19th of June, 2005

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The next biweekly issue will be
published on the 3rd of July, 2005

Cat Eldridge here. Our Summer Queen Speech this summer comes from Jennifer Stevenson who never dreamed she would become Summer Queen someday. She attended the University of Iowa and Southern Connecticut State University, studying music, English, and structural family theory. She rides horses and swims every day. She really does feed crows, and she regrets to confess that she has not eaten s'mores in thirty-five years.

She is the author of Trash Sex Magic, a literary fantasy about trailer trash sex magicians, and some short stories, including 'Solstice,' 'There Will Always Be Meat,' 'Something For Everyone,' and 'The Purge.' 'Solstice' has been printed by us in a cool chapbook which is available for purchase.

Her next novel, The Brass Bed, which I'm reading now, will be released by Del Rey Books next year. The Brass Bed is first in a series of humorous contemporary fantasy novels about a fraud cop, a con artist, and a reluctant incubus. The heroine investigates a fake ‘sex therapist' only to discover that his antique ‘treatment bed' really works -- because it's possessed by a nineteenth-century nobleman who can't escape a curse laid on him by his angry mistress until he satisfies a hundred women. The fraud cop heroine is the 100th woman.

Summer Queen Speech -- Summer Of Ought Five

We are in the power of early summer in northern Illinois now, in the fat of my reign. Great blue herons, snowy egrets, night herons, and green herons are hunting frogs and minnows. Skunks, bunnies, possums, coons, and moles do what little furry things do, humping and eating and getting into things. Beetles are pushing out of the dirt, fully armored and glistening. Any day now, the lightning bugs will hatch.

The crows are nesting, too. Their eggs hatched just a couple of weeks ago. The parents take turns going for groceries–-you go over to the Summer Queen's palace, honey, pick me up a couple peanuts and some of that chicken skin and old cheese she has–-but mostly the young crows get insects and baby mice. They're the size of robins now, making a ‘waaa' noise like whiny babies everywhere.

Cricket frogs are making whoopee in wetlands, sounding like a thousand bossa-nova rhythm sections tuning up. Everything green has leapt out of the ground, trying to touch the sun.

Since I was a wee princess I've had moments when I could revisit this hour, or any other, if I knew how to recognize those moments and had the courage to time travel.

I've traveled forward to get good advice from my older self, or to remind her not to forget something. I've traveled backward hunting treasure. Or because I recognized this moment, heard my past self knocking, and remembered the message I'm supposed to give her.

I think it behooves the Summer Queen to tell you how to do this too, so that you can make the best parts of this summer available to yourself for another day in your past or in your future.

Here's how to do it.

Be stuck somewhere, somewhere near a window. It helps if it's raining. But mostly, stuck.
Be waiting. Have no idea when your waiting will be over. The way you feel, when you are about to have a time-machine moment, the waiting could go on forever.

Look out the window and float inside yourself. Wait. Be so bored you are beyond boredom, you are at peace with your boredom.

Wonder why you are here, but don't search for the answer.

When you first feel the opening, it's a bit like déjà vu. You will know the window is open when the answer comes. It comes without feelings, without opinions. You just know, and so what. You are hanging in mid-air between raindrops.
Now, listen. Somewhen out there, you are calling yourself from another window just like this one.

Whatever you-then needs from you-now will rise up in your mind and warm your chest. Try to focus on the view out the boring window while the conversation flows.

Ready? Let's try it.

Bored. Bored bored bored. This computer screen looks like it always looks, you don't know why you're even looking at it, but there's nothing else to stare at. You stare but you don't see.

The waiting is like a moment of pure space, and everything you were thinking about separates from you and disperses like a drop of soap in water, each thought expanding away from every other thought until your thoughts are atoms, too far apart to holler to each other.

Who are you? You are a bajillion thoughts that float so far apart that there is more space between thoughts than there are thoughts.

You've done this before. You just didn't remember until now.

