'Say your prayers little one
don't forget, my son
to include everyone
tuck you in, warm within
keep you free from sin
till the sandman he comes
sleep with one eye open
gripping your pillow tight'
Metallica's Enter Sandman
30th of January, 2005
Jack Merry at your service. We got a bleedin' blizzard this past week and it reminded me of the time when the Neverending Session once played through every tune in John Playford's Tunebook during a particularly bitter winter storm when no one could enter or leave this building. A number of travelers got stranded here during this storm as do they in any storm we get -- not that any complained as it was the week that Burns Night falls in, so all were very happy to be here! And as Kim Bates, our Music Editor noted in the Pub recently, 'winter is the time when musicians get better, and it's easy to stay at the Neverending Session -- it's warm, the fire is blazing and the mulled cider and glu-wine (german hot mulled wine) are flowing.' Me, I'll stick with Irish Coffee for now!
A bloke by the name of Fell has been sampling the rather unique spirits that we have in the Pub. Though he voiced to Reynard his concern that his drinking here for a whole afternoon was taking time away from writing his magnum opus, The Drinking Customs of England from the Earliest Days, he admitted a little more research certainly didn't hurt either. So he sampled a pint of Dragons Breath XXX Stout, and he had a few rounds of Ryhope Wood Hard Cider; the latter he noted went well with a bit of a nice sharp English cheese, say Stilton, or a bit of Canadian Black Diamond. Before left he ordered a case of Winter Wine to be delivered to the train station for him to take back to London. Reynard said he would do so provided that the Pub was acknowledged as assisting his research in The Drinking Customs of England from the Earliest Days when it was finished.
Speaking of drinking, I should note that the Burns Night feasting here at Green Man went very well again this year. Or at least I think it did -- I don't honestly remember all that much of it as I overindulged in too much of the single malt to recall anything with clarity, though I do remember Lenora Rose engaging me in a lively, if slightly besotted on me end, discussion of Susan Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell! I still don't like that novel, but the lass made good points in defense of it. I'm told that supper included cock-a-leekie soup, a smoked venison haggis doused with a 'wee splash of whisky sauce' that Reynard says was the best he's had since his wee gram made them years ago, generous servings of bashed neeps and tatties (mashed turnip and potatoes), and a Tipsy Laird trifle which is liberally laced with whisky. I think it was worth the headache I got!
Maria Nutick here. Jack Merry neglects to mention that he recovered himself enough to provide our featured review this week: 'On a week-long tour that I and me band, Danse Macabre, did this past month, I took 'long Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories as Diana Wynne Jones is never less than completely entertaining.' He goes on to say 'Get yourself a cup of tea, settle into a comfortable chair with good light, and start your pleasure with 'The Girl Jones', her rather amusing look at her nine years young self in which she explains why... oh, never mind -- that would spoil your reading it. From there, read your way through everything herein as there's not a clunker, not a less than great tale in Unexpected Magic.'
'Once upon a time, a young author by the name of Neil Gaiman -- known only for his writing on the Sandman series -- co-wrote a novel quite comic in nature with Terry Pratchett, legendary author of the nearly infinite Discworld series.' Cat Eldridge is speaking, of course, of Good Omens. But he's not reviewing that well-known novel; instead he takes a look at Neil Gaiman's A Screenplay: 'What is crucial to know is that this Good Omens bears little resemblance to the novel called Good Omens! Again, quoting Neil in the Hill House intro: 'It was an interesting experience, creating a Good Omens from an alternate universe, with barely a line, a word, or idea from the original remaining.''
'A fiction based on that which is historical record is a tricky beast. Some writers get it right, most do not. Over the years, I've sampled dozens of novels that attempted to build a believable story off events and characters that actually existed. Setting aside works involving time travel where twisting history is the raison d'etre for the tale being told, my firm opinion -- subject to change if need be -- is that telling a fiction which does justice to the historical record is damn hard! Time travel as a plot device frees the writer from being historically accurate; basing your characters in an era as if they were real living members of that place and time has quite the opposite effect...Sharon Kay Penman is without a doubt one of the better practitioners of crafting fictions where the historical record, if the writer is not careful, can be a true curse. However even she gets the history better than the story she's attempting to do.' Cat goes on to say where Penman goes wrong with Prince of Darkness.
April Gutierrez has a great pair of reviews this week as well. First up is a reissue of a book originally published in 1990. April says that James Hamilton's 'illustrated biography of English painter Arthur Rackham has been gorgeously reproduced here as an oversized softcover editing...Hamilton's book is an excellent glimpse into the painter's life for both fans and those unfamiliar with Rackham's own special brand of whimsy.'
