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, Kim 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.

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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