guin cares not a bleedin’ bit about where or when this takes place; the intent here is world building at its very finest. And world building that is very anthropological in nature.‘

Cat really liked everything in The Selected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin: The Found and the Lost and The Unreal and the Real and he breaks his rule here on reading short fiction: ‘I always suggest that a reader treat short stories like really great chocolate, but if my experience was any indication, these tales are too good to parcel out. I had not encountered nearly all of these as I hadn’t read the collections they’d been collected in. Note that the various Earthsea short stories aren’t here but will be in the Earthsea book noted below. At sixty dollars for two volumes, they’re a bargain for what you get. And I look forward to the Charles Vess illustrated Earthsea, which Saga Press notes will be the complete novels and short stories compiled in one volume titled The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. Ymmm!

Grey reviews more of her short fiction: ‘When I finished reading the last pages of the last story in The Birthday of the World, I wandered around disoriented for perhaps an hour. This new collection of short stories and novellas by Ursula Le Guin is not like some books that convey comfort and delight so strongly that I finish them in a warm glow, glad to be alive. It isn’t that these stories make me sorry to be alive; rather, I find myself, after reading them, wondering just how alive I’ve been lately. How long has it been since I’ve looked at the sky and thought about how far away it is? How do I truly share space and self with another being? How would it be with me if I considered this year not as 2002, but as the Year One, with last year being one-ago, the way it is in Karhide?’

Changing Planes, another collection of stellar short fiction, gets reviewed by Grey as well: ‘Ursula K. Le Guin is an anthropologist of people and cultures that might be. Her book Always Coming Home is the clearest example; in it she studies a possible future civilization in northern California, unearthing stories and descriptions of architecture, festivals, healing ways and recipes. But a great many of her science fiction novels and short stories, set in the imagined future of the galaxy-wide Ekumen, are the explorations of a curious, observant mind who is truly able to hypothesize the differences that might make a culture alien to us, as well as the commonalities that can draw disparate cultures together.’

She also has a look at the first collection of Earthsea stories: ‘of us who have voyaged in Earthsea have reason to rejoice that its creator, Ursula K. Le Guin, has further news from the Archipelago. When we read the epic adventures of Ged, Tenar and Arren in A Wizard of EarthseaThe Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore, these books were a trilogy. Many years later Le Guin continued the story, while changing directions slightly, in Tehanu. And then, less than a year ago, she surprised and delighted us yet again with Tales from Earthsea, five more stories that brought previously unknown aspects of the islands vividly to life. To quote Le Guin herself in her forward to Tales from Earthsea, “At the end of the fourth book of Earthsea, Tehanu, the story had arrived at what I felt to be now….Unable to continue Tehanu‘s story (because it hadn’t happened yet) and foolishly assuming that the story of Ged and Tenar had reached its happily-ever-after, I gave the book a subtitle: ‘The Last Book of Earthsea.’ O foolish writer. Now moves. Even in storytime, dreamtime, once-upon-a-time, now isn’t then.” In The Other Wind, Le Guin acquaints us with what is happening in Earthsea “now.”’

Jack was very pleased with this offering from her: ‘Some books are just too good not to review as soon as they arrive. Such is the case with Tales from Earthsea, five mostly new tales of Earthsea, the delightful universe created by LeGuin more than 30 years ago.’

Kim looks at a story Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight? which got very special treatment: ‘I got this illustrated book that arrived in the mail. Susan Seddon Boulet’s illustrations take us into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things to beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up. (Mine! Ahem — They get their own copies whenever possible.)’

Michelle looks at a work by her that still provokes fierce arguments some forty years after being published: ‘For the first several pages of The Left Hand of Darkness, readers see the country of Karhide on the planet Gethen as a typical Western monarchy. Through the eye of Genly Ai (pronounced “I,” like a cry), we witness all the traditional trappings of power, military might and courtly intrigue as a king officiates at a pompous ritual. The narrator notices only men at the ceremony, but this may seem quite natural to readers accustomed to European history narratives, which often fail to account for the presence of women at public functions. The Left Hand of Darkness could be historical fiction set just about anywhere — until we learn that the king is pregnant.’

Rebeca got the honour of reviewing this work by her: ‘This classic fantasy series is often compared to The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, but this is not a fair comparison. Although all three can be read as allegorical fantasies, Le Guin is concerned with different religious and philosophical issues, and her writing style differs considerably from Tolkien and Lewis. Le Guin’s trilogy possesses a quiet charm and mystical beauty all its own and is in no way derivative of the other two.These three novels are known collectively as the Earthsea trilogy, but they can be read independently. They are categorized as being for grades 6-9, but their themes are complex enough to challenge adults, and Le Guin’s writing is not over-simplified or condescending.’

The fourth book in the Earthsea trilogy got her attention later on: ‘Tehanu is the last book in Le Guin’s Earthsea tetralogy. It was published in 1990, considerably after the first three books. Although this book, as with the others in the series, has been classified as a children’s/young adult book, make no mistake: this is a mature book about grown-up subjects, and it is a beautiful ending to the Earthsea saga.’

Robert was left almost — but not quite — speechless by LeGuin’s young adult fantasy, Gifts, notwithstanding his admiration for her as a writer: ‘I find myself sometimes genuinely shocked at the books being written and published for children and teenagers in recent years, but then, I grew up in perhaps less trying times, with the likes of Heinlein’s Red Planet and The Rolling Stones as my fallbacks. In the past couple of years I’ve read science fiction and fantasy for juveniles and young adults that deal with divorce, dysfunctional families, spouse abuse, attempted suicide, not to mention the complete collapse of human civilization.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

A little known facet of her creativity was her work as a composer. She composed music for her ethnographic study in a fictional form of a matriarchal society in a future California, and as the article titled Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera points out, she also wrote the libretto for a real “space opera”: ‘But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

I’m going to end this edition with her stellar reading of much of A Wizard of Earthsea. She reads  from it in her oh so wonderful voice, and fields questions from the audience afterwards. This performance took place  at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Friday, October 10, 2008. It was made possible by the sponsorship of Timberland Regional Library.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Sleeper Under The Hill (A Letter to Ceinwen)

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Dear Ceinwen,

As a fellow librarian interested in all things mythopoeic, you’ll find this interesting.

This is the month that I’ve got the Several Annies studying a myth in depth, this one being that of The Sleeper Under the Hill. They started off by studying the myth of the king under the mountain or the sleeping hero, as it’s a prominent motif in mythology that is found in many folktales and legends. Arthur of course was believed to be taken away to the Isle of Avalon to sleep until he was needed by the people of Britain. Now, not all sleepers are Good. Loki was bound with cold iron by  Odin after he caused the death of Baldr. With the onset of Ragnarök, Loki is to slip free and fight alongside the forces of the jötnar against the gods.

Now all of this was fairly dry and I could see that the dear lasses were not that interested in the subject, even though they loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, so I decided to have Jack take them out to a barrow mound several hours distant here on the Estate. So they got their warm clothes on, waxed up the skis, and had the Kitchen staff pack them a hearty lunch. I figured the combination of Jack and outdoor exercise would do them good. Besides, I had a curling match that I didn’t want to miss!

Our barrow mound is a small one, barely thirty feet long, but obviously not a natural feature. No archaeologist has dug into it, nor are we willing to let them do so, so the reality of what it is will not be known. The stories of what it is are all that matters. And given a thousand years of storytellers here, you can well imagine how interesting those stories are.

So Jack had them build a warming fire which they sat around as he told them tales of a long-dead King who defended his people until the enemy struck him down, though his army won the battle, won that long forgotten war, and whose Merlin, not our Merlin, put him to sleep under this barrow mound to sleep with his sword ’til his people need him again. A king who will sleep forever, as his people vanished from history into legend and finally into myth a very long time ago.

Just before they journeyed back, he rosined up his bow, drew a long note on his fiddle, and played ‘A Lament for a Sleeping King’, a mournful tune.

I can’t say that they dove into their studies with any more enthusiasm after their trip out there, so we moved on to another subject, Medieval music with Catherine, my wife, as their tutor, and that does interest them.

Cheers,

Iain

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What’s New for the 28th of January: Music by the Taraf De Haïdouks, Catherynne Valente & SJ Tucker’s ‘The Girl in the Garden’, Two Octavia E. Butler novels, June Tabor’s An Echo of Hooves and other nifty things

She who invented words, and yet does not speak; she who brings dreams and visions, yet does not sleep; she who swallows the storm, yet knows nothing of rain or wind. I speak for her; I am her own. ― Catherynne M. Valente‘s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AAhhh, there you are. Did you find something interesting to read in our Library? Ahhh, excellent … I first read that novel at least forty or so years ago… I was very happy I did so as it was a cracking good story! Quite a few of our staff join the book groups we do here each Winter with the most popular being The Hobbit and the book you choose is a perennial favourite as well.

MacKenzie, like all of our Head Librarians down the centuries, is justifiably quite proud of the rather impressive fiction collection here, but the best stories oft times are not contained within the pages of a novel or a story, but are those told where folks gather late in the evening when the fire grows low.

So enjoy the fire and have a drink of whatever your favourite libation though I’m recommend that you try the Teeling single pot Irish as it’s fantastic while I finish off this Edition for you to read.

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There’s a lovely Charles de Lint novel called The. Cats Of Tanglewood Forest that had its origin in a much shorter woak which Mia looks at here:’Prequel or stand alone fairy story, A Circle of Cats is a bewitching little book, much bigger inside than out, and a wonderful collaboration between two enormous talents. There’s a place of honor on my bookshelves for this one … when I can finally stop going back to it every little bit and actually bring myself to put it away.’ Oh and both are illustrated by Charles Vess!

There’s a bar in Medicine Road where the sisters play called A Hole in The Wall which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (with permission). It’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first modern fantasy to take full advantage of the myths of this region. Grey says of the latter novel that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Robert brings us two reviews of works that also occupy places outside of what we’ve come to expect in fantasy and science fiction. The first is Octavia E. Butler’s Parables series: ‘The late Octavia E. Butler is one of those science fiction writers whose work can — and does — stand easily in the company of the very best “mainstream” literature being produced today. She is, I regret to say, another one whose novels I am only just discovering, and at this point I can’t think why I waited so long to investigate her writing: she wrote with power and authority and was one of those writers who brought the formal and stylistic tools of literary fiction into the service of some of the best genre writing available.’

He follows that with Butler’s Lilith’s Brood: ‘Octavia E. Butler, at the time of her emergence as a major voice in science fiction, was a rarity because she was a woman and she was African-American. In neither area was she unique, but the combination was. Lilith’s Brood, also known as Xenogenesis, has been called Butler at her best and for that reason alone would deserve a close look. There are, however, many reasons to look at these books closely, because they raise so many issues and operate on so many levels.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Long time staffer Barb is back with us and she reviews one of her favourite bands: ‘Väsen, from Sweden, has been creating new tunes and re-imagining old ones for 28 years now. As Rob Simonds (founder/producer at Northside Records) states in the liner notes of this latest release, Brewed, “… they have done so continuously at the highest level, maintained their friendships, and kept their senses of humor and humility…”. This is the stuff you hear in their music whether it is a collection of their own creations, as in Brewed, or whether there are traditional tunes along with tunes written by others in the mix.’

Don’t ask us where Gary comes up with these things. This time it’s an album called Polygondwanaland, the fourth of five 2017 releases by an Australian band called King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. He says, ‘…if you ever liked anything by Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd or Deep Purple or ELO or King Crimson, you really should go to their website and download the files.’ That’s right, it’s a free download.

Gary reviews Sunny War’s With the Sun. ‘A young African-American woman who grew up in Nashville and Los Angeles and is now based in the lively Venice Beach, Calif., street scene, she’s a powerful and innovative guitar player and has a unique style of songcraft, too.’

Kim says of the debut album by Chris Thile which is Not All Who  Wander Are  Lost  that ‘This one is a cut above, folks, from a fine young player that has all the stuff it takes to become one of the greats as he matures.’ Chris is the host of Live from Here, the re-named and greatly changed show that was A Prairie Home Companion before Garrison Kellior’s self-inflicted fall from grace. If you like great Americana music, the show is well worth listening to.

Some recordings seem to me to be more in tune with the colder time of year and so it is with the Old Hag You Have Killed Me recording, which pleases Peter: ‘The Bothy Band’s second release was hailed by many as a ground breaking album. Irish music was to move forward in a different direction. It is hard to believe it was 33 years ago when listening to this album, as it sounds just as crisp as anything that might have been recorded today.’

Vonnie finishes off with a rather choice album by June Tabor: An Echo of Hooves has Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

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‘Hora Moldovenesca’ is a splendid piece by the Taraf De Haïdouks to end on this Edition.  it’s from the Førde Traditional and World Music Festival 25th Anniversary Sampler. Taraf De Haïdouks is one of tHe favourite bands around here, so I’ll recommend you look at our reviews of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts which Donna reviewed here and Maskarada which she also reviewed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Tunes

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWhat happens is that the tune happens to you — you don’t happen to it. You can’t help it, because it’s not you, it’s the tune. Night after night, morning after morning, day after day, the tunes live inside your head. They sing themselves to you, they have their own life independent of yours, and when your life and their lives intersect, the minor, everyday magic that all musicians live for…happens.

You might first hear a tune out at a session, or on an eagerly-awaited new album, or at a performance. It weaves itself into your head, into your gut, into the spaces between the cells of your body. You may not even know it’s there, not for days, weeks.

And one day, while wholly occupied with something else, or just waking up in the morning, or last thing before dropping off to sleep, the tune sings itself to you — sometimes so softly you hardly know it’s there, sometimes in such an insistent, demanding way that there’s no mistaking that it wants your attention.

Sometimes it’s just a fragment, a phrase, or just one half of the tune. (At that point, it’s sometimes worth going out to find the tune rather than letting it find you, before the unresolved tune drives you to distraction.) Other times, the entire tune is whole and entirely itself, like Athena stepping fully formed from Zeus’s forehead.

Which is not to say it’s not best to double check that you’ve got the thing right; there’s any amount of tunes where it’s fairly obvious someone’s done what a friend calls a ‘cut and shunt’ — the A part of one tune grafted onto the B part of another — and it’s stuck to become an entirely different tune. (Last night, we played a tune and someone led the B part into a different phrase from another similar tune at the end of it…which was obvious when we turned it round to the A again, as everyone briefly wanted to go into the other tune; but never mind, we all did it together and every time we came to the phrase, so it probably didn’t matter much.)

They’re pretty much simple little things, these tunes. They’re a bit like nursery rhymes, repeating themselves and dangerously skirting a kind of musical doggerel, yet the best tunes form a complicated, fascinating tapestry from simple, plain threads.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

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What’s New for the 21st of January: Mary Gauthier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads, Elizabeth Bear on chocolate truffles, some Roger Zelazny reviews, Music from Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series and other matters

Endings are rubbish. They’re only the place where you choose to stop talking. — The Narrator in Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACome in, we’re almost ready for you to read this edition, but first have a drink. As always, this edition’s just one of many going back decades, which is why you’ll find material that appeared quite some time back, say a review of a book still beloved but then still to come out when the review was written from a galley provided by the publisher.

Back then, all galleys of forthcoming books and preview CDs were physical, none of these services like NetGalley existed, which is why we got delivered to us all ten hardcover volumes of Tolkien’s The History of Middle-earth, or that Fairport Unconventional box set.

Oh, we still get many deliveries, but I‘ll frankly admit that I do miss the days when our Mail Room brownies here on this Scottish Estate sorted through the weekly postal delivery and put things into staff postal boxes based on their somewhat eccentric beliefs of what should go where. Now let’s see what piqued the interest of the editors this time…2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AFor your winter reading pleasure, we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets looked at by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Robert has a rather unusual book by Roger Zelazny — well, unusual for Zelazny, at least — Damnation Alley: ‘One of the key elements of Zelazny’s work was his complete disregard for the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream literature. Consider that, within a science fiction framework he frequently introduced mythological characters, not as mythic archetypes but as actual characters, and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable stylistically within the genre into more widely accepted literary conventions. And, having said that, I’m faced with Damnation Alley, a novel from early in his career (1969) that seems, on its surface, to undercut my points.’

And more Zelazny, again from Robert, this time Creatures of Light and Darkness: ‘Among his other virtues, Roger Zelazny was as willing to experiment with narrative structures as he was with thematic content. This wasn’t a constant thing — most of his writings fit into a standard naturalistic narrative framework quite easily — but one catches glimpses in, for example, the “traveling” passages in Nine Princes in Amber. Creatures of Light and Darkness, published in book form in 1970, shows Zelazny at his most inventive, formally and thematically.’

Scott has for us a review of Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings, a book that has some serious flaws. Michael Perry’s book is a mixed bag for Scott: ‘Perry intends the book to serve as a reference to The Lord of the Rings, enabling the reader to get a better sense of what events happened simultaneously in the story, where in Tolkien’s writings a particular event is described, and a deeper appreciation of the structural coherence of Tolkien’s work. Untangling Tolkien generally succeeds in these regards, especially the latter; this book is essentially an exposition on Tolkien’s attention to chronological detail. Unfortunately, the book also gives every appearance of having been put together in great haste, as though the publishers were more concerned with releasing the book by a certain date than with presenting the best possible book.’

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Kage loved video with a fierce devotion that showed in her reviews, as we see here with her lead-in to the Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series that gleefully screwed historic accuracy royally in favour of a more entertaining story: ‘In the soul of every history geek, there is a hidden volume wherein are listed the names of History Geek Guilty Pleasures. Don’t try to deny it, fellow history geeks; you know it’s true.’

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A writer by the name Elizabeth found something very much to her liking in Dean’s Sweets: ‘Portland seems to me one of the quintessential New England seacoast towns. With its long streets of red masonry buildings and its quirky alleyways, coffee shops, and squares, it’s a fine place to spend a wandering day. It makes sense to me that one of the best local New England chocolates I’ve tried should make its home here.’

I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try. It’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain distillery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it, as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way. If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single malts ever done.
2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AMuzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s Yugoslav Folk Music which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’

Of Many Languages, One Soul Gary notes that ‘If you at all like instrumental music from southeastern Europe, if you enjoy the sound and versatility of the clarinet, or if you just like wildly eclectic international music – personally, all three describe me – then this Balkan Clarinet Summit disc is a must-have.’

Gary also reviews a new album by American singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier. Rifles & Rosary Beads is a collection of songs co-written with service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their loved ones, through the auspices of a project called Songwriting With Soldiers.

An career-spanning tribute album to Captain Beefheart? Gary says Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas’s The World of Captain Beefheart is pretty good. ‘It’s great to hear these reverent but not by-the-numbers covers of Captain Beefheart tunes.’

Scott Allen Nollen’s Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001 gets a superb look-see by Kate: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Robert picked Tummel’s Payback Time as his recommended recording  this outing: ‘Think about the band playing on while the Titanic goes down. Think of some of Joel Gray’s bitchier numbers in Cabaret. Think of Josephine Baker at her most outrageous taking Paris by storm. Think of a bunch of crazy Swedes with no inhibitions whatsoever getting together and letting everyone have it, right between the eyes. That might give an inkling of the tone of Tummel’s Payback Time.’
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Every s often we ask folks which work by Tolkien they liked best. Here’s how one writer, James Stoddard, responded: ‘Is this a trick question? The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece in so many ways. I recently listened to a reading of the trilogy on CD. Despite having read the book five or six times, I was amazed at how it kept my attention. Only the Council of Elrond chapter flags a bit for me. I see the work differently every time I read it. I thought Sam a silly fellow when I read the book as a fifteen-year-old; now his constant loyalty invariably moves me. But the best part of many excellent scenes is at the Crossroads–the thrown down head of the statue of the ancient king, garlanded with flowers, a single ray of sunlight shining on the shattered visage. ‘They cannot conquer forever,’ Frodo says, and my eyes always unexpectedly mist over. It is the book’s theme, captured in four words. Brilliant.’

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For this week’s Coda, Robert brings us a clip from an artist who was new to him — ‘Although,” he says, “I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more from him. I first ran across Sufjan Stevens in the soundtrack to Call Me By Your Name, in which he has three songs, two written for the film and one remix, which are compelling, to say the least — the combination of Stevens’ ethereal vocals and rich instrumentation, which seems to be a hallmark of his work, is immediately engaging. At the risk of introducing a spoiler, here’s ’Visions of Gideon,’ which closes the movie. I won’t say more, except to caution you to brace yourself.’

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Snug

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Ah, you’re back! Now, where were we? Ah, the Snug: the Snug is a tiny room to the other side of the bar (served via a sliding hatch) which has a small wood-burning stove, a couple of old armchairs, and a carved oak settle, which tends to act as a repository for copies of fRoots, The Living Tradition, The Economist, On The Border, and other worthy publications. One wall is lined with bookshelves that contain a few board games (chess, checkers, dice made of human bone, nine-man’s morris), novels, collections of short stories, poetry and the like. There’s a surprising number of first editions here, many of them donated and signed by the authors (some folks will do anything for a pint when they’ve run short of cash!).

The Snug, like all of the Pub and the whole Estate is smoke-free, and it’s the place that you’re most likely to encounter some of our needlework crowd working on their projects, including The Norns when they drop by for a chat. If you happen to overhear them reading aloud to one another (as you pass the door enroute to the loos), wait for the inevitable laughter — it’s a music in itself! Oh, and I nearly forgot. The painting over the stove is by Charles Vess!

Finally there’s The Nook, or ‘the back room’ as it’s more often called these days. The most important piece of furniture here is the bar billiards table. If you’re a visitor here, my advice is not to play against any of the folk sitting at that table near the Fireplace, all of whom are preternaturally skilled at the game and should be left to compete against each other! Aside from these sporting encounters, The Nook frequently (and perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this) doubles as a committee room for various meetings of editors and staffers. The bar billiard table converts to a regular table simply by lifting the plywood cover into position. One side has a wall-mounted work surface with six high bar stools ranged along its length. Take a look beneath and you’ll find six power points and telephone sockets, just the things for connecting a laptop or recharging an iPad. Surprising? That’s just how the Green Man Pub is. There’s no juke box, no arcade games, no closing time and no arguments. (Well, not many that get testy, as that gets you evicted.) Me? I do most of my Journal writing in the Nook — particularly when it gets too noisy out there.

The gent in black wants to know if I’ll have a game of bar billiards with him — winner buys the next round. What the heck, I’ve still got the proceeds of a well-paid storytelling gig in my pocket. You set ’em up, I’ll just get the ales in now.