Hello. Suddenly the space between thoughts seems to be filled by more thoughts. These are thoughts you recognize. You thought them already, when you were ten years older than you are now. It's like holding your own hand in the dark. If you weren't floating in the space between thoughts, you might think, this is cool. Who gets to talk first?

Stare at the screen. Feel the space between your thoughts.

Now might be a good time to send some of this summer to yourself.

Cricket noises and katydids ratchet up, along with tree-frogs singing kree, kree, and far away an ice cream truck jingles, and you-then thinks, Nice, and you-now thinks, Ain't seen nothin' yet. The air is full of the smell of roses and peonies and linden-tree blossoms and rain on the sidewalk.

How old are you now? Are all the yous out there clustering around their windows, sniffing, listening, thirsting for a whiff of your summer?

Along the crack in the sidewalk ants are piling up, waging terrible war on neighboring ants.

Robins run head-down cocking one eye at the ground, or sing their warbling song about rain.

Tremendous thunderheads pile up in the sky like mountains marching. Their tops are pink and yellow, glittering like real mountains. The wind changes. All the leaves flip over like grampaw holding out a palm, Yep, it's gonna rain all right.

Your new sneakers glow white in the gloaming.

Someone in a house nearby is playing a song you know.

Summer flows between you and you.

Time stands still.

Breathe in the summer air. Blow it out, a summer-scented kiss to yourself, somewhen.

From your Summer Queen of 2005
To all you Summer Kings and Queens, then and to come


Jennifer Stevenson


Novels within a series can never be judged just upon their own merits, as they are usually read by readers who know the rest of the series intimately. Such is the case with the two featured reviews this edition.

Jim Butcher's latest novel meets with approval from Denise Dutton in her Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'Take Sam Spade and give him a deadly Faerie Godmother, then add Harry Potter and put him in the wrong side of town while you're at it. All you'll get is a pale shadow of Harry Dresden, the main character in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. These novels feature our hero, a wizard that makes his living (meager as it is) investigating the paranormal. He's also a member of the White Council of Wizards, although he's not exactly on their Christmas card list. In Dead Beat, the seventh novel in this series, a powerful vampire uses emotional blackmail on Harry, telling him to locate the Word of Kemmler, which could give immeasurable power to the one that has it. Unfortunately, Harry has no idea just what the Word of Kemmler is exactly, and he's got precious little time to find out before that vampire makes his friend Karrin Murphy suffer a true fate worse than death.'

But April Gutierrez finally got a cursed object out of her life -- a book she thought was going to be good: 'Of The Light Ages, the 2003 prequel to House of Storms, I had the following to say, 'MacLeod's writing is simply gorgeous; it's easy to see how he's won World Fantasy Awards for his short fiction. His aether-spun England is vividly real, and his characters fully-realized and sympathetic. If only I could say the same thing about this book. But I can't. Not with a clear conscience.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see where MacLeod went wrong.

Kim Bates has a confession to make -- read what it is here: 'Lloyd Alexander brought magic to my childhood, and no more so than with the five books collectively called the Chronicles of Prydain. I adored these books, and read them time on time. They were for me what the Harry Potter series is to my nieces. Later I read his other books, like Time Cat and The Accadians, and as an adult I have even reviewed two of his other titles: Westmark and The Rope Trick for Green Man Review. Which brings me back to the wee wild women. I struggled mightily to get them interested in these books, partly because I so enjoyed discussing HP with them, but seemingly to no avail. Then, Providence smiled on me and our kindly book editor sent me 3 audiobooks from the series. Oh Joy! I (ahem) diligently reread each title in preparation for my review, and marveled at the beautiful prose that conveyed so much in writing that primary school students could understand. And then I made a mistake. Yes, I loaned the tapes to my sister for use on car rides.'

