I can remember the title, author, and location of every book in this library, Matthew. Every book that’s ever been dreamed. Every book that’s ever been imagined. Every book that’s ever been lost. Millions upon millions of them. That’s what I remember. It’s my job. Other things… I forget sometimes. — Lucien in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman’s ‘The Kindly Ones’
If you look down to the bottom floor of the central well of the Library, you’ll see our card catalog on the wall nearest the circular staircase. Yes, a physical card catalog, as I feel it’s important for the Several Annies, my sort of Library Apprentices, to understand the relation of books to each other and nothing does that better than a physical tracking system. The card catalog represents one hundred and seventy years of the constant evolution of this Library and the entire Kinrowan Estate by extension.
Got a subject you’re interested in? Oh, cider making? Our card catalog has a précis of each book on that subject, the year published, the author(s) and of course where it’s located, as the Library has myriad locations, from the cookbook collection housed just outside the Kitchen to the botanical books that Gutmansdottir, the naturalist studying The Wild Wood, has in her work space, and the extensive fiction collection on the wall behind us.
A good review works like that as well. It, when done right, not only helps you in telling if you’ll be interested in seeking it out (and some of our reviewed books take a bit of effort to find as many are long out of print, or are of works done on presses long gone) but also places it within the greater landscape of literature itself. And our music reviews also do this, so that you know where Dexy’s Midnight Runners falls in the history of the 70s Birmingham, England, music scene and why Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Come On Eileen’ caught on with the MTV listening public.
David looks at a long-running series: ‘If Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Robicheaux (from the film of Heaven’s Prisoners in 1996) is your only introduction to Dave’s career, then forget everything you know and start at the beginning and work your way through one book at a time. You will be immersed in a world as exotic and as violent as your imagination can create; you will meet characters as real and fully drawn as your next door neighbor; you will never forget the world created by James Lee Burke.’
Jayme reviews a novel that had dire consequences: ‘Flanders is, simply put, a marvelous work filled with bleak imagery and raw emotion that garnered wide acclaim and landed on many best-of-the-year lists when it came out. It also killed Patricia Anthony’s career as a novelist. Ace, her publisher, specialized in straightforward science fiction and struggled with the marketing of Anthony’s previous novel, God’s Fires. Flanders was, if anything, an even worse fit for that publisher, and things, as they say, went rapidly downhill from there’
Richard says ‘The key to Lauren Beukes’ fiction can be found in the non-fiction short pieces at the back end of her new collection, Slipping: Stories, Essays and Other Writing. Beukes’ background is in journalism, and these shorts – some of them little more than brief gut-shots – she takes the reader where her profession took her, into places that are dangerous or forgotten or abandoned by the powers that be, often at the same time. And once there, she zeroes in on that notion of observation, of reporting – on the sheer necessity of the portrayals in the media of incidents and places, in order to get the public to pay some attention and not to ignore, or to swallow easy pre-fab narratives that bear little to no relation to the truth.’
He notes that ‘The blurb on the back cover of John L. Lansdale’s Zombie Gold comes from a movie personality, and it’s easy to see why. Stripped to its bare bones, this story of a couple of well-meaning Pennsylvania cowboys – Will and Chris, largely interchangeable – who accidentally stumble through time to the Battle of Gettysburg and get mixed up with some gold-stealing zombies along the way sounds like a fun high-concept pitch. Give it visuals, add some cinematic panache, and it could be a great popcorn flick if handled right.’ Read his review to see why it really didn’t work for him.
Firefly, an sf series with a strong Western motif, created a lot of criticism about the cultural assumptions underlying it, as you can see here in a review by Will in the guise of Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers: ‘Because Firefly mixes traditional western and science fiction elements to tell an adventure story, the essays collected in Finding Serenity are an examination of the nature of genre storytelling. But the writers appear to have been told to write whatever they wanted, so that examination is accidental. It comes from confusion: Is Firefly more science fiction or more western? Is it sexist? What is freedom, and how do power structures work? The collection is not a scholarly examination of a piece of art. It’s a group of fans praising and griping about a show that they clearly love as much as I do. And therefore the examination of genre is often superficial, but occasionally brilliant.’’
GRØD is a Copenhagen restaurant that only serves porridge. Yes, a porridge only restaurant. We eat a lot of porridge here on this Scottish Estate, particularly during the Winter, as it’s a filling, comforting meal for breakfast. Reynard and his wife Ingrid, our Estate Steward, found this restaurant when they were in Copenhagen the past January. GRØD, Swedish for porridge, does serve rossito in the evening but otherwise just has porridge. Lots of porridge.