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What’s New for the 14th of January: Comfort Food, The Bordertown series, Music from Nick Burbridge and other matters

Pick up a whistle and give us a tune, good man Mickey
Tip on a stool in the old saloon, show them how it’s played
It’s not too late to get right, there’s nothing to do but play all night
Jesus, it’s better than picking a fight, playing the Sligo Maid

Nick Burbridge’s ‘Lay the Sligo Maid‘

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AIt’s our usually cold, raw weather we get this time of year here on the Kinrowan Estate which means even the most diehard of Estate staff find going outside unless their duties require to do so something to be avoided. Iain’s been keeping to his hiding spot and I myself are spending time off duty in the Kitchen quite content to play tunes and nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating such as blackberry cobbler or beef barley soup if they feel someone needs something heartier.

When we moved the Kitchen and related spaces to the second under cellar quite some generations back, we built a comfortable sitting area into it. Just built-in benches that can set up to eight or thereabouts comfortably with a deep ledge at the back of the benches for food, drink and such to be put. Won’t surprise you that it’s a favoured spot for almost everyone come the colder part of the year.

So let’s see what the editorial staff has for you this time..

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 Life on The Border was the third and last of the original  Bordertown series until The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller’s Guide to the Edge came out some seven years later. It was a fat little paperback with two weird looking individuals, one of whom might have pointed ears. I think they’re meant to be Bordertown elven punks. Cat has a loving look at it here.

He also thinks that Finder is the best look at this shared universe: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled A Novel of The Borderlands, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’

Grey says that ‘The Essential Bordertown anthology (edited by Terri Windling and Delia Sherman) was written to be your first Bordertown friend, the handbook you keep with you until you find your niche — or at least until you get to The Dancing Ferret and have your complimentary first drink. It’s partly a collection of stories told by a variety of the city’s residents and visitors, and partly a really good travel guide — the kind you wished you had the first time you visited a place where you didn’t speak the language.’

Michael looks at Holly Black and Ellen Kushner’s Welcome to Bordertown anthology, the latest entry in this series: ‘A generation ago, Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold introduced us to Bordertown, an abandoned American city sitting on the Border between the “real world” (The World) and Faerie (The Realm). A place where science and magic both worked, if equally unpredictably, it became a haven and a destination for runaways and outcasts of both worlds, a place where humans and the Fae (aka Truebloods) could mingle, do business, eke out a living, and find themselves. It was a place where anything could happen.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur food and drink commentary this time comes courtesy of Solstice’ author  Jennifer Stevenson who tells us about her comfort food: ‘Comfort food is defined as “German or Danish” for me, because those were my maternal grandparents’ comfort foods: whole milk, cream, butter, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, lots of noodles with heavy creamy sauces, coffeecakes, homemade cookies, thick soups. Oh, and box food from the 1950s. ’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ATony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar gets a review by Rebecca: ‘Pepicek (very small) and Aninku (his sister, even smaller) have a problem: their mother is very sick. The doctor told them to go to town to get milk, but how can two children who have no money buy milk? And how can they get money when they have nothing to sell? They could sing for money … except that Brundibar (Czech slang for bumblebee) can sing much louder than two small children, and he chases them off. With the help of three talking animals, three hundred schoolchildren, and eventually the whole town, they chase off bullying Brundibar, get money and milk for their mommy, and so are happy again.’

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Deborah has an appraisal of the newest album from one of her favourites English groups: ‘I’m just on my third listen to Steeleye Span’s Dodgy Bastards. This latest offering from a band I’ve loved since their earliest albums is a mixed bag. Fortunately, the contents are largely on the side of excellence. There is very little here that doesn’t work for me, but what doesn’t work for me really doesn’t.’

Jo says that Telyn is for all  ‘those interested in the Welsh tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’

Lars has a concert rememberence for us: ‘While in London in the summer of 1977 I went to the now defunct Southwark Folk Festival and for the first time I saw Martin Carthy in action. The festival was held in a teacher’s training college and the evening ended with Martin performing in the middle of the floor in an assembly room. We were just over a hundred sitting on the floor in circles around him. No stage, no microphones, no spectacular lights, just a man, his voice and his guitar. Pure magic. Do not expect me to tell you which songs he sang. I only remember a powerful ‘The Famous Flower of Serving Men’. But I have been a fan ever since.’

Patrick also looks at  Welsh music in the guise of a Robin Huw Bowen recording: ‘Hunting The Hedgehog is all traditional music, a collection of Welsh Gypsy tunes handed down through four generations of harpers with nary a hint of Dion. Bowen’s skillful fingers make the instrument sing as only a harp can, portraying the enchantment of a beautiful country and free lifestyle.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur What Not is a longstanding question we ask folks, to wit what’s your favorite work by Tolkien. Once again, The Hobbit proves popular as Jasper Fforde says it’s The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’ it’s worth noting that The Hobbit, despite having a reputation as a children’s book is far and away more popular than The Lord of The Rings. Among the staff, particularly according to Iain Mackenzie, the Estate Librarian, it’s read mostly in the Winter and  there’s a reading group for it that’s been around as long as the book has been around.
2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A‘Laying The Silgo Maid’ which is our Coda today is made available courtesy of Brighton, England based singer/songwriter, novelist, poet, and playwright Nick Burbridge and his musical vehicle named McDermott’s 2 Hours (when he’s not collaborating with the Levellers). Nick can slip easily from Irish folk to really great folk rock, so it won’t surprise you ‘tall that Nick’s a favorite of many of us here including myself and we even interviewed him once upon an afternoon.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Unreliable Narrators

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So if you’ve been with us for any length of time, you no doubt that a lot of us here tell stories about a place in Scotland called the Kinrowan Estate, its inhabitants and what happens there. Some might sound mundane such as the Contradances held here, some might sound a bit fanciful such as the history of this Estate and some simply you think can’t be true, say that story about the ghost fiddler playing at dawn one early Winter day.

It’s not for me to say which stories are true, which might be true and which couldn’t possibly be true. And it really doesn’t matter as long as you find the story being told satisfying.

Well dear readers, I come to tell you that all narrators are unreliable and just can’t be trusted to tell the truth especially when it seems most likely that they are indeed telling a truth. Note I didn’t say the truth as I don’t believe there is ever such a thing as every storyteller believes that the story they’re telling could be true.

I remember a storyteller that came in just past midnight on a cold, windy night in, I think, in November quite some decades back. He ordered a whiskey, one of our more expensive ones, and paid for with silver coins from an empire that may or not have ever existed. After he finished off that one, he asked if could trade a tale for a place to stay for a few nights. Sure as long as you pay for your whiskey, said Reynard.

But, you say, I’m a reliable narrator. No, I’m certain you’re not as you filter everything through your perceptions and you likely have no idea what many of those filters actually exist as they’re deeply buried in your consciousness, so deep that you don’t know they exist. So everything that you tell is not reliable as it is only what you believe is the truth.

Now the best storytellers are the ones that know that every story’s a lie but know how to make you believe it’s true, say the story of a Robin Hood who isn’t the hero as told in most tales, but rather is the villain of the tale and the Sheriff of Nottingham is the hero, or where the rule of King Arthur saw Britain plunged into unending civil war as Arthur gave into his baser instincts.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if the stories we all tell aren’t true in some manner as long as they’re something that’s entertaining. And that’s my story for now.

Now where did my Ravens get off to?

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What’s New for 7th of January: a Raga Guide, Elizabeth Hand on Chocolate, Ellen Kushner on Urban Winters, Music from Skerryvore, A Royal Christmas and other things as well…

A wild winter storm rages around a large house that is isolated from the rest of the world. Traditionally, the Wild Hunt appeared around the time of Epiphany—January 6 in the Church Calendar—when winter was at its most severe in Northern Europe. No country is specified, but this is, after all, a fantasy world. The house is both a comfortable dwelling with a large library in keeping with Jerold’s quiet personality, and a parallel setting that matches Gerund’s much more active one. A hundred yards from the house is a granite outcrop where the Hunt gathers: This rock might have been a thousand miles away. Or a thousand years. — Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AI’ve noted before that we are blessed with lovely summers, an atypical condition in Scotland, by sharing a Border with The Fey. That’s bloody great but it’s also because of The Summer Court, so guess what Winters are like when that Court holds sway? Let’s just say we get true winters, and suffice it to say that we’ve no shortage of snow here.

Winter here sees the Library being very popular, both as a place to be in as it’s social gathering place like the Pub, and as a reading place. Built a century-and-a-half ago, it’s a bloody big four-storied cube that has an alternating schema of book shelves and windows on three sides with various openings from the original Estate outer wall. Couches and chairs are to be found in perfusion. There’s even a fireplace, fronted with fireproof glass, against the wall that faces The Wild Wood.

I hope you’ve got somewhere as comfortable as we have for a favourite reading spot on these cold, windy Winter evenings. And of course we’ve reading and listening suggestions for you this edition…2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Brendan has a fascinating book for us to consider reading: ‘Reading Allen Lowe’s book American Pop from Minstrel to Mojo: On Record 1893 to 1957, I found myself agreeing with the late Tupac Shakur’s vision of the afterlife. Heaven would simply be a large night club filled with all of the late, great musicians of yesteryear. For eternity, all you need to do is stroll through and listen to the fine music… Ironically, if someone told me some years back that this vision consisted entirely of American pop music, my younger self would have concluded that they were describing Hell, but this book — among other influences — has convinced me of my folly. Early American pop music in any of its known forms — jazz, blues, ragtime, vaudeville, country or rock — is truly one of the highest achievements of the American culture.’

A  guide to ragas in their splendid diversity by Joep Bor greatly expanded what Gary knows about that subject: ‘Well, now I know a little bit more, thanks to this impressive book. Subtitled A Survey of 74 Hindustani Ragas, The Raga Guide is an exhaustive and scholarly work, aimed primarily at musicians and serious students of music. It comes with four CDs, each containing 18 to 20 “condensed” versions of classical ragas. The ragas themselves feature either sarod (a sitar-like stringed instrument), flute, or male or female vocal soloists.’

Kelly has a look at a book by a composer who many of us here like a lot: ‘Berlioz was never successful as a composer. His music was never much accepted during his lifetime (in fact, Les Troyens was not even performed in its entirety until some years after Berlioz’s death), and his everyday life exhibited the tenuous existence that we equate with all Romantic artists. In order to remain solvent, Berlioz often had to turn to penning articles of criticism and commentary on music and cultural matters for the Paris publications of the day. By all accounts, Berlioz hated this work and the necessity of it, which is ironic given the quality of his writing, as evidenced in Evenings with the Orchestra.’

A book by Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett gets a look see by Liz: ‘Irish Folk, Trad And Blues is a sprawling, overcrowded, rush-hour subway car of a book that piles on more eccentric musicians, frenetic booze-ups and unscrupulous music industry types than my brain could keep track of. It is a collection of essays and previously published reviews and interviews that covers roughly thirty years of Irish, English and American music-making (from 1962 to 1998). The book explores the history of the English and Irish Folk Music Revivals of the 1960s, Van Morrison and Them, the Blues boom in Northern Ireland, Irish Rock, Irish Folk Music in the 1970s, The Irish Trad Revival, and the Folk Music Revival of the 1990s.’

Robert looks at two works on a composer that we’re very fond of here: ‘Any genuine understanding of the role of Béla Bartók in twentieth century music is contingent on knowing about the cultural context in which he was formed — or in which he formed himself, as seems likely to be the case. The understanding is two-pronged, as Judit Frigyesi, in Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest and Peter Laki, in Bartók and His World, make clear.’

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Gary seems to have enjoyed a chocolate bar made from single-origin beans by a company based in Eureka, Calif. From his review, it sounds like a multi-media experience. ‘The bar is beautifully decorated in an incised pattern that resembles Islamic geometric tesserae.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A‘My favorite musical discovery of 2017 was Turkish psychedelia’ Gary says. As an example, he explores an album called XX, which he explains is ‘a two-disc set celebrating the 20-year career of a band called Baba Zula.’

Gary also reviews Cartes Postales, an album of French chanson by American folk-country singer Eric Brace. ‘Through his dad’s records and some time spent living in France as a teenager, Eric learned to love the jaunty, blue music of the Paris cafés and the Gypsy jazz of Reinhardt and Grappelli,’ he says.

Robert takes a look at what many have called Capercaillie’s ‘crossover’ album: ‘To the Moon was my first exposure to Capercaillie, so of course, it was what’s generally considered their “crossover” album. This is by no means a negative, or even something that’s very obvious: it’s more apparent in the rhythm patterns, the instrumentation (sorry, but no one is going to persuade me that the bouzouki is a traditional Scottish instrument), and the general treatment.’

Robert also came up with an album of early works played on a forerunner of the guitar, Frank Wallace’s Delphín: ‘Frank Wallace, guitarist, lutenist, baritone and composer, has concentrated on the literature of the vihuela de mano, similar in appearance and sound to a guitar but tuned like a lute and a mainstay of the courtly music of early Renaissance Spain. Because the surviving literature is scant, many performers have been deterred from exploring this instrument. Wallace has not.’

Scott looks at an album from an artist you’ll likely know if you’ve been reading us long: ‘And Winter Came… will undoubtedly appeal to people who are fans of Enya’s earlier work. It also gives enough reasons for people who might have gotten bored with her sound to tune back in.‘2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AThe What Not this edition is Ellen Kushner’s Winter Queen Speech on The City in Winter: ‘Once, not so long ago – but longer ago now than it was then – it snowed in the city, and did not stop until everything changed. When we woke up, all the usual sounds were gone. No one was begging for loose change, or yelling for help from muggers, or telling her husband everything was all his fault. Some children were laughing and building snowmen in the courtyard of our building. There were no cars.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AThe public spaces in Kinrowan Hall such as here in the Library are much more likely to playing just tunes instead of tunes and songs as that’s more comfortable listening for most of as we work. Afterall Robin Williamson’s  ‘Five Denials on Merlins Grave’ which was recorded at the The Brillig Arts Centre, Bath, England, on the first of December thorny years ago does require your attention, doesn’t it?

So you’re much more likely to hear something from on the Celtic traditions of which there are many, or the  Central European or Nordic traditions. Our tune for you to hear the Edition out is ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ by Skerryvore, a Scottish group formed some fifteen years ago, as performed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 2013.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Guild of St. Nicholas

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So it was a long year. Looking forward to this one, though. All sorts of things I can stand seeing the back of, you can always hope, can’t you? You want another one of those, or do you want to try Bjorn’s new batch of Midwinter Ale? Right.

There you go, darlin’. I think you’ll like it. They certainly do, we’ll be lucky to see the back of them by dawn!

Ah, it was the annual New Year dinner for their local — they’d be the Ancients and Venerables of our local Guild of St. Nicholas. They always come in here from the Guild Hall after the dinner bit and keep the party going. They say they start with a toast to the Guildmaster, Lord Winter, and His Lady at the beginning of the dinner and pretty much plan to not stop ’til the next morning — the excuse, see, is that they pretty much don’t get to drink during practically all of December. Hey, you think drinking and driving is bad, you try it in a sledge with eight reindeer to control!

Well, no, not everyone, of course, just the Santas — the store elves and tree trimmers, candle lighters, gift wrappers, roast chestnut sellers, bell ringers, and professional carolers can usually get away with a tiddle here or there, but even so, it’s professional pride and custom that keeps most of them pretty much sober and working hard.

That entire guild doesn’t even bother with meetings or events from the end of November to after the New Year. I think they run around rescuing members from exhaustion and over-exertion, mainly.

Yeah, they spend most of the dinner laughing about things that happened, like the time Dan there on the end had two handfuls of his beard torn out by a kid who was sure it was fake, or the time Marta, the dark haired girl on the right, she’s a Christmas pudding maker, she discovered that her daughter had decided to store the salt in the sugar bin after she’d made three hundred puddings. Good thing winter puddings are made well before Christmas.

Nah, we don’t mind. They start off noisy and laughing, but sooner or later, they’ll go pretty quiet, once the toasts start, and once most of the other customers have left. Reynard usually sends us off-shift and stays at the bar himself. Oh, people sometimes stick around and try to listen, but weirdly, they don’t seem to remember much, other than getting this sort of, I don’t know, confused, solemn but peaceful look on their faces and saying that everyone just talked, but they can’t really remember any of it.

Even Spike, who’s usually impervious to just about anything. I once came in the morning after the dinner, and Spike was sleeping in the armchair there by the window. When I woke him up and gave him some ale for his breakfast, I asked him if he’d heard any good stories last night. He sort of screwed his face up in this confused kind of way, then smiled just like a little kid, and said, ‘bah, well maybe, I guess. . . only, jus’, you know, there’s still a real meaning behind Christmas, innit?’ Then afterwards, he didn’t remember saying it, looked at me like I was crazy when I said something about it ten minutes later.

What? No! Of course we don’t try to find out. They start keeping those naughty and nice lists as soon as Christmas is over, you know!2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

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What’s New for the 31st of December: A Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet, three chocolate candies from Chocolove, Big Country performs “Auld Lang Syne’, Glen Cook’s Annals of the Black Company, And Happy New Year!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne? — Robert Burns2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year’s celebration, is a time to look at what one has accomplished in the past, and to look forward to what one expects of the coming year. So it’s indeed fitting that the final edition for this year of GMR is on Hogmanay.

So it’s the last day of the year as counted on the Christian calendar, and conversation, nibbles, music and potent drink (for those considered adults which is more flexible here than British law really allows) are celebrating. It’s been snowing, a gentle but steady affair, which makes it look rather magical outside Kinrowan Hall. The Neverending Session has splintered itself so that some of them were in the Kitchen playing Nordic trad when I was there earlier, another group’s playing French trad in the Library and of course there’s a group in the Pub playing trad Irish, a very pleasant thing indeed.

Bjorn, our Brewmaster, has a new Winter Ale on tap today. Actually he has three he unveiled today and several ciders to boot. Toasting the New Year here will be done with a metheglin he’s been aging for over a generation now, a perfect benediction indeed. Oh, and Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff made eggnog without any spirits for those who don’t or shouldn’t drink the spirited stuff.

Nibbles, savoury and sweet, abound as we skip an eventide meal on this day so the Kitchen staff can celebrate properly as well. Everyone not doing something else will do a stint in the Kitchen helping prepare and circulate the nibbles. Yeasty things such as flatbread for noshing on with various spreads, cheeses from Riverrun Farm, sausages and other meats in hand rolls, and even some veggies are on hand, as well as an entire table brimming with cookies and other sweets. 
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It’s the time of year when we look back over the year (or years) past, and Robert came up with a series that has become a contemporary classic: Glen Cook’s Annals of the Black Company, recently (well, fairly recently) reissued in a set of omnibus editions. Start with The Chronicles of the Black Company: ‘We all have our personal lists, individual counterparts to those periodic lists of “most important,” “best,” or whatever the accolade of the moment might be. I have a personal list of “best fantasy series” that includes some works that might not be “great,” but several that I think arguably are. In the realm of modern heroic fantasy, in particular, I think anyone would be hard put to protest the inclusion of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Michael Moorock’s great cycle of stories of The Eternal Champion, and Glen Cook’s Black Company.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ARobert has a treat for us: three chocolate candies from Chocolove: ‘Chocolove is an American company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, that produces chocolate bars and candies using all natural ingredients and following the traditions of European chocolatiers. What came across my desk was three packages of “nut-butter cups” — one the classic peanut-butter cup, and two made with almond butter.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Joselle doesn’t like this time of year, but a recording called An Ancient Muse cheered her up: ‘Normally, I can’t stand winter. It’s cold, it’s dismal, and I tend to get sick a lot. Nonetheless, winter 2006 has made me one happy woman, in spite of the general nastiness. This is largely thanks to an event that I and several other folk/Celtic/world/eclectic music fans have been anticipating for nine years …’

Judith has a Finnish recording for us: ‘Vaylan Virassa means “in the flow of the river.” The river here is the Torne, at the border between Finland and Sweden, the zipper in the jeans of Scandinavia that extends north from the top of the Gulf Of Bothnia until it turns as a pocket through deep reindeer country towards Kiruna and Norway. The Swedish acoustic folk band Jord plays music from the area around the Torne on this first album. Jord is Jan Johansson on accordion and bass, Gun Olofsson on guitar, flute, and percussion, Susanne Rantatalo on percussion, and Erling Fredriksson on bass, harp, and flute. All sing, but I suspect Rantatalo sings the most.’

I’d be remiss not to note that Robert Burns did a lot more lyrics than just those for ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which Lars notes in reviewing The Complete Songs Of Robert Burns in Twelve Volumes: ‘This is one of the most ambitious recording projects I have encountered within the folk music world, covering all of Robert Burns’ 368 songs. It took about six years and twelve volumes to complete, with a great number of well known Scottish musicians and singers taking part. (As an appendix to this review you find a list of all participating singers and musicians and on what volumes they appear.) In total the series give you almost 15 hours of music.’

Robert’s been looking back over years past again and came up with the final volume to a series we’ve reviewed here, Gamelan of Central Java XV: Returning Minimalism: In Nem: ‘The subtitle of this disc, “Returning Minimalism,” denotes a key fact about twentieth-century American minimalism: it makes extensive use of the formal elements of gamelan. The circular structures, repetitive melodies, intricate rhythms, and incremental modulations of tone are all hallmarks of the music of such American composers as Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and John Adams through at least part of their careers.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur musical coda should be ‘Auld Ang Syne’ of course! I think that the Infinite Juxebox has got a Big Country live version. Ahhh, yes, it’s actually ‘In A Big Country’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as performed by them at the Barrowland Music Hall on New Year’s Eve thirty-four year ago. The Scots band was in fine form before the quite enthusiastic Glasgow crowd and they certainly gave it their all.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Mythologist John Campbell

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AI was watching a New Years Eve gig and it was clear to me how tribal it felt. Good communities are tribes. They have rituals and myths and those kinds of deeper realities that light up everyday reality and give it some substance. I felt like I was looking at a tribal ceremony, and I liked that. — attributed to Joseph Campbell

It’s no wonder that it’s so hard to tell fiction from fact these days.  Astrid, who’s one of my Several Annies, the Library Apprentices (well sort of though they’re really a whole lot more than that but tradition gives them that appellation but I digress as I oft times do) was deep in the net researching her presentation on contemporary traditions regarding New Year’s Eve when she stumbled upon the quote above.

It certainly sounded like something that Campbell would have said but she quickly discovered that though it was widely attributed to him, no one actually said where it was from! So she asked me if I knew where it came from. I thought it sounded familiar so I first checked several online resources that I trust and no, Wikipedia was not one of them, as anything full of self appointed wankers with shite for brains who edit at will with no regard for the truth is not to be trusted ‘tall.