Craig Clarke found a good read in a bit of horror fiction: 'Joe R. Lansdale crosses genres yet again with Dead in the West -- to my knowledge, the first 'Zombie Western.' Lansdale wrote it back in 1986 as a tribute to the kind of entertainment he grew up enjoying, like EC Comics and cross-genre B-movies like Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (both real movies, I assure you) You know . .nbsp;. pulp.'

Faith J. Cormier got a very spicy book from us to review. No, not that sort of spicy! As she says in her review, 'Heaven forbid I should ever judge a book by its title, but this one can certainly be judged by its title. In Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices, Andrew Dalby does exactly what the title says he is going to do. He traces the origins of dozens of spices. Some are used daily all over the world, or in large portions of it. Some are common only in a limited area. A few that were used in the past cannot now be identified. At least one, silphium, is now extinct.'

Faith, in her second review this outing notes that 'Over forty years ago, when working for Canaveral Press, Richard A. Lupoff took on the heroic task of cataloging and commenting on everything that Edgar Rice Burroughs ("ERB") had ever written. The results were published in 1965 as Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. In 2005, the University of Nebraska Press published this updated version, adding a Foreword by Michael Moorcock and an essay, "Forty More Years of Adventure", by Phillip R. Burger.' Read the rest of her review to see what she discovered!

The film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy just came out which explains, more or less, the other book Faith reviews -- The Anthology at the End of the Universe: Leading Science Fiction Authors on Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Is it worth reading? That Faith says will depend: 'Is the Anthology worth reading? No, if you're looking for precious, pretentious literary criticism. No, if you don't think science fiction warrants being taken seriously. No, if you don't have a sense of humor. (But frankly, I can't imagine why you'd even be tempted to read it if you didn't have a sense of humor.) Yes, if you enjoy comparing your impressions of a book with those of other people. Yes, if you're able to bring a healthy dose of skepticism to those impressions.'

Another Hitchhiker's Guide related book finishes off her reviewing this edition: 'The Science of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the kind of book I usually adore, and I was not disappointed in it, even though it wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be.' Read her review to see what this Guide had to tell her!

Jim Butcher's latest novel meets with approval from Denise Dutton in her Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'Take Sam Spade and give him a deadly Faerie Godmother, then add Harry Potter and put him in the wrong side of town while you're at it. All you'll get is a pale shadow of Harry Dresden, the main character in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series. These novels feature our hero, a wizard that makes his living (meager as it is) investigating the paranormal. He's also a member of the White Council of Wizards, although he's not exactly on their Christmas card list. In Dead Beat, the seventh novel in this series, a powerful vampire uses emotional blackmail on Harry, telling him to locate the Word of Kemmler, which could give immeasurable power to the one that has it. Unfortunately, Harry has no idea just what the Word of Kemmler is exactly, and he's got precious little time to find out before that vampire makes his friend Karrin Murphy suffer a true fate worse than death.'

April Gutierrez finally got a cursed object out of her life -- a book she thought was going to be good: 'Of The Light Ages, the 2003 prequel to House of Storms, I had the following to say, 'MacLeod's writing is simply gorgeous; it's easy to see how he's won World Fantasy Awards for his short fiction. His aether-spun England is vividly real, and his characters fully-realized and sympathetic ' If only I could say the same thing about this book. But I can't. Not with a clear conscience.' Read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see where MacLeod went wrong.

Jim Cullen's Born In The U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition found favour with David Kidney: 'The clues are there in the title. This is no glad-handing biography, neither is it a book focusing on 'the Boss's' legendary long concerts or his influences on the music scene. No indeed, Jim Cullen, Born In The U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition is a cultural study of which seeks to place Bruce Springsteen in the larger context of American history.  In part modelled after the writings of Greil Marcus (whose own new book 'Like a Rolling Stone' makes a case for Dylan's long 45rpm as cultural centrepiece of the 70s) this volume politicizes Springsteen's writings and makes a case for Bruce as cultural descendant of Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman. And Woody Guthrie. And Martin Luther King. No really! Read the blurb on the back!'