'Imagine, if you will, if the inhabitants of the fairytales you know so well -- human and fantastical alike -- were alive and well and living in New York. Such is the premise behind Bill Willingham's Fables series for Vertigo Comics. The Fables, as they call themselves, have long since been driven from their lands by an entity they call only The Adversary. The human-looking Fables settled in New York City, in a neighborhood they call Fabletown. Those who are less than human (think the Three Little Pigs, Shere Kahn, and Oz's winged monkeys) live in bucolic upstate New York.' April needs an Excellence in Writing Award for her intriguing look at Fables: Legends in Exile and Fables: Animal Farm.
Lory Hess looks at an academic tome edited by Barbara Tepa Lupack: 'There is no doubt that the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has been thoroughly absorbed by popular culture, with results ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous -- the scale being rather heavily weighted to the latter. Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children, a collection of scholarly essays, truly plumbs the depths of the Arthurian canon; we encounter such gems as a 1929 'posture play' in which King Arthur instructs his knights on the benefits of proper posture, as well as a 1991 comic in which Valerie Pender, a female descendant of Arthur, studies with Merlin at NYU and wields Excalibur while clad in a bikini.' An Excellence in Writing Award goes to Lory for this thoughtful review.
'On Monday April 26, 1937, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, sixty German and Italian planes poured down incendiary bombs on the small Basque town of Gernika. The bombing last three hours and reduced the town to a cinder. No one had ever seen anything like this. In all the horrible wars, this demolition of innocent townsfolk, bombed, burned, and machine-gunned as they ran for the hills was just the shape of things to come. A week later, Pablo Picasso (by then, as now, the most famous artist in the world) began the first set of drawings which would lead to his masterwork, a response to the horror of Gernika...a wall sized mural he would entitle Guernica. Under consideration today, is the book of the painting of the bombing of the town. Gils van Hensbergen calls it The Biography of a Twentieth Century Icon and essentially that's what it is.' David Kidney's review of van Hensbergen's book is a great read in and of itself, too!
Peter Massey has a review of a book about an event that, sadly, may soon be extinct if rumor is to be believed. 'The town of Sidmouth is a delightful, tranquil, sleepy seaside resort on the south coast of England in the county of Devon. It is a relatively quiet place. That is unless it's the first week in August, for it's then that the town comes to life with a vengeance. Sidmouth International Festival lasts for a week, and for many, it is one of those great 'folk' advents on the calendar that is not to be missed.' Peter writes lovingly of the festival in his review of Derek Schofield's The First Week in August, Fifty Years of the Sidmouth Festival.
Finally, Leona Wisoker writes up, and approves of, a novel of historical fiction by William Dietrich: 'Many authors, when they research a story exhaustively, just have to cram as much of that detail as possible into the book, with the unfortunate effect of making said book nearly unreadable (think Jean Auel's later books). Dietrich, happily, avoids that trap and puts in just enough detail to keep
the setting clear and realistic.' Read her review of Hadrian's Wall and see if you find it as tantalizing as I did!
Anton Strout takes time out from gaming just long enough to review one for us: 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away -- again. Those familiar with my review of the first Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) game know that I had a little bit of a joygasm playing it, giving it an A-. I did, however, have a few issues (I'm fussy like that), mostly concerning several concepts that felt under developed in the game. I was also worried that with the change from developer Bioware to Obsidian Entertainment that something might go terribly awry in the transition. I'm pleased to say that Obsidian has done a bang up job in a Gungan free release that is a dynamic follow up to the first game.' Anton has much more to say about KOTOR 2.
If you're a gamer and a fantasy fan and you'd like to write reviews for us, drop us a line. Poor Anton just can't do it all!
Green Man reviewer John Benninghouse takes us skipping down memory lane with Jethro Tull at a concert at Madison, Wisconsin's Overture Center for the Arts. John says Tull faced the challenge of introducing new fans to the band's classic selections, while trying to keep old fans thoroughly entertained. John feels that Tull slipped a little in that the concert was "weighted a little too heavily towards songs from Aqualung that have been live staples for most of the band's career. However, I can imagine that it isn't easy for a group that's been around for 36 years to devise a setlist that appeals to a crowd of mostly older fans but younger ones as well. Still, Tull's last two albums, Dot Com and Roots to Branches, are criminally underrated and it was disappointing that the band played nothing from either." Even so, Tull provided a welcome distraction from Election Night Blues. "While Anderson's antics have mellowed over the years, he still wandered the stage maniacally with phallic flute in hand. This line-up has been together for about ten years and it shows. Musically, they were tight and everyone seemed to be having a good time."