So I decided to assign all of the Several Annies the task of combing through the published works of Campbell to see if they could spot that quote. I know that it’s a large corpus of work but they were all concentrating on him and his works for the Winter when this question raised its head, so I figured that they’d find it if actually existed.

(Digression for a minute: it’d be really, really useful if the Joseph Campbell Foundation, who’ve been doing superlative new editions of his works, provided an online searchable database of his works. Alas they don’t.)

Months passed and not one of them found anything close to it. Indeed they didn’t find anything on him that might have formed the basis of that quote, however much it got bastardized, in much the same manner that a tune can get changed as it passes from one musician to another. And it’s entirely possible that some other writer said something akin to that and it got attributed to him in the same manner that the reverse happens with composers who, by the time that a tune passed from session to session, gets his tune considered to be trad arranged. Just ask Irish fiddler and composer Phillip Varlet, who composed ‘The Philadelphia Reel’, which was the name that the House Band recorded it under as they were told it was a trad arranged composition! Not his name but he gets royalties for it now.

I’m imagining that someday we’ll have folks on sites like Wikipedia listing lines of dialog created for Peter Jackson’s films which are based rather loosely on Tolkien’s works as being actual text by him. Don’t laugh — I’m serious as similar things, as I’ve noted here, do happen. In an odd sense, the Internet harkens back to the era before printed works somewhat supplanted the oral tradition, in that texts are now as fluid as they were then as they passed from storyteller to storyteller.

So can I interest you in afternoon tea? Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff promised that they’d make tarts with those Border strawberries that turn white as they ripen after starting out red if I’d read The Hobbit a chapter at a time in the mornings to them, a trade I willingly agreed to.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

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What’s New for the 24th of December: Vonnie attends The Revels, Chocolate (of course), A “Must-See” Movie, A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah, Kage at Christmas, A Crow Girls Christmas, Winter Music by the Horslips, A Kinrowan Estate Tradition, Iceland’s Yule Lads and other matters

It was Christmas and Kinlocochbervie had a festive atmosphere about it. Decorations and fir trees decked out with tinsel stood in windows, lighting the dull afternoon with flashes of cheerful Technicolor brilliance, and the door to the Compass was adorned with a massive wreath. The smell of burning wood was in the air, as the wind tugged at the ribbons of smoke issuing from most of the chimneys. I walked past the Compass, and my nose was assaulted by the wonderful odor of roasting chestnuts, something I had not smelled in years. It conjured many images of Christmases past, and as I walked to the first of the shops on my list, I was whistling a merry carol. — Richard Brennan in Paul Brandon’s Swim the Moon

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOne of our centuries old Estate traditions among the inhabitants here is to leave presents anonymously for each other in places where the intended will be likely to find them. I was the recipient a few years ago of a leather case with silver workings for my button concertina. I suspected Ingrid, my wife, was the gifter but she said no and gave me a lovely goat shearling lined leather duster. Some of the gifts are clearly intended for everyone here, such as the new stove in the sauna that appeared overnight.

Mrs. Ware and her oh so talented Kitchen staff spend much of  the period from late November right through to lambing season providing lots of edible treats that are placed around Kinrowan Hall and the grounds as well, such as peanut butter dark chocolate fudge behind the bar in the Pub; s’mores ready for roasting in the warming hut out by the Mill Pond; and carefully wrapped clay pots of smoked sausage and veggie soup in the Barn for those doing outdoor chores in this cold weather, to name but a few of them.

I keep myself busy here in the Pub and elsewhere in this Hall as my aging bones no longer tolerate the cold all that well. Iain’s off with his wife Catherine  on a concert tour in Sweden which means that I’m doing this Edition, so let’s get started…2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ALet’s start off the book reviews this time with a look at Charles de Lint’s Newford Stories: The Crow Girls. Of all the immortal shapeshifting beings that inhabit the Newford stories, the most charming, at least for me, are Maida and Zia, the two Crow Girls, who look like pinkish teenagers — all in black, naturally. After you read Cat’s review, you can experience them first hand in ‘A Crow Girls Christmas’ written by (obviously) Charles de Lint and charmingly illustrated by his equally talented wife, MaryAnn Harris.

Chris looks at deservedly beloved holiday classic: ‘Perhaps it’s the season, or the utter magic of Van Allsburg’s talents, whatever the reasons, the Twentieth Anniversary Edition of The Polar Express appears luxurious and incandescent. If you have (as we do) a beloved dog-eared copy that gets read each Christmas you won’t find any misguided, dramatic, self conscious, ‘gee, how can we repackage this for media savvy kiddies?’ mistakes; just the familiar, wonderful, book in a nice matching slipcase. What you will notice most are the deep, rich, exquisitely printed illustrations.’

Grey looks at a seasonal work from Wendy Froud and Terri Windling: ‘The faery court of Old Oak Wood was not the largest in the British Isles, but it was the oldest, steeped in elfin history and tradition. Ruled by Titania and Oberon, those celebrated lovers of story and song, the wood was a misty, mossy place hidden deep in the hills of Dartmoor. The court maidens of Old Oak Wood were said to be the most beautiful, its dancers lightest on their feet, its flying faeries faster than the wind. Its wizards and its warriors were famed throughout the faery realm. But young Sneezle was none of these things; he was just a humble tree root faery who lived in a small round house at the very bottom of Greenmoss Glen — The Winter Child

Jack says that ‘being a fiddler in a Celtic band and of Scotch-Irish extraction, I’m very intrigued by Celtic aspects of the various midwinter celebrations. Henry Glassie’s All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming is a superbly written account of a vanishing Celtic holiday ritual that can be traced back well over three hundred years.’

Our wrap-up for books this outing isn’t a book review, but very much worth telling you about anyway. Kathleen has an online journal where she talks about her late sister Kage, author of the acclaimed SF series The Company. Here is an entry which which has her reminiscing about Kage during the Christmas season.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AChocolate at this time of year is one of the most sought after treats. So let’s let Kelly tell us about one she found: ‘By the register little chocolate squares beckoned. Labeled, somewhat exotically, ‘Xocolatl de David’, there were three sorts, but the one that caught my eye read “72% Ecuadorian Chocolate with Black Truffles and Sea Salt”. Not a chocolate truffle, mind you, but the kind of truffle pigs sniff out of the woods in Italy and France. I surrendered to impulse and bought one.’

Robert has a look at some chocolate truffles, definitely not the kind that pigs sniff out: ‘Trader Joe’s Assortment of Boozy Little Chocolate Truffles seems to be a seasonal item, which is possibly why they’re not listed on the Trader Joe’s website, which in turn is why I’m not able to provide any background information. . . . The box does state that the truffles are made in England and claims “A little bit of booze in each bite.” The booze in question is either London gin, Scotch whisky, Navy rum, or Prosecco. Since the truffles are bite-size, a helping can add up to more than “a little bit of booze.”

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ADenise has a feel-good film to tide the wee ones over after the games and presents have been done to death. It’s Disney/Pixar’s Brave, and while she thought it was a fun romp, she wished for more. ‘If Disney/Pixar had simply touted the film as their latest story-telling adventure, I would have thought it was adorable.  Instead, it was trotted out as the second coming of awesome. … But instead of sweeping vistas and an “epic fantasy adventure”, we get the same ol’, same ol’, with Scottish accents.’ Still, the Celtic music in this film is amazing.  Which brings us to…

But before we get there, Robert has a must-see for us: Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name: ‘It’s hard to avoid comparisons between Call Me By Your Name and Brokeback Mountain, even though the stories couldn’t be farther apart. Let me just say that, for this viewer, at least, the impact was equivalent. I remember after seeing Brokeback Mountain, I just walked around for about an hour, not thinking, really, just sort of digesting what I had seen – or trying to. Call Me By Your Name had a similar effect — it’s like a time bomb that goes off as you’re leaving the theater.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACharles de Lint says in The Forests of The Heart novel which I’m reading now that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’. So let’s have another drink and see what I found apt to the Christmas spirit…

April looks at Vintersongs: ‘Originally intended as a Christmas CD, Triakel’s second release developed a broader theme while the trio was in the studio — winter. And not just any winter, a Swedish winter. This beautiful follow-up to 1998’s eponymous Triakel celebrates not just Yuletide, but Advent, St. Stephen’s Day, New Years and Epiphany with a glorious blend of tunes and words old and new, both joyous and somber.’

Gary looks at a delightful album which celebrates Acadian-Cajun Christmas traditions: ‘Valse de Noël is authentic rooted music made by real folks. It’s music of the season for anyone who is tired of the same old commercial ditties and worn-out carols. It’s a gentle but hearty way to wrap up the year.‘

Iain looks at Drive the Cold Winter Away, a sort of trad album: ‘On whole, the album plays like it’s a cold winter night in our Pub with the Horslips playing music to warm their bones and ours. It is a superb acoustic album with excellent production on the remastered CD (and all of their albums are on iTunes in USA) that was marketed as a Christmas album when it first released but it really is just great Irish celtic rock music which has been toned back a bit.’

Judith looks at a cool project: ‘The Golden Dreydl is subtitled “A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah.” It combines a children’s story by writer and radio host Ellen Kushner with a klezmer adaptation of tunes from the Nutcracker, originally released by the Shirim Orkestar in 1998 as The Klezmer Nutcracker. Kushner has behind her several fantasy novels, including Swordspoint, Thomas the Rhymer and The Golden Dreydl. Resumès of the Shirim include the Klezmer Conservatory Orchestra, Hypnotic Clambake and Les Miserables Brass Band.‘

Lars looks at the Gothard Sisters’ Christmas: ‘It is always nice to hear an album from artists you have never heard before. I have come across many seasonal albums over the years, but never one so cute as this one. It is nicely packaged and well thought out with some imaginative arrangements.’

He also looks at a very Swedish affair: ‘Whoever came up with the idea behind Jul i Folkton (Christmas in a Folk Style) must be praised. It seems so simple, yet it works so well. Gather a number of Sweden’s best singers and musicians within the folk and roots field and let them tackle, in small groups, some of our best loved Christmas hymns and songs. No rocking backgrounds, no jingle bells nor songs about Santa Clause or reindeers — after all they are relative newcomers to Christmas — just the songs and tunes beautifully performed, nothing else.’

Michael has something decidedly delightful for us: ‘The show’s film of the Steeleye Span Mummers Play was known to have existed but was feared lost, as much of the (Australian) ABC’s early programming was tragically and carelessly thrown away, wiped or literally used as road fill! No other video of the play has ever been mentioned. Luckily, the bulk of the GTK sessions were found unharmed a few years ago and have been appearing with some regularity on YouTube.’

Robert is equally delighted by a concert album, String Sisters Live: ‘There seems to be something magical about the number “6” when you’re talking about fiddles. Maybe that many fiddlers reaches a kind of critical mass that sets off a chain reaction of some sort. At any rate, when the six fiddlers in question are six star-caliber women from across the Britanno-Nordic musical realm, what you wind up with is some really, really good music.’

He also has another album that’s especially suited to the season: ‘Magnum Mysterium is a collection of choral music around the celebration of the birth of Christ – the “Magnum Mysterium” that has provided such a rich heritage for Christmas celebrations. Although Grex Vocalis is a Norwegian group, the disc also offers carols from France and England and includes a “Norwegian” hymn, “The Infant King,” that originated in the Basque country.’

Vonnie says that ‘Strike the Harp is not the best collection of Irish holiday music I’ve heard. It is, however, an excellent reminder of the 2012 Revels show, and a pleasant, somewhat eclectic collection of Irish music.’, <em>2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur first What Not is entitled ‘Iceland’s Yule Lads are Like 13 Demented Santas and They are Amazing.’ The article on Atlas Obscura leads off this way: ‘“Unless you are lucky enough to have been born an Icelander, or have lived in Iceland through a Christmas season, you probably won’t have heard of the Yule Lads,” reads The 13 Yule Lads of Iceland, a children’s book by Brian Plinkington, presumably for non-Icelandic kids to learn about the holiday myth.’ Read the ever so slightly demented story of them here.

Up to her passing a few years back, Vonnie was a frequent attendee of the Christmas Revels at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here’s her lead in to the one she saw fifteen years ago: ‘The Christmas Revels is a special event, an annual tradition on par with performances of the Nutcracker, only tailored to lovers of folk traditions. After 42 years, it has accreted tradition of its own, which helps audience members to feel like part of the holiday community — which is the point of the Revels. The culture on which the performance focuses changes from year to year but the basic shape of the performance — and its professionalism — remains constant.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AIt’s certainly quite definitely Winter here as the calendar reckons such things and it feels like it with cold mornings and snowy, chilly days. So let’s see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox, our server of all things digital, to brighten us up a bit… I choosing  the Horslips doing ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ as their cover of the John Playford composition is outstanding. It was recorded at The Spectrum, Philadelphia on the 24th Of March thirty eight years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Mill Pond

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AAbout fifty years ago, the Steward authorised spending money to rebuild the dam that had for a very long time been used to create a reservoir for the mill, for grain grinding and so that there was a place to cut ice for use in keeping meat and other such perishables from spoiling. When we stopped milling our own grain and electricity made possible the use of commercial coolers and freezers, the dam went to ruin over several decades. All that changed when the Steward decided that it would far less costly in the long run if we were self-sufficient in electricity, so in the Seventies she started us on the way to being so, and now we use wind, solar and water to generate every kilowatt of the power we use.

We even added power to the yurts, the old crofter cottages, and the common bathing facilities that they share with those like like Gus and his wife, who live in one of those old crofter cottages. It means that they use electric power to heat their domicile and only use wood when they want a fire going. And all of our energy generation, even wood, has effectively a near zero carbon footprint in its effect on the environment.

That’s the boring part of this story. The fun part is that we’ve had our skating pond back for a couple of generations now. Not to mention ice for our curling and hockey games as well. It’s a big pond, some six acres all told. It freezes solid by the third week of December and stays safe most often ’til late March. It’s a half mile from Kinrowan Hall, so we built a club house there to get warm, change clothes, and even grab something to eat, as there’s a kitchen there.

Fifteen years ago, The Steward authorized a Zamboni to be purchased and a building to house it as well. That means we can clean up the ice when too many skates make it too rough for use anymore.

Now the pond gets heavy usage, such as midnight skating parties and championship curling tournaments that draw some hundred folk to the Estate in the winter. What the Steward would not allow is any permanent lighting there as he, and Tamsin, our Hedgewitch and Mistress of All Owls, said that’d interfere with the night creatures here. So we built a stone lined fireplace instead for bonfires, and only use it at night when the moon is strong.

But skating remains the most common use of this ice, as nearly everyone here skates and cross-country skis as well (the latter is another tale to tell later), as nothing beats skating across ice that’s three quarters of a mile from end to end and is several hundred feet wide. I’ve skated in many places in Europe and this is the best ice I’ve experienced.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

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What’s New for the 17th of December: Astrid Picks Her Winter Holiday Favourites

One summer morning at sunrise a long time ago I met a little girl with a book under her arm. I asked her why she was out so early and she answered that there were too many books and far too little time. And there she was absolutely right. ― Tove Jansson, author of the Moomin series

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWho am I? you ask. Why I’m Astrid, one of the Several Annies, the Estate Apprentices here, and I have the deep honour of writing up the edition this week, because your usual hosts, Iain and Reynard, are both away from the Kinrowan Estate right now. Yes, I know Iain, the Librarian here, thinks we’re his Apprentices but most of what we learn is applicable to the entirety of this Scottish Estate. After all, birthing lambs and harvesting material for Winter Holiday wreaths are hardly in the repertoire of the usual librarian.

As you might’ve guessed from my name, I’m from Sweden, Helsingborg to be precise, which is a small city just across the water from Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. I’m somewhat of a polyglot, as I speak my mother tongue plus Danish, German and of course English. I’m interested in the various folklorish aspects of the Northern European cultures and I’m also keenly interested in beekeeping, weaving and the making of libations as well.

So expect mostly seasonally appropriate material here this edition, as we’re nearing the Winter Solstice and other related holidays, not to mention some things Swedish as well. Enjoy a cup of glögg while I finish this edition…2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ALet us not forget about two stellar works about the turning of the year, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, a series Grey reviewed that would make a most excellent Winter reading endeavour, and a shorter work which Jo really likes, Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt , where two boys get tangled in the epic contest between, errr, a cat and the Lord of The Wild Hunt. So what else do I suggest for reading this season of the year?

Like most Swedish children I grew up with the Moomin series which are charming in both the original Swedish and in the English translations, and I still read the new ones as they come out. The Estate Library has a full set in both languages.

For me, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings are reading treats I indulge in every winter. The movies are definitely not to my liking, because I like creating the characters and settings in my mind. Curling up with hardcover copies of either in Falstaff’s Chair near the Fireplace in the Pub here is my idea of bliss on a cold winter’s night. If you’ve not encountered them before, which I find unlikely, Gary and Naomi respectively have stellar reviews for you to read.

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My film recommendation is an adaptation of a beloved children’s series, The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce, as the animated film reviewed by Cat, called Rise of The Guardians, wherein Jack Frost, the Aussie version of the Easter Bunny, North (Father Christmas) and The Sandman come together to battle the evil plan of Mister Pitch to bring darkness in the hearts of everyone forever. This is an upbeat film perfect for the season with everything working out in the end.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Walt Kelley’s Pogo is warm, caring, and kind with characters worth knowing. We could use more of that. Cat looks at the first collected Fantographics hardcover volume here. Need I say it’d make a great gift?

Likewise I’m very fond of the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, which David loves. He reviews the first volume that Fantographics did here. I first read them in the German edition done some years back. It too would be a most superb gift.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AI’ve been looking for a Sleeping Hedgehog essay on eggnog I recall Ingrid, our Steward, mentioning, about how it came to be a tradition here maybe forty years back, but I can’t find it. What I do have is Jennifer Stevenson’s recipe for eggnog for Stay Home Egg Nog Fluff, as she calls it, so you can try it out in your drink making. Ahhh, there it is, the egg nog story I wanted. Thanks Kathryn, my fellow Several Annie!

And it won’t surprise you that everyone we encounter here has food traditions. Our Editor asked a number of folks about  here what Winter Holiday food and drink traditions they had. By the way, Ellen Kushner, a Winter Queen for us a few years back, answered concisely with ‘latkes and candle-lighting’.

Sleeping Hedgehog for this month included a reprinting of a letter from the Archives by Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, about preparations for the holidays here.

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Windogur is my first choice for music. April noted of the artist ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willmark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s.’  Lena’s a favourite of nearly everyone here.

I’m also very fond of a recording from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer called Hambo in the Snow  that Jack reviews, as it’s a fascinating recording of Scandinavian trad winter music as it now exists in the Upper Midwest States. It’s not quite what I know, but it’s definitely related.

Jul i Folkton (Christmas in a Folk Style) is perhaps the best collection of Swedish Christmas music I’ve seen available outside of my country. As my fellow Swede Lars says, it’s ‘just the songs and tunes beautifully performed, nothing else.’

Mike has an incisive look at MidWinter which is subtitled ‘A Celebration of the Folk Music and Traditions of Christmas and the Turning of the Year’. It gets frequent play here during the Winter months. Like the previously noted CD, it’s suitable for those who like Christmas, et al., and those who just like good music.

Patrick has a review here of Loreena McKennitt’s A Midwinter Night’s Dream which is a pleasant blend of Celtic and other musical influences. You’ll find Mackenzie often plays it and her other recordings as well in the Library,something that always pleases me.

Robert recommended several recordings that look intriguing — and certainly capture the spirit of the season. The first is Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Cantus Arcticus, which certainly sounds wintery enough. And Rautavaara, from Finland, is practically a neighbor.

Next, he reminded me of a disc by another neighbor, Norwegian pianist Wolfgang Plagge’s Julevariasjoner — yes, it does mean ‘Christmas variations.’

And how could I forget that Christmas staple, Handel’s Messiah? Maybe I’ll organize a sing-along in the Pub.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur What Not is from one of our Winter Queens, the late Josepha Sherman, who asked in Her Speech upon the meaning of Winter: ‘What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. The trees know it: they don’t die each year.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AThe Winter Solstice arrives in a few short days, so let’s see you off properly with our annual story about that sacred event, Jennifer Stevenson’s ‘Solstice’ about a small-time rocker — well, you can listen here  to her reading of it to find out what happens to that woman on that night, or if you prefer to read it, you can do so here. If you prefer to read in chapbook form, I’ll dig out a copy of the GMR printing which Grey did for us years ago.

After you read or hear that wonder story, I’ll leave you with some seasonally apt music. Or at least what I consider such, which in this case would a steller performance by Loreena McKennitt of her ’Dickens’ Dublin’. It’s from ‘A Loreena McKennitt Christmas’ on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic program from December 1994.

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A Travels Abroad story: A Visit to St. Petersburg (A Letter to Ekaterina)

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G’Evening Ekaterina,

It’s after four in the morning and I’m wide awake as my leg injury’s keeping me from sleeping long, long after your sister Catherine has turned in for the night. So I’m doing needed correspondence as I’ll get it done without interruption, which doesn’t happen often during the day around this Estate with my apprentices, The Several Annies, and Library patrons alike needing paying attention to.

I’m been meaning to tell you that we’ll indeed visiting you this year after the holidays at St. Petersburg as we’ve got obligations here ’till New Year’s but are free after that. If you could book us at a hotel that you like, we’d appreciate it. Figure we’ll be staying for ten days and we’re flying in on the night of the third as want to be with you for Little Christmas.

We’re both looking forward to a leisurely afternoon of tea, pastries, and gossip with you at the Kempinski Hotel. Great tea shop but far too busy as a place to stay unfortunately.

The Steward’s quite generously funding this trip so we’ll be doing a fair amount of shopping for the Estate including purchasing several cases of Russky Standart vodka, lots of culinary treats and many fine books. And I’ll be getting small gifts for the current Several Annies such as Matrioskas, Dymkovo toys, Vologda lace and the like, as we’ve been studying the material culture of pre-revolutionary Russia.

I’m also looking for residency possibilities and housing for two of my Several Annies, Ingrid and Emma, who learned Russian from your sister these past two years and want to be immersed in Russian culture to really hone their language skills. They’re both natural learners so I expect both to go on to University eventually.

Yours with affection, Iain

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What’s New for the 10th of December: June Tabor at Minnemeers Theater, Music of a Nordic Nature, Ragas, Porn That’s Quite Boring and Some Seasonal Matters

He kissed her anyway, lightly on the cheek, before she turned to get her coat, thinking how long he had known her and how little he knew her and how little he knew of how much or little there was in her to know. — Patricia McKillip’s ‘’The Snow Queen’, first found in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Snow White, Blood Red

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Damn, it’s nearly the beginning of Winter as measured by the calendar! The days no longer even have a bit of warmth, and they’re barely reaching freezing by afternoon, and Gus, our Head Gardener, has long since harvested everything including the root crops and pumpkins as we’ve already had several hard frosts.

