The next biweekly issue will be published on the 17th of July, 2005
Jack Merry here. The Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, has a fascinating article on what our staffers re-read in the summer. It won't surprise any of you that our staffers are varaicious readers, nor will it be a surprise that summer is a time for them to devote themselves to reading as much as they can! (Me favourite summer re-readings are the two Evenmere novels, The High House and The False House, by James Stoddard, as they are the perfect fantasies in their Englishness to read on a hot summers evening. I'm also fond of Simon Green's Forest Kingdom series for the similar reasons.) So here are some selections from that article. . . .
Denise Dutton, a Potter fan, said, 'It's a tossup; Stephen King's The Stand or Dante's Purgatorio (translated). But since this is The Year of Book Six, I'll be re-reading Harry Potter 1-5 as well.' She stuck her head back into the Editor's lounge after Rachel Brown mentioned Mikal Gilmore's Shot to the Heart to add, 'Oh! I remember when that came out; I read an exerpt published in Rolling Stone. I meant to pick it up, but I was moving so often at that time that I forgot about it. I've got to add that to my 'books I wanted to read but forgot about, then was reminded' list.'
But Robert M. Tilendis took a different slant on this question: 'I'm not sure I can characterize it that way -- summer is more that I'm sitting outside reading, rather than what I'm reading. And my several 'old friends' on the bookshelf are likely to get reread any old time. However, a short list would be Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy; Lord of the Rings; Jim Grimsley's Kirith Kirin; and probably C. J. Cherryh's Fortress series. Strangely enough, at least two (Grimsley and Cherryh) have a strong 'winter' element to them -- maybe my substitute for air conditioning, which I hate.'
Over a pint in the Pub later the afternoon Iain was doing this survey, he noted 'Thinking about it some more, I'm likely to reread anything that I don't have to think about very much -- the classic 'lolling on the beach watching the world go by' summer reading thing. So it's probably not going to be Patricia A. McKillip, since there's always something that I haven't figured out yet. It's likely to be something light and not very challenging -- say Lynn Flewelling or Tanya Huff -- or something so completely mesmerizing that I can't put it down, like Sean Russell's Initiate Brother / Gatherer of Clouds or Michelle West's Sun Sword.'
David Kidney quickly said he's 'got too much new stuff to read . . . won't be re-reading anything . . . but if I did . . . it might be E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, or Paul Quarrington's Home Game.'
Richard Condon won't be going on vacation for a while yet, so: 'Since my vacation won't begin for nearly 7 weeks hence I haven't really decided, but if I feel like laughing it could be the Barrytown trilogy by Roddy Doyle: The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van. The only problem is that it annoys my travelling companions when I sit there sniggering, giggling and occasionally guffawing. Books a litte outside GMR's line, but I must confess that most of my reading is.''
Vonnie Carts-Powell has children, which naturally effects her summertime reading: 'Much of my reading is based on having someone with whom to talk the books over. My son is 10, so I'm rereading many of the books he's reading for the first time. We've just finished Wrinkle in Time and Dark is Rising. Next, probably, will be T.H. White (I'll start him with Sword in the Stone while I'm rereading the Once & Future King). Then on to Heinlein's juveniles, and Diane Wynn Jones, and Robin McKinley, and maybe LeGuin's.'
From Kelly Sedinger came these comments: 'I don't really 're-read', but I do find that my tastes change -- in summer I tend to want to read more comic novels (comic as in 'funny', not graphic novels, which I'll read anytime depending on the subject matter) and SF, with an emphasis on whiz-bang space opera. I suspect this traces back to those wonderful summers of my youth when each third summer saw a new Star Wars movie out. In fall and winter, I tend to want to read more horror and fantasy. But this isn't totally iron-clad, since I'll read some fantasies of the 'non-European' variety in summer, and I'll read some SF in the fall. I basically re-read whenever I feel like re-reading; re-reading for me isn't keyed to the seasons. It's more of looking at my shelves, picking up a book, and saying, 'Hey there, I haven't seen YOU in a while, old friend!''
Gary Whitehouse noted: 'I don't re-read many books lately, but I find myself more drawn to science fiction in the summer than at other times of the year, and I suspect that, like my colleague Kelly, it's because I read lots of it during summer breaks when I was in school. I got lucky this year, when a new installment in the Man-Kzin Wars series created by Larry Niven came out in late spring, and a new Niven collaboration, Building Harlequin's Moon hit the shelves in June. Every few years I'll go back to my shelf of Niven's known space books and re-read a few, especially the collections of short stories. Niven's Beowulf Shaeffer and Louis Wu are two of my favorite characters.'
