'Not of father, nor of mother
Was my blood, was my body.
I was spellbound by Gwydion,
Prime enchanter of the Britons,
When he formed me from nine blossoms.'

'Hanes Blodeuwedd' (Robert Graves, translator)


   

29th of June, 2003

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Well, a party's a party, and Midsummer's a better time for a party here than most of the year is. I came out of the green grass near the forest, drawn by the music and the frenzy.  The green world is pregnant, but not really showing yet, and denizens of the Green Man Review's headquarters are giddy with the season, and assorted goodies, as the days reached their peak.  Spring is full of promise, but it's also the starving time, and the coming of summer fruits along with that solar high makes hot and sweaty summer seem welcome.  So I joined the party.  Who knows how long I'll stay? But as I'm the only one who can pry themselves away from the session, or the sun, or the shade for that matter, I've been drafted to bring you the first edition from the waning of the year.  Mind you, the days are still long enough to make most humans giddy here in this most unusual place, but we all know it's a matter of time until we notice them getting shorter.  They'll wonder about me as I grow ripe and then wrinkle, I expect, and as I fade they may worry. It's a seasonal thing, what can I say?  I'm not sure they ever really get that duality is really more about grays, and less about black and white, but that's how you see us: Seelie and Unseelie, light and dark -- it's more like ripe and unripe, fresh and rotting -- you know when the line's been crossed but often it's not an exact science.  Time will tell, it always does, and that's what makes the sun so comforting.

But we're here together now, and almost everyone's recovered from their, errr, excesses, although I have my doubts about Spike, he's still a little green for a bouncer -- fits the overall theme I guess.  Liath's gone back to inventing new rooms for the library, secret passages and expandable reading rooms -- renovation is her thing, but I wonder when Jack will figure that she's got blueprints?  Well, never mind, it's a great library with more than enough surprises to satisfy even the most jaded human readers -- enchanting you might say.  Just don't go expecting all the books to be there next time; it's one of the, ah, features of the card cataloging system she's worked out. And there's a certain room; when you start reading in there, things happen.  What I'm not sure, but several folks have just changed after sinking into those overstuffed chairs with their books. 

And if you go into the pub, mind the strangers in the corners -- handsome now and gone tomorrow, but then you can't deny that a party's a party, and this one goes on for weeks. And what do you expect with music like that? It all seems to fit, even with musicians turning up from the oddest places. My kin are here in force, coming out of the water, the stones; with some of the younger souls betraying their affinity with the non-human world, with an accent here, oddly shaped eyes there -- no wonder some of them stick to the shadows. Drawn by the vitality, they claim, but I think they, like me, are bewitched as hopelessly as some humans claim to be when they find us. Music is potent magic, and there've been lots of travelers through here this week. It's one reason things, well, happen. 

Between the library and the pub, this place can be dangerous for the unwary.  Words can transport the innocent soul, and a tune goes right through you.

This week it's just a small but tasty selection of books -- and one video -- that get reviewed: just in time to help you stock up for your road trips, cottage weekends, and stolen back yard moments -- as you know the staff's going on a short trip for several weeks, some to WOMAD on the Border, some elsewhere, and the editors are scurrying around getting something cool ready, another reason I've been drafted. But on to the literature, it's what you've come here to read, anyway.


Speaking of WOMAD on the Border, Cat Eldridge brings us a review of a concert DVD by the founder of the original WOMAD, the illustrious Peter Gabriel. 'Peter,' says the Chief, 'is a man comfortable on the boundaries between folk and rock, between nature and technology, between theater and music -- he thrives on the edges where most artists truly dare not go.' Sounds like he'd fit right in here at GMR, doesn't it? Go on and read the rest of Cat's review of Peter Gabriel - Secret World Live to find out more about the man and his music.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke starts off the book reviews this week with Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations, a collection of short stories written by Howard Waldrop in collaboration with other authors, including George R. R. Martin and Steve Utley. 'Fasten your seatbelts,' says Jayme. 'Not even a Grateful Dead retrospective could prepare you for the long, strange trip that begins here.' Jayme wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this review, which gives us a good feel for the unusual stories Waldrop and Co. have spawned.

Horror gourmand Craig Clarke makes a survey of another 'first stories by famous authors' anthology. Edited by Steven H. Silver and Martin H. Greenberg, Horrible Beginnings offers up the first stories of a host of creepy greats, from Tanith Lee to Neil Gaiman. Craig says, 'Each story... is headed by an introduction from the author (or in the case of the deceased, someone else) that gives insight into the creation of the story and how his or her career was subsequently affected. Some of these introductions, especially in the case of shorter works, run longer than the stories. Most are better than the stories they introduce.' In spite of this, Craig did find a few gems. Read his review to see which ones they were.

'Lookit,' says Jeremy Jackson, in his new cookbook, The Cornbread Book, 'I'm tired of being bullied by those self-absorbed biscuit aficionados, and I don't care what the Pan-American Pancake Association says. Cornbread, and only cornbead, is the American bread.' Do you agree? Or do you think Jackson is a little too enthusiastic? Either way, read Christine Doiron's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to get a taste of what this book has to offer. Christine says there's a recipe for cookies that's delicious! Cookies in a cornbread book? Go read the review....

Editor in Chief and Publisher, Cat Eldridge, as if he isn't busy enough, has two book reviews for us this week. The first is of a UK only publication, The Iron Grail (if any of you, dear readers, live outside the UK, try ordering it through an online source -- unless you have fey connections.) The Iron Grail is the second in Robert Holdstock's Merlin Codex series. Cat has thoughtfully combined his review of The Iron Grail with his earlier review of Celtika: Book One of the Merlin Codex, and he earns an Excellence in Writing Award for the way he presents the two books together. If you haven't read Robert Holdstock before, this series is a good place to start. If you have, read Cat's review to whet your appetite for his latest.

Cat also tosses us a review of a lovely, whimsical item you may have missed, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin's Time Bandits: The Movie Script. We occasionally review scripts here at GMR, because we're fascinated by the way text can come to life on stage or before a camera, and by the way reading the text can enhance our view of the 'play'. This script is no exception. Although Cat recommends you watch the film 'several times' before reading the script (yes, he does like the movie, and yes, he'll be reviewing it also in the weeks ahead), he thinks you'll be fascinated by how darker elements of the script show up much more starkly on the page.

April Gutierrez, a Neil Gaiman fan from the word 'go', has an omnibus review this week of a pair of Gaiman story collections, one in print, one read aloud by the author himself. Although April admits that many of the stories in Angels & Visitations, an early Gaiman collection, have been re-published elsewhere, she says there are enough unique stories, essays, and scattered illustrations by Charles Vess, Steve Bissette and others, to make it worth your while to track it down. As for Warning: Contains Language, April says, 'If you have never been fortunate enough to attend one of Gaiman's readings, this [two CD] set is the next best thing.' In addition to Gaiman reading some of his stories, it includes music by ... well, you'll have to read the review to see who! April wins an Excellence in Writing Award for this knowledgeable and tantalizing review.

We're pretty sure that Jack Merry is a bit of folklore come to life (although he'll harrumph if you put it to him, so don't), so it's rather fitting that he should review a scholarly biography of another famous bit of folklore, Robin Hood. Yes, you're right, there is no real evidence that the most beloved outlaw ever existed, but as Jack would say, 'What's that matter? As sure as this is a pint of Dragon's Breath stout in me hand, the lad was a true hero!' And Robin Hood scholar Stephen Knight agrees. In his Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, Knight sets aside any historical evidence -- or lack thereof -- and explores instead the significance of Robin as part of our folk consciousness down through the centuries, and how each succeeding generation has perceived him.

Grey Walker takes a close look at a new picture book version of a Russian folk tale, The Sea King, retold by Jane Yolen and Shulamith Oppenheim and illustrated by Stefan Czernecki. Grey's feelings are mixed. She thinks Yolen and Oppenheim did a wonderful job, but she doesn't like the design of the book itself. Seems she has issues with the font.... Read her review to see why such a small component has a big impact on a picture book.

And Matthew Scott Winslow finishes our book reviews for the week with a new entry into the much-beloved story world of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Duel with the Devil. Sadly, as you'll see in more detail when you read his review, Matthew thinks this collection of three stories, all featuring Holmes' arch-nemesis, Moriarty, fails to evoke the true spirit of Holmes.

In a stunning coincidence, reviewer Wes Unruh received two letters in two days -- about a review he wrote six months ago ('twas also his audition, if you're interested). Read the comments from Rafaela Sejic and David-Glenn Anderson and marvel at the mysterious forces that caused both to write in the same week about Yevgeny Zamyatin's little-known Russian speculative novel, We.

C. Francis Daley wrote in with a question about Celtic snake tattoos (mentioned in Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon among other places) that brought forth helpful answers from five different GMR staffers.

Author Patrick O'Leary wrote in to thank reviewer Leona Wisoker for her affirming look at his novel The Impossible Bird; Brian Ross, manager of Railroad Earth, wanted to thank Patrick O'Donnell for his take on their Bird in a House album; and Melanie Young was glad to see that Tim Hoke agreed with her thoughts on the Grey Larsen and Kevin Crehan portion of the Bloomington Early Music Festival.

You can read all the above mail (as well as the staff's responses) as well as past comments further down the Letters page. We love to hear from our readers. E-mail your friendly GMR Letters editor and see your name in lights -- computer screen lights, that is.

Reynard, your friendly -- well, most of the time-- publican here in the Green Man pub. May I pour you a pint of Dragon's Breath XXX Stout? Now let it sit a few minutes before you quaff it.

Ahhh, you've noticed that there's no CD reviews this outing. That's because the music reviewers are off to Fare-You-Well Park for the annual WOMAD on the Border Festival. Yes, part of the that event's also taking place in our Great Hall as this building straddles the Border. Or is over the Border depending on when you are here! Performers this year include Peter Gabriel, Excalibur Rising, Cats Laughing, Nightnoise, Richard Thompson, Matapat, Serrated Edge, and many, many more. As it lasts two more weeks, there'll be just the set of the Aaron Copland reviews next week, with no new reviews of any sort the following week as that's when we'll be updating our Resources page.