They had the signature porridge, havregrød, which is topped with dulce de leche they make in-house , apple slices and roasted almonds, which has been cooked in half water and half whole milk. (Our Kitchen only cooks it in whole milk.) Reynard said it was most decidedly comfort food of the highest order and got them in the mood for walking in the chill Winter air and shopping.
The Faeries of Spring Cottage, a delightful collaboration between Brian Froud and Terri Windling, is reviewed by Matthew: ‘Regular readers of Green Man Review probably have already figured out, simply by the authors listed above, that we have before us yet another adventure of Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh (known as Sneezle for short), tree faery of an old hawthorn clan, and a relative youngster, being only 201 years old. For this third outing with Sneezle (the first two were chronicled in A Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale and The Winter Child), we are treated to a tale of Sneezle’s encounter with the world of humans. The story begins with Sneezle out collecting sticks for a friend when he is suddenly set upon by mysterious creatures made of sticks and mud. Sneezle holds his own against the stick monsters, but is not able to overcome them until it starts to rain and the monsters dissolve.’
Howlin’ Wuelf Media passed on this sad news: ‘Fred Hellerman, the last surviving member of The Weavers has passed away. The NY Times ran a lovely and informative account of his and the band’s career mentioning the role Alan Lomax played in their ascent from playing at left wing rallies to headlining Carnegie Hall.’ You can read the rest of his message here.
Richard looks at This House Will Stand: The Best Of Oysterband 1998-2015: ‘I begged GMR to let me review this 2-CD compilation by Oysterband because I’ve been a committed Oysters’ fan for many years and possess almost all their recordings.“Who better,” I asked myself, “to review this collection of their songs than someone who has known and loved the band’s work for decades?” At the same time, of course, I was determined to listen critically and throw brickbats if required.’
Gary reports from one of the far frontiers of popular music, where he found a new record by sonic experimenter Daniel Lanois. ‘Goodbye to Language is made entirely of sounds produced by steel guitars – his own pedal steel and the lap steel of collaborator Rocco Deluca, both of them at times processed and manipulated nearly beyond recognition.’
Ojos del Sol is the latest offering from the Portland, Oregon artist Luz Elena Mendoza and her ensemble called Y La Bamba. Gary says it is ‘an arresting album,’ combining singer-songwriter folk music with Latin rhythms and personal lyrics that explore complex issues of spirituality, love, mortality and family. ‘Mendoza’s insistent delivery of her lyrics, which are at once personal and broadly universal, pulls you into her world where songs and mysterious spiritual connections have the power to heal.’
Robert brings us a look at a new recording from ECM, Arvo Pärt’s The Deer’s Cry: ‘I find it more than a little ironic that, in an age marked by secularism and materialism, among the most compelling music to come out of Europe and America is what I call, in general, “church music”: it can be works as monumental as Krysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion or Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, as outrageously unorthodox as Terry Riley’s Requiem for Adam, or as focused and sometimes as intimate as the music of Arvo Pärt.’
And, after digging around a little, Robert came up with this review of Pärt’s Passio: ‘Arvo Pärt’s Passio was the first recording of his music that I owned. It may very well have been the first available in the U.S. For one entire summer it was my beach music — I tended to go to the lake shore early — the combination of Pärt’s magnificent oratorio and the early morning sun is very hard to describe.’
Our What Not this time is a place, and Robert tells us about it: ‘Lincoln Park Conservatory is another one of those nineteenth-century treasures still to be found in Chicago. It’s a glass house built between 1890 and ’95, located just east of Stockton Drive about a block south of Fullerton Parkway, off the northwest corner of Lincoln Park Zoo. The west side of the Conservatory proper and its support buildings is graced by a series of small gardens featuring pines, spruces, junipers and other conifers from around the world, interspersed with deciduous shrubs and trees. These gardens continue around to flank the entrance.’
The traditional song ‘Moonshiner’ is one of those that’s been done by lots of folks, from Bob Dylan to the Clancy Brothers to Roscoe Holcomb, The Punch Brothers, Uncle Tupelo and more. Here’s a version of it by the on-again off-again Denton, Texas, band called Slobberbone, recorded at The Barley House in Dallas on 25th of November, 2001. Frontman Brent Best sings ‘Moonshiner.’