David also liked this biography: 'John Einarson is a Canadian writer who has written a number of books about rock music, including biographies of Neil Young, Randy Bachman, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Buffalo Springfield and the Guess Who. Mr. Tambourine Man is his latest book and as the sub-title says, it's the story of the Byrds' Gene Clark. Everyone thinks of Roger McGuinn when they think of the Byrds...or of David Crosby who achieved more headlines than all the others combined, but Gene Clark was the guy with the blonde 'Brian Jones' haircut who wrote what has been my favourite Byrds song lo these many years! Even in a rendition by Tom Petty!'

Charles M. Schultz's The Complete Peanuts was also very much to his liking as he notes in his intro: 'Subtitled The Definitive Collection of Charles M. Schultz's Comic Strip Masterpiece this project is set to run for 12 years, at two volumes per annum until every daily strip from the master's hand is available in a match set of hardcover books. What a mammoth undertaking! And what a glorious tribute to the enduring qualities of these four panel ink sketches of little kids with round heads!'

Leinenkugel's Creamy Dark, a Wisconsin brew, was what Kelly Sedinger was drinking when he wrote his review of Ken Wells's Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America: 'I almost got the idea that Wells didn't actually want to conclude that any of the places he saw on his travels was the Perfect Beer Joint, and I know how he feels. It's kind of like why we keep reading books, or going to new restaurants, or seeking out new Celtic music bands. We're all looking for the perfect whatever, and we know we'll never find it; but that doesn't stop us from looking, and it doesn't stop Wells from traveling the US looking for his Perfect Beer Joint.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review for all the thirst quenching details!

Glen Cook's The Tyranny of the Night caused Robert M. Tilendis to gush at length: 'I could talk about Cook's own recipe for darkness, or the currency of a milieu built around the Crusades (with a nod to Chaz Brenchley), or the realization of an effortless style that breaks just about all the rules of grammar and syntax, or the growing trend in fantasy toward examination of religion and its excesses -- or at least, those of its leaders. I could talk about the things I wish he'd done differently, which are almost nil, or the frail, very human very real people who populate Cook's stories. I'd be writing until the next volume is released. This book is just about that rich.'

Elizabeth Vail finishes off her glowing review of Alice Hoffman's The Ice Queen like this: 'Endowed with a sparse, but elegant writing style, the pacing remains smooth from start to finish, weighted in sorrow at the beginning but gradually lightening to become lightly tinged with hope at the end. The unnamed narrator is at first almost hopelessly glum, but with Ms Hoffman's skilfull characterization she is never unsympathetic. Alice Hoffman spins a sparkling yarn that does what I originally thought to be impossible: allows us to see the true, perpetually unexplainable magic of the everyday.' Oh, my -- I think she really like it!

While our Summer Queen ushers in the solstice, movie houses everywhere usher in summer movie season. There are two ways of going about this; you can stay in and see what DVDs are being released, or you can go out and see if anything catches your fancy at the cineplex. The reviews this issue bring a taste of what's to be had in either case.

Craig Clarke takes a look at The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, a DVD offering from MPI. Was this series worth staying away from Summer's obvious enticements? It seems a bittersweet grouping of episodes: 'In addition to being immensely entertaining, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes has the unfortunate bonus of tracing the decline of Jeremy Brett's health, episode by episode.' Find out if the episodes suffer or shine as a result in Craig's Excellence In Writing Award winning review.

While Craig stayed indoors, April Gutierrez threw caution to the wind, braved the summer swelter, and headed out to catch a current summer release. Yes, a movie theater is always nice and cool, but to get to one you've got to go outside sometime. She retured with a review of the latest animated film by director Miyazaki Hayao, Howl's Moving Castle. April thinks it's a good one: 'Howl is elegantly constructed, a seamless blend of computer-generated 3-D and 2-D animation, every scene jam-packed with Miyazaki's usual attention to detail. As such, the film is a delight to watch.' And this review is a delight to read, earning her an Excellence in Writing Award for her effort.