 

Maggie Pye has flown the coop, and most of the offices are strangely empty -- although I note that Reynard's still pouring pints of Dragon's Breath XXX Stout, and I see Grey and Mia are having a quiet chat over pub fare.  David's going through the CDs that have filled Kim's office up to overflowing -- preventing a fire hazard he tells me, and yes, they're spilling into the corridor, but you never know with that one.  And don't even get me started on what's going on in the Letters office! All in all, they're winding down for a break, and I can't blame them either. 

While they're off sunning themselves at festivals, the site will be getting some redo work done as well. (No, Liath, that's OK, you've got enough going on with the library, dear, they'll manage.) I won't ruin the surprise, you'll have to come back and see.  In the mean time, I'm off to the pub; I think I've figured out the wine list -- it's sort of like the card catalog -- and as you might imagine there are some very unusual vintages lurking in the cellars!  And after all, 'tis the season revel and to ripen.  It won't last.  How could it?

 

 

24th of June, 2003

'All three of my kids were away at a sleep-over,
so my husband and I had a rare evening to
ourselves. What did we do with it? We read
the new Harry Potter. We'd bought two copies
for the kids, so we didn't even have to share.'

-- The identity of this mom has been concealed
to protect her second copy of The Order of the Phoenix.

 


When I, Grey Walker, said we ought to publish our review of the new Potter book as soon as our reviewer got it in, the other editors agreed, but Cat Eldridge told me to make sure to include some tie-in to our Welsh flag theme. Errr.... does the Welsh dragon who appeared earlier in the series count? How 'bout this: I've had a suspicion from the beginning that Hogwarts is in Wales. Alright, enough of that. Who's the reviewer, you're all asking, and what's he got to say???

I present to you Master Reviewer Michael M. Jones' review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling.

And I'd like to thank Michael heartily for buying the book at the earliest possible moment and reading without stopping so we could have this review so soon (Scholastic did not send out any early copies for review). Although, review or no review, we know Michael would have done it anyway...

 

22nd of June, 2003

'All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.'

-- Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill

 


Maria Nutick here. We're celebrating the Summer Solstice here at Green Man -- Gwyl Canol Haf, (festival of the Summer Goddess who rules marriage) in Welsh pagan tradition -- a time for celebration and reflection, amongst other things. Before we reflect on this week's bounty of marvelous reviews, we've asked beloved author and musician Emma Bull to reign over us here at GMR as our Summer Queen.

Without further ado, the delightfully introspective and wise Emma Bull gives us:

The Summer Queen's Address to the People
A Meditation on the Season

 

Every year at the Minnesota State Fair, a pretty young person with substantial hair is named Princess Kay of the Milky Way — a sort of dairy state Miss Thing. The young women who didn't win the title become her 'court.' This seems like an invitation for another round of Brutus vs. Julius Caesar, but history doesn't record the assassination of any Princess Kays.

Unlike earlier princesses with rather different job descriptions, Kay only has to wear the tiara until the next State Fair. Oh, and sit for the creation of a life-size bust of herself, sculpted in butter. No, I'm not kidding. There is a butter-sculpture bust of every member of the court, in fact. I remember one Kay saying she would take hers back to her hometown at the end of the State Fair and host a big corn boil for the neighborhood. The neighbors could butter the ears with her head.

Now here I am, Green Man Review's Summer Queen. The tiara weighs heavy, even though my term of royalty is shorter than Princess Kay's. There's no previous Queen to perform a ceremonial hand-off, instruct me in my responsibilities, and warn me away from the potential media scandals. There's no butter sculpture. (An oversight, surely; the Queen of Summer ought to host a corn boil, a peach pie social, something to remind her subjects of the bounty of the season. She ought to bless the crowd at the local baseball games, cut the ceremonial ribbon at the gate of the municipal swimming pool, fire up the first lawn mower and the first barbeque grill of the year.)

But it's possible that this isn't an award or a title, or even a job description. It's possible that I'm applying the wrong model. Green Man is, after all, a site dedicated to art influenced by myth. The mythic Summer Queen is symbol, not substance, a walking-on-two-legs representation of the kindest and cruelest quarter of the year.

The shortest version is: Spring is Promise, summer is Abundance. Autumn is Taking Stock, and winter is Endurance. If time were a stretched string, that would do. But time exists in our perception of it, and our perception spirals, doubles back, leaps forward. Every summer arrives with previous summers pinned to its train, or walking before it as heralds, because we have memory. Every summer prompts visions of the next one, or of its own end, because we have imagination.

The existence of Summer describes and defines the Spring before it and the Winter to come, because of the kind of animal we are. For humans, no moment exists independently of its place in time. Summer's bounty comes from somewhere, is destined for something. The season wouldn't be half so precious if it weren't intertwined with the memory of seasons and years past and foreknowledge of those to come.

So if I'm the symbol of Summer for my village (the Green Man Review readers, truly an electronic community if ever there was one), what does that say about the season? I'm a writer, after all; I know that a symbol doesn't merely represent a thing, but manipulates it. If I'm to be Summer, here's what Summer knows about herself, and needs to pass on, this time around the seasons:

Summer sometimes forgets she isn't Spring. She is sometimes wild and foolish, and stays out dancing until one in the morning. She sometimes cries over the impossibly romantic, and not because it's impossible. She sometimes lunges at change for its own sake, and insists on keeping company with those twenty years her junior.

Summer feels Autumn coming up behind her. She fears that the harvest will be too small after all, and that the apples, when their time comes, will be wormy. She feels cold nights, burnt-brown leaf margins, the inevitability of the end of Abundance.

And Summer is herself, in herself, in spite of all that. The wild breathing thunderstorm that she loved when she was Spring still delights her, not less because she knows now that it grabs nitrogen out of the air and soaks it into the soil for the plants to use. She loves the summer stars more, not less, because she knows their names. Summer ends, and something else begins; but that's its nature. To value summer requires that one value its end as much as its beginning, because there is no summer without autumn to make it short and precious.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the fable of the ants and the grasshopper. The ants spent the summer gathering food to store for the winter, while the grasshopper spent his time playing the fiddle. 'You'd better get ready for hard times,' the ants would say as they passed, 'or you'll starve in the snow.'

In the original version of the fable, that's exactly what happened. But I didn't read the original version first. What came to me from somewhere was a — you might say Bowdlerized, but certainly softened for Twentieth Century children — version in which, when the snow began to fly and the grasshopper was left shivering in the cold, the ants opened up their nest and invited him in. They shared their food with him, and he played the fiddle for them all the long winter. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

That, too, is Summer's lesson. Abundance demands that we give to others, or bounty turns to rot. Summer urges us to give away zucchini, basil, songs, labor, rides to the beach, whatever we have a surplus of that has value to someone else. It teaches us that lesson in the hope that we will remember it come Winter, when there is so much need of it.

The symbol is also changed by the thing it stands for: the manipulator is itself manipulated. To be Summer is to be taught by Summer, because how can I tell Summer's story until I've learned it myself? So I'll try to live the season as it comes, while living in its memory and its imagined self as well. And I will try to remember that To Have should be the same word as To Give.

Meanwhile, I bless your long, long days, steamy or dry, sunny or stormy. I wish grace on your baseball games and clear skies on your picnics. May your charcoal light quickly and burn evenly. May you know the sweet odor of grass you've cut yourself, and the nose-tickling scent of your neighbor's citronella candles.

May you have a corn boil. With butter.

 

Terry Pratchett has done it again! And first on the scene from GMR was savvy reviewer Rachel Manija Brown. So, what's the scoop on Pratchett's new 'young adult' book, The Wee Free Men? For starters, it's got a novel (no pun intended. OK, OK, pun intended) heroine. 'Young Tiffany Aching is a farm girl who values logic and reading and common sense,' says Rachel. 'When she encounters a hideous river monster, she bashes it over the head with a frying pan, then figures out what it is by measuring its eyes and comparing them to a note in a book of folklore.... Tiffany is a character who, in a book by almost any other writer, would be the sidekick of some emotional, seat-of-the-pants kid, and by the end she would learn to trust intuition over logic, and to cut loose and party and cry. But this is a book by Terry Pratchett. Turns out that Tiffany is fine just the way she is. I should write him a letter of gratitude and appreciation on behalf of all sensible girls everywhere.' And it gets even better, so read the rest of Rachel's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review.

Rachel is a busy lady, with a second featured review in this edition. Whale Rider is a new release out of New Zealand which 'takes a culturally specific plot -- the choice by the Maori ancestors of a new chief who will re-awaken the tribe to its lost strength and identity -- and recasts it as the battle by a child to be accepted by a father figure for whom her best is never good enough. These themes are so powerful that all the movie needs to succeed is to stand out of its own way: to avoid sentimentality, over-simplification of complex issues, or hit-you-over-the-head politics.' Read her fabulous review to find out more.

April Gutierrez is enthusiastic about The Light Ages, a new novel by Ian MacLeod. 'Ian MacLeod spins a fascinating tale of an England familiar and yet so very ... askew. The book's setting is roughly analogous to Victorian England, but the industrial revolution, such as it is, owes its progress to a mysterious, magical substance known as aether.' Whether you like historical fiction, or gritty fantasy, or an expert mix of both, April says this book is for you. She also gets into the review-everything-by-Neil-Gaiman act this week, and gives us an Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of The Collected Sandman Dustcovers. 'Brimming with texture, colour and intensity, each cover set the tone for the volume inside, setting, in the process, new standards for comic cover art. McKean and Gaiman eschewed the customary practice of emblazoning each cover with images of the series' protagonists. Instead, you'll find surreal, fantastical imagery, with only the words The Sandman (and occasionally the arc's title) to verify you grabbed the right comic from the rack.' Whether you're a Sandman completest or not, read April's review of this amazing collection of artwork.

Michael M. Jones catches us up on two ongoing fantasy series this week, Patricia Bray's The Sword of Change series and Tanya Huff's The Keeper's Chronicles. Michael has serious praise for Bray's writing. 'Some fantasy stories are about magic, and action, and epic battles. Others managed to give us all that, while keeping the spotlight tightly focused on the personal growth of one character. This is the latter. Devlin's Luck managed to put a spin on the not-quite-tired trope of 'the chosen one'; Devlin's Honor [the second in the trilogy] is about family, and fate, and obligations, and loyalties.' Michael wins an Excellence in Writing Award for his review of Long, Hot Summoning, in which he manages to capture perfectly the light-hearted, modern adolescent nature of The Keeper's Chronicles. 'Our heroes team up with King Arthur as filtered through an anime archetype, and a bunch of mallrats turned elves, in order to defeat an aspect of Hell, free a multidimensional shopping mall, and prevent a worse evil from unbalancing our world, while back at the Elysian Fields Boarding House, the relatively naive handyman and a grumpy talking cat fight a resurrected mummy. I'm serious. It's an urban fantasy comedy. Honest.' If you're still skeptical, read the rest of the review.