Bjorn, our Brew Master, also long since has claimed the very best of the latter for his legendary spiced pumpkin stout, his take on that seasonal libation. Our Librarian, Mackenzie, said of this brew last year that ‘it was a remarkably well crafted stout — the pumpkin flavor is subtle and smokey.’ We expect an equally great libation this year!

It’s amusing for me as Head Publican to watch the shift that Winter brings to our Pub. With many fewer visitors, it once again becomes a more low-key affair, with even the music played by visiting bands kinder and more restrained, and the Neverending Session is noticeably smaller and leans towards Nordic, Breton and Celtic trad music, which is something staff and visitors alike are quite fond of. Now let’s see what the Editors have selected for this time…

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Jo starts our book reviews off with this review she wrote for Folk Tales, the predecessor of GMR a long time ago.: ‘Folk legend merges with Jane Yolen’s creative world to create a work of pure magic in The Wild Hunt, which should be destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. Pitting the forces of light and dark against one another is a common theme, but it is rare for those forces to acknowledge the other as essential to their own existence, as done in this delightful tale. Yolen’s use of time and words have woven a masterpiece from the ancient threads of an old tale together with the modern threads of something totally new and different. The resulting tapestry is beautiful to behold.’

We of course have a look at The  Snow White, Blood Red anthology, so let’s have Laurie explain why it’s for adults: ‘Snow White, Blood Red is the first in a series of books intended to bring fairy tales back from the nursery where they were relegated during Victorian times. Although there are light, frothy tales in this collection, dark, sensual stories predominate. There are very few “happily-ever-afters.” These are fairy tales for adults, where Little Red Riding Hood is a nubile teenager and the Big Bad Wolf is a gentleman who marries Red’s mother so that he has access to Red, who is a knowing accomplice.’

Lory finds Mark I. West’s A Children’s Literature Tour of Great Britain good enough to bring up remembrances of things past, but says it’s lacking in the fine details: ‘Mark I. West, a professor of children’s literature at the University of North Carolina, seems to have his facts pretty straight, but doesn’t include any personal anecdotes about his travels, or many juicy bits about his subjects. You would find the same in any respectable encyclopedia. There is a section of black and white photographs, taken by the author and not very atmospheric, but no maps or other illustrations. West also has little to say about the landscape or countryside that inspired so many great British children’s books; he focuses on houses, objects, or even statues associated with authors, some of which will only interest a real fanatic.’

Robert looks at  a collection by Charles de Lint that he and his wife MarryAnn Harris, who did the cover art, just published in a digital edition on their Triskell Press: ‘Dreams Underfoot is another collection of Newford stories, rather different in feel than those in The Ivory and the Horn. While that collection leaned more toward the “ghost stories” category, this one is much more inclined toward what we’ve come to know as de Lint’s own brand of fantasy: urban, contemporary, drawing on mythic traditions from both Europe and North America, and not quite like anything anyone else is writing. These stories are also what I’ve come to think of as “mature de Lint”: the boundaries between the worlds have become not only intangible, but largely irrelevant, the here-and-now is not irrevocably here or now, and magic is where you find it – if it doesn’t find you first.’

Robert also has some thoughts on a group of stories that are somewhat out of the ordinary: Michael Cadnum’s Can’t Catch Me And Other Twice-Told Tales and Tim Powers’ A Soul in a Bottle: ‘It seems that more and more, the books that cross my desk don’t fit into any sort of traditional category. I have to assume that’s deliberate, since there is a whole generation of young writers who are deliberately blurring the lines between mystery, fantasy, surrealism, magical realism, what have you. Needless to say, the results are often mixed.’

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We’re all adults here, so lets have a look at Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, which is classy porn perhaps, but porn none-the-less. No mere bodice ripper — oh indeed, it’s porny. Porn for everyone: women on women, men on women, men on men, boys on boys, voyeurism. . . . Or is it porn? April said in the editors lounge while reading Lost Girls that ‘Nah. I can’t really call it porn, in the end. It would have to be… exciting to be porn, no? I’m really not sure what to call something that’s cover to cover sex but isn’t really exciting or erotic. Aside from boring.’

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Our fold and drink section this time concerns the time that Vonnie went to a lecture, David Ingle’s The Bacchanalian Tradition in British Isles Songs, 1600-1900, in a historic building with a bunch of fellow folk music lovers to experience, well, much more than a boring lecture. Read her write-up to see what she experienced that night.

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Asher has a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairytale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.“

Cat has some comments on a very non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’

Chuck has a trad album worth hearing: ‘On Midwinter Night’s Dream, Boys of the Lough include Aly Bain (fiddle), Cathal McConnell (flute, whistles, song), Dave Richardson (concertina, mandolin, cittern, accordion), and Christy O’Leary (uilleann pipes, whistles, song). They call on Christmas and winter traditions of Ireland, Scotland, Shetland, and Sweden to put together a fine CD.’

Richard went to experience June Tabor at Minnemeers Theater: ‘I have seen June Tabor live numerous times in recent years and I thought I knew what to expect at her concerts. I own just about every recording she ever made, the first review I wrote for GMR, when it was still Folk Tales, was of a Tabor CD and I do not expect many surprises from her performances.’

Robert takes us somewhat far afield with a look at two recordings by two distinguished artists of classical Indian music: Raga Madhukauns and Raga Piloo: ‘The Indian raga, which has enjoyed variable popularity in the West since the 1970s under the influence of a number of musicians from various backgrounds and, if we may speak of such a thing, “schools” (George Harrison and Terry Riley come to mind, and two more disparate musicians are hard to imagine), is the product of a musical tradition that may very well be the oldest still extant – or at least, the oldest with an actual history. (“History” simply because we can actually trace this tradition through written sources back for about four thousand years.)’

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Puppetry is our What Not this time.  In his review of Figures of Speech Theatre’s Anerca, Chris writes of a puppet theater that owes as much to Japanese drama and American-Indian mythology as it does to Jim Henson and Sherri Lewis. ‘Among the complex issues they set out to explore with Anerca are cross-cultural interactions, the misunderstandings of language, and direct emotional communication. Rather than putting Western words into another language, they focus on the emotional tone, physical world and spiritual quest of the characters.’

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Our musical coda befits the Winter season that’s here in force now. ‘Mojas Katrin’  is from Mari Boine Persen‘s Schauburg, Bremen, Germany performance of some twenty five years ago, though the exact date’s unknown. I think that both her voice and playing feel perfect for this season.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Mrs. Ware Prepares an Eventide Meal

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That man is going to drive me mad some day.

What did you just say? ‘Perhaps he already has?’ If it wasn’t so close to the truth I’d swat you for that.

Honestly, Mr. E. is a fine man to work with most of the time, but he has his peculiar ideas. ‘Mrs. Ware,’ he says, ‘have you ever thought about how versatile chocolate is? Savory or sweet, main course or dessert – but always heavenly. I’m sure a fine chef like yourself could make us a whole meal where every dish contained some chocolate.’

And me nodding along like a ninny. The first thing I knew, I was thinking of recipes I’d eaten or heard of or dreamt up. The sly boots had me hooked on the challenge.

Then again, feeding the inhabitants here at the estate which houses Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog is a challenge any day, and thank all the Powers I have such a good staff. Access to the best of ingredients, too, and a reference collection of recipes going back centuries. There are advantages to working for such a place like this one.

Of course, I work for Kinrowan Hall. Did you think Mr. E., or anyone else, could own the Kinrowan Hall? Not in the slightest. It brings people (and others) here to serve it in various roles. Some stay for a few days or months, some for years without number. Liath our Archivist has been around, off and on, for centuries, they tell me. And who are ‘they’? Why, house elves and brownies who’ve been here even longer than she has. Anyway, I’ve been here a long time. When I arrived here as a sous-sous-chef I promised Kinrowan Hall I’d stick around till I got bored, and I’ve never been bored. I’ve worked my way up through the ranks, met and married Mr. Ware (may he rest in peace), raised three daughters and a son and dozens of bouvier des Flandres puppies, trained chefs who now work in the best establishments on both sides of the Border – and never been bored.

Yes, I suppose little challenges like Mr. E.’s must contribute something to the lack of boredom.

Anyway, I suspected he was really dreaming of endless desserts when he set my mind thinking on his little challenge, so I drew up my menu with care. Simplicity and quality were my watchwords.

We started with a mixed green salad drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette, made with the finest in produce from Gus’ gardens and raspberries from a little patch in a clearing just inside Oberon’s Wood. Where was the chocolate? Infused in the vinaigrette. I make my own, of course, and I soaked some cocoa beans in it overnight.

Then we had a hearty, all-in-one main course — tamale pie. It’s basically a thick chili (I had to make a batch each of con and sin carne) cooked under a cornbread crust. Plenty of peppers, plenty of meat (or plenty of beans), plenty of tomatoes — and a healthy dose of powdered cocoa. I found a container in the back of the east pantry that looked like it may have come from an artisanal co-op in Aztec territory (possibly pre-Conquest, though I wouldn’t like to say for sure). I told you Kinrowan Hall gives me access to the best of ingredients.

For dessert, I kept it simple. People had a choice between Mrs. Cormier’s dark chocolate cake with fudge icing, made the day before so that the fudge could melt just a little everywhere it met the cake, and homemade chocolate ice cream. Every staff member I could get my hands on had to take a turn at the churn. I promised those who did that they could have both cake and ice cream if they so chose.

When it came to the beverages, the other obsession around here besides chocolate, I consulted with Reynard. I needed cold and hot, alcoholic and not. Dear Reynard! I can always count on him. He found me a couple of barrels of Sam Adams’ Chocolate Bock and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, and a selection of chocolate liqueurs (including every sort of Godiva under the sun) to add to coffee or pour over the ice cream. I had hot and cold chocolate milk, too, of course — must fight osteoporosis whenever we can.

Was it a success?  That comment I will swat you for! What meal of mine has ever been less than a success? Kinrowan Hall wouldn’t allow it, and neither would I!

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An Irish Music Edition

At any rate, the tune is not a story, but stories might lie behind the tune. For, as mnemonics, the names summon up a tangled web of circumstances; they not only help to summon the tune into being, but recall other times and other places where the tune was played, and the company there might have been. –– Ciaran Carson in Last Night’s Fun: In and Out with Irish Music

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AThe Norns who are knitting in their usual place here in the Pub are strongly hinting that it’ll be both colder than it usually is and quite a bit snowier this coming Winter. Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, says Tamsin, our hedgewitch, said as much during the warm months so he and most of the Estate staff took several days and weather-proofed as much as possible where sensitive plants eXisco and where such creatures as the owls and such will shelter in an even better than is the usual manner here.

The perfect wintertime breakfast for me is an Irish fry-up complete with sausage and fatty bacon, hold the beans though. That and strong black coffee served with real cream will do nicely, provided all of this is served ’round noon, when I’m more or less ready to be awake and sociable.

I’ve been thinking about Irish trad music lately and realise that it’s long overdue for us to do another edition just on that music so that’s what you’re getting, though keep in mind it’s just a bit of the material on that music that’s in our Archives. So lets get to this edition…2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACat starts us with an academic work edited by Martin Stokes and Phillip V. Bohlman: ‘Celtic Modern, subtitled Music at the Global Fringe, examines the phenomenon that is Celtic music in its many varied strands. While on the surface this volume looks at Celtic music from a number of different standpoints, the content is academically inclined, rather than acting as a general reader, as would, say, a Rough Guide type publication.‘

Cat has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart novel which I’m reading now and it says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’. The novel  has some astounding descriptions of Irish music sessions it, so do check it.

Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to take out from the Library here at Kinnrowan Estate: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’

A book by Evan McHugh gets a thunbs down from Gary: ‘I love good beer, and I love to travel. I also enjoy reading about both. I find beer writing more interesting than wine writing, because beer experts tend to be less stuffy about their craft than wine experts. And a good travel writer can make you feel almost as though you were along for the ride. So I jumped at the chance to review Pint-Sized Ireland: In Search Of The Perfect Guinness. Writing about travel and beer! What could be better?MWell, as it turns out, it could be better if someone else wrote it.’

Joseph takes a look at Bill Barich’s A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub, which he describes as ‘a brilliant hybrid of new journalism and memoir: ‘By his own admission, Bill Barich is a dreamer on a mission to recapture his youth. But he greets each illusionary fishing hole, village, and forest with clarity and wisdom. In the end, the reader — not the author — feels nostalgic and thirsty for something never really existed.’ And Joseph even tells you how he did it.

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘Subtitled “The Sliabh Luachra story,” this book attempts to demythologize the heartland of Sliabh Luachra, a legendary area where Irish traditional music is concerned. To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’

Diana Boullier’s Exploring Irish Music and Dance gets a look from Kim: ’At some point for children seeking to master traditional music, the learning must come through the power of relationship — through parents, friends, neighbors, or teachers. But not every child has access to that world, and many a child may be drawn to folk traditions via a chance exposure to music that calls to him or her. So what’s a parent to do? So many interests seem to pass quickly in these childhood years, making today’s investment in teachers, instruments and so forth the equivalent of pouring sand down the proverbial rat hole. I would also argue that learning to play, dance or sing Irish traditional music requires the dedication of family, teacher, and community. Diana Boullier seeks to bridge the gap between children’s interest and the world of Irish traditional music.’

Harry Long’s The Waltons Guide to Irish Music gets my approval: ‘The subtitle of this book is ‘A ComprehensiveA-Z Guide to Irish and Celtic Music in All Its Forms’ and for once this is an accurate statement. It is indeed indispensable guide to Irish music in all its varied facets. So let’s look at this wonderful book.’
2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ABrendan has a look at group that’s Irish to the core, to wit From the beginning: The Chieftains 1 to 4: ‘The Chieftains were one of the first modern Celtic music bands. Although completely traditional in material and instrumentation (even to point of eschewing any guitar or piano), they were one of the first bands to present Irish music to an international audience as a serious craft, whose still-quite-living tradition demanded serious attention. Paddy Moloney — then a founding member of the influential (and much larger) Irish group Ceoltoiri Chualann — formed the band in the early Sixties as a compact ensemble of Irish musicians showcasing purely Irish stylings.’

Gary has an insightful  review of the Traditional Irish Music in America anthology: ‘In the 1970s, something new yet very old was happening in America. Traditional Irish music was being played and recorded. Just when it looked as though Irish music would fade out and disappear in the modern, mechanized world of the mid-20th century, a new generation of young Irish and Irish-American musicians came under its spell. What began happening to roots music of all kinds happened to Irish music. A revival began and became a renaissance until today, it’s played in pubs, dance halls and social halls, on public radio and television, all over North America.’

Jayme looks at the debut album of a well-known group: ‘The surprise is that this album probably doesn’t sound like what the casual Clannad fan expects at all. Every band must start someplace; and Clannad, like most every other Celtic band before and since, started with a repertoire of traditional covers. ’

Jennifer looks at a recording from a member of De Dannan: ‘Fierce Traditional is the long anticipated new solo album from Frankie Gavin, and it sees him paring the sound right down, getting back to the essence of the music. With the usual stalwart suspects in the studio, long term partner Alec Finn, piano/banjo extraordinaire Brian McGrath and brother Sean Gavin, this album is all about the tunes, pure and simple.

She also reviews Tip Toe, an album by Ronan O Snodaigh who she says ‘is probably best known as the front man with Irish band Kila. A poet, songwriter, percussionist, vocalist, and landscape gardener, it seems the ridiculous O Snodaigh talent knows no bounds. He has contributed to the evolution and revolution of bodhran playing in Ireland, and has introduced percussion instruments from all around the globe to the Kila sound, and beyond.‘

Danú’s Think Before You Think gets reviewed by Kim: ‘It’s a great pleasure to begin the a new year with an album of Irish music that is filled with stellar arrangements, tunes and songs that don’t pop up on every second disc, fine musicianship and one of those famous Irish tenor voices singing the traditional style.’

Kim recommends Keoghs Irish Pub, her favorite pub in her hometown of Toronto. She says the owners have made ‘community building seem effortless, and have built the relatively new (circa 1997) pub into a hub for celebrating Irish culture in North America. The bar and its patrons are friendly, and some of the session night regulars appear to be stalwarts of the local Irish music scene. This is no age ghetto either — regulars range from pensioners to young, and often easy on the eyes, patrons in their 20s. The decor is tasteful and simple, not too dark, and the fireplace and kitchen add a bit of warmth, while the snug creates a spot for quiet conversation.’

Kim also saw one of the best Irish trad groups live: ‘Altan were one of the first truly traditional groups I came to love, and they will always be one of my favorites! I hadn’t seen Altan in five years or so — last time was at the World Theater in St. Paul — so this evening was a great treat, and anticipated with bated breath. This concert was also a benefit for the Ireland Fund of Canada, an organization that promotes cooperation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and seemed to draw many folks from the Irish expatriate community in Toronto, as well as other diehard Altan fans. Massey Hall is a wonderful theatre in what I’ll call the old style–minimal lobbies, ticket booth openingto the outdoors — but a grand room that has aged well over its life.‘

Lars looks at The Alt, self-titled first album from a new group: ‘and boisterous to the soft and soothing, from the long slow ballads to the fast furious instrumentals. The Alt is a trio focusing on songs, only three of the eleven tracks are instrumental sets, and traditional material. No pipes, no fiddle, but plenty of guitar, bouzouki, that special wooden Irish flute and vocal harmonies. Their sound is much closer to the style set by groups like Sweeney’s Men, Planxty and Patrick Street, than the Dubliner-side of Irish folk.

Lars exclaims of Beoga at Ten that ‘There are times when reviewing is a sheer pleasure. This is one of those moments. Beoga is an Irish five-piece group, four men and a woman, with keyboards, button accordion, fiddle, bodhran/percussion and one member doubling on guitar and button accordion. They were formed in 2002 and this is a recording of a concert to celebrate their first ten years.’

He says Eilean mo Ghaoil: The Music of Arran ‘is the brainchild of Gillian Frame, fiddler and Arran native, and if the Arran tourist board doesn’t adopt it as its official soundtrack (assuming there is such an animal as an Arran tourist board) then they’re definitely missing a bet.’

Beginish is from the band of the same name who Naomi says ‘is a potent Irish traditional group which was born from four musicians who are successful in their own right, and have a long history of collaborating with one another. This history of collaboration is what brought about the birth of this talented group, and I can only hope that they’re here to stay.’

Naomi also pens a look at Barefoot on the Altar, a tasty album indeed: ‘Chulrua (pronounced cool-ROO-ah) is not only the name of this amazing trio of celebrated musicians but the name of the favourite wolfhound of the ancient Irish hero Fionn MacCumhaill. It translates to English as “red back.” Personally, I love how traditional Irish music is infused with so much history; it adds a depth and richness which makes it even more enjoyable.’

Paul looks at ‘, (pronounced Shay), is Gaelic for ‘six’, and as well as the obvious meaning, is a lovely great mouthful of a title. For those of you who may be new to Lúnasa, this is a four-piece (Cillian Vallely joined a number of years back on pipes and low whistles) traditional Irish band. Just tunes. Great, great tunes. Fiddle, whistles, flutes, upright bass, pipes, guitar, bodhran, a little piano and trumpet even… The variety is wide but never overwhelming. It’s one of the things that have made Lúnasa what they are today: the ability to undertstand just exactly what a tune needs, without ever overcomplicating matters.’

Robert takes a look at a retrospective album by the same group,  The Story So Far: ‘As is my habit with new music, I started off by putting Lúnasa’s The Story So Far on the player while going about my daily business, just to tune my ears. My first reaction was, “OK, there’s only so much fiddling I can take at a time.” Then I sat down to listen.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AZina, an Irish fiddler and a great lover of Turkish Coffee, is the sole author of our extended What Not this Edition. Let’s start off with her look at the Green Man Pub which leads off this way, ‘Fiddles. They’re everywhere.’

She notes that ‘Probably my favorite kind of Irish music sessions are house sessions, where musicians are invited over to someone’s house for an evening of tunes and perhaps a few songs if there’re any singers along, and of course lots of alcohol and food.’

A great session is followed by a suitable breakfast says she: ‘Oatmeal drizzled with cream, fat pork sausages sizzling with fat, eggs both simple and fancy, bread thick with butter and strawberry jam, scones with clotted cream, calves liver, bacon, lobscouse, crispbreads, tea, coffee, Turkish coffee…’

It’s a sad read but but she wrote an appreciation of an Irish music artist we lost long before we should’ve: ‘Ah, sad news. Mícheál Ó Domhnaill is dead. It’s far too early; he was far too young. I never met the man, yet he is and likely always will be an inextricable part of the fabric of my life–the impact of his contribution to the Irish traditional music I play was all-encompassing; like his guitar backing, it lifts and carries the music forward, never changing the melody but always putting his own stamp upon it.’

She has an excellent review Of both James Carty’s Upon My Soul‘I found that there were no real highlights to this recording: it’s all good’ and a recording from a famed Lonsdon venue called Paddy In The Smoke: Irish Dance Music, From A London Pub which she  nowes ‘is simply one of the most important and influential recordings of Irish traditional music ever made.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Let’s finish this edition First off with a tune by Clannad, a band often derided by Irish trad music lovers as just a New Age band because of their later recordings but give a listen to ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’ and I think you’ll agree that they do Irish trad rather well.

A newly composed tune that feel traditional is offered to us by Altan who recorded this while performing at Somerville Theater in Somerville, Massachusets on the 13th of February 1993. It’s ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ from their performance at the Folkadelphia Session, 7th of March, 2015.

So let’s find something sprightly to listen to end with on this fine Winter day…  Ahhh that’ll do…  Here’s De Dannan performing ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ a trad Irish reel which was first was collected in printed form by O’Neill in his Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies (1903). This version was recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, sometime in 1982.

This incarnation of the band consisted of Jackie Daly on accordion, Alec Finn plying bouzouki and guitar, Frankie Gavin on fiddle and whistle with Colm Murphy playing the bodhran and Maura O’Connell providing the lovely vocals, which she amply demonstrates on ‘My Irish Molly-o’ from the same concert.

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Arthurian matters

‘You must remember, there’s always something cleverer than yourself.’ — Merlin to Arthur in the Excalibur film

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I’m sitting in our Pub with my iPad open to our WordPress site, a pint of Autumn Ale at hand, a cold sleety wing blowing on the windows as I half listen to the Neverending Session playing a set of tunes they learned from Paul Brandon, while I’m putting together this edition on all things Arthurian.