When Cat and Birdgo out on the town together, you'd expect the fur and feathers to fly. But not when the Cat and Bird in question happen to be our own Senior Writer, Donna Bird, and our Editor-in-Chief, Cat Eldridge. They came back purring and crowing over a concert by renowned Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and Swedish multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller which took place on a cold and soggy May evening at Portland Maine's Center for Cultural Exchange. They write that Bain and Möller succeeded in the near impossible task of melding the music of two cultures in a way that sounds organic and true to its roots. 'Aly Bain and Ale Möller are playing the music of two traditions, Scottish and Nordic, in a way that respects both traditions. It is not unusual to hear fine Celtic traditional and traditional-sounding music being played, nor is it uncommon to hear exceptionally well-crafted Nordic music either. What is extremely rare is hearing two performers play both traditions in the same concert. Doing so allows the listener to see the common roots of both traditions. ' To learn more about this uncommon concert, click here.

David Kidney here with the latest Music Reviews. Here we are in the middle of June, and a young man's fancy turns to . . . well . . . I'm not such a young man anymore, but my fancy has turned to Chavez Ravine . . . a record by Ry Cooder. It's an extraordinary piece of work, and perhaps the most extraordinary thing is the variety of voices Mr. Cooder employs. He sings on a record again for the first time in years, and employs a deep growl, a pachuco accent, and a soft lilt. It got me thinking about the voices on the records we review, and as I read through today's set I realized that all the reviewers were thinking along those lines. Sure the music we listen to is made with strummed, blown and beaten instruments but the centrepiece is mo t often a human voice, in love, in despair, in agony or ecstasy. Read some of these reviews and see for yourself.

Denise Dutton leads off with a look at three remastered albums by John Denver. Denise says, 'John Denver was often overlooked as a singer-songwriter of merit; with James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, it's easy to see where he'd get lost in the early-seventies shuffle. But he managed to carve out his own niche and establish himself, and though he died in a tragic accident in 1997, his legacy lives on through his songs. Named Colorado's Poet Laureate in 1974, John Denver has often been painted by music snobs as a songwriter first, and a singer a pale second. Hopefully these remasters will change that.' I admit, I'm one of those 'snobs' but although Denver was never one of my own favourites I have to say he had a great voice!

Myself, I listened to a variety of bluesy voices. Another blues omni featuring new albums by Chris Beard (Live Wire,) Buckwheat Zydeco (Jackpot,) the Robert Cray Band (Twenty,) and Debbie Davies' All I Found. 'Throughout the album, Cray's mellifluous vocals and ringing guitar sounds are highlighted. His band (who recently celebrated 1,000 shows together) perform like a well-oiled machine . . . Beard produced his own album and achieves a clean, live sound. I'm thankful that the audience is played down in the mix, which means you get the sound of the band rather than the sound of the hall . . . [Debbie Davies CD] is a slice of raw blues, all fundamental and seductive, with a solid rhythm section, stinging guitars, and Davies' smokey, sexy voice . . . [and Buckwheat] Dural's voice is a bit thin but achieves a soulfulness through his sheer enjoyment of the music, which is contagious.'

Then I was finally able to hear an album I've only read about for thirty years. Feuding Banjos is an anthology of 'citybillys' playing authentic banjo tunes. It features some players who went on to great success, Roger McGuinn (when he was still 'Jim',) David Lindley and Mason Williams to name a few. No human voices on this one . . . but although '. . . some people might say . . . 'Don't all banjo songs sound the same?' . . . different banjo players play in different ways, and recording techniques can add depth and tone. They're all represented on Feuding Banjos.'

Peter Massey isn't specific about the vocal qualities inherent on Shirae's Tiger's Island but he does have this to say, 'a nice album: good songs, good singing -- you will want to play it over and over again. This is their first album, but I know it won't be their last -- that's for sure!' That's what we're all looking for, after all, as we troll through record bins (or CD bins) . . . good songs, good singing, and music we want to play again and again. That human touch plays a big part in drawing us in.

