'I can remember the title, author, and location of every book in this library, Matthew. Every book that's ever been dreamed. Every book that's ever been imagined. Every book that's ever been lost. Millions upon millions of them. That's what I remember. It's my job. Other things... I forget sometimes.' -- Lucien in Sandman ('The Kindly Ones')

22nd of May, 2005

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The next biweekly issue will be published on the 5th of June, 2005

Iain MacKenzie, Librarian, speaking. After Reynard's description of me last edition, I feel it's only fitting I set the record straight. I am nothing like as scruffy as that disparaging description of me by Reynard, who is himself rather scruffy looking, would suggest. My hair is long but generally it's worn in a pony tail with a silver barrette gifted to me by an admiring lady friend many years ago. The 'very scraggly beard' is no worse than that of any of the male musicians around here during the winter -- one tends not to shave as often as one should. And I'm Border Scots, so my beard, like that many of my fellow countrymen, doesn't grow as thick as that of the bloody Highlanders, but then we don't smell like sheep dip and lanolin either!

As for 'Tattered old clothes that have seen much better times', my arse! I'll have you know my leather jacket is a WW II bomber jacket, but it's in fine shape, and those Levis are worn just right. If the buggers paid me better -- hell, if they remembered to pay me at all! -- I'd purchase some new clothing. Or at least think about it. The Management is generous in doling out goodies to the musicians and writers here, but forgets about the supporting staff. A frelling General Strike by all of us would serve them right!

So I am gnarly, and with good reason. (My favorite t-shirt which I have on now says 'I am wearing black until somebody invents a darker color.') Not to mention, the odd requests I get as Librarian would drive weaker men to drink and distraction. Even the Librarian in the Mere of Books in Evenmere has told me that the Steward of that House can be a bit too demanding at times, and don't ask Lucien about some of the queerer requests he's had from the odd group which makes use of this Library! Imagine the digging I had to do to find an architectural history of Gotham, one which reflected all of its incarnations, or a history of the Evenmere Stewarts. (That was easier than I expected as my fellow Librarian in the Mere of Books loaned me his own work about the Stewarts. Fascinating reading it was.) The oddest ideas get argued out in the Green Man Pub which in turn means someone asks me if we have something to help their side of an argument. The conversation this week was a riff off the idea that the Yanks didn't join in WWI, so German wasn't defeated at all allowing Germany under the Kaiser and the Ottoman empire to continue to flourish to the present day. (The kitchen was serving up smoky Kolozsvari Hungarian bacon for breakfast which got Bela waxing nostalgic.) So naturally several of them popped in wanting novels set in a modern day Ottoman Empire. Now that was an interesting quest!

Now excuse me as I've found a libation worth savoring -- Blue Mountain coffee with a generous splash of Mozart Black Chocolate Liqueur to give it that proper kick. And do not bother me the rest of this evening as I'm reading all of Der Kinder und Haushalt der Grimm Br'der Geschichten. My, these are gory reading!


David Kidney has an Excellence in Writing Award winning review of Ashley Hutchings' Burning Bright which illustrates what we do best here -- an insightful and detailed look at a performer or writer who's been reviewed many times by our staffers! Just savour his lead-off: 'The title comes from the William Blake poem, 'Tyger, Tyger' and the reason is...that Tyger is Ashley Hutchings' nickname. Having said that...let me next alert all and sundry that Free Reed is the greatest box-set compilation maker in the world, nay, universe! There is such a wealth of material in one of their sets that to properly appreciate it one must spend quality time with it to savour each mouth-watering delectable. And it's not simply the music, although they are called Free Reed MUSIC, but the posters, and especially the books that are prepared and accompany each package are filled with enough photos, posters, memorabilia and biographical text to keep all your senses busy. Stick your nose in the book...it even smells good! One warning though...if you don't like the sound of the concertina, approach this one carefully...but...the concertina grows on you, and this is five hours of definitive British folk music.' Nowe go read the rest of his commentary for all the details!