Like April above Jack Merry takes a look at another example of Neil Gaiman's ability to collaborate with great artists, Stardust, the version illustrated by Charles Vess. 'Bottom line is that either of these gentlefolk is an artistic genius by himself, but together they are much more than the sum of their talents combined. Like Peter Jackson and Alan Lee in their ongoing film endeavours, Gaiman and Vess have created a work that enhances the Word (sic) in a very significant manner.' Read Jack's review for more details of this beautiful book, as well as a link to a Web page with examples of some of Vess's Stardust pictures.

Jessica Paige won the toss to review the newest novel by Patricia McKillip, just released this month, In the Forests of Serre. She assures us that McKillip fans will find this latest tale to be just as wonderful as they've hoped. 'What McKillip does [here], as she has done before, is remind me that no other author can imbue the otherworld with the same sense of being otherworldly... At this, she is a master, and her skill is as unearthly as those moments she distills into story.' Jessica is even more enthusiastic about The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein, first published in 1993 and re-released by Firebird this year. 'Simply, The Winter Prince is about a man whose will is tested, and the outcome isn't certain. Dark, white-haired Medraut (one of the most compelling characters in recent literature) is the eldest son of the High King....' Yes, this is a novel which builds on elements of the Arthurian legend, but Jessica says it's far from being just another 'new perspective on the same old story.'

Lenora Rose has mixed praise for Magic's Silken Snare, the first in a new series by ElizaBeth Gilligan. She opens her review thusly: 'The cover of this book is beautiful, if viewed up close. The style is lush, and almost renaissance-like. Most of the scene is shadowed, with only slivers of light cutting across the central figure. From ten feet away, it blurs into a grey-brown nothingness.... But the purpose of cover art is not to be beautiful when studied carefully. It is to draw the eye of someone making a quick scan of the bookshelves from a few feet away. This cover will never stand out in a crowd of such books. On the other hand, it may be a most suitable cover for this book.' Read the rest of Lenora's review to see how the book matches the cover, and you'll see why she wins an Excellence in Writing Award for her thoughtful appraisal.

If we had an award for 'Plowing Through, Digesting, and Knowledgeably Critiquing a Book in Record Time', Wes Unruh would certainly win it this week. He took on the new release of Neal Stephenson's intriguing and complex Cryptonomicon a scant few weeks ago, and his review is not only thorough, it shows that he actually understood what he read! Not that Cryptonomicon is a challenging read. Ahem, well, yes it is, but Wes insists that readers who take up the challenge will be amply rewarded. 'This book reads like something Thomas Pynchon and Stephen J. Wolfram might have co-authored, were they to have vacationed together on Midway Island.' And if you can't quite imagine that, how about this: 'Neal Stephenson plays a deft game, fictionalizing elements while incorporating enough factual information to wet the appetite of any history buff, a clever skill for a man previously known for his jaw-dropping cyberpunk action sequences.'

Gary Whitehouse, Master Reviewer, finishes up the book reviews this week with a biography of a literary master, Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert, by Brian Herbert. 'A comprehensive biography of this larger-than-life author is to be welcomed. Unfortunately, this misnamed memoir by his elder son is not that book.' Read Gary's careful, sensitive overview of this book to see why he was ultimately disappointed with it.

And in case you were wondering, we'll have a review of the new Harry Potter in the weeks ahead, so be looking for it!

Craig Clarke, our Letters Editor, is up first with an omnibus review of three films by the infamous Roman Polanski. Craig opines '[O]ne could easily get the impression from his films that director Roman Polanski does not recommend apartment life. Three of his films, forming an unofficial trilogy, concern characters -- apartment dwellers all -- who variously succumb to different kinds of insanity.' Now one of these three films is a veritable legend among horror films, but after reading Craig's review you'll want to see the other two as well. Find out why in Craig's fascinating review of Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, and The Tenant.

Next Michelle Erica Green reviews what she says is 'one of the most underrated movies of the past several years.' In her Excellence in Writing Award winning selection, she tells us about 'the story of a man's discovery of his humanity in a culture where emotion has been outlawed, where art and literature are burned as seditious material and where the only mythology is provided by a totalitarian government...' Sound fascinating? Go read the rest of her review of Equilibrium.

Inigo Jones picks up his own Excellence in Writing Award for his toothsome review of a DVD biography of former Pogues lead singer Shane McGowan. 'The film includes video and concert footage from this time,' says Inigo, 'that show McGowan and the band at their peak - drunk, yes, but intoxicated on something more, something like poetry, but tough enough to survive Thatcher and the IRA alike, Irish in the greatest and most shambholic sense of the word -- a world-touring ceilidh band with the descendant of James Joyce at their helm.' Read more to find out why If I Should Fall From Grace With God -- The Shane McGowan Story is a must-see.

Will Shetterly, intrepid reviewer (and lucky husband of our Summer Queen), follows up last week's review of X-Men with a look at X2: X-Men United. Will tells us 'I'm suspicous of sequels...First movies tend to be about the first steps of the hero's journey, when the audience and the characters learn together what the world and those characters are really like. In sequels, initial revelations are old, so writers must find a way to make the familiar new again. It's not a job for amateurs.' See why he says of X2 '[I]t's better than the first X-Men, though you might have to see it twice to agree. See it. Twice.'

Craig here. Oh, my achin' back! I can't believe the load of letters we've received lately. But I'm not complaining because I love to get mail. Like W.H. Auden said, 'None will hear the postman's knock / Without a quickening of the heart.' Now on to our many missives....

War for the Oaks author (and GMR's Summer Queen) Emma Bull wrote a nice note to comment on Maria Nutick's take on the two albums of Bull's former band Cats Laughing -- and to share some memories. It's not a long letter by any means, but she's downright loquacious compared to Charles de Lint, who used all of ten words in his thanks for Grey Walker's review of Spirits in the Wires. But, then, de Lint is best known for his shorter works.

Ernest Hogan, author of Smoking Mirror Blues, noticed a familiar reference on a recent What's New and wrote in to comment about it. He and our Editor-in-Chief Cat Eldridge's brief exchange is all right here for your reading pleasure.

Occasionally, we receive a letter from a reader whose opinion differs from our reviewer's. (Occasionally? Who am I kidding?) This week's dissent comes from Jennifer Bellak, whose thoughts on Mark Siegel's 'rock and roll fantasy' Echo and Narcissus clash with those of Tim Hoke.

In other letters, Dave Dinsmore of Biting Dog Press wrote to thank us for our review of two Neil Gaiman books; Nicholas Whyte linked to us from his page of Hugo nominees; William suggested that we review the works of Chuck Palahniuk; and Moses asked Grey Walker to recommend a reference that covers the current crop of fantasy authors.

And speaking of crops (how's that for a clumsy segué?), this week's harvest of mail was one of the best ever. Must've been all the recent rain. (What?) Anyway, let's hope for more of the same in weeks to come. You can read all the above mail (including the staff's responses) as well as past comments further down the page. We love to hear from our readers, whatever they have to say. The GMR Letters editor (that would be me) can be reached here.

David Kidney gets a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award for his review of the Jackie Washington Day Tribute Concert held on June 15 in Hamilton, Ontario. The concert was organized to raise funds for the Jackie Washington Living Trust and a host of Jackie's friends and fellow musicians turned out to make this a fantastic event. Read the review -- it captures the energy and enjoyment that only comes when a group of great musicians get together to honor one of their own. David's enthusiasm for the show -- 'Almost four hours of fun and outstanding performances! All for $15!' -- will make you wish you had been there.

Ahhh, you got here. We're in the midst of our annual Midsummer Revels -- an event that lasts for almost a week! Nine Standing Stones, a cool Celtic band from Ross-Shire in the Western Islands, is just finished doing their sound check and they needed an opinion on how it sounds, so they asked me. It was, given the acoustics here in the Great Hall, perfect. Now is that 'The Man Who was Boiled in Lead' that I hear the Ymyl Danheddog fiddler playing? I believe 'tis so...

Even if it isn't summer were you are, it's definately summer here at the Green Man offices. That would usually mean most of our staff has disappeared to parts mostly unknown and certainly beyond where we can find them without using fey means of communication, but this week has a goodly number of CDs reviewed. Now I might not like all of the music reviewed this edition, but I find the reviews all worth reading.

Robin Laing's The Water Of Life is, according to reviewer Judith Gennett, 'Recommended for connoisseurs of traditional music, Celtic music, Scottish music, whiskey, and Scottish gents!' Need I say more? I think not!

Barbara Truex's Scene & Heard gets the once over from Stephen Hunt who reviewed it despite being terribly busy with all the detauls of running the Cornwall Folk Festival. Subtitled 'Music for American Theatre 1999-2002', Stephen says it's much more than mere background material: 'This music deserves to be listened to in the foreground; it's music that's capable of transcending and altering the listener's 'mood,' which is where the 'liberating' comes in! As for 'a touch of tribal influence', there's a touch of just about everything good about American music here. Blues, old-timey, rock 'n' roll, jazz, all barely perceptible threads woven into the tapestry by the artist. Heck, this is one of the most imaginative, intelligent, unusual and downright life-affirming albums of instrumental acoustic music that I've heard in a long time and I just can't stop playing the thing.'

David Kidney is a great fan of many bands including Led Zeppelin and possibly even Metallica if his friend Spike is to be believed. What he has for us here is a tribute CD of songs written by the original Man in Black -- Johnny Cash. Of Johnny's Blues: A Tribute To Johnny Cash David notes, 'Johnny Cash is an American legend. He stands head and shoulders above all other country musicians as a man beyond boundaries, outside the realm of category. He never released the kind of C&W recordings many of his contemporaries did. No string soaked ballads, no whining steel guitars, Johnny wouldn't have it. Just his band and that boom-chicka rhythm. That was enough for J.R. Cash! Sure, the record labels tried to adjust the sound. They tried to update him, and integrate him, capitulate him, and manipulate him, but Johnny was too strong for that; he has always been his own man. The man in black. An American legend.' Read his insightful review to see why this CD reflects a true American legend.