Listen to Lars Nillson as he raves about Day Is Dawning by Sussie Nielsen, 'I confess that I have a weakness for good female voices. So it is no wonder I fell in love with the voice of Sussie Nielsen . . . If you really want a taste of the pure quality of Nielsen's voice I recommend you start with track eight, 'Lady Margret.' He 'fell in love' with her voice. That's the kind of personal response singers get from listeners. Maybe as reviewers we're extra-sensitive to it, but I don't think so.

Former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore sure wowed Kelly Sediger with his new combo. They're called Blackmore's Night and their new CD is Beyond the Sunset. Kelly admits that 'Blackmore's Night won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I can't deny their appeal. Candice Night's voice is strangely captivating, despite a kind of nasal intonation that I usually find off-putting in other vocalists. I like the way Ritchie Blackmore doesn't really put any kind of classic rock guitar pyrotechnics on display, as might have been tempting. Maybe it's the case that to really enjoy this disc, you have to be in a certain mood. Fair enough. I'm in that mood a lot of the time.' Hmm. I guess that's why we don't see Kelly down at the pub that often!

Gary Whitehouse contributes a hat trick of reviews to this issue . . . and he was listening to voices all through! First up, new albums by Jeff Black's Tin Lily and Hayes Carll's Little Rock . 'Here are two young singer-songwriters, both in the country-folk tradition, with quite different sounds and outlooks . . . Jeff Black has a lovely, soulful voice somewhere between John Hiatt's and Joe Cocker's . . . Carll sings in a deep Texas drawl . . .'

Then Gary looks at a new anthology by one of America's finest folk-singers. Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues is the title, and singer. Never heard Odetta? Never heard of her? Well . . . you're missing something. 'This is a professional singer, in the tradition of the musical stage, the opera house or vaudeville, interpreting folk and popular standards. She is accompanied only by guitar and occasionally bass, and on some tracks is unaccompanied or backed only by her own hand-claps.' I will NEVER forget the first time I heard her powerful resonant and intense singing! Neither will Gary.

Finally Gary reviews Jordan Chassan's East of Bristol, West of Knoxville an album which I need to hear, after reading Gary's assessment. 'Chassan sings in a near-tenor range with a very self-assured delivery. He plays most of the guitars and other stringed instruments on the album, in addition to an occasional sit-up-and-pay-attention clarion call on the Baldwin organ. Gillian Welch sings harmony on the sweetly bluesy, shambolic 'Wound Up Way Too Tight,' and throughout there are contributions from hot shots like Larry Atamanuik and Pat MacInerny on drums or Byron House and Dave Jacques on acoustic bass. It's all lots of fun and in good taste. Jordan Chassan is a unique voice, making top-rank music.'

Isn't that what we've been talking about? All these artists, and we're lucky to get such a rich collection on this mid-June Sunday, have a voice which separates them from the madding crowd. Even the banjo players manage to make their contribution unique. That's the human touch. That's why we love music . . . here at the Green Man Review.

Join us in two weeks for another issue of reviews and commentary on what's going on at Green Man. In the meantime, drop by the Green Man Pub to hear the Neverending Session warming up for our traditional midsummers eve concert later this week, drink some fine ale, and listen to Whiskey Jack (no apparent relation to our own Jack or so both of them would like you to believe which would tell you that they're up to something as all Jacks usually are) tell tales long into the night. Right now, he's telling the tale of the hooley held late one summer where extraordinary things happened . . . Oh, I'd just spoil the story, so come join us and hear it for yourself! Shall I pour you a pint of our Midsummer Ale?

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Entire Contents Copyright 2005, The Green Man Review except where specifically noted. All Rights Reserved. Summer Queen Speech is copyrighted by Jennifer Stevenson with online rights reserved for Green Man Review.

Updated 20 Jun 2005, 12:23 PST (LLS)