Just one film review this go-round, but it's a beauty worth being featured, and very timely with the impending release of the latest big-budget Caped Crusader flick hitting screens very soon. Cat Eldridge's review of The Batman -- Training For Power lets you know that you are in for another interpretation of the Dark Knight: 'The press release which came with this DVD said 'The animated series The Batman tells the story of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his emerging alter-ego Batman.'. . . What it doesn't say is that this Batman is a re-invention yet again of a character and his city which first took shape in Batman -- The Animated Series and continued in Batman Beyond.' With so many versions of the Batman saga out there, is this DVD worth a peek? Cat will let you know in his review!

Leona Wisoker read all nine novels in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Really. Truly. Now let's let her speak for herself as she says that she's 'actually a little bit angry at Terry Goodkind, but more on that later. Right now, I have in front of me all nine books listed above. Each book is two to two and a half inches thick. That's about seven hundred to a thousand pages, and if you look at the dates above you'll see he's put out a book that size almost every year for the past eleven years. As a writer myself, I'll tell you this: The man's a maniac. He must have absolutely no life beyond writing. It's incredible.' Read her long and insightful review for all the juicy details!

Michael Hague's The Book of Dragons is a look at one of our favourite creatures here at Green Man. Faith J. Cormier sums up this tasty offering in this succint statement: 'This is the sort of book that an illiterate person (toddler or adult) could enjoy just for the illustrations. It's even more fun if you can read it yourself, or have it read to you.'

Cat Eldridge has a look at a new publication with a very impressive title -- Mirrormask -- The Illustrated Film Script of the Motion Picture from the Jim Henson Company. Now bear in mind that 'Film scripts such as the ones done for Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits and Kenneth Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale, to name but two that are here in the Green Man library, are at the best times odd beasts as there is text where conversation would be, and static images where there should be movement -- these are not the natural textures of film. Certainly the oddest of those beasts, setting outside those like Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's War for the Oaks script which is for a film that doesn't exist are those that come out well in advance of the actual film so the reader must judge their worth solely on their own merits without knowing what the film is like. Such is the case of Mirrormask. Now if you're a fan of either the writing of Neil Gaiman (which I am most certainly as he rarely disappoints me) or the ever so cool artwork of Dave McKean (his artwork for Gaiman's Coraline added just the perfect touch of creepiness to that short novel), you'll definitely want this work.'

Lory Hess gives us a review of Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, a look at Terry and his Discworld books, edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James, and Farah Mendlesohn. Lory says this collected look at Pratchett's works is as excellent as it is clear: 'they all write out of genuine appreciation and enjoyment of Pratchett's work, rather than a desire to promote some literary agenda of their own devising. So don't be like the stuffy literary editor cited in the introduction, who couldn't bring himself to read a Terry Pratchett book even though everyone he respected told him he would enjoy them. What is literature, anyway, if not a book that makes you laugh and think?'

David Kidney looks at something we haven't reviewed a lot of here -- Canadian graphic novels! To be precise, two by Michel Rabagliati, Paul has a summer job and Paul moves out. As David notes, 'Michel Rabagliati grew up in Quebec. A fan of European comics like Asterix and Tintin he won a Best New Talent Harvey Award in 2000 for the first in his series of books about the young Montrealer Paul entitled Paul in the country. With these two graphic novels we see Paul growing up, and moving on.' Read his review to see how this fits within the loosely defined Green Man motif.

Garth Nix's Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories is, according to Liz Milner, an amazing feat: 'Garth Nix throws away more good ideas in this anthology than most writers have in a whole career. Many of the stories here begin with dynamite ideas that don't seem to have been given enough time to develop. Nix seems to have rushed to publish fragments and throwaway pieces that, given a little more time in his subconscious or in the sock drawer, might have yielded some really wonderful stories.'

We don't review nearly as many audiobooks as we should here as our staff prefers their reading in the form of books along with a comfortable chair and a cup of tea, so I'm deligted Liz tackled one for us: 'This is the most dangerous recorded book I have ever encountered. I listened to Doomsday Book's hefty 18 cassettes (26.5 hours listening time) as I commuted to and from work. Under its influence I passed innumerable highway exits and ended up in parts of town where I definitely did not want to be. I have listened to scores of audio books in the past, but this has never happened before. In short, Doomsday Book is the most engrossing audio book I've ever heard. Connie Willis is a master of the unexpected plot complication, and she kept me on tenterhooks up to the last minute. Jenny Sterlin's narration, though flawed, still packed a tremendous emotional punch.'