Three CDs by Aussies Jevan Cole & Seamus Kirkpatrick (Gamins & Grandees, Feet Marked By Change, and Crows Three) get critiqued by Peter Massey. He notes that an an evolving band is a good thing: 'For this review I look at three albums released by these guys from the Mount Nebo area of Australia between 1998 and 2002. I found it interesting to note how these young performers had changed, and dare I say it, improved over the four-year period. The first two albums are by Jevan Cole and Seamus Kirkpatrick as a duo; on the third album they are joined by Jan Van Dijk. Jevan Cole is an extremely talented guitarist and mandolin player, while Seamus Kirkpatrick is the vocalist and also plays clarinet, whistles, bass and octave mandolin. On the third album, Jan Van Dijk completes the trio on violin.'

Spike's telling me that I (Jack Merry) just received an Excellence in Writing Award for me look at the Lagaan -- Once upon a time in India soundtrack. Now Hindi pop music is not me cup of black tea, but, as I note in this review, 'Bollywood music, or at least that by this composer, is bright, bouncy, and full of lyrics that, if you translated them into English, would be at home as the plot for a soap opera. But the music is much better than that statement would suggest. After I watched Lagaan for the first time on some cable channel late at night a few winters ago, I had to find the soundtrack...'

This review by Lars Nilsson covers all twelve volumes of The Complete Songs of Robert Burns that Linn Records released (and our deepest thanks to them for sending the entire set!). Really. Truly. As he notes after taking a deep drink of Dragon's Breath Stout to wet his throat, 'This is one of the most ambitious recording projects I have encountered within the folk music world, covering all of Robert Burns' 368 songs. It took about six years and twelve volumes to complete, with a great number of well known Scottish musicians and singers taking part... In total the series give you almost 15 hours of music.' Read his review for all the details on this slightly mad affair!

Kelly Sedinger who will be one of the folks reviewing Aaron Copland next week tackles the matter of Brigadoon. And get a lesson in why one should always read the liner notes: ' the liner notes are to a 1992 operetta-style re-recording of the complete score of Brigadoon. Operetta-style (and, in some cases, full-fledged operatic) rerecordings of Broadway classics have become quite frequent in recent years, with such shows as Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady getting the treatment, with excellent singers and orchestras. In most cases, these recordings strive to create their own impressions of the shows in question, as opposed to trying to recreate the magic of the original casts. Sometimes the effect can be a bit jarring -- hearing Kiri Te Kanawa sing 'I Could Have Danced All Night', from My Fair Lady, after a lifetime of hearing the original Julie Andrews version (or Marni Nixon's), is a good example -- but in other cases, the new recording has a vitality all its own. That is the case with this incarnation of Brigadoon.'

That we review more Nordic trad and not so trad music is no surprise to me given the number of companies sending us product these days. Which is how Mike Stiles came to be reviewing four new releases in this genre (Vintermane's self-title debut release, Flukt's Spill, Biruta Ozolina's Sirdsgriezi, and Alwa's self-title debut release). Which CDs does he find compelling? Which are not? Go read his review and you too will be enlightened!

The Gibson Brothers, bluegrass to the core, have a new album by the name of Bona Fide out on Sugar Hill which may be the premiere bluegrass label of all time. Gary Whitehouse, a man who knows his bluegrass, nods contently that 'The Gibson Brothers, Eric and Leigh, hail from upstate New York, and they play a brand of bluegrass that's influenced as much by New England folk music as by Appalachian string bands. They have top-notch picking (Leigh on guitar, Eric on banjo), strong songwriting and capable sidemen, on top of which they lay their sweet sibling harmonies for a very appealing package.'

 

That's it for this week, folks. May your Midsummer be as blessed as ours here at Green Man; filled with good friends, good food, and good times. May you have work that you love to do, and as Emma says, may you 'try to live the season as it comes.' Pob dymuniad da, pob bendith.

 

 

15th of June, 2003

'The heavy moldings around the door and windows, the shelves, the pedestal table, were oak; the chairs were high-backed and upholstered in a dark fabric full of birds and flowers. The shelves were anywhere the windows weren't, except for the floor and ceiling. The rug under the table and the smaller ones by the windows were deep red, figured with detailed geometric medallions in many other colors. There were lamps on brackets and on stands by the chairs, and a huge oil and candle chandelier over the pedestal table. Reading after dark, it seemed, was expected.' -- Emma Bull's Bone Dance 

 


Cat here. Ah, the joys of a real library after decades of living in apartments far too small for such a luxury. Old Kate's third floor was, as near as we can tell, the living space for a maid back when the house was built in the Victorian era. It has a large sitting room space that faces south and overlooks our garden, that is now the nonfiction collection; the bedroom for the maid is now the fiction room. It is a lovely wood paneled room which now has its floor painted white, with a new rug in the center of the room.

Right now, I've been getting ready to paint part of the library, so I've been moving stuff around to get it out of the way. It, of course, took longer than I expected as I kept finding interesting things. Strange things are often found when cleaning in this house, but even I can be surprised! I knew about the framed artwork by Terri Windling of the Another Way to Travel cover, but forty copies of the Oysterband's F-Word newsletter was a surprise as were dozens of posters from concerts I'd promoted years ago. I might even find those book promotion posters that Jane Yolen signed for me quite some time ago. Now we do collect odd things -- an Indonesian demon mask, a wooden tree sprite -- and Beulah our household witch, and her pet frog, S. Clemens, are also ensconced in the library.

Some of the eight felines here, particulary Brigid, Mabinogion ('Mibble'), and Herne think it's a lovely place to sleep...

Even more surprising was the sheer amount of Welsh related material that was scattered about the library. I knew that we had a copy of The White Goddess, but not the much rarer work called Robert Graves and The White Goddess! Likewise I was startled to discover several volumes of Welsh folk tales which I must sit and read in the overstuffed chair over in the corner...

Peter Massey reviews an odd little gem for us this week, an artifact from a vanished culture. Apparently, Percy Youd, grandfather to folk musician Ken Bazley, scribbled down recollections of his life in the Victorian era in a blue exercise book. After Youd's death, Bazley lovingly transcribed the stories and has published them under Youd's own title, Tales from a Sporting Life: A Mercey Man Who Made His Mark. Full of scenes from Youd's experiences as a publican, auctioneer, bare-knuckle fist fighter and soul-caker, replete with photos and the original script of the soul-cakers' play, this is a fascinating glimpse into a by-gone world.

Nathan Brazil reviews Ashes and Angel Wings by Greg Stolze, a writer for White Wolf. Nathan says, 'It's a cinematically presented story, not unlike an episode of The Sopranos, but on acid. There's Mob culture, deranged psychopathic violence, stroppy fat men, dark humour, sexy women and some great dialogue in New Jersey accents.' Think Nathan likes it? Definitely. Read the rest of his review to find out how much, and to see his one caveat.

Rachel Manija Brown brings us a review of a graphic novel, The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot. She opens her review by saying, 'Though The Tale of One Bad Rat is not a fantasy, it feels like one.' Whazzat?? You've got to read her review to see what she means.

'For every serious student of ancient Grail lore and Arthurian myth,' says Michelle Erica Green, 'there are a hundred people who love the cultural artifacts of the story ... the woodcuts and paintings, The Faerie Queene and The Once and Future King, the opera Tristan und Isolde and the musical Camelot.' Scholar Christopher Snyder has written The World of King Arthur for those hundred people, but Michelle thinks even a serious student can't go wrong with this book. And she earns an Excellence in Writing Award for telling us why so vividly.

Jack Merry has three book reviews for us this week. First up is The Sandman Companion, a labour of love by Hy Bender. '[I]t gives you a fantastic look at Gaiman as a creator,' Jack says. 'Each Sandman tale is clearly discussed in a thoughtful essay by the editor, and then there's lots of juicy conversation from the interview(s) that Hy did with Neil. There's an amazing lot of new information that I've not seen elsewhere.' Another fantastic book is The Faces of Fantasy, with photographs by Patti Perret, edited by James Frankel. 'Perret offers fantasy lovers a treat in this visual cornucopia of beloved authors, who have been photographed in various locales and settings. Each portrait searches for a unique take of the over one hundred writers herein.'

Jack isn't so pleased with Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Other Stories, a collection of short stories by Sharyn McCrumb. 'The only outstanding tales here are a couple of the stories set in Appalachian settings.... But overall, the stories are not well-written, nor does it appear that McCrumb cleaned them up after writing them.' Read Jack's review to see which stories he likes, and also his recommendations for other McCrumb books you must read.

As Copy Editor Maria Nutick says, 'The Lovely Bones has been on all of the mainstream bestseller lists since it arrived on the scene. Book clubs everywhere are reading this novel. Generally, I stay away from narcissistic navel-gazing Oprah's Book Club style mainstream 'lit'ratoor,' but because the conceit of narration from Heaven fits in with the fantasy oeuvre, I thought GMR might want a review of this book, no matter how bad it might be. Two sentences in I knew I was right, and two pages in I knew that it would definitely not be a negative review. This novel is beautiful and brilliant.' In the rest of her review, Maria gives us a taste of this unusual, delicately-shaded novel by Alice Sebold.

We've been on a Neil Gaiman reviewing jag recently. Grey Walker gets into the action by reviewing the script which Gaiman wrote for 'Day of the Dead,' Season Five, Episode Eight of the science fiction television series Babylon 5. That's right. She's not reviewing the episode itself, but the script, published in paperback by Dreamhaven Books as Day of the Dead: An Annotated Babylon 5 Script. 'If you've never watched a film or play with the script open in your lap, you've missed a treat,' Grey says. 'I re-watched the episode, then read the script, then watched and read at the same time. It was fascinating to read the stage directions and see how the director and actors interpreted them. If you're the sort of person who loves and follows a favorite television series and enjoys arguing interpretation with friends afterward, you'll understand. This was like that, but with the added fillip of letting me glimpse the writer's intention for each scene and emotional/verbal arc.' Grey gets an Excellence in Writing Award for her review.