Rachael Brown who just moved into a new flat said, 'Each summer, like each winter, fall, and spring, I re-read as catches my fancy. This summer I've re-read the entire run of Kazuya Minekura's manga Saiyuki, a gorgeously drawn and whacked-out re-telling of the Chinese legend, The Journey Into the West; Peter Kramer's Listening to Prozac, a thoughtful meditation on mental illness, medication, and the nature of identity; Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart, a gut-wrenching account of a destroyed family by the murderer Gary Gilmore's younger brother; and Diana Wynne Jones' touching and strange Dogsbody, in which the spirit of the Dog Star is reincarnated into the body of an actual dog. Next on my summer re-read schedule is Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle to see how the Miyazaki movie altered the details; and because one can never re-read Diana Wynne Jones often enough.'
Donna Bird, who truly loves French literature in translation, reviews two novel by George Sand, The Bagpipers and The Black City. Here's a sample of what she thought: 'I preferred The Bagpipers to The Black City -- but I don't plan to track down every English translation of Sand the way I nearly have the works of Balzac and Zola. I read fiction from this historical period in large part to get a better understanding of what life was like for people in those times. I value period novels that refer to actual political events and real historical figures. I also prefer novels that describe characters and elements of physical culture like food and clothing and furniture and conveyances in some detail.' Read the rest of her Excellence in Writing Award winning review to see if Sand would tickle your fancy as well!
Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine . . . a record by Ry Cooder gets a loving by David Kidney who is without doubt the foremost Ry Cooder expert you'll find anywhere. It is good? Oh, yes, says David in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'That's right. The title of this new release is Chavez Ravine . . . a record by Ry Cooder. It is the first record by Ry Cooder to be released in many years. Okay, Mambo Sinuendo was a duet album with Cuban guitarist Manuel Galban; The Buena Vista Social Club albums were produced and sweetened by Ry Cooder, but the stars were the old Havana stars like Ruben Gonzalez, Compay Segundo and Ibrahim Ferrer. But apart from a selection of soundtrack albums, Cooder has not released an album of songs under his own name since 1987's Get Rhythm! So this is a big day for all those fans out there who call themselves Rylanders! A new Ry Cooder album! And he SINGS again too!'
We had a mailroom staffer here once run away screaming after the romance novel publishers decided that anything of a Highland nature was something they should send us. I think it was the artfully ripped bodices that stopped just short of showing their not so wee nipples, but it might have been that being Scottish himself, he knew the tartans were all wrong! And the novels put him off playin' the pipes for an entire month after one 'novel' had a burly bearded piper with his, er, pipes looking like he was going to . . . Oh, never mind.
So we took him down to the Pub, got him rip roaring drunk on good single malts, mostly Ardbeg and Laphroaig, and had him recite as much of the works of Robbie Burns as he could possibly stomach. Then we burned every wee fuckin' romance novel that had come in the month in the bonfire out back while drinking yet more really good single malt. Last I heard, he was fully recovered and working as the lead piper with the Dead Heroes of Culloden . . .
No bodice rippers are reviewed here this edition, so read on, McDuff!
J.J.S. Boyce offers us a look at an audiobook he took with him on a road trip: 'I spent the last weekish visiting my good friend, Jason, in Edmonton. I was totally prepared for the long drive. A big stack of tried-and-true travel CDs, and this: Batman's Complete Knightfall Saga, a full-cast audio drama. Unfortunately, it was only three hours long. Shorter than I expected. But the proverbial sweetness, too, was present.' Read his review to see how good this telling of the Dark Knight story was!
Louise Arnold's Golden and Grey: An Unremarkable Boy and a Rather Remarkable Ghost was good enough that Faith J. Cormier says: 'All in all, I enjoyed this book very much. I would've read it straight through in one go if I hadn't known I had to get up in the morning.'
Adam Stemple's first solo novel pleased Faith, sort of: 'Singer of Souls is like a funhouse mirror, or a kaleidoscope. Every time I thought I knew what it was about, something shifted somewhere, and I didn't know what was going on any more. So what sort of book is it? There's a bit of redemption, a touch of sex (not very graphic), rather more violence (also rather more graphic, but not sickeningly so), some music theory, a travelogue of Edinburgh, politics, religion, heroes and villains who are both larger and smaller than life (and are frequently the same person), folklore. . . .'