Let's let Mia Nutick tell us about her latest read: 'When Tithe appeared on the scene it was apparent that Holly Black was good. The Spiderwick Chronicles removed all question of whether or not she was on the scene to stay. With Valiant it's safe to say that Holly Black has become a Name For Young Writers To Conjure By.' High praise indeed for a writer who's a favourite here at Green Man!

Another fine work by Jane Yolen gets reviewed by Jessica Paige: 'The Wizard of Washington Square fills a niche that seems to be rapidly disappearing: the short children's fantasy novel. Today, the average number of pages in children's fantasy seems to fall around the mid-end of two hundred. While this is wonderful when there is a good story to be had, and not taking into account these hefty books tend to be part of a series, this is also intimidating to younger and newer readers. The Wizard of Washington Square will not intimidate new readers, and, if they enjoy real-world fantasy, will probably delight them.'

J. J. S. Boyce tackles a cross-platform console game based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series for us this week, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. He says there are some legal complications that keep Electronic Arts from using material not in the movies, but that 'video clips, voice actors and action sequences (including possible deleted scenes) in the movies themselves are fair game, and EA takes full advantage of this.' He says also that EA opted to avoid the 'obvious trilogy route, instead introducing several characters who shadow and cross paths with the 'fellowship of the ring' throughout all three movies.' And how well do they pull it off? Is it worth running out to buy? His short answer is that while 'the idea's good, the execution is lacking.' For the nitty gritty lowdown, you'll need to read his very thorough review!

David Kidney here to introduce today's music reviews. We're a well traveled lot at the Green Man, dontcha know, and the music we cover is equally...or even more traveled. By the time they reach the GMR mail room the CDs in the varied packages have traveled through different time zones, been handled by government representatives of who knows how many countries, been shuffled in and out of planes, trains, automobiles, and who knows what else! I spoke with our local postman the other day, who said, 'Apart from the sore back I get from lugging all the stuff you guys get... I like deliverin' your mail the best...it's from EVERYWHERE!' Well...so are we...   

Hailing from near the fabled corner of Portage & Main in Winnipeg, J.J.S. Boyce (you can call him J) looks at a couple of CDs of 'nordic' horn music. Played by artists with names like Kjell-Erik Arnesen, Jurgen Larsen and Frydis Ree Wekre J. found the music to be '...at times, very beautiful and absorbing, but they largely serve to set a certain tone. I consider them as ambient pieces, for use to set myself in a certain frame of mind. They do this well. If you were hoping for something along the lines of 'Ride of the Valkyries,' however, you should look elsewhere.' He has plenty more to say about them!

Managing Editor Tim Hoke lives 'directly above the center of the earth' his biography states. He may have known Arne Saknussen? Who can tell? His review of a handful of albums by the Crooked Jades finds him in an excited mode. 'The Crooked Jades,' he says, 'are giving old-time music a shot in the arm. This San Francisco-based ensemble isn't afraid to explore the dusty corners of tradition in search of rare material, or to add to it with compositions of their own.' He likes it, he likes it!

Peter Massey is a GMR Senior Writer from Chester in the UK. This week he writes about a new live album by GMR favourites Fairport Convention. But he had to get the album from Australia! 'This is a live recording, but more about that later. Who Knows? is Vol. 1 of the Woodworm archives series. The album takes its title from the mystery of 'who knows exactly when it was recorded?' The album was made from a re-mastered tape found in the archives of the Woodworm Studio, simply labelled 1976.' Who knows where it came from, who knows where the time goes?

Senior Writer Lars Nilsson is from Sweden, and has links to Fairport Convention too. Read his biography for more details! His review of British songster Chris Foster betrays a real affection for the folk tradition. 'Chris Foster is a true craftsman, dedicated to carrying the singing tradition of the British Isles. To him the songs are the main point, and his role is to preserve them and pass them on to other people. Therefore an album by him is more a collection of songs than a personal statement.' 