Maria Nutick here. Music Editor Kim Bates made me very happy this week, by applying her laudable writing skills to the film section! She reviews a music DVD we recently received from Shanachie; this one a concert by Irish group Solas. Kim says of Live 'this is not a complicated offering, having been converted from a Vermont Public Television special. Both the instrumentals and the songs are performed with the ease and elegance that marks the band's live performances -- with the seeming spontaneity that is polished out during the production of studion albums. Several performances are especially notable.' I hope her Excellence in Writing Award will induce Kim to send more film and DVD reviews my way!

Craig Clarke has two films for us this week, both from director John Landis. In his Excellence in Writing Award winning review, Craig tells us 'Mixing genres is always a difficult task to pull off successfully. Producing quality work in a single genre is difficult enough without trying to be faithful to two at once. And when the genres appear to be diometrically opposed -- like horror and comedy -- it's even more difficult, with a much higher potential for failure. Director John Landis has attempted this hybrid several times with mixed results -- most notably in the music video for Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', Twilight Zone: The Movie, and the two subjects of this review, An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood.' Read Craig's commentary to find out how successfully Landis handled the challenge in these two movies.

Will Shetterly provides a great assessment of X-Men, in preparation for his upcoming review of the sequel, X-2. Here's his quick take: 'The great: Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, Anna Paquin's Rogue, Bryan Singer's direction. The second-rate: Halle Barry's Storm. A silly plot. The verdict: If you like superheroes or science fiction adventure films, see it soon.' That's just to whet your appetite. Go read his review for the full story on this 'well-made superhero story'.

Michael Hunter brings us an in-depth interview with Richard Thompson this week. He and Richard discuss, among other things, the differences between working for a major label and for an independent, Richard's latest album, and his future plans. This is an inclusive interview -- besides Michael's own questions, Richard fields questions that Michael delivers from other fans as well. Michael and Richard also delve into Richard's experience and understanding of the guitar. Check out the interview for the details, as well as for Richard's advice on how to avoid being attacked by street thugs.



Kim Bates here, to tell you about this week's music reviews. We take several walks down memory lanes with artists that have had profound effects on the lives and listening of folkies everywhere, as well as reporting on two newer acts. You may well be asking, why are these Green Man reviewers covering the big names, when so many discs are filling up the Green Man mailbox and causing the Music Editor's desk to groan under the weight of packages -- groups of discs destined for reviewers? Well, read on -- because several of our finest give us their own unique perspective on how the popular has influenced the folk world over the past few decades!

Craig Clarke doesn't quite want to categorize The Rusticators, although maybe that's a good thing. Read his review to find out why he was less than enthusiastic about this freshman effort.

Judith Gennett confesses to some mighty personal stuff in her review of The Baksheesh Boys -- her early experiences with Balkan dancing. Find out why this disc of Bulgraian dance music brought back memories and got her feet moving. As she says, 'The Boys are a weekend Balkan dance band based in Los Angeles and The Bay Area. Their self-titled album of jangly, semi-acoustic dance music from Macedonia is their first, but hopefully not their last!'

Ah, Richard Thompson, the voice that launched legions of garage guitar players and rabidly enthusiastic fans who pursue even the most obscure performance or studio recording. So why can't David Kidney, a self-confessed 'Dickhead' and our esteemed Assistant Music Editor keep up? You must read his review of two new limited edition offerings, Tracks and Limited Edition Old Kit Bag Bonus Disc to find out why. Now, Richard Thompson's been around since the '60s, and so has another little band who's celebrating their 40th anniversary together with -- you guessed it -- a commemorative album. These grandfathers are still getting down! Read David's inimitable review of the Rolling Stones' Forty Licks to get his unique perspective on this little bit of history.

Peter Massey is back again this week with another little gem that may be hard to find outside his own stomping grounds: Yardarm - Offa's Once Upon a Winters Night.Why the hyphen in the name? Read his review for the details, and a history of how this group evolved over the past few decades.

Jack Merry's reviewed The Best of The Doors, with a little help from Spike, the er... esteemed GMR bouncer and layabout. Is this tradition? Well, there's no denying that the psychedelic era drew more than a little on blues and other North American roots, or as Jack says, 'If you've not been exposed to the The Doors, do not decide what to buy based on what's at Amazon as you'll find some ninety or so recordings, all of which overlap to varying degrees. What you really want is someone with musical taste and access to the master tapes to put together a tasty selection of the very best of The Doors. '

And finally, Barb Truex reviews Tron Steffen Westberg's Bortover all vei..., a disc that fans of the fiddle may well want to add to their collection. As she tells it, '[i]t has been said that the fiddle is the most human sounding of all instruments. (I don't know WHO said it, but I've heard the comment many times.) Perhaps that is why, with an accomplished player like Westberg, the sound seems to enter the bloodstream, not just the ears, and permeates the body with vibrations in much the same way a meditating chant will.'

Well, that was a nice little walk down memory lane, with artists great and obscure, dead and alive, old and even a few fresh voices. But, before I sign off, we'd like to hear from you! That's right, just now the Green Man Review has a need. We're growing and we'd like to find more folks who know and love music -- to review it. If you love the roots and branches of one of the traditions we cover, and want to be able to express yourself, and be exposed to new material, independent artists as well as those with a bigger following, please send us an audition review, after reading our FAQ to find out about formats and all those other details we editors love.

I had forgotten that the library here at Green Man was also undergoing a partial renovation too until Laith reminded me that this was happening. Now understand that I have no idea exactly what space(s) the library here occupies as no one including Laith is quite sure. It can be as small as a single cozy room when need be, or so expansive that an entire cloister exists within it. Even it's location changes -- leaded glass windows that looked out on Oberon's Wood can suddenly be facing a narrow street that appears to be from the late Victorian era complete with fog, street vendors, and even a Bobby strolling along looking for trouble.

How can this be so? It has been suggested that the library is itself a living being which reshapes itself as it pleases, but no one knows for sure. However even if it is living being, it apparently needs the help of the staff here to keep it clean, straighten the stacks, and update the bibliographic indexes, both the printed and digital versions. What's being freshened up is the Robert Graves Reading Room as its walls need painting, the chairs re-upolstering, and the fireplace needs a really good scrubbing. Liath thinks that this Reading Room in its present form dates back to when the Mabinogion was first being written down, with the last true cleaning being between the Wars. Not that she'd say which Wars she was referring to...

 

8th of June, 2003

'They offered me the office, offered me the shop,
They said I'd better take anything they'd got.
Do you wanna make tea at the BBC?
Do you wanna be, do you really wanna be a cop?
 
Career opportunities are the ones that never knock
Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock
Career opportunity, the ones that never knock.
'

The Clash, 'Career Opportunities' (written by Strummer and Jones)

 

Look at tha'! I bloody tell ya! It's just like prophecy! I mean I'm not workin' at @#$in' BBC...but I am making tea at GMR. Since droppin' in to see me ole mate Dave a few months ago, I've been showin' up regularly, an' they fin'lly put me to work! It's not so much tha' they 'ave a job for me...it's jus' that they like 'avin' me around. An' who wouldn't? Oh, by the way, the name's Spike! Pleased ta meetcha!

It's a bit creepy down in Dave's office. No windows, and brick walls, with a big barrel of some kind of wine on one wall. I thought I heard scratchin' from behind it one time... but was told to mind me own bizness! Right! There's this @#$in' black bird what has the run of the whole buildin', an' you never know when an elf or hobbit might call in to report! Mia an' Grey, they're Dave's fav'rites...an' 'e's always asking them questions about this an' that. They look at me with fear and terror I think, but they've been nice. This week Mia sent down a package which dropped thru the mail slot wif a thunk. Inside was all sorts of goodies, like Cajun Red Eye Hazelnuts (spicy!), diff'rent kinds of salmon, an' a Hazelnut Scone mix, which I whipped up for dinner. We slather'd it wif some Misty Meadows Oregon Gooseberry Jammmmmmm! Tasty! Much better than the pizza crusts Jack feeds me at the pub! Grey's been tryin' ta get me ta read this book on the history of Punk Rock. It's got lotsa pictures...but no mention of my ole band the Jap Zeros...so what the @#$% good is it!?!?

Jack seems to be a good bloke, who secretly listens to Metallica records...an' keeps a stash of Guinness in his office fridge! The writers are in an' out of the buildin' droppin' off sheets of yellow paper, with chicken scratches all over 'em; an' the editors shuffle thru this stuff an' you can hear their screams down the hall...quite spooky! Stephen was tellin' somebody my ole band couldnuv been real punks but @#$% it! He nevah met my bruvvah Fred! He'd a smacked 'im. Then there's the mail room, with stacks of stamps, an' that packin' stuff that goes 'pop!' when you squeeze it. I spend a lot of time in there. Anyway... all this stuff what goes on ends up bein' a new issue of Green Man Review... an' this, what you're readin' now... is the latest.



I'm Cat Eldridge, the Editor-in-Chief here. It's my pleasure this week to do the commentary on the featured reviews. Now let's get started!

Emma Bull... Charles de Lint... Will Shetterly... Recognize those names? Of course, you do as they are some of the best known writers in fantasy today. Each of these featured reviews in one way or another involve one of these talented individuals. Unlike some zines that shall remain nameless, Green Man exists literally in a symbiotic realtionship with the individuals and organizations that are the roots and branches of arts and culture. If it's good for them, it's very likely good for Green Man as well. What that means for you, our dear readers, is that you will get a better selection of products reviewed by reviewers who really care about what they are saying. So let's see what they are reviewing this week!

Leading off the featured reviews is Maria Nutick's Excellence in Writing Award winning look at a project that involved both Will and Emma: the Cats Laughing CDs! What's that? You thought they were a fiction because you saw them in a comic book? Not at all, as Maria can explain: 'The Green Man Library may be the only place where you can go to read William Shakespeare's The Trapping of the Mouse or Edgar Allen Poe's The Worm of Midnight while listening to the music of Gossamer Axe or Snori Snoriscousin and His Brass Idiots. The world of literature is a big, big place, and it's an intrepid and meticulous soul who can keep track of the shifting tapestry that we call 'reality'. There are books within books and bands you can only listen to in your imagination. So you're to be forgiven if you've seen references to Cats Laughing in novels like Bone Dance or the Bordertown series and assumed that they were only another fictional group like Wild Hunt or Eldritch Steel. But if that was your assumption, it's time you learned the truth: Cats Laughing were very real, and they were one hell of a band -- and they live on in these CDs, and they're still one hell of a band.' Read her detail look at Cats Laughing Bootleg Issue and Another Way to Travel to get a full feel for this incredibly good folk rock group.