King Arthur and his story and those associated with him are written deep into our culture, in everything from books such as The Once and Future King to films such as Excalibur, so I decided to see what we’d reviewed that touched upon him. And discovered not surprisingly that we’d indeed done quite a few reviews, mostly of a bookish nature, but also a look at what I consider the best film on him, Excalibur, and a lovely song cycle about him by Maddy Prior.

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A work called simply Arthur the King is favoured by Grey: ‘Who was the real Arthur? Many authors today dig into history and piece together the fragments they find there. They offer us Arthur as Celtic chieftain or as Roman warlord. They find traces of him in the Mabinogion, and speculate on the possibility of his having used Libyan warhorses to give him the advantage over the Saxons. They give his name and the names of his knights the proper Welsh or Latin spellings. They try to show us an authentic Arthur, an Arthur we can believe actually existed. Graeme Fife is not one of these authors.’

Though this author is best known for her Pern series, Grey gives us a review of her sole Arthurian novel: ‘”No hoof, no horse,” say the Worshipful Company of Farriers. “Farriery,” the craft of shoeing horses, was even more vital in the days when every mobile enterprise was dependent on horses, especially the enterprise of war. And what more famous warrior-king has there ever been than Arthur? What might it have been like to have been Arthur’s farrier? Anne McCaffrey gives an answer to this question in Black Horses for the King.’

Joel looks at the work I mentioned above: ‘T.H. White’s four-volume take on the Arthurian cycle draws heavily on the late-fifteenth century romance, Le Morte d’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory. This in turn brought together in one place the myriad legends, songs, and poems, both French and English, about the mythical king and his knights. But in the half century and change since its publication, White’s tetralogy has almost certainly been the more widely read, if not amongst scholars of medieval literature.’

Michelle has a book she recommends highly: ‘Christopher Snyder, a professor of history and politics at Virginia’s Marymount University, is not one who believes in a historical Arthur, nor that such a man would be important even if proven to have existed. His book The World of King Arthur is devoted entirely to the impact of the idea of King Arthur — the social and artistic legacy of the legends.’

Rebecca looks at Leslie Alcock’s Arthur’s Britain: ‘The good news is, Arthur did exist. The bad news, to devotees of Arthurian legend, is that he was a battle commander, not a king; he didn’t control all of what we now think of as Great Britain; and some sources called him lustful and perverted. But this excellent book says he existed. Woo-hoo!’

Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Seeing Stone: Book One of the Arthur Trilogy also finds favour with her as she notes here: ‘I found this novel for children aged 9-12 delightful and informative. It is the story of Arthur de Caldicot, a curious, ambitious young boy growing up in medieval England, near the Welsh border. Arthur has a mean older brother, a Welsh mother and grandmother, a stern but loving father who has some plan for him that Arthur can’t quite figure out, and a handful of other siblings.’

Robert wraps up our Arthurian book reviews with a nice, scholarly foundation: ‘Originally published in 1999, The Arthur of the English is the second volume in a series of scholarly anthologies centered on the Arthurian literature of the Middle Ages. As the series editor, W. R. J. Barron, points out in the Preface, the new series takes full advantage of the more expansive scholarship in the field and is thus able to focus on the cultural and historical as well as linguistic aspects of Arthurian literature in Europe.’

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A rather  brutal take on the Arthurian mythos draws this comment by reviewer Asher: ‘Here is a tale of human folly — “Whatever the cost, do it”. Of a noble dream – “One land, one king!” Of magic – “Can’t you see all around you the Dragon’s breath?” Of its passing – “There are other worlds. This one is done with me.” And of memory – “For it is the doom of men that they forget.” Excalibur is arguably the most exciting film version of the myth of Arthur to date.’

Asher states forthrightly that Mists of Avalon which is based on the Marion Zimmer Bradley novel ‘is a revisionist Arthurian tale. The film opens much like Braveheart‘s “Historians in England will say I am a liar…” with an agonized and weary, almost crucified Morgaine narrating — “No one knows the real story. Most of what you know… is nothing but lies” — as her boat glides into the mists, a device that welded this viewer to his seat, not wanting to miss any of the necessary adjustments to the legend.’

Kimberly has a choice bit of popcorn viewing for us: ‘As a made-for-television flick, Merlin is watchable fantasy fun. But if you want any fidelity to the original Arthurian legends, f’get-about-it! It ain’t gonna happen in this movie. Still, there aren’t tons of fantasy pieces on television that don’t require a barf-bag, so enjoy what you can from this one — particularly the special effects. The fairies in the magic woods are delightful, and so is the early scene where young Merlin is asleep in a hollow tree, where he meets Nimue for the first time and discovers his powers. Of course, Evil Queen Mab snatches Nimue from Merlin for revenge and scars her for life, but she is restored by Merlin’s love and last act of magic, to her youth. Merlin lives happily ever after with her. Awwwww.’

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Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King which I was listening to earlier draws this note from No’am: ‘This disk tries primarily to separate the fact from the fiction. “The historical Arthur is a highly controversial figure. Theories abound as to his region of activity and his ancestry.” are the first two sentences in the well written sleeve notes. Arthur also tries to provide in music a feeling of what it was like to have been alive in time of Arthur. Thus we have songs written from the point of view of Arthur himself: “The poet and the troubadour have stolen my name” are the opening words from “The Name Of Arthur,” from what constituted the aristocracy of the time — people who were more Roman than British, from the warriors, and also from more artistic and legendary viewpoints. “The Hallows” begins with the words “From my name has come a dream, a fable, a myth.”‘

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Arthur and the various tellings of his myth are writ both deep and wide upon the British folklore. (Robert Holdstock makes good use of that folklore in his Ryhope Wood cycle) so let me offer you up A Gazetteer of Arthurian Onomastic and Topographic Folklore. Caitlin R. Green in her dense nineteen page article in Arthurian Notes & Queries lays out an argument for where Arthur fits in British folklore. It’s usually dense academic prose but still worth reading if you got a keen interest in this subject.

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Let’s finish off with Robin Williamson performing ‘Five Denials on Merlins Grave’‘ which he wrote. It’s from his performance at The Brillig Arts Centre, Bath, England on the first of December 1978.

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Befitting Autumn, A Folkloric Edition

“But stories are fragile. Like people’s lives. It only takes a word out of place to change them forever. If you hear a lovely tune, and then you change it, the new tune might be lovely too, but you’ve lost the first one.” “But if I stick to the first tune, then I’ve lost the second.” “But someone else might discover it. It’s still there to be born.” “And the first tune isn’t?” “No,” Tallis insisted, although she was confused now. “It has already come into your mind. It’s lost forever.” “Nothing is lost forever,” Mr. Williams said quietly. “Everything I’ve known I still know, only sometimes I don’t know that I know it.” All things are known, but most things are forgotten. It takes a special magic to remember them. “My grandfather said something like that to me,” Tallis whispered. “Well there you are. Wise Old Men, one and all…”  ― Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss

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It is, as all nights are on this Scottish Estate far from the light pollution of any city, a good night for star gazing if weather permits. I’ve got my gaggle of Several Annies, my always female Library Apprentices (and yes I do know their names but I usually use this appellation) are getting a stars-related mythology lesson from Tamsin, our resident hedgewitch, on this crisp evening.

I listened for awhile but realized being warm was a far better option so I decided that I’d stitch together this edition in the Pub while ensconced in the Falstaff Chair near the fireplace with a generous pour, neat of course, of Talisker Storm whisky as the Neverending session backs a sweet  sounding red-headed coleen singing ‘Run Sister Sister’,  a Red Clay Ramblers song with deep Appalachian roots.oak_leaf_fallen_colored2

Everything this edition is folkloric in nature. I’m selecting some of our myriad folktale reviews, music that’s equally folkloric and other interesting material as well. I’m sort of avoiding contemporary fiction, be it Sharon McCrumb’s  Ghost Riders, Seanan McGuire’s Indexing, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country or Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt as all are frequently cited here. For contemporary short story takes on folkloric themes, I recommend such works as edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling such as Black Swan, White Raven and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales.

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April starts us off with a treat for fairy tale aficionados: ‘Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are well known, even to those who’ve never heard his name. His stories have entered our cultural consciousness (who doesn’t know of “The Little Mermaid,” even if it’s only through Disney’s version) and verbal lexicon (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”) and are here to stay. Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen offers a glimpse at the man behind the tales, the subtle nuances of his art and language and renders the stories all the more powerful.’

Deborah says ‘ (Jane) Yolen initially compiled Not One Damsel in Distress for her daughter and three granddaughters, as she wished to provide for her girls that which she had not been able to access — stories where girls are the heroes. Not heroines or sheroes but true heroes, in every sense of the word. Stories where it is the girls who are the knights and the serpent slayers and the pirates. As Yolen writes in the open letter to her girls at the beginning of the collection, “This book is for you because in it are folktales about heroes — regular sword-wielding, spear-throwing, villain-stomping, rescuing-type heroes who also happen to be females.”‘

Terri Windling’s The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors says Diane is an anthology that ‘reinterprets classic fairy tales with reference to contemporary issues of childhood. In short stories,essays and poems the various authors examine the issues of confusion, fear, and, ultimately, survival.’

Denise looks at Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood: ‘I surveyed Josepha Sherman and E.K.F. Weisskopf’s great green paperback with a twinge of envy. These folks took my long-ago discussion and tuned it into a book. It’s a work of scholarship, to be sure, but it’s a lot more fun than most scholarly tomes. Like the great collection of Ozark folktales Pissing in the Snow, Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts makes telling statements about American culture even as it induces milk-out-the-nose guffaws in its readers.’

John Colarusso’s Nart Sagas from the Caucasus gets reviewed by Eric who says ‘The Narts are a legendary race of heroes, whose deeds form the basis for the culture of the Caucasus. The stories are examples, both inspirational and cautionary, of how a warrior of the Caucasus should measure his life. The language is extraordinarily direct; the sagas’ talent for understatement is difficult to equal. . . .”

Jack Zipes edited a new edition of Thomas Frederick Crane collection which Faith reviews for us: ‘Italian Popular Tales, first published in 1885, was the first comprehensive collection of folktales from Italy published in English. It is meticulously organized by subject (fairy tales, tales of Oriental origin, etc.). This is not just a collection of stories, however, as each one is introduced and commented on in the text. The copious endnotes list the origins of each tale and cross-reference their various stock elements. They also include variants on several of the tales, some of them quite long, that were not included in the body of the book for whatever reason.’

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Jo looks at two versions of a Welsh collection of myths: ‘Grand quests, swords, sorcery, gods, mortals, love, war, and a healthy sense of mystery can all be found in The Mabinogion. These eleven ancient Welsh tales date back to somewhere around 1200 in written form and are classics of the folk tale genre. There are few places where you can find so many archetypal folk themes, presented within such a short space. Celtic lineage, culture, and heritage are presented with grace and passion within the framework of a group of stories. These tales are a must for anyone interested in Celtic folklore or in Arthurian legend, for Arthur plays a minor role in many of the tales.’

Leona comments that ‘When I started writing for Green Man Review, I thought of myth and folklore as primarily Irish and Greek, Latin and German. I suspect that’s fairly common in America, but that view misses several important and fascinating segments of the world. In Latin American Folktales, editor John Bierhorst has gathered together in print a wide variety of traditional oral Hispanic and Indian stories.’

Lory loves Jilali El Koudia’s Moroccan Folktales: ‘El Koudia did not merely transcribe the tales he heard, but rewrote, reconstructed and retold them, eliminating wordiness and repetition. His English translation (with Roger Allen) gives us the tales in direct, unembellished and almost stark language. It is an excellent basic source for storytellers and teachers,es who can retell the stories in their own idiom. For scholars, there is a critical analysis and an impressive numerical index of tale types and motifs.’

An edition of The Grimm Tales edited by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. and Alexander H. Krappe wins the favor of Michael:  ‘So what’s so good about this particular volume, as opposed to the numerous other Grimms’ Fairy Tales out there on the market? Quite simply, accuracy. I have to admit a great deal of respect for anyone who can translate this many stories from German, and still manage to keep the authentic flavor of the text, and the colloquial language intact. And if some of the stories seem just a tad … surreal, you can thus blame it on the original text involved. Trust me, some of the originals -are- a bit on the surreal side. It’s a safe bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to publish the Grimms if they were alive and submitting manuscripts today.’

Charles Downing’s Armenian Folk-tales and Fables gets reviewed by Naomi: ‘Armenia is a land which has been ravaged by war on far too many occasions. Other nations keep turning it into a battlefield, and tearing it apart. These tales have survived for many generations in the only way possible, through word of mouth. They were told and retold during the long hard winters, told in the coffee houses for entertainment, and have survived just as the Armenian people have survived.’

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Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’

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Asher proclaims ‘Here is a tale of human folly — “Whatever the cost, do it”. Of a noble dream – “One land, one king!” Of magic – “Can’t you see all around you the Dragon’s breath?” Of its passing – “There are other worlds. This one is done with me.” And of memory – “For it is the doom of men that they forget.” Excalibur is arguably the most exciting film version of the myth of Arthur to date.’

Grey looks at a Terry Gilliam film: ‘The Fisher King is a modern fairy tale after the pattern of stories by authors of urban fantasy like Charles de Lint. Like de Lint, scriptwriter Richard LaGravenese gives us a story in which an indentured servant and a victim of the urban jungle are redeemed by a traditional quest, by their acceptance of roles which echo some of the deepest archetypes from our collective human myths. In this story, those archetypes are the wounded king and the holy fool. However, we also see that in this redemptive quest, the heroes must play both roles to find their Grail.’

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April, our resident Summer Queen, starts off graphic novel reviews with an intriguing offering by looking at the first two volumes in a sprawling series: ‘Imagine, if you will, if the inhabitants of the fairytales you know so well — human and fantastical alike — were alive and well and living in New York. Such is the premise behind Bill Willingham’s Fables series for Vertigo Comics. The Fables, as they call themselves, have long since been driven from their lands by an entity they call only The Adversary. The human-looking Fables settled in New York City, in a neighborhood they call Fabletown. Those who are less than human (think the Three Little Pigs, Shere Kahn, and Oz’s winged monkeys) live in bucolic upstate New York. Good King Cole is mayor of Fabletown, but the real power is in his deputy, Snow White.’

The four issue run of Ballads and Sagas get a look by Debbie: ‘Charles Vess, an extremely talented graphic artist, has done just that. Vess, who has a solid reputation for illustrating such works as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories (also published in graphic novel form) also loves the ballads and sagas that have been entertaining people for hundreds of years, and in this series of books he has collaborated with some of the best-known writers in fantasy literature, including Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Sharyn McCrumb (not a fantasy writer but an author of mysteries with an Appalachian folkloric theme), Midori Snyder, Robert Walton and Delia Sherman (whew!) — I hope I’ve not left anyone out! They tell the stories: he does the illustrations.’

Mia tells us about a charming Appalachian folktale for all ages, as are many such works intended for children: ‘Prequel or stand alone fairy story, A Circle of Cats is a bewitching little book, much bigger inside than out, and a wonderful collaboration between two enormous talents. There’s a place of honor on my bookshelves for this one … when I can finally stop going back to it every little bit and actually bring myself to put it there.’

Steeleye Span, Fairport Concvention and the like were an aspect of the subject of a book, to wit Michael Brocken’s The British Folk Revival, 1944-2002  has a title which sounds like its a history of that re I al but also our reviewer says ‘I better come clean from the get-go: Brocken’s book is a prolonged attack on A.L. Lloyd, a revival singer and writer whose work I love and revere, although I never had the good fortune to meet him.’ You really should read her full review to see where this writer went wrong including as Liz put it, ‘what is probably the most unappealing metaphor ever to muck up the pages of Green Man Review.’

Robert takes a look at a graphic novel that’s not quite a fairy tale. In fact, it’s pretty firmly grounded in Greek mythology: ‘Mike Carey’s The Furies, illustrated by John Bolton, is another spin off from Neil Gaiman’s series The Sandman, and captures that same blend of myth and everyday life that was such a striking feature of Gaiman’s work.’

Robert found another series that updated the Greek myths, Peter Milligan’s Greek Street: ‘Greek Street: Blood Calls for Blood is the first compilation of the individual numbers of the comic series. It offers another retelling of the Greek myths, translated to the seamy underbelly of a contemporary city — in this case, London’s Soho. The center of action, so to speak, is a strip club — the strippers serve as the Chorus. The main story arc is the story of Oedipus — in this case, Eddie, just released from the orphanage and left to his own devices.’

And the story continues in Greek Street: Cassandra Complex: ‘I’m sure you’ve heard the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me, Kate. Well, in the case of Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice’s Greek Street, it should go “Brush Up Your Aeschylus.” And Sophocles. And Euripides. Because you’re going to run into all of them here. In one story.’

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I look at an opera based on a Grimm story:  ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’

Colcannon offers us two tales with Irish music as part of those tales in ‘The Pooka and the Fiddler’ and ‘Happy as Larry’ that Jack loves: ‘Ahhh, there you are. I saw you sitting over in Falstaff’s Chair by the cheerfully cracklin’ fire on this cold, windy, and even rainy night. I see you’re enjoying your novel. . . . Me? I’m reading de Lint’s Moonheart — perhaps his best known work. Not all great literature comes in the form of the printed page — indeed some can only be listened to like those told by the storytellers, who sit in that chair telling stories long after midnight is but a memory, or the entertaining tale told by Colcannon on the recording I saw you eyeing a short while ago in the Library.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

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Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here  but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.

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Staying with the folklore theme,  I’ve got some music for you that I think befits the Autumn season. It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

Oh and Gary did a review of Howard Pollack’s Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man which you can read here.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Nicholas

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He lowered his head as he walked into the Green Man Pub from the Worlds Beyond on a much too cold late Autumn evening. An impressive thing to do given that door’s a shade over eight feet tall. Dressed mostly in black including his Russian style fur hat save a floor length red woollen jacket trimmed with black fur and red detailing.

Strangely enough though he was no longer as big as a small troll when he reached the bar. Still big mind you and stocky too — six and three quarters feet easily, wide shoulders, and I guessed twenty five stone in weight, none of it fat. When he removed his hat, I saw that he had his black hair tied back in a pony tail clasped with a silver seproent chasing itself. And he bore a neatly trimmed goatee and moustache. And deep grey eyes — a rare thing indeed.

I asked his preference in drink. Mead if you got it, he said, or failing that vodka if it’s from Mother Russia. I started him off with our metheglin, the batch that’d been aged for a decade. Rare stuff indeed in a world where most mead makers think a month’s long enough to age it.

He asked in a deep voice, ‘Is this where the members of Local 564 of the Ancient and Venerable Guild of St. Nicholas, which represents Santas, Santa’s helpers, department store elves, tree trimmers, candle lighters, professional gift wrappers, goose stuffers, roast chestnut vendors, plum pudding makers, sleigh drivers, carollers for hire, bell ringers, and related trades holds their annual post-Christmas meeting?’

I was impressed that he got that correct as it’s an invocation when spoken correctly grants the hearer to admit that yes, that’s right.

After pouring him the metheglin, I asked who he was. I thought I knew who but I wanted to make sure my guess was right. He said that he had many names and many guises down the centuries but he preferred to be known as just as Nicholas though he was known also as Winter by many. He was the personification of all the Christmas deities down the years. And he was here because he felt it was time to visit us as many of his mortal helpers here mentioned him in their thoughts.

You really, I said with the deference due a possible God, don’t look like any of the Santas I’ve seen depicted. Hesitantly I went on and said, You really look like the living version of a Tzar who’s indeed the God that Russian peasants thought he was such as Peter the Great or Nicholas II as painted by a particularly well paid artist.

Instead of the frown I expected, he grinned widely showing many gold teeth and roared out a laugh as deep as the roots of a mountain. Well, he said, I do control what I choose to look like and I choose to be like this.

The rest of this tale I’ll tell another time. Suffice it to say now that I learned much about the secret history of all Winter holidays from who was the very first Snow Queen to why the British Royal Family so enthusiastically adopted the trappings of Christmas after the German royalty that married into that line brought those rituals to them.

So for now, I say good night and sleep well. Dream of sugar plum faeries and such if you want, but I’ll be dreaming of a darker, much more pagan holiday.

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What’s New for the 26th of November: The Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, Kurdish pop, Music from Nightnoise, Hot Cocoa, Classic Fairy Tales, Slipstream, and It’s Snowing!

The odd thing about people who had many books was how they always wanted more. — Patricia A. McKillip’s The Bell at Sealey Head

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Yes that’s snow you see out the Pub windows here. And a quite serious snow storm it is for this time of year. The Met‘s forecasting somewhere around eight to ten inches of snow in our area with the temperature staying well below freezing for the foreseeable future. I’ve tossed several well seasoned logs, one apple and the other being maple, on the Pub Fireplace, for warmth and for the ambiance.

Books are being read by many staffers and conversations held as well this afternoon, though there’s no live music as the Neverending Session, a compact group of three players right now, is mooching off the Kitchen staff in exchange for Swedish trad tunes as Astrid, one of our Several Annies, is baking there and she was expressing here earlier a fondness for such tunes. She’ll be doing the Solstice Edition later this year.

I’ve been reading The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock which reads a lot better than most such works do. Holdstock did two amazing series, Ryhope Wood and Celtika, both of which are quite long enough to take an entire Winter to read.  Richard will be giving us full reviews of the new trade paper editions of Mythago Wood and Lavondyss as they’ve new intros and brilliant cover art. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this Edition…

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Grey leads off our book reviews with this tome:  ‘So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this: collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’’

Lory looks lovingly at a mystery done by the creator of Pooh: ‘In the early years of the twentieth century, A. A. Milne was a well-known writer of plays as well as humorous essays and poems. The Red House Mystery, published shortly before he became world-famous as the creator of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, is his only detective novel.’

I really like short story collections and Naomi has a look at one by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling: ‘Black Heart, Ivory Bones is the sixth and final volume in the library of stories inspired by classic fairy tales. It all began in 1990 when the award-winning editors realized that they shared a love of old fairy tales. Not the cute, ‘they lived happily ever after’ tales with their almost blatant morals, which can be found in most nurseries today, but their predecessors. The tales filled with sensuality, darkness, and unexpected twists.‘

For those of you old enough to remember the Golden Age of science fiction, the name ‘Emshwiller’ should ring a lot of bells. Likewise, those of you who are familiar with slipstream/interfictions. Robert takes a look at a biography of two of the most remarkable figures in the field, Luis Ortiz’ Emshwiller: Infinity x Two — The Art and Life of Ed and Carol Emshwiller: ‘The book is also, as so many biographies of figures of the Golden Age seem to be, as much about the history of science fiction as about individual lives. In this case, it is the history of science fiction illustration, with later references to that of avant-garde filmmaking and video art.’

