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