We're thrilled to welcome the newest addition to our staff of crack reviewers, a man who has been proving his worth as a writer for many a year: Will Shetterly. Not only has he provided us with an abundance of high quality fiction, he's got one of the most interesting blogs on the Net and he knows his stuff when it comes to film reviewing! Film Editor Maria Nutick is happy to present Will with his first GMR Excellence in Writing Award for his expert discussion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Complete First Season, now out on DVD. Will says 'To anyone who has never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I won't give away any major plot points in the first season. But I warn you, in my reviews of the next seasons, all's fair. Read this, decide if you want to try the show, and if you like it as much as I do, watch the first five seasons. They form a coherent unit, building in quality through the first three seasons, then sliding slightly in seasons four and five, though those seasons include many of BtVS's finest moments.' Now go read his excellent review to find out more.

I just finished reading Charles de Lint's new novel, Spirits in the Wires, but I'm not giving you a review of it. That honor goes to Grey Walker, our esteemed Book Editor, who claimed the privilege of reviewing it. (Yes, we indeed got two ARCs and it's a damn good thing as there was a tense discussion in the Editors Lounge here at Green Man as to who would get to review Spirits in the Wires!) Now we've reviewed almost everything this talented writer has done, so how to sum up this latest novel was a bit of a puzzle for Our Greyness, but she did it: 'de Lint doesn't stop with juxtaposing myths from hither and yon. He also spikes the mix with liberal amounts of popular and grassroots culture, musical, visual and literary. Robert Johnson makes an appearance, as does a reference to Richard Thompson's red-haired girl in black leather on a motorcycle. And then there're links to Project Gutenberg and the 'feral peter pans' of Google. De Lint grafts these familiar bits from our world so skillfully into the lives of Christy and Geordie Riddell and Holly Rue that the effect is to make them -- and Newford itself -- seem real, as if they lived just around the corner from us. I've surreptitiously typed the URL of the Wordwood (a Web site created by Holly and her friends) into my own browser just to see what comes up. And I know I'm not the only reader who has. So far, though, I could be talking about almost any of Charles de Lint's urban fantasy novels. What makes Spirits in the Wires new and exciting? What about 'the concept is riveting'? Ah, here's where it gets really interesting. De Lint takes the idea of cyberspace developing a personality (or personalities) of its own, a lá William Gibson, and goes one step further.' You'll have to wait until August to read this cool novel, but you can enjoy the rest of her Excellence in Writing Award winning review now!

Editor-in-Chief Cat Eldridge takes a look at two titles from a small press this week, and reflects on the joy of holding and reading books that are works of superb craftsmanship. The press is Biting Dog Press, and the books are two short stories cum plays by Neil Gaiman, Murder Mysteries: Two Plays for Voices and Snow Glass Apples. Read Cat's paean to the perfect conjunction between text, art, typeface, paper, and binding. Vive le livre!

Michael M. Jones has two reviews for us, the first of a new collaboration between fantasy/comic writers Robert Aspirin and Esther Friesner, E. Godz. Unfortunately, Michael says this one doesn't quite live up to its potential. 'Together, [Aspirin and Friesner were] bound to either be very good or a little muddled, and I fear E. Godz is a little muddled, as though Aspirin's and Friesner's styles didn't entirely mesh.' So is it worth reading anyway? Read Michael's review to find out. Kushiel's Avatar, the third in Jacqueline Carey's splendid fantasy series, earns far more enthusiastic praise from Michael. 'One of [Carey's] strengths is the ability to plot on a large scale, daring to take her characters across the weeks and months and years and continents, to play out the drama across entire countries, and to still keep it on such a personal level.' Is this good-bye to Phèdre nó Delauney? We hope not!

Lenora Rose reviews Lilith's Cave, a collection of tales revolving around Adam's mythological first wife, collected and retold by Howard Schwartz. 'These are stories that are told when the fire is fading in the hearth, to summon a chill to the blood,' Lenora intones. 'Some are versions of familiar stories, with only a subtle Jewish bent to differentiate them from the tales told by children, with the flashlight beaming up to make their faces strange... Others are fierce stories of hell and corruption, of the Torah, of Rabbis and the laws of God, tales of morality and warning, of religion and culture, where Judaism is not just a new spice to an old story, but is the coursing heart of the piece.'

In spite of what Maria Nutick's many correspondents seem to think, we are rather fond of animals around here, and are quite happy to praise a good story with an animal protagonist. One such story is Warriors #1: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter, which Wes Unruh happily praises this week. The protagonist is Firepaw, a young housecat who wanders into the forest and finds himself involved in a fierce struggle between warring wild cat clans. Wes says, 'I expected this to be a pleasant, simplistic children's tale, and was surprised to find it so engrossing!' While children of ten and up will certainly love this book, Wes cautions, 'The forest of Warriors is a wild place, and the ferocity of the natural world of this book, like that in Jack London's White Fang or Robert C. O'Brien's classic The Secret of Nimh, is thoroughly explored in the prose.'

Matthew Scott Winslow is equally happy with Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book, which continues the adventures of Thursday Next, the intrepid savior of literature we first met in The Eyre Affair. 'I confess I'm in love,' Matthew gushes, 'but that's OK, because my wife knows about it; she's even participating in this affair.' Read Matthew's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to see why he (and his wife) are so entranced by this book.

Heralding the long-awaited conclusion to Stephen King's fantasy series The Dark Tower, Viking Press is re-releasing the first four books -- The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands and Wizards and Glass -- in hardcover. Each volume will feature a new introduction by King himself, and The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded. Books five through seven -- Wolves of the Calla (November 2003), Song of Susannah (summer 2004) and The Dark Tower (fall/winter 2004) -- will wrap up the long-running series in fairly quick succession. Look for reviews from April Gutierrez of all four of the Viking re-releases here in the upcoming weeks.

Nathan Brazil brings us a film about '...Indian cooking, cultural absurdity, family love, and an abiding desire to play what the English call 'the beautiful game'...' That game, of course, would be football; what we in the States call soccer. What happens when a young Indian girl dreams of playing football like English football star David Beckham? Culture clash, among other things -- but Nathan says that '[t]he underlying theme of culture clash is better because it is underlying, rather than politicised and angry. Instead of favouring either the Indian or the English culture, the writer shows how the two manage their uneasy coexistence.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see what else he found well done about Bend It Like Beckham.

Reviewer Kevin Lau has glowing words for a new box office hit, a movie he claims is 'a delicious and spectacular film, one of the best mainstream films I've seen all year.' Animated fish from Disney Pixar, 'delicious and spectacular'? Oh, my, yes...he tells us that 'especially amazing is the effort made by the creators to realize the potential of an underwater setting. There haven't been that many underwater movies (The Abyss comes to mind, but that film was great for entirely different reasons) and thus everything here comes off as brand new and inspired-looking, feeding upon both our knowledge of the ocean and our idealized perceptions of what goes on within.' Sounds like a winner, and Kevin is too, as he picks up his own Excellence in Writing Award for his thoughtful exploration of Finding Nemo.

Last week, Wes Unruh reviewed John Paul Allen's first novel, Gifted Trust, due to be released soon by Biting Dog Publications. This week, Wes is back with an interview with the author himself. You won't want to miss this interview, in which Allen discusses the firestorm of controversy that has already erupted over his book, before it's even been officially released!

There were several succinct additions to the Letters page this week. First, Dave Dinsmore of Biting Dog Publications appreciated Wes Unruh's review of John Paul Allen's Gifted Trust, noting in particular their similar takes on the subject matter.

After reading Gary Whitehouse's take on William Gibson's latest novel, Pattern Recognition, Howard Weaver invited Gary to take part in a new Weblog focusing on the book's lead character, Cayce Pollard.

And a few entries fall under the heading of Our Readers Improve Our Publication. Lawrence Lin of Team Ghiblink pointed out a minor factual error in Mia Nutick's look at Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke; Padraig of the band Henry Marten's Ghost requested to be refiled under a different category; and Daniel Karaczun (author of Out of This Kitchen) noted his name was misspelled (but not the one you might think). Each of these errors was quickly and enthusiastically remedied. Our thanks to all of them for helping us make GMR that much better.

Read these letters (as well as the staff's responses) and also feel free to check out past comments further down the page. We love to hear from artists, authors, and especially our readers. You can reach us at this address.

Steve Power attended the CD launch for Michael Hynes and Denis Liddy's new album, Waifs and Strays, at the Ballyline Folk Club in Crusheen, Co. Clare, Ireland. The party sounds like it was great fun -- though the crowd was slow coming in, by the time Hynes and Liddy started playing the bar was ''mobbed' (as they say here) with an extremely appreciative (if sometimes a little noisy) throng.' Besides the headliners, there were poetry readings and additional performances by other musicians who came to show their support for the CD release. Read Steve's review for a taste of how good the party was.

Lenora Rose found an unusual venue (the Bhigg House in Winnipeg) for a recent performance by the French-Canadian a capella group Madrigaia. Lenora's past experience of this group was 'glorious' and she couldn't wait to get to the show. The Bhigg House provided an intimate setting with some unusual benefits -- this was the first time Lenora attended a concert where she's 'been invited into the kitchen in the intermission for chocolate chip cookies and lemonade.' Take a look at Lenora's review for a better appreciation of Madrigaia's talented and moving performance, as well as the unique experience of a concert at the Bhigg House.

Jack Merry here. I've been listening to Robert Johnson in me office and researching his story in the Green Man library this week as he wandered (with his Gibson) into the Green Man Pub recently. Or at least we thought he was that Blues musician -- he never said who he was, but he muttered somethin' about The Wild Hunt bein' after him. It's a bit queer that we got both him and the Lizard King drinking here over the past few months as the former told Reynard that he held the latter in great esteem. But you never know what you'll find here, and that also applies to what gets reviewed! Just take a look at the offerings below...