Another Senior Writer Barb Truex is from Portland, Maine and her two reviews bring music from Scandinavia our way! I knew a family from the Faroe Islands, who had seven children, and never lost one of them when they were running 'round the island, whose high cliffs drop straight into the North Atlantic. But on my way home from work one day I discovered their three year old daughter wandering in the snow almost a mile from the house. When I returned her...her mother hadn't noticed she was missing yet! The father owned a musical instrument store in the Faroes...so it should come as no surprise that there's lots of music on those islands! Barb first looks at a hat trick of CDs by Spælimenninir. 'Spælimenninir, 'the folk musicians', was formed in 1974 and went under the name Spælimenninir í Hoydølum, as they were based in Hoydølum in the Faroe Islands. But from the beginning the membership has included players from all over the northern Atlantic climes. Their repertoire is likewise representative of Scandinavia and all of the British Isles and includes a good amount of cross-fertilization among the various traditional styles. A true example of the ever-evolving world of folk music.'

Then Barb looks at another group of albums from the same area. 'A few months ago I had my first exposure to music from the Faroe Islands, a small group of Nordic islands that lie between Iceland and the Scottish Shetland Is lands... Getting to know artists better over time as more material comes my way is both rewarding and sometimes embarrassing. The rewarding part is that of understanding the breadth of an artist, group and/or label. The embarrassing part is seeing the mistakes in old reviews as I become more knowledgeable!! I suppose Kristian Blak got a good chuckle out of me calling him a her. I think I initially read it as 'Kristin' and never caught my error. Ah, the danger of being in the public eye. I'll get that corrected!' Well, we all make mistakes, no matter where we come from.

Christopher White is another Maine-dweller who reviews a new CD by a Celtic fiddler who comes from Maine herself! How often is that going to happen? Kate Wegner '...is the future. She may be young, but repeated listening to After Sunset proves her to already be a seasoned and talented fiddler with nearly all the necessary elements in place (save a few years of proper aging, like a fine single malt from the Scottish Highlands) to become a real force in folk fiddling circles and beyond.' Sounds pretty darn good!

Chris also found much to praise in Bob Franke's new CD: 'Pledge of Allegiance offers the re-introduction of a singer-songwriter emerging from three decades of living real life to sing about it again. His politics may be decidedly more 'old school' (think Cesar Chavez grape boycott) than Rock the Vote, but they have the honesty and plainspoken quality that have for generations regularly nourished folk club audiences looking for more than a cup of coffee with a guitar player strumming in the background. All in all, I wish Bob Frank well.'

Gary Whitehouse, master reviewer and blueberry farmer, lives in the rainy part of Oregon. The breadth of Gary's musical knowledge challenges the whole staff here in the Green Man Building, and you can often see a lineup of other staffers at his door, with a list of questions for him to answer. He still has real affection for Americana and this week his reviews reflect that affection. First up, a look at a variety of new bluegrass releases, 'Here are three discs that fall somewhere in the neighborhood of bluegrass, which illustrate if nothing else the wide variety available in the genre today.' Then he tracks Calexico's drummer to Arizona: 'Members of Tucson, Arizona's musical community form a sort of extended family that centers on members of Giant Sand and the Wavelab Studios where many of them record.'

That's about it for this week. I told you we were well traveled! The Faroes to Arizona! Manitoba to Maine to antediluvian releases by British folk-rock pioneers! Whew! No wonder the postman finds our mail intriguing!

Now that we've left our long suffering Librarian alone with his Grimm tales, let's listen in on a conversation that's going on the Pub concerning the state of traditional folk and dance in merry olde England these days: . . . A member of the staff notes that some of the recordings we get are quite fine, 'but if they are music from King Arthur's court, that may give me a problem as we have got some guys over here at the moment annoying the folk population by blowing Crump Horns, bit of metal, and anything else they can get into their mouths! However it's the one on the end wearing the green tights that really worries me!'


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Updated 22 May 2005, 10:00 GMT (RN)