What’s New for the 20th of November: Sayers on Holmes, after the Apocalypse, David Bowie, choral music, hot chocolate, ravens in the library and other matters

There is always a moment when stories end, a moment when everything is blue and black and silent, and the teller does not want to believe it is over, and the listener does not, and so they both hold their breath and hope fervently as pilgrims that it is not over, that there are more tales to come, more and more, fitted together like a long chain coiled in the hand. They hold their breath; the trees hold theirs, the air and the ice and the wood and the Gate. But no breath can be held forever, and all tales end. — Catherynne Valente’s In The Cities of Coin and Spice

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Beastly weather, isn’t it? Come dry off by the fire and do get a drink as well. Put your kit and guitar case over there. We’ll sort out where you’ll be staying later. I must say ’tis not often that one of our Summer Queens such as you visits us this time of year, but I know that you’re here for the symposium on Cathrynne Valente as you crafted the exquisite music based on The Orphan’s Tales novels she wrote.

Ahhh, that’s ‘The Hidden Dragon Reel’ that the Neverending Session’s playing though I’ve no idea why it is called that despite, Gus saying he knows why but won’t tell. I never met the fiddler who left that tune here and the Neverending Session has, like most groups of individuals who learn music by ear, a not unsurprising lack of knowledge about who composed that music. They can tell which Pub has the best ale, which smallpiper, say Finch who works here, fits the best into a given tune, and even the history in exhausting detail of their instrument, but where a tune originated  is usually not something they know.

So I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Ingrid, our Steward, to get you settled into your room and she’ll give you introductions to as many of the staff as are around that you’ll need to know, so I can get this edition stitched together…

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Cat leads off our book reviews with a novel he really loves: ‘Emma Bull hasn’t written many novels in her career but all of them are superb in their own way. Be it Bone Dance, Finder or War for The Oaks, my favorite of her novels, all are superbly written. So when I recently was looking for a novel to read on one of the many cold, rainy nights we’ve had this Autumn, I turned to Finder, a novel I enjoy re-reading every few years.’

Fairy tales retold is the basis of the anthology edited by Dominic Parisienne and Navah Wolfe that Cat liked quite a bit: ‘Some books you buy for the stories within, some books you buy for the sheer joy of what they look like, such as the British edition of Charles de Lint’s Someplace To Be Flying for its cover art as I did, or perhaps the Small Beer Press edition of Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of The Sword for, well, because you love the novel and wanted to own a really nice edition of it. And then there’s The Starlit Wood which combines superb stories with truly amazing design.’

Another work on a subject dear to us came into the Kinrowan Library and Iain reviewed it for us: ‘Some are exhaustive works running over a thousand pages covering this subject in excruciatingly detail, which is not what we’ve got with Philip Freeman’s Celtic Mythology, which is rather concise at under three hundred pages. So does it work at that length as an introduction to this subject? Mostly yes.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

Robert has a look at a trilogy that, as much as anything else, can be called a “post-gay” fantasy: Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu: ‘In a northern city a mutant is born, a creature neither male nor female, possessed of strange abilities and unknown motivations, who runs away from his “normal” home at the first opportunity. Soon there are gangs of youths infesting the slums of the cities, violent, angry, hedonistic, of indeterminate sex and admitting no debt, least of all love, to their forebears.’

And another trilogy from Robert, Jane S. Fancher’s ‘NetWalkers: ‘My history with Jane Fancher’s ‘NetWalkers trilogy begins a few years ago when, in one of those fits of madness that sometimes overcome me in bookstores, I picked up a copy of Groundties, a book by a totally unknown author (well, unknown to me) that looked interesting. Mmm — as it turned out, make that “captivating.” ‘

imageHot chocolate becomes very popular with folks here when the weather turns cold, with or without a measure of brandy in it. Richard had a recommendation on where you can find great hot chocolate in a place called Matthews: ‘Now, North Carolina’s not what you’d call a hot chocolate hotbed, at least east of the mountains, on account of the fact that it’s generally pretty warm. Which is why I never expected the hot chocolate in this shop which my wife practically dragged me into (she’d done some scouting, having previously infiltrated Hillsborough with friends on a yarn-shopping expedition) would blow my socks off.’

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Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell caused Denise’s inner five-year-old to think ‘the best marketing for this series would be a ‘Got Boobies?’ campaign.’ Her adult self answers, ‘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.’

How about, rather than ‘Got Boobies?’ we say ‘Got Brains?’ Robert has some thoughts on Oracle: The Cure: ‘You don’t really need tights and a cape to be a superhero. You don’t need super strength or mutant abilities. You don’t even have to have your body surgically or chemically altered. (Willingly or otherwise.) Mind, these things don’t hurt, but you don’t really have to have them — not these days.’

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Gereg says of a CD he reviewed before the artist passed on that ‘Let’s start with the obvious. David Bowie is a genius. Musician, composer, actor, and mime, his versatility is always impressive. He defined — and very nearly created — glitter rock; he was the first white man inducted into the Soul Hall of Fame; he narrated a superb version of Peter and the Wolf; his film performances have ranged from Pontius Pilate to the Goblin King to the most alienated alien in cinematic history.’ So now you’ll need to read his review of David Bowie: Rare and Unseen to see why it left him rather underwhelmed.

Jayme says that ‘Clannad is quickly becoming one of the most compiled bands in Celtic music. Already boasting two “best of” collections and a soundtrack collection, Clannad now adds An Diolaim to the list. Fortunatley, An Diolaim isn’t just another opportunistic knock-off, for it repackages the majority of songs from Clannad’s hard-to-find second and third albums, Clannad 2 and Dulaman, respectively.’

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album: ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

Gary reviews a new box set that collects the two records that Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt released as Trio, plus a separate disc of unreleased material, alternate cuts, and more. It’s a lovely set, he says, but it doesn’t make him like the recordings any more than he did when they first came out.

Robert takes a look at a new release from ECM Records, Gavin Bryars’ The Fifth Century: ‘English composer Gavin Bryars was born in Yorkshire in 1943. He studied philosophy at Sheffield University and, as might be expected, became a jazz bassist during his time there. He’s worked in a number of different idioms and styles, from jazz to minimalism, and has written operas, string quartets, concertos, and at least one requiem.’

And more choral music from Robert, Eric Whitacre’s  Cloudburst and Other Choral Works: ‘The selections presented in Cloudburst and Other Choral Works reveal the diverse influences that have provided a foundation for Whitacre’s writing, from the progressive rock of his pre-college days through his classical training at Juillard. Meurig Bowen, in the essay accompanying the disc, notes that Whitacre’s eclectic influences are something he shares with many of the younger generation of American composers. I might point out that it is also similar to the background of the performers who are making these works known, as well as their audience.’

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Our What Not this time is our ever popular question of what is your favourte Tolkien. Emma Bull positively raved about her liking for Tolkien: ‘Still The Lord of the Rings, man. Probably because of the bit with the mushrooms. And also, Strider? Cool. Aragorn, unfortunately, not quite as cool.But Shadowfax equals eternally cool.’

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Dry now? Good. I realised that I’d not introduced you to our readers, so I now will. Readers, this is SJ  ‘Sooj’ Tucker, a musician and writer most excellent. She’s our reigning Summer Queen this year (well for several more weeks)  and is here to play for us and just hang out. So here’s her performing ‘The Raven in The Library’. This performance is at ConFusion in Troy, Michigan, on January 23, 2010, and the performer you see here with her is Betsy Tucker.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.
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