Faith Cormier and her daughter found much to like in Polynesian artists Te Vaka's three albums: Te Vaka, Ki Mua, and Nukukehe: 'My teenaged daughter likes Te Vaka. I guess that's a bad sign when you're in your late forties and were raised on a mixture of sixties folk and traditional Newfoundland and Irish music. Once I got past the misconception that world music meant traditional or folk music, however, I found myself liking them, too.'

An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Scott Gianelli for his in depth look at Boris Grebenshikov's Russian Songwriter: A Collection of Songs from Boris Grebenshikov. Who? Oh, let's let Scott tell us why he's important: 'A long time ago, in a mythical, long-forgotten land known as the Soviet Union, a young man named Boris decided to write and sing songs. A native of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Boris Grebenshikov became arguably the most renowned figure in the Soviet underground music scene in the late seventies and eighties, and has frequently been referred to as 'the Russian Bob Dylan.''

Appropriately 'nough, David Kidney has an Excellence in Writing Award winning Blues omni for us as he looks at three offerings from that genre: Tab Benoit's The Sea Saint Sessions, Robert Cray's Time Will Tell, and Toni Lynn Washington's Been So Long. Now don't ask David to define what the Blues are: 'As I've been trying to impress on the faithful readers of GMR, 'the blues' is hard to define. It takes many different forms. The 12-bar song form, bent notes, repetition and basic angst into joy that equals blues music are all fundamental components; but individual response and style are so critical as to render definitions almost irrelevant. We have before us today three new releases, by three established performers, and each one will be filed in the 'blues' section of your local record store. But apart from similarities in instrumentation and structure, these are three distinct albums full of heartfelt music and darn fine playing and singing.' Read his review to see what these CDs have that make them stellar Blues outings!

In the forthcoming Charles de Lint novel, Spirits in the Wires, David Tamulevich and our Editor, Cat Eldridge, are thanked for providing the author with 'wonderful music'. David is one half of Mustard's Retreat whose latest CD, A Resolution of Something, is praised highly by accomplished musician Peter Massey. He notes: 'The first time I came across Mustard's Retreat was back in 1995 on their album Back to Back. I thought they were pretty good then, but I understand their debut album was back in 1979 with Mustard's Retreat. For the benefit of anyone who has not come across them yet, they are basically a duo composed of Michael Hough and David Tamulevich -- although on the latest album they have 11 guest musicians pitching in, all done very tastefully so you hardly notice that they're there. On most of the tracks David Tamulevich takes the lead vocals and plays guitar, while Michael Hough plays bass and takes care of backing vocals. Two out of the fifteen tracks on this album are traditional, the rest are written by Hough and Tamulevich. I have to say it -- as singer-songwriter efforts go, this is a fantastic album. Not only can they write outstanding lyrics, but they can sing as well, and should not be underestimated.'

David wraps up his reviewing this outing with a A Mighty Wind: The Soundtrack: 'I have been listening to folk music for my whole life. Before I could choose my own records, my mother was digging The Weavers, and Burl Ives. Then the Kingston Trio, the Womenfolk, Brothers Four. Mitch Miller and the Gang even did a schmaltzy middle of the road translation of folk music that made me cringe. Then we moved on to the Smothers Brothers, Peter, Paul & Mary and Bob Dylan...there was no looking back! The film A Mighty Wind is being reviewed elsewhere in GMR, but the day after I saw it...I ran to the record store and picked up a copy of the soundtrack, and I've been enjoying it ever since.'

Deadicated is a CD that I should've written up for Green Man a decade ago but which somehow didn't get reviewed at that time: 'If you're a Dead fan, get ready to really hate me. I truly hate Jerry's singing as I think he had a weak voice with limited range. I much preferred the instruments to the songs because of this. Hell, the best vocalist the Grateful Dead ever had (I'm using their full name as the new version of them that formed this year is called simply the Dead which I suppose makes them something out of a Joyce novel) was Donna Godchaux, a woman whose voice was truly good. Jerry was a great guitarist, but a dreadful singer. Really. Truly. What Deadicated does is correct that problem by having bands who have true vocalists sing songs that are classic Grateful Dead material.'

Impressive would be how Lars Nilsson found Gaate's Jygri CD: 'After listening to folk rock for more than 30 years it is easy to suspect you have heard it all -- that every new record you get is merely a slight variation of some other record in your collection. And then along comes a quintet of Norwegians that completely sweeps you off your feet.'

I should mention in passing that Big Earl Sellar is quite a Blues fan. But the CD he's reviewing is not Blues 'tall. N. Rajam' s Radiant is a rather different musical experience: 'Dr. N. Rajam is an Indian musician using a very Western instrument, the European violin. Although not a groundbreaking or unique idea, it is a logical one: the European stringed instrument family numbers among the few tools that are not set to a tempered pitch range: microtonalities, common in many cultures, are readily available with them. And given the sustain and dynamic attributes of the violin, it fits in nicely with more traditional instruments from the Indian sub-continent.'

The Dolly Ranchers's Escape Artist is, according to Gary Whitehouse, a study in harmony: 'Vocal harmony has always played a leading role in country music. Today's alternative country and country-folk music continues to draw on that tradition, as we see in this recording from The Dolly Ranchers. This Santa Fe, New Mexico-based female quartet's music revolves around the harmonies of two lead singers. Amy Bertucci usually takes the low parts and Sarah-Jane Moody the high. Moody also contributes Dylan-esque harmonica, rhythm guitar and hand percussion. Rounding out the quartet are Maria Fabulosa on bass and chief songwriter Marisa Anderson on guitar and banjo.'

The latest from the Hank Dogs caught Gary's fancy: 'It was purely coincidence that I was reading Australian Tim Winton's Dirt Music at the same time that I was listening to the Hank Dogs' Half Smile. But this CD of gently gritty American roots-based music by the South London trio was a perfect soundtrack for Winton's book about Australian fisherman/farmer/musician Luther Fox; both the CD and the book deal with themes of love, loss and hope, and both are closely entwined with acoustic country and blues music.'

Next up for this reviewer folk group Paso Fino, and their CD, Should've Bought a Pony. He says their 'music is hard to categorize. But if you like contemporary folk with thoughtful lyrics in a variety of musical styles, you might want to take a ride on this Pony.'

Now I must be off as I hear a rumour that Spike's going to tell what really happened to him after the Sixties ended. Just keep in mind what Gaiman said when we hear his tale: 'Writers are liars my dear, surely you know that by now?'.

 

So all in all it looks like a tasty li'l dish, wouldn'cha say? Books for the bookish, movies for the movie-ish, an' all that other stuff f'th'rest of us! By the way if you're wonderin' what those flags are up at top of th' page... well, we're all Wales-watchin' this month! That's where Prince Chuck is in charge! You know, they produced some not bad punk rock there themselves... from Llanelli's 'Llygod Ffyrnig' to the Tunnelrunners, Victimise, and then there's always Welly Artcore, who let me stay in 'is digs fer a month after the accident. Well, that's about it for this week I guess. It's been real, talkin' to ya! Now bugger off!


 

1st of June, 2003

'Since 1410 most Welsh people most of the time have abandoned any idea of independence as unthinkable. But since 1410 most Welsh people, at some time or another, if only in some secret corner of the mind, have been 'out with Owain and his barefoot scrubs'. For the Welsh mind is still haunted by its lightning-flash vision of a people that was free.' -- Gwyn A. Williams

 

You want to know about all the banners flying high in the rafters of the Great Hall? They represent some of the 'lost' nations of Europe, such as Alba, Andalucia, Breizh, Catalunya, Crsu, Cymru, Eesti, Elsasz, Euskadi, Føroyar, Friesland, Gallega, Jura, Kernow, Mannin, Northumbria, Occitania, Samiasne, Savoie, Ulster, Vlaanderen, and Wallonie. These all have delegates here, as do some newly re-emerged nations such as Slovenia and Kosovo, for The Devolving Europe Festival, which is being held here for the next two weeks. Now, these are not advocates for violent overthrow of the existing order, but rather like-minded folks who know that keeping their local cultures alive in an age of an increasingly homogenized European society is a matter of music being played, food being prepared and shared, ale brewed and drunk deeply, literature being written and read, plays being performed, and music being played long into the night. Yes, this is actually one frelling long party!

 

'And now it's time to choose -- Do I have to choose?
I picked up the fiddle, put down the gun.' -- Oysterband

I, Jack Merry, and me fellow inhabitants of Cymru are the hosts for this gathering. Most of the folks here are staying in the building for the duration of the festival, either in one of our garret rooms or crashing elsewhere as they see fit (though Liath has banned anyone from sleeping on the Library tables, so as not to interfere with any late-night review research!). I don't think we've had this many people stay here before! Whole cases of Pendle Witch's Brew (a Welsh ale with a thick, malty, and rather earthy taste) have been consumed! Bela has been adopted by the group from Breizh, who are babbling happily in their language with him about some obscure Breizh playwright he claims to have written compositions for. Reynard is the 'unofficial' leader of the Northumbrian group, who are now trading tunes for fiddle, pipe and concertina with musicians from both Kosovo and Macedonia, with not a note of dischord to be heard.

Grey Walker finds herself in an enviable position this week. She has been given the opportunity to read and review Swan Sisters: A Fairy Tale Retold, a new young-adult anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, months before the book will be available in bookstores! Of course, considering who the editors are, this is an anthology worth looking out for when it is available in September 2003; until then, read Grey's Excellence in Writing Award-worthy review to find out what the rest of us have to wait patiently for.

Jack Merry has got a look at Redwood, the new CD from Lunasa, but Stephen Hunt gives us a detailed review of their first three CDs (Lunasa, otherworld, and The Merry Sisters of Fate) that you must read first. Yes, we had reviews of these CDs up already, but the editorial staff here at Green Man was not completely pleased with them, so Stephen, who writes many of our best reviews, volunteered to do a new look at these CDs. In his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review, he notes 'while I have absolutely nothing against American music, or, more pertinently, Celtic-American music, part of Lunasa's initial impact lay in their difference in sound to the Americanized Solas/Ivers/Carroll approach. With Merry Sisters, that difference is slightly less pronounced . Having said all that (and it's actually a minor quibble), they're still uniquely themselves, and still one of the best Celtic bands on the planet.'