And an additional treat — a look at one of Carol’s books, The Secret City. Says Robert: ‘Carol Emshwiller is one of those writers who seems to have been a closely guarded secret until recently. With the emergence of slipstream fiction, she is becoming more and more of a household word (in some households, at least) and, if The Secret City is any indication, for good reason.’

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As cooler temps become the rule of the day, Denise takes a look at Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix. She found it a lovely way to start the day, and perhaps even enjoy the evening; “…if you’ve a mind, a splash of Kahlua and/or Bailey’s wouldn’t be amiss.” Now go see what she thinks cocoa lovers should give this one a try.

Continuing the cocoa theme, Robert looks at three chocolate bars from Equal Exchange, to wit Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Chocolate Espresso Bean and Extra Dark Chocolate Panama, which weren’t exactly the best bars he’d encountered. Read his review to see why this so.

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Robert takes a look at Brain Camp, a graphic novel he calls — well, let him tell it: ‘I think the best description I’ve seen of Brain Camp, written by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, drawn by Faith Erin Hicks, is “creepy.” Camp Fielding is a parent’s dream: a summer camp dedicated to taking your young loser and turning him or her into, in the words of the camp director, someone “ready for SATs and beyond.”’

And in an entirely different vein, we have Prince of Persia. Robert says: ‘Prince of Persia presents us with another of the increasing number of spin-offs from gaming. It’s an intriguing story, sometimes filled with pathos, sometimes hair-raising, and always ambiguous.’

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Ahhh Clannad, that sort of Celtic group with New Age pretensions as well as jazzy riffs. Well it wasn’t so always, as Jayme notes in reviewing their debut recording called simply Clannad: ‘The surprise is that this album probably doesn’t sound like what the casual Clannad fan expects at all. Every band must start someplace; and Clannad, like most every other Celtic band before and since, started with a repertoire of traditional covers.’

Kim has a conversation with several members of Danú, an Irish group which was done when they were early on in their career: ‘I spoke with Ciarán Ó Gealbháin (vocalist) and Donnchadh Gough (bodhrán and uilleann pipes) about the influences on Danú’s music, and the blending of new sounds with the old traditions. Their main stage set on Friday evening was one of the high points of the evening for me, they were enthusiastic, with both great instrumentals, and a vocalist with an actual great voice. Danú hail from Co. Waterford, although several musicians have come from other parts of Ireland, and the fiddle player, Jesse, is a U.S. expatriate.’

Robert brings us a look at a CD by a group that is not even remotely Celtic — in fact, it’s from the other end of Europe: Boban Marković Orkestar’s Boban i Marko: ‘There seems to be, in the Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, an affinity for Western jazz. This does not mean that the music performed by the Boban Marković Orkestar is jazz, but simply that jazz wanders in and feels very much at home. What the music is, is lively, often exotic, and yet somehow familiar.’

And another album from an entirely different culture — would you believe Kurdish pop? Robert discusses Sivan Perwer’s self-titled album: ‘It may seem odd to make this statement about a recording by a Kurdish popular singer, but this album rocks.’

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For our What Not this week, Robert hauls out a bit of arcana: the Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi: ‘The Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi is a facsimile edition compiled from decks now housed in the Pierpont-Morgan Library, the Accademia Carrara, and the Casa Colleoni. The cards themselves are beautiful, although somewhat strange to modern eyes – the decks from which this group has been assembled were in use nearly 600 years ago, during the High Middle Ages in Italy, and for those who enjoy medieval art, they are captivating.’

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So let’s finish off with some choice music from Nightnoise, to wit ‘Toys, Not Ties’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-six years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and also included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bonfires

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Nothing warms my heart and body as much as a bonfire does. Oh I know that I could be inside with my wife Bree enjoying the warmth of the fireplaces in our Cottage , but I love, particularly as Autumn gives way to Winter, being outside when a roaring bonfire’s been built.

We build bonfires often in the courtyard here at the Kinrowan Estate. Sometimes we have lively contradances deep into the night with bloody big mugs of hot chocolate, spiced cider or tea to aid in keeping everyone warm, and sometimes the Neverending Session treats those who care to come out in the cold to music by fire and moonlight. There’s something rather amazing to hear those musos play long into the night with the stars overhead.

Now building a proper bonfire is not something most folks know how to do. They think just throwing anything wooden into a pile and lighting is all there is to it.  And we won’t even dwell on the idiots who use petrol to ignite their bonfires which is a sure way to get someone hurt badly.

A proper bonfire first of all needs a pit, preferably made out of stone. Ours is twelve feet across and three feet deep — need I say that it’s set a safe distance from anything that could catch fire? The wood for the bonfire should be a mix of softwoods like spruce and pine for both its quick burning and its lovely crackling sound; the hardwoods we use are maple and oak as they’ll burn a long time.

Our fire pit has a three foot wide flat lip — perfect for sitting on as the fire dies down. As the courtyard has a nice stone tile surface perfect for dancing (at least ’til it gets really cold); we often use the bonfire as a light source for those dances. And we’ve actually roasted whole pigs in the pit — really good eating that makes!

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What’s New for the 19th of November: Of Dragons and Other Matters


I am Jomungand, the Last Dinosaur, destroyer, devourer, ravager of kingdoms and epochs, all greed and covetness, brooding loneliness. Once I was Dragon, but in this scientific age that is no longer stylish. The flames I kept for high drama. Now I, who was once Behemoth, am only pieced-together bones, first believed to belong to biblical giants, fresh-dug by nearsighted archaeologists, given flesh by faint intellects, made poorer by lack of imagination. — James Stoddard’s The High House, volume one of the Evenmere trilogy.

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There are no Dragons here on the Kinrowan Estate save the hidden stone one in The Wild Wood and a de Vinci style drawing of one such creature that appears every so often on the bulletin board near the Green Man Pub. Now Dragons in fiction are quite common, be it le Guin’s Earthsea series, Stoddard’s Evenmere trilogy, Tolkien”s The Hobbit, Yolen and  Ming’s Merlin and The Dragon or the Vald Taltos stories of Steven Brust (although those are a different order of dragon, to be sure). There’s even a touching story of a dragon in Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.

Now there are definitely impressive looking dragons to be found in the Charles Vess illustrated edition of the Earthsea trilogy that Saga Press will be publishing early next year. As the article on the Tor website notes: ‘In 2018, Saga Press will publish all six of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels in one volume, to mark the 50th anniversary of her landmark fantasy series. What’s more, The Books of Earthsea will be the first fully illustrated edition, with the cover and both color and black-and-white interior illustrations (including chapter headings, full-page illustrations, and smaller pictures) by Charles Vess.’  Oh that’s impressive!

Of course there’s a connection to Dragons this time, as you should expect. So let’s see what is here…

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Drawing Down The Moon: The Art of Charles Vess is is an exhibition catalogue for a show that should’ve been for someone who’s illustrated such works as Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a favourite of mine. Let’s have Charles explain why I believe this: ‘All you need to do is flip through the book to realize that when it comes to traditional fairy, folk tale and fantasy art, there are few artists who do it better than Vess.’

Gary looks at a novel that has a very prominent dragon in it, to wit R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as illustrated by Jemima Catlin: ‘This is a handsome book, green cloth over board with a color-and-gilt illustration of Bilbo resting against a vine-covered tree on the cover. It’s a perfect size for reading aloud, its illustrations just right to be seen when held up by the reader or the book is sturdy enough to be passed around. Those illustrations, as befits this rather gentle adventure tale, are humorous or mildly scary as appropriate. As a bonus, you can read it in just about the same amount of time that it would take you to watch all three installments of the overblown and misguided movie adaptation.’

A book by Stephen Ekman that takes its title from the mythology of these creatures gets reviewed by me: ‘Now we have a really detailed look at the role of fantasy maps and the settings they help create in fantasy literature. (Though weirdly enough, Here Be Dragons has only three such maps in it suggesting the author either had trouble getting permission to use more such maps or the use of them was deemed too costly.) It is not the usual collection of edited articles but appears an actual cohesive look at this fascinating subject.‘

Robert looks at an old favourite: ‘The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was the first book by Patricia A. McKillip that I ever read. Two things struck me about it: it was different than any other fantasy I had read to that point, most of which were in the high-minded, seriously heroic mode, but written in “realistic” prose; and it was funny. I didn’t know fantasy could be funny.’ (Dragon? Of course there’s a dragon.)

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Cat notes of Hellboy: Sword of Storms that ‘If you’re looking for a fix as you wait for the long might be Hellboy film, this animated film along with the other animated film, Hellyboy: Blood and Iron, will hopefully tide you over. They certainly fulfilled my Hellboy jones!‘ Read his review to see how Dragons figure into this tale.

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Soup is a comfort food here on the Kinrowan Estate once cold weather arrives to drag on far too long, so Mrs. Ware and her staff do such things as a roasted pumpkin soup served with a generous dollop of Riverrun sour cream on each bowl when it’s served. The trick is to roast chunks of pumpkin in the wood fired oven until they acquire a bit of char which brings out the rich flavour of the pumpkin… So let’s have Gus tell you the tale of the always simmering stockpots.

Robert lucked out and got to review a Super-Dark Mexican-Style Stone-Ground chocolate from Taza: ‘I have to admit I was somewhat surprised at this one: the strongest chocolate I’ve ever had was 70% cacao, and I was thinking that 85% was really pushing it, but quite frankly, for us certified chocoholics, this is a real treat. The texture is somewhat exotic because of the graininess, but rather than being a drawback, it sort of made me wonder what I’d been missing all these years.’

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The Winter Holidays are fast approaching, so are you looking for that perfect gift for your lover of English folk rock? Oh, do I have a gift that’s perfect! EMI has recently served up A Parcel of Steeleye Span. This triple disc set contains the entirety of their first five albums for Chrysalis, from 1972’s Below The Salt to 1975’s All Around My Hat with A Parcel of Rogues, Commoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.

Kim notes ‘This is the album that got the Hedningarna phenomenon going, a richly textured, darkly fascinating instrumental album by the “core” trio of Björn Tollin (frame drum, string drum, hurdy-gurdy, moraharpa), Anders Norudde (fiddle, hardanger fiddle, moraharpa, swedish bagpipe, bowed harp, jews harp, wooden and pvc bass flutes) and Hållbus Totte Mattsson (lute, baroque guitar, hurdy gurdy). On more recent albums, the group has expanded to include other players and some dynamite vocalists, most recently exploring the roots of Swedish folk traditions in Russia on Karelia Visa.’

Another take on Swedish folk traditions (among others) is Fylgja’s Strå. Robert notes: ‘“Fylgja” in Scandinavian folklore is a guardian spirit that appears in dreams, often seen as female. Fylgja in contemporary music is a group composed of three Danes and two Swedes, with strong roots in traditional Scandinavian music and a tendency to draw upon whatever tradition looks interesting.’

In that vein, Robert had some thoughts on tradition in music while he was listening to Mozaik’s Changing Trains: ‘What I’m noticing in my journey through “traditional” music is, first of all, tradition is what you make of it (in other words, anyone who works with traditional music is negotiating with the past), and second, there are lots of traditions (which is to say, everyone who works with traditional music is also negotiating with everyone else).’

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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.’

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No dragons in our Coda for this week, but a nice little dance by Andrew York that seems to defy time and place — Sharon Isbin plays ’Andecy’, which is also featured on her album Journey to the New World. Give a listen — it will certainly lighten your mood.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Kedgeree

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I had an exemplary kedgeree for my breakfast this morning along with a lovely lapsang souchong tea. Now if you’re reading this in the States, you might be puzzled as to what I ate. And when you hear what it is, you might well say that kedgeree doesn’t sound like a breakfast dish ‘tall!

Kedgeree, as prepared by Mrs. Ware and her kitchen staff here at Kinrowan, is a dish comprised of curried rice, smoked salmon and chopped eggs with a splash of cream as well.  On a cold, blustery morning such as we’re having here in the middle of November, since I promised Gus that I’d be part of the crew cleaning up the nearby grounds, it is bloody fine comfort food.

It’s considered a traditional British breakfast dish but its roots are in East Indian, cooking having started its life as khichari, a simple dish of rice and lentils. Due to the British Raj and the colonization of the sub-continent the, dish was adapted and turned into something more suited to those Brits serving in India, and it returned to Britain with them during the Victorian era.

Notice that I said we make it here using smoked salmon, specifically applewood smoked salmon. The salmon comes from the river that runs through our Estate and it works just fine. I Should note that our Kitchen doesn’t use sultanas, though some cooks do. Ours is also quite a bit more spicy than the somewhat milder version most Brits prefer.

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What’s New for the 12th of November: Dead Can Dance peform ‘The Lotus Eaters’, an Alan Garner novel for adults and other Autumnal matters

I came to the realization many years ago that I like big, strong, even aggressive tastes: cheddars so sharp they make your eyes water, curries in general, though preferably fairly hot, garlic-heavy Middle-Eastern mezes, chilli-saturated Mexican dishes, hugely fruity Aussie wines, and thumpingly, almost aggressively flavoured whiskies. — Iain Banks in Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram

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I can smell garlic, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and butter-braised lamb as I approach our Kitchen… All welcome smells, especially on this raw, rainy afternoon on this Scottish estate where the temperature will be hard pressed to reach freezing.

It’ll be a day of naps, reading and noshing for most of the Estate staff who can avoid going out into the raw weather. Rebekah, our newish Kitchen staffer who’s from Haifa, uses a day like this to do a stunning array of Jewish sweeks, to wit date-filled hamantash, krembo (a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat), rugelakh, some filled with raspberry jam and some filled with chocolate, and even ma’amoul, small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts.

And that yeasty smell that is ever appreciated is freshly baked whole wheat sourdough rolls more than warm enough to warrant butter and the jam of your choice on them are present as will. Join me in the Kitchen after you peruse this Edition.

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April starts our book reviews off with a work from Charles de Lint: ‘Part murder mystery, part horror story, Mulengro is a de Lint urban fantasy of a different sort. Set in and around modern day Ottawa, the novel is, above all else, a study in colliding cultures, namely those of Rom and Gaje (all that is not Rom), that which is resilient yet transitory and that which is possessive.’

Cat has a caution about Boneland,  an Alan Garner work he listened to: ‘Let’s start off with what Boneland isn’t: despite sharing a primary character with The Weirdstone of Brisingame andThe Moon of Gomrath, beloved children’s novels known as The Alderley Tales that were published in 1957 and 1964, this is very much an adult novel not intended for the pleasure of children whatsoever. Indeed its tone is more akin to what the late Robert Holdstock did in his Ryhope Wood series than anything else Alan Garner has done excepting Thursbitch and Strandloper.’

Denise is an unabashed Sookie Stackhouse fan (don’t know that name? Maybe you’ve heard about the television show True Blood? Thought so.) So when author Charlaine Harris came out with The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories, she gave it a look. And she liked what she saw. ‘It’s good to be back in Bon Temps y’all. Reading these stories felt like I was slipping on my favorite pair of jean shorts and settling into the front porch swing. Fans of Sookie will definitely feel the same. A tall cool glass of sweet tea is optional, but highly encouraged.’

Robert has a look at one of a series that has become rather more than a mere series. In this case, it’s Kage Baker’s The Machine’s Child: ‘What Baker is doing is putting together an extended mega-novel with all of time and all of humanity as its focus. By this stage of the game, it’s become something on the order of Wagnerian opera, but accomplished with characters and relationships rather than with musical leitmotifs.’

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Films start first as scripts that are continuously amended as circumstances require. Denise looks at Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary’s Beowulf: The Script Book: ‘Unlike most people, I have fond memories of reading Beowulf in high school. Maybe that’s why I’m writing for GMR rather than some other site. But the tale of a hero riding in to save the day — and rip the arm off of a monster with his bare hands — was fantastic to my highschool D&D playin’ eyes. I like barbarians, what can I say? So I figured the script book would be just as interesting.’

Ahh Time Bandits. Not ‘tall surprisingly, Kage, author of the aforementioned, time spanning The Company series, loved it: ‘Time Bandits was a critical and commercial hit. Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’pumpkins

As Hallowe’en has come and gone, thoughts turn from Fun Size treats to things more substantial. Denise tore into a bar of Alter Eco Dark Blackout 85% Cocoa Chocolate Bar, and paused just long enough to jot down a review. ‘If this is the kind of stuff Alter Eco puts out, I’m eager to try more. Read on to find out exactly what this dark-but-not-too-dark chocolate lover thought about this treat.’

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April reviews the first volume in an ongoing series by David Petersen: ‘The year is 1152, treachery is afoot, and the Mouse Guard, defenders of all mice, must suss out the traitor in their midst before the Guard is destroyed. So goes the basic plot of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a graphic novel collection of Petersen’s award-winning comic. And just so there’s no confusion, Mouse Guard isn’t a nickname or colloquialism — the protagonists really are mice, the small, furry rodent kind.’

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Blowzabella is one of our favourite groups here, so a tune book by them is a great treat! Barb, a practicing muiscian 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 reports from the mysterious frontier portrayed in the music of Gun Outfit. Their new album Out of Range, he says, is ‘a guitar-laden melange of cosmic Americana, psychedelia and desert airiness, recognizable to fans of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Meat Puppets, Giant Sand and the like.’

Gary also reviews a new album by American singers Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton, founders of the Be Good Tanyas. Wildflower Blues, he says, ‘… has a slightly ramshackle, down-home vibe … that fits these songs and musicians well.’

Kim exclaims of Gjallarhorn’s Grimborg that ‘What is it about Nordic folk music that draws you? Is it the wailing fiddles, the slight dissonance that seems to tap into something very basic? Is it the melodies, the lilt to the tunes? And Gjallarhorn’s magic? Was it the wild cant to the songs that married didgeridoo, fiddle and wild percussion? Or was it the evocative strings? Dear Reader, if you haven’t yet had the Gjallarhorn experience, you’ve missed out!’

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What’s the best way to spend a birthday? For some, it’s a rollicking craic with a few hundred of your nearest and dearest. Others prefer a smaller gathering of friends, while there are those who choose to bask in the company of one, and a single candle to commemorate the occasion. Here at GMR, birthdays are typically a whirlwind affair complete with Cook’s famous/infamous Mystery Cake, ‘Birthday’ by The Beatles on the turntable, and, of course, lots of candles. However you celebrate, be sure to be kind to yourself. And remember, it’s not just a birthday, it’s a birth month. And technically a birth year … but until that time machine is perfected, days and months are all we’ll be getting. Probably for the best.

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We have something a little out of the ordinary for our Coda this week — a glimpse of something sensuous, hypnotic, and almost tropical to counter the wintery day: Dead Can Dance peform ‘The Lotus Eaters’ live in Den Haag. The song is also found on their ‘best of’ album, Wake.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Icelandic Tunes

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You up too? My old bones are aching far too much to sleep, so I thought I’d sit here in the Pub, a glass of something strong in hand, and listen to the Neverending Session who for some reason are playing Icelandic tunes tonight while I ponder how each winter’s just a bit harder to take. Oh, but the warm fire as I sit in Falstaff’s Chair does feel rather good!

Why Icelandic fiddle tunes, you ask? I, too, was wondering. Even here, in a building that was practically built on music, they were once an uncommon thing to hear. But Estate staffers have been collecting music for so long that it’s said we have a Fey recording somewhere of a carnyx being played at the burial of a Elf Lord — a sound that will send a chill clear to your marrow as it did to Roman soldiers encountering it in ancient Britain.

It is said that an Icelandic woman by the name of Kárhildur came here to share her herbal lore a century back on the invitation of Lasy Alexandra, the Estate Head Gardener, and she ended up staying far longer than the Summer and Autumn she planned. Being here in the Winter meant she being a violinist shared her tunes and thr much older Icelandic ones.

So do have a drink of Brennivín (Black Death), a particularly potent drink fashioned after a libaition popular in Iceland, while we listen for a while as it sounds as though they’re just beginning ‘Rimur Og Kvaedalog’, a favorite of mine to play as well.

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What’s New for the 5th of November: Our Guy Fawkes celebration, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, a new recording of old Albanian folk music, Wolves and the Wilderness in the Middle Ages and other matters…


On November the Fifth people gather on the heath
Point their Roman candles at the sky
Out of broken branch and leaf they construct a fiery wreath
Ready for the burning of the Guy

The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Home Fires’

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Of course some of us here being good Scots, we wholeheartedly celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with a ritual burning of the traitor in a bonfire. We do skip setting off the traditional fireworks as various creatures resident here really, really don’t like them.

The Several Annies usually construct him from paper and plaster over a wire frame with each group trying to be creative, such as when they recreated the gunpowder casks he tried to set off before he was captured. This year, they just did Guy himself and put authentic-looking clothing and boots upon their creation. Almost a shame that we burned him but he was a Papist after all.

Surprised that we’re at least nominally anti-papist? Don’t be as this is after all a Scottish Estate and many of us are Scots born and raised. Even if Halloween is supplanting that day in much of Great Britain (as writer Christopher Fowler, author of many books sugh as The Victoria Vanishes, laments here), we still relish it on this Estate, even though we also celebrate All Hallows Eve and Samhain as well!

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Jack has a look at a history of the plot that underlies Guy Fawkes Day: ‘In Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpower Plot, Antonia Fraser whose bestselling books include Mary Queen of Scots and  Six Wives of Henry VIII again demonstrates her ability to bring history to life. Antonia clearly doesn’t believe what James Goldman said in his introduction to his play The Lion in Winter: “Historians and storytellers don’t have much in common, but they do share this: the past, once it gets hold of you, does actually come alive. For scholars, this is troublesome. For writers, it’s the good stuff.” Antonia believes that history truly does come to life if told properly.’

If you’re not into plots or burning effigies, how about a nice book about Wolves and the Wilderness in the Middle Ages? That’s something that fits the time of year. Robert notes: ‘The wolf has been a potent image in myth, folklore, and fairy tales throughout history, and one would expect that to be particularly true of the Middle Ages, when so many of our legends and tales had their beginnings. Aleksander Pluskowski presents a detailed study of the wolf image in the early Middle Ages, tracing its development from Pagan sources through the period of the conversion to Christianity.’

