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