Jonathan Cowie and Tony Chester's Essential SF: A Concise Guide got reviewed by Denise Dutton who says, 'I jumped at the chance to review this book; I'm a big fan of fantasy and horror, but my Science Fiction knowledge is spotty at best. Babylon 5, Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation have been my touchstones, with Dune and a few Ursula Le Guin novels thrown in for good measure. And the less said about my attempt to comprehend Mona Lisa Overdrive, the better. A guide that listed what fans thought aspiring fans needed to know about their genre sounded like a great idea. And it is. After reading this guide, I may not be a fan's fan, but the fear of making a horrible SF gaffe is gone (though a gaffe on my part is not impossible).'
Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielsen Hayden have edited the first edition of what hopefully will be a long lived series -- The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens. Jasmine Johnston says in summation, 'Neophyte and connoisseurs alike will probably enjoy this anthology, and parents and educators find it a very useful resource. I look forward to the Second Annual Collection in 2006." Now go read her long and loving look at this collection for all the details about it!
David Kidney loves classical American animation so heed his words when he says in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review: 'Animated films have long fascinated me. When I was a child my parents took me to see Bambi. It was a revival in the mid-50s, Disney still re-cycles the classics regularly. I'll never forget that film, although I've seen it several times since, the way those animals moved and spoke. As an art student I tried animating my own films. I made two short films, influenced by the great Canadian animator Norman McLaren; they are long gone. But some of my favourite 'cartoons' did not come from the Disney corporation. They appeared on Saturday morning television. The characters moved with ease, they were wise-cracking, sometimes nice sometimes nasty, sailors. Shipmates yet competitors for the hand of the damsel in distress. Popeye and Bluto had real personalities, they were not cute. And they were as funny as all get out! These cartoons were made decades before I watched them, but they made the newer versions seem stilted in story, in dialogue and in animation. They were made by the Fleischer Brothers, Max and Dave. This new book, Out of the Inkwell written by Max's son Richard, tells the fascinating story of his father, his life and innovations, but it needs to be read with the films playing somewhere nearby!'
We here at Green Man have a very hearty appetite for all references works no matter how obscure. (Or how expensive. Our Librarian was grumbling last week about his budget getting stretched damn thin!) Our Jack Merry is no exception which is why he was the perfect reviewer for Anatomy of Wonder -- A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, an impressive tome that came in a few weeks ago. He says that it 'comes as close to a perfect reference work' as he's seen, and he would 'certainly say without hesitation that it's an essential acquisition for librarians and serious readers of this genre.' Read his in-depth look at this crucial reference work for all the details on what you'll find here.
Robert M. Tilendis told our Editor in the Pub that he wants first dibs on any future Edgar Pangborn works we get! Davy from Old Earth Books is what he is gushing about here which as he says in concluding his review, 'There's not really a lot more to say about Davy, unless I want to hand you a plot summary, and frankly, you deserve the pleasure of discovering Davy's adventures for yourselves. It's a brilliant book, racy, pungent, tremendously affecting, and totally captivating, a masterpiece by one of science fiction's most original and singular voices.'
Robert Silverberg's Star of Gypsies is from the new imprint of Prometheus Books, PYR. How good is it? Quite good actually according to Robert: 'Fine. There's a plot. Very honestly, I don't think I would have cared very much if there hadn't been. (Note: Nothing much happened in the novel until I got to Book II. I didn't care.) The book is about Yakoub, and Yakoub is the book -- expansive, shrewd, earthy, cynical and innocent, completely captivating, and Silverberg does him justice. The book is rich, inventive, with possibilities flying like fireworks, and Silverberg's prose is magnetic and compelling.'
Midori Snyder's The Oran Trilogy was one of the worst reading experiences a staffer has had recently, possibly even worse than April's encounter with Ian MacLeod's House of Storms! Robert is drinking Guinness in the Pub, so let's have an extract from his review tell the wrenched tale: 'I'm not one who believes that every book has to be terrific -- I have my own'guilty 'secrets' list of books that are flawed, some badly, but I reread them from time to time anyway because there is some quality in them that makes them deserve it, whether it be the lovable protagonist, the brilliant universe-building, a breathtaking plot, magical writing, or some other element that is just too appealing to consign them to the used book store. I can't place The Oran Trilogy on that list -- Snyder missed every chance she had, and above all, committed the unforgivable sin of boring me. This trilogy was torture. At least it's over -- I can go back to my dank, musty cell and read something.' Robert picks up a coveted Grinch Award for both his suffering in reading this books and his excellent telling of why these books suck. Only nineteen of these not very cute looking statues have been handed out!
Blowzabella is one of our favourite groups here, so a tune book by them is a great treat! Barb Truex, a practicing muiscian and muisc teacher, was the reviewer for Blowzabella -- New Tunes for Dancing. She says it 'is a fabulous collection of 130 tunes that have been composed by various members of the band over the years and is supplemented by a wealth of other information: a history of the group, dance instructions, personal histories by ten musicians, photos, discography, and a membership history (complete with a listing of instruments and makers). It is a volume both dancers and musicians will appreciate.'