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Tom Baker is considered one of the best Doctors by most fans of the Dr. Who series and  Cat has a look at one of his stories: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang with great enthusiasm crafted a Hammer Films worthy horror monster with a sf trope of the Evil Warlord fleeing justice by time traveling back to an era where he could muster his forces for another attempt at total domination.’

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Even visitors to Kinrowan Hall get put to useful work if someone such as the Kitchen staff needs a hand. Elizabeth, author of such works as The Stratford Man novels of Ink and Steel and  Hell and Earth discovered that one late autumnal evening. It’s a mundane affair (I think) but well-worth your reading as it’s a quite charming a tale.

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Cat has more horror for us in a D.C. series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’

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Kage and Kathleen have a look at Jethro Tull’s Live at Montreux 2003. ‘Montreux is no longer just about jazz. However, if you like jazz but are in the dark about rock and roll… . no, there is no Jethro in Jethro Tull — the group was named long ago for an 18th century agronomist. Even if you are totally befuddled about rock, you may well recognize Ian Anderson, the lead singer, lead writer and — well, leader: he’s the cold-eyed Scottish flautist who has been fronting the band (mostly standing on one foot) for the last 40 years.’

A new recording of old Albanian folk music called saze got Gary’s attention. ‘This is definitely one of the world music releases of the year,’ he says of At Least Wave Your Handkerchief at Me by an ensemble called Saz’iso.

Gary has good things to say about the self-titled fourth release by Canadian Tamara Lindeman, who performs as The Weather Station. ‘The playing, the arrangements and the production are all notable, but what holds it all together is Lindeman’s voice. It’s a superb and engaging instrument, and she’s wielding it with precise and gifted phrasing.’

Gary reports from the mysterious frontier that lives in the music of Gun Outfit. Their new album Out of Range, he says, is ‘a guitar-laden melange of cosmic Americana, psychedelia and desert airiness, recognizable to fans of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Meat Puppets, Giant Sand and the like.’

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November may seem an odd time to look at a zoo, but as Robert points out in his tour of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, this one is open 365 days a year and there are nice cozy houses you can stop in to get out of the chill: ‘Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States, is brand-new – again. Over the past ten or fifteen years, the Zoo has undergone a major update, with new exhibits, better quarters for the collections, and a stronger emphasis on conservation and breeding of endangered species.’pumpkins

For your Guy Fawkes celebration, let’s finish with ‘‘Home Fires’, the Guy Fawkes song from The Men They Couldn’t Hang, a left of centre English folk rock band whose recordings we’ve reviewed many times. I’ll note that this this is definitely representative of the band and its music.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Hedge Witches (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

As you well know, I, unlike you, was schooled in the university of the land. I don’t regret it but it was a very good thing that I apprenticed to Macpherson, the Head Gardener before me, as the man knew more about botany than anyone save a hedge witch. And he knew one of those, too, so she filled in on my education where he couldn’t.

Scots are an odd bunch — even when they were strongly Christian, they believed deeply in hedge witches. Oh they might have called them healers, they might have called them herbalists, but they were hedge witches. Almost all were women, though a few down the centuries were men.

The particular hedge witch Angus had me work with was Lisbeth ab Owain Gwynedd, a lady who had been given a cottage on the Estate many decades ago. She helped Angus keep the animals and humans here healthy. She rarely went off the Estate, but that wasn’t unusual, given that we operate pretty much as a self-sufficient affair. She certainly didn’t need to leave the Estate for any of her needed botanicals, as she claimed only the plants that grew here would actually be beneficial.

Macpherson and ab Owain Gwynedd deeply believed in leylines, which they said ran across the entire Estate. They said that the best medicinal plants were found were the lines intersected, forming pools of geomantic energies. In her cottage was a map on sheep skin she said was many centuries old that showed all these lines.

Remember the circle of stones we found a few years back? They’re on the map as are several sacred springs and what ab Owain Gwynedd called fairy circles. Though there are superb mushrooms growing in the latter, no one harvests them.

Sadly ab Owain Gwynedd apparently passed on several decades back. No one knew how old she was but some claimed she was well over a hundred. Another hedge witch, Tamsin Sorenson, now occupies her cottage. The odd thing is that Tamsin attracts owls, lots of owls, with the woods around the cottage full during the day with them sleeping. But that’s another story for another time!

with affection Gus

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What’s New for the 29th of October: Halloween is Nigh on Us!

I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there
None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead

Fairport Convention’s ‘Tam Lin’

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 It’s quite cold and blustery here on this Scottish Estate so we’re all thankful that  the Fey provide the lighting for the exterior pumpkins as candles of a conventional nature wouldn’t stay lit at all. But the lighting of a supernatural nature is perfect. We here on the Estate and invited guests will be celebrating by attending a concert by the Neverending Session  in which they perform Halloween music, both classical such asDanse Macabre’ and  more contemporary tunes such as ’The Great Pumpkin’ and one by the Red Clay Ramblers, ‘The Pumpkin Dance’.

Roast pumpkin soup, sourdough rolls shaped like skulls, cinnamon-spiced pork hand pies and nutmeg-spiced pumpkin ice cream will be our eventide meal tonight which will be perfect for working off when we have a midnight contradance by Chasing Fireflies which tonight is Ingrid, our Steward, on hand drums, Bela, our Hungarian violinist, Finch, one of our barkeeps, on Border smallpipes and Iain, our Librarian on violin.

Now let’s turn to our more or less Halloween-centric edition. To start things off, how about a lovely reading of ‘Halloween’ by Robert Burns? It’s a poem perfect for the season, and read by David Hart with just a wee touch o’ the brogue. As for the rest of the haunts in this issue? I think you’ll find much to check out later. I think there’s even going to be some food and drink of a Halloween nature courtesy of, well, let’s keep that a secret …

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Cat starts off our book reviews with Smoking Mirror Blues, a novel by Ernest Hogan. Cat says of it that ‘In the very near future, the citizens of Los Angeles are preparing to celebrate Dead Daze, a bacchanalian rave of a holiday that’s an over-the-top merging of All Hallows Eve, the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Mardi Gras. The reawakened Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, riding the body of a human, is feeling quite well, thank you! And let’s not forget that the Day of the Dead, which forms part of Dead Daze, is at its heart a time when the barriers between the dead and the still-living are all but completely erased. So maybe the gods do walk again … And this holiday, not dissimilar to the one in the Strange Days movie, needs National Guard troops to prevent rioting!’

So how about a Day of The Dead set story that involves a small town mechanic called Grace who discovers the man she loves is dead? And that she can cross over when the veils are thin to see him? Such is the premise of Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace which Cat notes that ‘It is a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything else by him at all, but gives you a good feel for what he is like as a writer, as it has well-crafted characters, believable settings, and a story that will hold your interest. And it is a novel that you will read again to get some of the nuances that get missed in the first reading.’

Craig has a review of a horror novel set on a closely related holiday: ‘Brian A. Hopkins is an acclaimed writer and editor (he has won Bram Stoker Awards under both guises) who also operates an innovative publishing company (Lone Wolf Publications, which produced the multimedia anthology Tooth and Claw, Volume One and another Stoker winner, The Imagination Box), yet who still has time to crank out terrific work for other smaller houses like Earthling Publications. El Dia de los Muertos (“the Day of the Dead”) is his most recent Stoker recipient, winning the 2002 award for best novella.’

Halloween is the time for vampires, and so Denise takes a look at Gross and Altman’s Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy and Angel. She found an detailed “oral history” that is sure to please fans of both shows.  ‘I can feel the authors’ love for their subject, and their excitement is contagious.  … [A] fun read that’ll keep you in party anecdotes for this coming holiday season, and into the next one.’

One of our Garys has a look at Christopher Golden and James A. Moore’s Bloodstained  Oz: ‘If you like lots of violence and gore, and you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz, then you’ll like this book. The evil manifestations of Baum’s characters are one of the highlights of the book. If you like a book with an ending, prepare yourself to write your own, as the authors apparently intended.’

Jack looks at a Diane Wynne Jones novel that befits this holiday: ‘It’s a good solid book with memorable characters and an engrossing plot which got read in one rather long sitting on a cold, rainy afternoon late in October. SEversl pots of Earl Grey tea and a number of the tHe Kitchen’s excellent scones were devoured in the reading of Fire & Hemlock.’

Love, hate, or baffled by The Wicker Man, there’s no denying it’s a horror classic.  No, not the horrendous 2006 remake, but the original 1973 film starring Christopher Lee.  The original film has caught the eye of many, including many academics. Kestrell takes a look at Benjamin Franks’ The Quest for The Wicker Man: History, Folklore, and Pagan Perspectives, a collection of articles from a conference that focused on the film.  ‘The Quest for The Wicker Man is highly recommended for any dedicated Wicker Man fan and especially for academics writing about this classic cult film.’  Read more about this collection in her review!

Nellie looks at The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: ‘Through Jean Markale’s book we can find the real legitimacy for Halloween as a holiday. It is not simply about children traipsing from door to door looking for candy (or else! Trick or Treat!). It is not simply about a reverence for ancestors, or a time to let go of all inhibition. There is a reality to it that gives it a deeper presence, and which beckons us to seek its true meaning, in addition to its true history.’

A fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

We next look at Ray Bradbury’s quintessential Autumn novel and film which gets an appreciative review by the previous reviewer: ‘By right and nature, all October babies should love Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is a love letter to autumn, and to the Halloween season in particular, a gorgeous take on maturity and self-acceptance and all the dark temptations that come crawling ‘round when the calendar creeps close to October 31st.’

Just in time for the festivities a couple of nights from now, Robert has a look at Alex Irvine’s The “Supernatural” Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons, and Ghouls: ‘I seem to be faced with another one of those television spin-offs, this time from the series Supernatural, about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who hunt demons and other nasty customers not entirely of this world ….
Alex Irvine has taken this basis, and the various creatures the brothers encounter, drawn from myths, urban legends, and folklore, and turned it into a “bestiary of the unnatural”.’

Thomas has a guide to this holiday for us: ‘Halloween, an unofficial holiday, is nonetheless celebrated by millions of people in North America and the British Isles, rivaling only Christmas in popularity. In the heavily illustrated Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, York University professor of history Nicholas Rogers traces the history of this holiday from its alleged beginnings as a Celtic festival, Samhain, marking the end of summer, to its many and various manifestations today. ’

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Horror films have been part of the Halloween experience in the States for a very long time now. And we’ve had our share of wonderful seasonal treats, as well as time-wasting tricks.

Denise takes a look at a ‘trick’ of a tale with her review of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. She doesn’t hold back on her distaste: ‘If the folks responsible for this garbage really wanted to depart from the first two films and create something authentic, this basic story could have been an interesting movie …. Happy Halloween? Not with this clunker.’  Read her review for exactly why she’s nonplussed.

Another trick-y tale is The Haunted Mansion, a film based on a ride at the Disney resorts. Denise thinks that all the beautiful set design can’t make up for a film that can’t quite figure itself out.  ‘This is a lovely film to look at, but there’s not a lot of substance. Just double-check to make sure any young children you take are up for a pretty good scare.’

A choice bit of British horror is next.  Jekyll is ably reviewed for us by Kestrell who says that ‘this version is not so much a remake as a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story. The story is relocated from Victorian Edinburgh to contemporary London and follows one of Jekyll’s descendents, a research scientist named Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt).’ Kestrell concludes that ‘While I found this re-telling of a traditional story exciting and exceptionally well done, I would suggest that this series is not for everyone. Viewers looking for a remake of the original story will not find it here; those viewers who prefer American Hollywood effects may also be disappointed.’

2F1E3C1F-3976-487C-BB76-623C51D8C475Festive Samhain, everyone! Denise here, and I’ve stolen away the food and drink section this issue. Why? Because ghoulish delights abound! I’ve stuffed my face with all sorts of seasonal delights … though not everything was particularly delightful. Come along and see, won’t you?

First off, in a nod to the spirit of the season, Dunkin’ Donuts released a slew of themed donuts. I tried their Spider Donut, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. “It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.” Read on to learn more!

Want something savory instead?  How about Transylvanian cheese?  Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese, to be exact. Let’s just say that if you’re able to get your hands on some, you should. There’s more to be had in the review, but for now let’s just leave it at this; ‘Thank you, Transylvania.’


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Robert has a look at a suitably scary graphic novel from a story originally penned by Robert E. Howard: ‘Pigeons from Hell is an adaptation by Joe R. Lansdale of a story by Robert E. Howard, with art by Nathan Fox and color by Dave Stewart. Lansdale is at pains to point out, in his “Notes from the Writer,” that it is really an “adaptation” — updated, exploring some new facets of Howard’s story, and not to be confused with the original, all of which leads me to treat it as its own creature.’

And what would Halloween be without demons and ghosties and that sort of thing? Well, that’s what we get with the latest incarnation of John Constantine, in Hellblazer, Vol. 1: The Poison Truth. Says Robert: ‘I’ll be honest: John Constantine is not a comic book hero who has ever really grabbed me. I can’t think of any particular reason for that, unless it’s his rapid-fire delivery and glib personality. Maybe it’s because he’s a sociopath, and I’ve learned to be wary of those — even comics. (It’s a wonder how many of the characters in this collection really don’t like Constantine very much, but they go along with him.)’

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Robert has a look at a fairly tale full of goblins, ghosts, and witches — it’s Philip Glass’ The Witches of Venice, based on the book by Beni Montresor: ‘The King and Queen of Venice are bemoaning the lack of an heir. Sure enough, two fairies appear from the Lagoon with a plant: if the King plants it in his garden, a child will be born. The King is not impressed and throws the plant out the window.’ You can guess what happens after that, but read the review anyway.

Gary tells us about an album of what’s called ‘dark polar ambient’ music by a Russian musician who performs under the name Ugansie: ‘If you like drone or ambient or dark experimental music, Border of Worlds is for you. If you just want something spooky to play in your haunted house at Halloween, ditto.’

‘There’s nothing very pretty about this record,’ Gary says of Jeffrey Martin’s One Go Around. ‘It’s all as real as the hard roads traveled by the people in his songs.’

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I’ll admit I love our pumpkin graphic that we’ve been using these past few weeks. But as Halloween is fast approaching, I think of Jack-o-Lanterns, and how living in the modern world is a good thing this time of year. Oh, not because of scientific progress, technological marvels, or anything like that, though all these things are wonderful and much appreciated. No, it’s because now we carve pumpkins rather than turnips for our Jack-o-Lanterns. I just don’t have the patience, nor the skill, to whittle a turnip into a candle holder. Though the turnip is trying to make a comeback, this year I’ll be marveling at – and being especially grateful for – our gourd-y seasonal visitors.

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Very long after the band recorded Leige and Leif, which Deborah plays proper homage to in, “Trad Boys, Trad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do….?” Liege & Lief remembered, Fairport Convention played the entire album live at their own summer bash, the ‘07 Cropredy Festival. Everyone who was on the 1969 recording save Sandy Denny who had passed on was on stage so with Chris While doing the vocals for this epic experience. The soundboard recording is stellar, so here’s ‘Tam Lin’ as performed on a warm summer night.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Puppets and Their Masters (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I was lusting after a wee dram of Laphroig very late one night as I wasn’t sleeping well so I got dressed, left my sweet wife sleeping, and made my way to the Pub. As you know, it never closes, though other than the handful of Neverending Sessions musos, it’s rather quiet in the dead of the night hours. So I was quite surprised to see a fair number of folk there!

I was even more surprised to have The Old Man tending bar and he pointed to a storyteller cloaked in fall colours sitting in the Falstaff Chair near the Fireplace.

She was maybe fifty years old with deep green eyes and long red hair; no ornamentation could be seen and shadows lay deep around her. I saw that there were deep lines on her face, maybe from the sun, maybe from whatever life had tossed at her. Then I noticed she had a bagful of hand puppets: queens, knights, kings, dragons, and Queen Mab only knew what else was in there.

Her voice matched her clothing — like old oak leaves rustling in the wind. I listened carefully and discovered her tale was one of knights unjustly slain, kingdoms lost from sheer stupidity, and justified regicide turned to ashes in the mouth. The story I admit sounded like a combination of something written by William Shakespeare and G.R R. Martin, but her telling was so moving that it mattered nought what the source material was, as her voice and her puppets made it come alive. When her Queen puppet stabbed her king puppet, it seemed as though blood dripped from his back. Her Ghost really looked like it it was semi-transparent and was truly chilling.

I sipped my dram of Laphroig and appreciated the sheer artistry of her show. Then the weirdest thing happened — she went lifeless, all animation gone from her, and she fell slowly to the floor. Out of the deep shadows behind the massive chair, a woman looking much like the puppet that The Storyteller had been stepped out and bowed deeply. As all of us looked on stunned at what happened, both her and her puppets disappeared when The Old Man briefly blinked the Pub lights.

All that was left was a handful of oak leaves swirling in the air in front of her chair.

The Old Man refused to answer any questions ; Reynard the next day just smiled and went back to making Irish Coffee for a Pub patron, and Jack when I cornered him in The Library claimed that I’d obviously been too sleepy to see what really happened. I know they know what happened but I’ll bedeviled if I know why it’s a secret.

Your puzzled friend, Iain

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What’s New for the 22nd of October: Some Nordic recordings, a new Brust novel, Bonbons, Crochet History, Got Boobs?, Kage at Christmas, Old Hag tunes and other matters

She looks like the wizened old crone in that painting Jilly did for Geordie when he got into this kick of learning fiddle tunes with the word ‘hag’ in the title: ‘the Hag in the Kiln,’  ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me,’ ‘The Hag With the Money,’ and god knows how many more. Just like in the painting, she’s wizened and small and bent over and … dry. Like kindling, like the pages of an old book. Like she’s almost all used up. Hair thin, body thinner. but then you look into her eyes and they’re so alive it makes you feel a little dizzy. — Charles de Lint‘s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ story, which is collected in Dreams Underfoot.
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Here in this quite remote Scottish Estate where the nearest town’s a good thirty-five miles away, the group of thirty or so souls here year round forms a community that’s at its most cohesive when the weather turns decidedly cold and oftimes unfavourable to travel. This ‘hunkering down’ is a gradual process that starts in early Autumn and doesn’t really end ’til after lamb season in April as it’s hard to be a good host when you’re covered with blood, shit and other stuff that’s unpleasant in general.

Pumpkins are versatile food here, so you can help us harvest them now that our first light frost has passed; likewise apples and potatoes need harvesting and proper processing for the uses they’ll be put to. Gus, our Head Gardener, uses for staff anyone physically healthy and able to be properly picky at what they’ll be doing.

All work and no play makes Gutmansdottir an unhappy girl indeed, so there’re contadances pretty much weekly here. Tonight a visiting band, The Black Eyed Susans, are playing. But first, let’s see what’s in this GMR edition…

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Grey offers up some well-known fairytales: ‘So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this: collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’

Not a book review, but very much worth telling you about anyway is this matter. Kathleen has an online journal where she talks about her late sister Kage, author of the acclaimed SF series The Company. Here is her entry which which has her reminiscing about Kage during the Christmas season. And here’s a review of one of her collection, The Best of Kage Baker, which will give you a great introduction to her fiction.

Robert is somewhat puzzled by Steven Brust’s newest novel, Vallista, the latest installment in the ongoing adventures of Vlad Taltos: ‘As he and his host of the moment are relaxing over coffee, there comes a clap at the door. Only Dragaerans clap, so after arming himself, Vlad opens the door; it’s Devera, who happens to be the granddaughter of the goddess Verra (Vlad’s patron goddess), who asks him to walk with her. They wind up at a large manor house near where Kieron’s Watch used to be; they walk into the house and Devera vanishes.’ It gets worse.

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work ,which is definitely aimed at adults, that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’

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HandMade Films was a British film production and distribution company founded by that George Harrison. Notable films from the studio included Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits, The Long Good Friday and the film Cat’s reviewing for us, The Raggedy Rawney. He says that it ‘is based on traditional Rom folklore — something I personally found fascinating. This adaptation of folk tradition to contemporary times makes it more fully comprehensible, compared with portraying it in the ancient long, long ago time. At least for me.’

The Michael Kamen soundtrack is equally fascinating for him, as he tells us: ‘Some pieces of film music stick with you long after you’ve seen the film. And if it’s a really interesting tune or song, it may make you seek out the soundtrack and see how it sounds outside of the film. Such was the case with the specific piece that got my mojo rising: the Blowzabella-style music that showed up in the wedding scene in Raggedy Rawney’.

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April has something rather nice she reviews for us: ‘Every so often an unexpected, and very welcome, treat shows up in my mailbox, courtesy of Cat, who’s constantly on the lookout for new chocolate-related review opportunities. This time around it was a box of bonbons from Diana Malouf’s Ococoa – candy that is both beautiful to look at and a pleasure to eat.’

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Look!  Up in the sky!  It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s…a gal in super-tight spandex!  Denise takes a look at Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection, and thinks it’s fantastic even with the skimpy attire. “Oh yeah folks, if you’re thinking these girls suit up in fatigues, you’re in the wrong series. In Danger Girl, the ladies are kitted up in outfits that would have She Hulk and Vampirella bringing the Girls something to cover up with…. As a woman I’m sure I should be offended/flabbergasted/spouting off some sort of Subjugation Of Women claptrap, but this series is just too beautifully drawn to be anything less than breathtaking.” Read all about it in her review!

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Gary (one of several we’ve had on staff) says of Quake, a sort of trad Nordic recording from Den Fule, that: ‘When I was trying to find something that my good friend, a Breton girl of 22 who loves nu-metal music, would like, I pulled out Den Fule. Her assessment: “That’s really fun, kinda like Irish music, but it rocks.” This accomplishes in 10 words what will take me at least 300 to re-iterate.’

Lars has some very complimentary comments about the first two releases from TRADarrr (yes, that’s how they spell it, he says), a new/old group, Cautionary Tales and Further Tales of Love! Death! And Treachery!: ‘Let me sum it up: TRADarrr’s debut album is one of the best first albums I have ever heard from anyone. But is it really a debut album? Three of the five members on that album (PJ Wright on guitars, Guy Fletcher on fiddle and mandolin, and Mark Stevens on drums, cornet and keyboards) played together in Little Johnny England, and the other two (Greg Cave on guitars and Marion Fleetwood on guitar and various bowed instruments) were no newcomers in the music business. Joined by Ric Sanders, Dave Pegg and Chris Leslie from Fairport, Jerry Donahue and a few others, the only thing new is the band name.’

Some recordings seem to me to be more in tune with the colder time of year and so it is with the Old Hag You Have Killed Me recording, which pleases Peter: ‘The Bothy Band’s second release was hailed by many as a ground breaking album. Irish music was to move forward in a different direction. It is hard to believe it was 33 years ago when listening to this album, as it sounds just as crisp as anything that might have been recorded today.’