As mentioned above, the fiddlin' Jack does indeed have a look at Redwood, the latest offering from Lunasa, who Jack also considers to be the best purveyors of Irish music playing today. As he notes, 'Need proof of how good they are on Redwood? Just go listen to track three which consists of 'Harp and Shamrock' (composed by Pat Crowley) and 'Mick O'Connor's Reel' which was composed by Mick himself. Toes tapping yet? Pulse getting faster? No? Sigh &emdash; didn't know you'd passed on, eh? I'll get the Morrigan to escort you over the Border to where you belong as you certainly don't belong here!' Now go read the rest of his review for all the details on this lovely album. Jack also picks up an Excellence in Writing Award!

Donna Bird takes another look at the ways we used to live, this time with a collection of essays on shopkeepers, A Nation of Shopkeepers: Five Centuries of British Retailing. 'One of the charms of the edited collection as a format for non-fiction,' Donna writes, 'is that the reader may pick and choose articles based on their titles and can complete a piece of reading in a relatively short time.' Although this is a book that is very scholarly, Donna reports on some of the more interesting essays.

Master Reviewer Michael M. Jones delivers three reviews this week. In his first, he takes us back to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series with the latest installment, Death Masks, which is another episode in the life of Chicago's only openly practicing wizard and private investigator, Harry Dresden. Even though he praised the first four books in the series, Michael tells us that 'Butcher, too, is improving in leaps and bounds as he continues to gain that writing confidence.' Next, Michael gives us a glimpse into the life of phenomenally successful author J.K. Rowling with his review of Sean Smith's appropriately titled J.K. Rowling: A Biography. Smith's book is an attempt to see clearly through the haze of half-information about Ms. Rowling's life. Finally, Michael brings us an omnibus review of Neil Gaiman's graphic novels from the early 1990s, The Books of Magic, that are now being adapted into young-adult novels, written by Carla Jablonski. Of these adaptations, Michael informs us that ' Carla Jablonski was indeed faithful to the source material, perhaps to a fault.' Read the review to find out more!

David Kidney also reviews a graphic novel for us this week. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi is about life growing up in fundamentalist Iran of the 1980s. But, David tells us, 'Persepolis is not a dry political treatise.' Instead it is filled with many real, touching, terrifying moments. David shares a few of them with us in his review.

Wes Unruh reviews horror novel Gifted Trust by first-time author John Paul Allen. Wes describes this novel as 'not safe for the office' because Mr. Allen takes on the issue of abuse in graphic terms. That's quite a chore for a first-time author! Does he succeed? Read Wes's review to find out.

Finally, Leona Wisoker looks at Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's latest book, Night Blooming, a historical fantasy set in the time of Charlemagne. The author has definitely done her homework in the period, Leona informs us, but this backfires on her. Leona writes that, 'I wound up feeling as if the writer was trying too hard to show how much she knew about each character and the time she was writing about.' Still, it wasn't a total waste of time for Leona, and she reports that she'll continue to keep an eye on the series.

One last note... The ARCs (advanced reading copies) of Charles de Lint's forthcoming novel, Spirits in the Wires, have arrived from Tor. Look for a review in the next couple of weeks!

David Kidney viewed That High Lonesome Sound: Films Of American Rural Life And Music By John Cohen, and came away with an appreciation of the importance of music in everyday life. David says 'The coal miners, their families, the farmers, trying to eke a living out of a little bit of ground, and music. Always music. It's a part of their life, not something tagged on, or plugged in by radio or MTV!' He goes on to say that these early films of Cohen's 'are best watched one at a time. Soaked up, revelled in.' David garners an Excellence In Writing Award for his insightful commentary.

It's been a busy week here in the mailroom. Myriad comments came forth from artists and readers alike. First off, author Holly Black appreciated Maria Nutick's take on Black's Spiderwick Chronicles and added some nice praise for GMR, too.

Next, reader Don Lagosz-Sinclair agreed with Gary Whitehouse's review of The Old Kit Bag, Richard Thompson's new album. With one exception. What was it? Click on Don's name to read the letter and Gary's response.

Monica Taylor of The Farm Couple wants to send us more discs to review, notwithstanding that Gary Whitehouse wrote a less-than-glowing review of their first. Unlike some artists who respond defensively to a semi-negative review, Monica wants another chance to prove that The Farm Couple's music is up to our standards. Now that's determination! She also fits in a plug for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma (where they'll be playing).

In addition, we received 'thank you' notes from Phil Free of The Faintin' Goats, Rudra Beauvert of Shiva Shakti, Irish flute master Grey Larsen, and Gordie Meyer, publisher of Richard Parks' The Ogre's Wife. Check those out, too.

Also feel free to check out past letters and comments further down the Letters page. Comments on these letters, this week's reviews, or anything else we do or did here at Green Man Review are excitedly received and can be sent to this address.

Faith Cormier brings us something slightly different this week -- a review of the Maori dance and music troup Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre. She attended their performance in New Brunswick and found it an eye-opening experience. Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre presents music, dance, traditional arts, and martial arts of the Maori people (including bringing audience members onstage to participate) in a way that builds cross-cultural learning in a highly entertaining and informative setting. The group brought the audience 'into their world as guests and equals -- not as invaders to be feared or ignorant inferiors to be instructed.' Faith found the performance a great way to learn about Maori culture in a positive atmosphere where the audience could both learn about and develop a deepened respect for the Maori people. Read her review to learn more yourself.

Jack Merry here. Now where was I before I got distracted by Apocalypse Brass Band playing a bluesy version of Shopetzki Kopanitsa? Oh, blurbing the music reviews...

Kim Bates has a rather amazing omnibus review of singer-songwriters. How amazing? Here's what she looks at: Bruce Cockburn, In the Falling Dark, Further Adventures of, Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws, Live, Inner City Front, and The Trouble with Normal; David Francey's Torn Screen Door and Far End of Summer; and three by Garnet Rogers: Night Drive, Sparrow's Wing, and Firefly.

Her opening paragraph explains why in this modern age that they are worth hearing: 'Here in Toronto, walking down the street or taking the subway is almost always an occasion for hearing a language you don't speak, and brushing shoulders with someone who hails from far away. We're a city of immigrants, and wherever you're from you'll find your people here. New York run by the Swiss, they say, and that's not too far off the mark. Buskers, for example, compete each year for a limited number of licenses to play in the subway (space delineated by paint on the floor, above the platforms), and often they stand there with their instrument cases open and CDs available for purchase. Instrumentalists, singers, percussionists -- they're all underground. Recently, though there haven't been as many folks playing, or riding -- we're afraid to breathe the same air these days with the amorphous threat of SARS (sudden acute respiratory syndrome) a disease that kills 20% of its victims. But not everyone is afraid -- there are still a few brave, or foolhardy, buskers in the subway -- singing their hearts out to the nervous, hand-washing riders, regaling us with story and song. I've seen one brave soul with his guitar, playing mostly instrumental music, sitting on the platforms with his guitar, no license, his case unopened, just playing to ease the souls of his fellow travellers. Folk music is like that -- people playing for people, recording the dramas, the misfortunes, the struggles and the triumphs that unite us in our humanity.' Read her detailed Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see why she picked these three exceptional artists to write about.

It's not 'tall surprising to me that Uncle Tupelo's Anodyne gets a rave review fron John D. Benninghouse! Though the band is long gone, John notes 'The members of Uncle Tupelo didn't know that Anodyne would prove to be their final album, nor could they have known that history would look so favorably upon it. Nearly 10 years after its release in October of 1993, history regards The Tupes as pioneers of the alt. country movement and Anodyne as their finest hour.'

The review by Cat Eldridge of two live Oysterband CDs, Alive and Shouting and Alive and Acoustic, receives a well-deserved Excellence in Writing Award. As he notes in his review 'I have a confession to make. With the exception of Jethro Tull, I have more Oysterband in my personal CD library than any other group. Really. Truly.' Read his review to see why he thinks both CDs are essential to all lovers of thrash folk, errr, rock 'n' reel.

One of our Brit reviewers, Peter Massey, found a rather good album in Diana Andersen & Shane Lamphier's Mystified of which he says ' It is a nice honest recording with all the singing and instruments played by the duo; this means if you go to see them perform live, from the strength of this recording, they are going to sound pretty well much the same. Diana handles all but one of the lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar (rhythm) and Shane provides accompaniment on lead guitar and percussion. All the songs are contemporary, written by Diana. The songs have a strong rhythmic and sometimes bluesy feel to them, something only American or Canadian artists seem to do really well.'

Lars Nilsson set aside his work on The Collected Works of Robert Burns to give us a review of Sheena Wellington's Hamely Fare. Did Lars like this Scottish artist? Yes, he did: 'There are some tracks on this album I skip when listening to it, but there is more than enough left to make it worth purchasing for people interested in Scottish traditional music. To the expert Wellington's performances are as good as any, and for the newcomer this is a good introduction to Scottish music, presenting some of the most common songs and a few not so famous. Clearly recommended.'

Chris White found Gingersol's folk rock CD, The Train Wreck is Behind You, to be less than satisfying. He says '[it] is agreeable enough, but illicits a vague sense of deja vu with a pinch of ennui. If Gingersol regularly played a friendly brewpub nearby I might stop in to hear them, but the disc didn't capture my rapt attention.'

Gillian Welch's Soul Journey is reviewed by Gary Whitehouse who comments: 'What could Gillian Welch possibly do in the wake of her 2001 release, Time (The Revelator) an epic concept album that explored big themes like the interplay of American history and popular music, and the troubled passing of cultural icons like the Titanic, Casey Jones and John Henry, Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley? What she's done is make a beautiful album that narrows its focus while at the same time expanding its sonic scope. On Soul Journey, Welch's fourth album, she has released both her first solo songs, accompanied only by herself on guitar, and her first songs with a full band.'

 

I see Leaf and Tree, a cool Ulster group whose members listened to way too much Boiled in Lead and Big Bad Wolf in their younger years, warming up to perform. Should be interesting to see how they fuse Ulster Celtic with various Balkan influences! Grab a pint of the house ale that Bjorn, our Brewmaster, created in honor of this gathering. It's called 'Adgan Gothvas', a Cornish phrase in which both words that translate as 'know', the first meaning 'recognise' and the second 'understand'. Appropriate, eh?

 

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Updated 29 June 03, 04:30 GMT (MN)