Mythic SF is one of our favourite forms of literature. And Gary Whitehouse found a good one as he notes in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review of Olympos: 'Dan Simmons is an author who loves epics. His previous science-fiction saga, the Hyperion/Endymion quartet, was a far-ranging affair that covered several millennia, and featured a hero fighting against the oppressive galactic regime of a resurgent Catholic Church, aided by a mysterious humanoid robot called The Shrike that was traveling backwards in time. In his latest, the Ilium / Olympos epic, he conjures a distant future in which most of humanity has evolved into powerful post-humans who are meddling in the Solar System's past and its future. Elements of Shakespeare, Homer and Proust, among other of history's literary geniuses, are sprinkled throughout this complex and entertaining story.'
Good evening, and welcome to Masterpiece Theater. Okay, maybe that's a little strong. But the reviews this week all have a certain touch of class that would make them feel right at home next to that venerable show. Perhaps that's because an ITV mystery series popularized on PBS, an award-winning documentary short and a tribute concert to a legend are just that inspiring. Or maybe it's the reviewers themselves that class up the joint. I'm not one to judge. Well, not today, at least. You'll just have to see for yourself.
Craig Clarke starts us off with a look at the series Rosemary and Thyme, a spin on the usual 'buddy' formula found in many mystery programs: 'Rosemary and Thyme is a mystery series featuring two women with a shared interest in plants. Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) and Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris) meet through a mutual acquaintance and their friendship is forged through the sharing of drastic changes in their lives. Laura is an ex-cop who loses her husband (also a cop, as is her son) to a pretty young thing and Rosemary loses her university teaching gig. . . . The hook for Rosemary and Thyme that makes it different from other mystery series, is that the focus isn't always on the mystery.' As a plant lover with a brown-thumb at best, it sounds interesting. But did this hook reel Craig in? His review will give you the details.David Kidney gives us a look at Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story, a short film that was under Academy Award consideration. In his review, David says, 'Chavez Ravine features interviews with many of the citizens who lost their homes when the city of Los Angeles exercised 'eminent domain' and cleared three Mexican neighborhoods in the 1950s.' David's review gives a closer look at the film that reveals a place that is gone but not forgotten. Gary Whitehouse gives us a look at what sounds like an amazing tribute concert in his review of Return to Sin City -- A Tribute to Gram Parsons. This DVD drew raves from Gary: 'What a star-studded and entertaining concert DVD this is! There are superstars like Lucinda Williams, Keith Richards and Norah Jones, underground stars like John Doe, Steve Earle and Jay Farrar, young up-and-comers like Kathleen Edwards and Jim James, and more incredible musicians than you can count backing them.' I guess I'd expect nothing less for a tribute to one of the more influential musicians of his era.
Craig Clarke states that 'The Clumsy Lovers released my favorite album of 2004. After the Flood, with its pop-oriented blend of rock, bluegrass, country, Celtic, and whatever else the band decided to throw into the pot, struck a chord with me and quickly became a staple in my CD player, especially on long road trips, and it is not about to wear out its welcome anytime soon. So, when a review copy of the Lovers' latest became available, I jumped at the opportunity to review it, to see if it would fail to live up to, or possibly improve on, its nearly perfect predecessor. Somehow, Smart Kid, their second album with the Nettwerk label after five independent releases, does both.'
Richard Condon has fine words for John Hasbrouck's Some These Days: 'For anyone who enjoys American acoustic guitar-playing, this CD is a marvellous treat. From the pictures on the folding Digipak in which it comes, Hasbrouck, whose name is new to me, is no youngster, but this is only his second disc, the first having been released as recently as 2002, when he had apparently already been in the business for 25 years. Another picture is of the artist's City of Chicago street performer permit, for which he paid $25, but as it expired in November 1999 I have no idea whether Hasbrouck still earns his money on the street, although it appears from his website that he is still solidly Chicago-based.'
Lee Dorsey's Yes We Can/Night People is another fine release from Australia's Raven Records according to David Kidney: 'First released in 1970, Yes We Can represented a comeback of sorts for Lee Dorsey. The ex-boxer and ex-Marine had had hits as early as 1961 with 'Ya Ya' (which was covered by John Lennon on his Walls & Bridges LP) and had spent years singing the songs of Allen Toussaint ('Working in a Coal Mine' and 'Holy Cow') but his record company went broke and left Dorsey's career foundering. Polydor Records resuscitated his career in 1970 with this funky album which is united with 1978's Night People in this new TwoFer from Australia's Raven Records.'