Gary reviews Any Other Way, a new collection of singles and live material cut by Jackie Shane, a transgender soul singer in 1960s’ Toronto: ‘If you’re a fan of ’60s-style soul music, you’ll really enjoy this great collection. If you’re not already a fan, this just might make you one.

Stephen says of Troka from the band of the same name that ‘The majority of the music on this CD is composed by members of the band and takes in polkas, waltzes, marches and polskas with occasional forays into Swedish, Irish, Balkan and bluegrass. The arrangements are complex but uncluttered, and steer away from the familiar folk approach of a “lead instrument,” taking the melody while the rest accompany. This is genuine “group,” playing with everything beautifully integrated to the extent that it’s hard to imagine these tunes being performed any other way.’

Vonnie finishes off our music reviews with a look at June Tabor and the Oysterband at the Nightstage nearly thirty years ago: ‘By the time June Tabor came on, glowering ferociously the entire time, to sing “Mississippi” I wasn’t too worried about surviving — I was simultaneously ecstatic to have discovered something so new and so good, and also deeply comforted to have found the music that I’d always needed to hear. If the gig had been a church revival, I’d have been saved. As it was, I was converted.’

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That chill in the air can only mean one thing to the skein-inclined; time to grab some yarn and start on some projects to warm things up.  While knitting seems to get the majority of the love, crochet will always have a solid place in my heart. No, it’s not because telling people I’ve been “hooking” all weekend gives me a chuckle, though that is always fun. The history of crochet is fascinating, and all the more intriguing because it’s not truly nailed down. Whether it be its origins in Europe (or China?  Or Peru?) or its history in the States, it’s a craft that always has something new to discover. Me, I like to thank Queen Victoria for taking up the hook and making crochet popular in the West. While I may never try making lace as she did, there’s a cowl pattern and some soft merino calling my name…

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Okay, let’s see if there’s any Old Hag tunes on the Infinite Jukebox, our digital media server. I’ve got one by the Bothy Band whose Old Hag You Have Killed Me is one of best Irish trad albums ever done, and we’ve audio of them performing ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ which we’ll share with you as it’s very splendid. No idea when it was done, though 1976 is the most common guess, or where it was recorded for that matter. But here it is for your listening pleasure.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Autumn is Here (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I thought you’d appreciate this copy of Ciaran Carson’s Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music, which is the best book ever done on Irish traditional music. I particularly like the chapter on what to have for breakfast after an all-night session!

The cooler weather that autumn brings here is very similar to the weather there is in Stockholm. The Steward has ordered the usual check of the fireplaces and he went one step more with having all of them cleaned even though they weren’t due until next autumn. Everyone’s taking the prediction of a much colder, more snowy winter seriously. We’ve even prepped a heated space for the Irish Wolfhounds as it might be too cold even for them.

Tamsin was pleased with the prep work Gus did for the owls so that they might have warm homes this Winter. I still don’t know why she attracts a larger than normal number of owls, but she once jokingly, at least I hope it was meant that way, suggested reading Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.

As you know, we don’t raise beef here but trade for it with the Riverrun folk. And Mrs. Ware made a lovely dish from some of this year’s beef last night — a brisket braised in apple cider with baked butternut squash and very tender carrots. She made use of the second harvest of pumpkins (the first are a variety grown only for use in Bjorn’s spiced pumpkin ale) to make pumpkin tarts. And she says she’ll have pumpkin muffins in the morning as well! Ymmm!

Plans are being made for the usual winter activities here — I see notes up for Curling teams, Old Norse and French reading groups, and the chess group is reserving space in the Reading Room twice a week. Someone, I think it’s most likely Finch, is offering lessons in border pipes.

Your sister has yet another group up and running — Solstice, which has her on violin, Finch on border pipes, and Astrid on cello. It’s got a very sweet sound, more Nordic in sound than Leaf & Tree. They’re more interested in doing a recording than touring, so I suspect we’ll be treated to concerts here as they fine tune this group.

Lastly I should note The Steward approved your request to be a Scholar-in-Residence in Nordic Languages for next year. You’ll be selecting the person who holds the position for Winter ’19. The usual stipend plus expenses and quarters applies. Ingrid only  requested only that a background in Beowulfian studies would be nice.

Affectionately, Iain

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What’s New for the 15th of October: Two Fat Ladies, Welsh mythology, a de Lint written video and other matters

There are few joys to compare with the telling of a well-told tale. — Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale

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What am I playing? That’s June Tabor & Oysterband’s Ragged Kingdom which Vonnie saye Very Good Things about: ‘Tabor has reunited with the Oysterband for a second album, Ragged Kingdom and the two suit each other better now than when the first album, Freedom and Rain, made in o1991. Considering that the first album was magnificent, many of us had high expectations for this album. It a very different creature, and very good.’

The album mirriors the weather in being decidedly not chipper. Some October days are sunny and  warm here on this Scottish Estate — today’s not one of them. So the Fireplace here in the Angela Carter Reading Room is stoked properly and I’ve got my iPad and a pot of Sri Lankan Rilhena Estate Gently Cinnamon Smoked Ceylon Pekoe tea ready for drinking.

But before we turn to this edition, let me recommend another Autumnal reading which is Yarrow which as noted above is subtitled ‘An Autumn Tale’.  It’s one of his Ottawa set novels and shows his great affection for the city that he and MaryAnn Harris, his wife, have made their home. Brief enough for reading in an evening, it shows how good a writer he was even early on in his career.

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Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

What’s October without a little horror? Denise looks at little horrors – a book full of them in fact – with her review of Ronald Kelly’s short story collection Midnight Grinding.  But it’s not just the spooky that hooked her, it’s his way with a tale.  ‘Ronald Kelly is a storyteller, plain and simple, and with Midnight Grinding, he proves that plain and simple is just plain old good.’

Running back and forth on Fall errands isn’t conducive to reading a book, so Denise gave a listen to Anansi Boys on the Playaway. And she was smitten. ‘The icing on the cake was their selection of Lenny Henry as narrator. I’ve been a huge fan of his ever since I stumbled on an episode of Chef many years back. … The ten hours of audio sailed by, thanks to Gaiman’s and Henry’s storytelling skills.’ Read her review to see what she thinks of the story and the audiobook.

Somehow the work of Tolkien for me is something decidedly Autumnal, and Kathleen has a look at two worbs by she’s treasured since her childhood which I like as well, to wit Tolkien’s Smith of Wooten Major & Farmer Giles of Ham. She says, ‘Smith and Farmer Giles have the advantage of being completed by Tolkien himself, and are lovely, polished tales. . . . They are the work of a very modern and well-educated scholar — but like all Professor Tolkien’s work, they feel like an echo of the sunlit fields and shadowed woods of the British mythic landscape that he so loved.’

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Scared Fire is a short story by Charles de Lint that got adapted by Showtime, the American cable network for The Hunger, a horror series that ran two seasons and featured David Bowie as The Host for the second season. Michael says in the conclusion to his review that ‘While there are so many more de Lint stories I’d love to see adapted for television or film, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Sacred Fire is a highly satisfactory translation from book to film, and recommended.’ Now go read his review to see how he got to this statement.

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If ever there was a series that felt like it was Autumn all the rime, it is the one Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up, Two Fat Ladieswhose series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked whenever they pleased and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t ‘tall good for you. And funny as all Hell as well which indeed the review is as well.

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Robert has a look at a couple of boys’ love manga that, while not exactly “autumnal”, are pretty tough. Of the first, Satoru Ishihara’s Kimi Shiruya, he says: ‘Satoru Ishihara is an artist whose work has come to interest me a great deal. I think that interest is justified by what I’ve found in Kimi Shiruya: it’s a work of many levels, as much a product of reticence and implication as of overt portrayals, perhaps more so.’

Next is Momoko Tenzen’s Seven: ‘Momoko Tenzen’s Seven is another one of those boys’ love manga that, like Kimi Shiruya, moves the genre boundaries outward, although unlike the latter — and most popular examples of the type — it is rather bleak, at least at the beginning.’

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Freedom Highway may be the first perfect album of the year. And it’s definitely one of the most important,’ Gary wrote in his review back in February. We’re re-upping his review in light of the announcement that Giddens was among those who received a ‘Genius Grant’ from the MacArthur Foundation for 2017.

In his review of the new album by Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem, Gary says ‘There’s a moment a couple of minutes in to the title track of Anouar Brahem’s exquisite new album Blue Maqams that is the kind of moment I long for, like a thirsty person in the desert longs for a cool drink.’

Gary thoroughly enjoyed Dori Freeman’s self-titled debut in 2016, and he also likes her new album: ‘Letters Never Read is a solid follow-up that bodes well for her staying power as an Americana star.’

Storm + Calm gets Peter’s approval: ‘Described on their website as ‘a swirling reverie of Scots and Irish song; flute; whistles; fiddles; guitar; bouzouki; bodhran; and Irish dance, HAWP is a Celtic ensemble that combines ancient traditions with modern musical approaches to create a sound truly representative of Celtic culture in the 21st century. This album does just what it says on the tin.

Scott looks at a retrospective album from a Swedish folk rock (it) band: ‘Instead of releasing a full-length album of new material with the current lineup, though, Hedningarna chose 2003 to release a retrospective CD, with two new songs and sixteen additional recordings spanning their history. 1989-2003 captures many of the band’s finest moments, although there were a handful of glaring omissions as well. Then again, one mark of a truly great band is that when the inevitable “best of” CD is compiled, there is ample room for disagreement over which recordings are truly the best. Such is the case with Hedningarna.’

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As the autumnal air crisps and sweaters become the rule of the day, thoughts tend to drift to a lovely mug of apple cider.  Which always leads me to the making of it, and then to Vita Sackville-West’s poem, “Making Cider”.  The pulling of the crank, the rending of the pulp, and of course that glorious end product!  Perhaps I should head over to the Kitchen and see if Cook has anything apple-cinnamon warming on the stove…

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I hadn’t any particular artist in mine this edition, so I asked the Infinite Jukebox app to suggest cuts for me based on my usual listening patterns this time of year. ‘Red Barn Stomp’ recorded by the Oysterband during their Minneapolis ’91 concert with June Tabor is a good choice as is ‘The Dancing Bear’, a spiritedly tune by Dervish performed at Brodick Hall, Isle of Arran, Sept 25 of ’93 as was ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’, a Altan tune recorded at a Folkadelphia Session, March 7th of ’15.

I eventually decided that something of an story nature was what I wanted, so ‘The Girl in the Garden’ from Sirens by SJ Tucker does nicely. It tells the tale of the orphan in Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden. If you like what Tucker does here, you’ll love this work by Valente, the first of two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: All Hallows’ Eve

Fall leavesGus, here. All Hallow’s Eve is less than three weeks away, and the Staff is deep in preparations. Mind you, a lot of those are just fun and games: putting up decorations and scurrying around with secret costume plans. Some of the more inventive around here won’t be able to move for the weight of their guisings on the night itself. Those who are already done are creeping about vying for dibs on copies of Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads – we’re giving them away this coming month, and they are the most anticipated Treat in the place: a entire book/bag of bittersweets by the likes of Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.

It’s a busy month in the gardens, but I am leading from the rear at the moment; sitting here and watching the main courtyard, wondering if the great oak there is going to win this year’s contest with my lads pruning deadwood. Our esteemed cook  Mrs. Ware has requested my feedback, as it were, on an experimental batch of triple Brie and fig scones for the annual Halloween feast, and it’s my pleasure to sit and give it my deepest attention. That woman brings inspiration to a plate of crackers and cheese; what she does to a risen dough enters the realm of the sacred …

For the Kitchen Staff, Reynard’s Tap Crew, and for my own lads in the garden, there’s a lot of real work leading up to Samhain celebrations. Mrs. W. is, as I said, already cooking: she’s been laying aside a veritable treasure trove of pickles, relishes, butters, marinades, sauces, curds, creams and other culinary conceits — when the freshly baked and just roasted masterpieces hit the tables, they will be accompanied by her usual astonishing condiments. Do you fancy pork roast rolled in leeks and apples, with whipped sweet potatoes in a cognac sauce? And new bread? Well, plan to move fast when it’s served, then, because so do I.

Reynard, of course, is both laying in appropriate potables and fretting over the batches brewed here specifically for All Hallow’s. All this month he’s been serving Headless Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale in the Pub. Come try a pint, but be careful! I’m told the name is not only seasonal, but a fair warning of the effects of over-indulgence. And there are the porters, the stouts, the dark brews like liquid bread that are required for this holiday; the cider and perry and aged brandies to keep off the growing chill and light the holiday bonfires in us all.

The Endless Session has been having night ceilidhs in the gardens, before the nights get too cold and they retreat to the Pub for the winter. Autumn evenings the wind rises in the woods, and gives the music in the courtyards a special pace and chorus … the secret’s in the pruning, of course, though I doubt the Session has figured that out. But I go out and do the trimming myself, tuning the oaks like an Aolian harp, so their voices will be clear on All Hallow’s night.

Most of all, though, my lads and I are responsible for the bonfires. No one cuts wood in my gardens except me and mine, and at this time of year I’m just as particular about the fallen wood as I am about the trimmed. That wood’s been gathered and stacked with great deliberation, you know. The Halloween bonfires have to be carefully planned, and meticulously built; I daresay the mix of firewood I use is as complicated as Mrs. Wares’ pumpkin butter or Reynard’s Samhain Stout. It needs a particular scent, a notable stamina and even special colour … which is why that one oak has to be pruned just so. The eastern boughs have seen soaking up the salt mist and should burn like tourmalines. It will make the perfect King Log … if that fool Andrew doesn’t hang himself with that guy rope!

Hi! Look sharp, lads! What are you about? We don’t do that anymore…

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What’s New for the 8th of October: Red Clay Ramblers offer up Halloween Music, Black cat awareness month, Philip Glass’ “portraits”, the folklore and folkways of American Indians, Ursula le Guin on Coyote, and her Buffalo Gals fantasy.

Coyote is an anarchist. She can confuse all civilised ideas simply by trotting through. And she always fools the pompous. Just when your ideas begin to get all nicely arranged and squared off, she messes them up. Things are never going to be neat, that’s one thing you can count on. Coyote walks through all our minds. Obviously, we need a trickster, a creator who made the world all wrong. We need the idea of a God who makes mistakes, gets into trouble, and who is identified with a scruffy little animal. — Ursula Le Guin in an interview in Jonathan White’s Talking on the Water: Conversations About Nature and Creativity Dreams 

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Like Robert in last week’s edition, I’ve been reading Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, an exemplary anthology of stories where the coyote, or the fox in other cultures such as Britain or Japan, has a role in each tale. These tricksters,can be found elsewhere in literature and music, such as in Charles de Lint’s Someplace To Be Flying, in the Hellboy animated film Sword of Storms and in a song by Joni Mitchell aptly called ‘No Regrets Coyote’ performed here at the Sydney Opera House some thirty years ago.

We’ve no coyotes on this Scottish Estate but the foxes here are just as entertaining. We never allowed any hunting of them here so we’re we’re very delighted that the new fragile coalition of PM Theresa May abandoned her Conservative Party campaign promise to restore fox hunting in all of Britain. She’s not quite as bad as the Iron Bitch was but a resounding majority for her Party would’ve give her leave to be just like her.

So  let’s see what we’ve got for you this time which includes a book review section more or less about coyotes and the mythology around them. And our What Not concerns Black Cat Awareness Month, fitting as almost all felines on this Scottish Estate are black in colour.

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Gary takes a look at three recently published books: The Anguish of Snails by Barre Toelken; Myths of Native America, edited by Tim McNeese; and When Brer Rabbit Meets Coyote, edited by Jonathan Brennan. If you’re interested in furthering your knowledge and understanding of the folklore and folkways of American Indians, you’ll want to see what Gary has to say about these three books.

Kim found a book that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals. This novella, she says, takes the reader ‘..into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up.’

We’ve noted before that not all of everything that comes in for review finds favour with us. Such is the fate of a novel by Kim Antieau which Mia reviews for us: ‘Coyote Cowgirl has all of the necessary ingredients to be a great book; unfortunately, like the cinnamon flavored scrambled eggs in one scene, there are other extra ingredients that spoil the recipe. It’s not horrible; even more reprehensible: it’s mediocre.’

(One reader wrote us to that he ‘was relieved, after reading Mia’s review of this novel, not to be the only one ‘crazy’ enough to find the book unsatisfying.)

Robert’s review of 9Tail Fox whittles down the general genre label and gets to the heart of the story. ‘The book cover claims that Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox is ‘A novel of science fiction.’ Considering what science fiction has become over the past generation, that could well be valid — with some qualifications. I’m going to call it ‘slipstream’ in honor of its genre-bending tendencies and let it go at that.’ Ahh, but is it any good? Robert’s review lets you know.

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In the States, Major League Baseball has just started its post-season. So let’s  turn to Michelle for an essay on that sport in film: ‘In the big inning, God created baseball. Or perhaps it was Loki, patron of athletics and other tricks; the origins are shrouded in antiquity. There is also debate about which mortal first received the divine inspiration. Abner Doubleday often gets credit, though some historians claim the game was played in England in the 1700s. What is known is that, in 1845, a team called the New York Knickerbockers adopted the rules of the game we know as baseball. In New Jersey that summer, they played the first organized baseball game, and America acquired its own pantheon.’

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We’ve reviewed a fair amount of sweet things down the years and Leona has some candies for us to consider: ‘It’s rare to find a beautifully designed package that actually has great product inside; less so when the subject is coffee candy and the reviewer is … well … picky as hell on both counts. But Bali’s Best Premium Collection, distributed by Fusion Gourmet, Inc. of California, pulls off the double success with ease.’

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Brush With Passion: The Art and Life of Dave Stevens, edited by Arnie Fenner and Cathy Fenner, put Richard in a reflective mood. ‘[It’s] an utterly gorgeous book. It’s also a terribly sad one… It’s not until the very end of his life that Stevens seemingly figured out what he was, or more importantly, what he could be, and the fact that this was never given time to blossom is perhaps the saddest thing of all. But if there is sadness here, there is also beauty and joy.’

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Barb has a story to tell us about those responsible for Trio: ‘Väsen is Olov Johansson on 3-row chromatic nyckelharpa and kontrabasharpa, Mikael Marin on viola, 5-string viola, and pomposa, and Roger Tallroth on 12-string guitar and bosoki. Having had the opportunity over the last few years to immerse myself in many of Väsen’s recordings, see them perform live, and interview Olov Johansson, these musicians (unbeknownst to them) have become old friends.’ She’s now has their newest CD Brewed in hand and will of course be reviewing it for us.

Donna looks at Up in The Air’s Moonshine and Gavin Marwick’s The Long Road and The Far Horizon: ‘Gavin Marwick is a talented and prolific Scottish composer and fiddle player. He’s in or has been in bands including Cantrip, Bellevue Rendezvous, Journeyman, Iron Horse, Ceilidh Minogue and Up in the Air. I’ve seen him perform (with Cantrip) and reviewed his Bellevue Rendezvous outings. So of course I was happy to offer to review these two CDs when offered. I’m just sorry it took me so long to listen and write!’

Gary finds the music on Norwegian bassist Björn Meyer’s Provenance to be ‘calming and focusing; the deep drones and repetitive rhythmic patterns help you remember to breathe deeply and be aware of the inner and outer beauty that’s still available.’

Robert has a look at two of Philip Glass’s ‘portraits of nature,’ Itapu and The Canyon: ‘Among contemporary composers, perhaps the most notable for writing program music is Philip Glass, whom Nick Jones, in his essay accompanying this disc calls “a composer of images.” Call it “images” or “program,” it’s a tendency that has persisted throughout Glass’ career (and probably accounts for his affinity for the theater) and one that is well illustrated in Itapu and The Canyon.’

Speaking of Glass’ ‘portraits,’ Robert brings us his take on the ‘portrait’ operas: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten: ‘Robert Wilson, Philip Glass’ collaborator on Einstein on the Beach, noted that until that work hit the boards, theater was bound by literature. Thinking on it, he’s pretty much right: stage plays, opera, even film were constrained by a narrative line that relied on a chronological sequence, all based on language. Not so Einstein.’

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As October is Black Cat Awareness Month, I can’t help but think about our oft-maligned feline companions.  This is the time of year when the worst can and does happen to black cats, simply because of the color of their fur, and the miseducation of some humans entrusted to their care.  Nay, the care of nature itself. It’s a pity that bad things happen to good cats, but most especially this time of year, when black cats should be celebrated.

So if you see a shadowy creature cross your path this time of year, remember that we all have our battles to fight. And perhaps that great onyx beauty is trying to avoid hers. Wish her well, and consider the sight a omen of good things for you both.

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It’s still a ways off from the triple holidays of Halloween, Samhain and The Day of The Dead that we celebrate here, but I thought I’d offer up some music made generously available by the Red Clay Ramblers exclusively for us. It’s from their still unreleased Windsor, Texas recording and bears the seasonally apt name of ‘The Pumpkin Dance’.

We’ve reviewed a lot of their music but I’ll refer you our looks at It Ain’t Right, Old North State and Yonder as good starters to experience their music.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate Gardener

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Though I’m called the Estate Gardener, my job covers far more than that, as it’s been enlarged many times over the centuries. So let me detail what I do.

Of course I’m responsible for both the edible gardening and the ornamental landscaping we do here. Given the size of the Estate staff, the events we host and the bartering we do with our farms, we got many, many acres under production, all organic.

We have extensive livestock — bees, pigs, poultry (chickens, ducks and geese), pigs, and sheep. To keep the sheep safe, we have Russian wolfhounds — I dare any predator to tangle with them! Most of that work is done my staff but I reserve the beekeeping for me as I love working with them.

Though we no longer heat the buildings with wood, we do have enough usage (kitchen, library, saunas, smoking bacon, et al.) that we burn twenty cords a year. That means we need to keep the acreage devoted to harvesting maintained. Much of that work gets done in the winter, a quiet time for pretty much all of the other outside work. Oh, and we have horses for harvesting work now.

We also maintain the pathways here, none of which are paved. We use stone, crushed stone and granite dust. Likewise we need to keep the paths through the woods safe by removing unsafe trees and limbs as quickly as we can.

We do all of the infrastructure work from the yurts to the massive Estate building by hiring extra staff that lives here all summer in a group of yurts we set aside for them. That frees us up to do everything else needs doing.

There’s other stuff, such as maintaining the solar power setup and the low head hydro, the salmon spawning pools, and numerous other tasks.

It’s hard work, often with very long hours, but I (mostly) enjoy it.

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