Michelle Shocked's newest affair is next up for David: 'Now with her own label, she has released a trilogy of albums entitled Threesome. It's not the kind of move a regular label would encourage, but I've been listening non-stop to one or the other of these three CDs since they arrived two weeks ago. Three different approaches, three albums with three different kinds of songs, different musicians, different producers, but with a continuity of vision that is extraordinary. They all three depend on the vision and talents of Michelle Shocked.'
Peter Massey (bless him!) looks at four English roots recordings (Assembly Players, A Kynaston Ball, the Strange Coincidences in Speciality Tea Trading collection, Mary Hunphreys & Anahata's Sharp Practise, and Tickled Pink's Terpsichore Polyhymnia) which he describes as 'Just like a clutch of eggs, what we have here are as many CD's as you can hold in one hand. They represent things you might hear around the folk clubs, sessions and festivals this summer. There are plenty of people around telling you what you should read this summer, so think of this as your summer listening.' Now go read his review to if they made a decent souffle, or if they were just scrambled eggs!
Peter says that the 'Rainbow Chasers is Ashley Hutchings' new band. Ashley is on bass and vocals, with Jo Hamilton on viola, acoustic guitar, keyboard and vocals; Ruth Angel on fiddle, acoustic guitar and vocals; and Mark Hutchinson on electric guitar, mandolin, keyboard and vocals. They are a new young band that sounds, not surprisingly, like the Albion Band. So I have to ask myself, is this yet another re-incarnation of the Albion Band, this time with a change of name? Ashley Hutchings of course has a fine pedigree, as a founding member of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, and The Albion Band. As for the other members of Rainbow Chasers I had never heard of them before -- not that that that means much, as they play and sing very well. However, this is definitely Ashley's new band, and input and direction are evident throughout the album.' So reads his review to if Some Colours Fly measured up to previous affairs from the Guv'nor!
Gary Whitehouse looks at two Appalachian roots CDs, The Appalachians, a companion recording to the U.S. public television series of the same title, and Jim Watson, Tommy Thompson & Mike Craver's Meeting in the Air, 2004 reissue of a 1980 album of Carter Family songs by the original Red Clay Rambler. Read his review to see why both of these tickled his fancy!
Gary finds another fine album from a band he already knows well: 'The band behind one of my favorite CDs of 2002, Dick Smith, is back. Woozy, their third release, finds the Illinois-based trio becoming a quartet, and still making delirious acoustic music about life on the fringes. The addition to the band is Scott Stevenson, whose keyboards and accordion round out Dick Smith's sound in interesting ways. We've still got Bob Kuhn and Dave Nelson doing most of the lead singing (both with lots of twang and drawl) with Nelson on resonator guitars, Kuhn on mandolin, and Dave Ramont on banjo, and all occasionally throwing in together for harmonies -- sometimes sweet and sometimes raucous. Altogether, Woozy is sonically more adventurous than their previous effort, Smoke Damage, but not so's it ever gets in the way of the shambling songs, the down-home music or the clever lyrics.'
We get CDs from singer-songwriters in numbers large enough to be frankly appalling. So Gary bravely reviews one of them for us, Patricia Vonne's Guitars & Castanets. It was a mixed affair says Gary: 'ice try, but next time she and her producer shouldn't try so hard. Letting the music speak for itself is always a good policy, assuming it has anything to say in the first place.'
Burroughs's Barsoomian chess is being played by Iain and Reynard in the Snug off the Green Man Pub right now. Or possibly even Mad Queen's Chess and Indian chess (chaturanga) as well. It worth noting that there's some odd wagers on the outcome of the games. What would one do with a handful of fairy silver? Not that all our staffers by any means play chess, as Lisa Spangenberg wryly commented that 'I crave the replica of the Isle of Lewis chess men. . . . The Spouse has said that if I beat him at chess, he'll get the set. Chess is not a game for the spatially disoriented . . . I've yet to win a game; the most I can do is delay the inevitable for a few hours!' To which Denise Dutton, who was kibbitizing on the Barsoomian chess game, added, 'A few hours? Amazing. I've only played on the computer, and the longest I've ever lasted was about 30 minutes. I have to say there are some chess sets that I'd love to call my own. Some of them go beyond the game itself and straight into art. Speaking of which, did you see the games exhibit at The Sackler?' Kelly Sedinger chimed in response to Lisa's comment, 'I have one! It's great. I also own an Aztec set and a set of sort-of tradition Staunton pieces carved from marble.' He added that 'I'm not very good at the game, but I love it dearly.'
Archived 17 July, 2005, 10:26 PST (LLS)