9th of October, 2005

'A lot of the old folklore and fairy tales and myths are intensely dark,
particularly once you get away from Victorian watered-down versions.'

An Interview with Terri Windling

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The next biweekly issue will be published on the 23rd of October, 2005

We here at Green Man have all listened to stories late into the night, in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room, spun by a storyteller as she stands by the fireplace illuminated only by the flickering glow of the flames . . .

So it shouldn't surprise any of you that Green Man staffers have a great love for fairy and folk tales. One night when the music from the Neverending Session seemed to be mostly Welsh tunes of a melancholy nature, I asked the staff still present in the Pub what their favourite folk and fairy tales were. Here are some of their comments . . .

All things Welsh often find favour with Kim Bates so her choice is apt: 'I like the story from The Mabinogion of Pwyll and Rhiannon. He sees her riding her horse past the gorsedd of Arberth and send several of his horsemen to catch her, but none can. After several days of this, he tries, but also fails to catch up to her so he calls out for her to wait -- she does, and she tells him that he should have asked her much earlier for the sake of the horse.'

Vonnie Carts-Powell has an interesting choice: 'Robin Hood! There's something about the outsider hero and subversion for a good cause that I really really like. He gets to be a rebel with the moral high ground. The tension between justice and power is also a recurring theme in my life. 'Oysterband, her favourite band, refers to Robin Hood when they cover the traditional song 'Hal-an-Tow'.

April Gutierrez, our resident expert on all things Japanese, not surprisingly picks a Japanese tale: 'Hm. As much myth as folk tale, I suppose, but the story of how the god Susana-o, wandering earth during his banishment from heaven, defeats the eight-headed snake/dragon Orochi (by getting each of the heads drunk on sake and chopping them off one by one) and thus obtains the hand of the princess Kushinada in marriage and brings forth the mythical blade Kusinagi no Tsurugi from Orochi's tail. Why? It was one of my first introductions to Japanese folklore/mythology (via anime) and it's stuck with me in its various incarnations. And I have a soft spot for the hard headed, violent, downright bratty at times Susana-o.'

Lenora Rose said 'Several I like -- the Six-Swans and Seven Ravens stories, most versions of Beauty and the Beast -- but the one that, well, resonates, is Allerleirauh aka All-fur, and related to but not the same as Donkeyskin. A Cinderella variant where the princess saves herself from something rather worse than a stepmother, and does it before she goes on to win a prince and regain her rightful place. I don't know exactly why it resonates so much with me (I don't come from an abusive home), but that particular character haunted me enough that I did a retelling of it as a selkie story. I also had an idea for a screenplay based on a more straightforward adaptation, but I never did finish it.'

Barb Truex also favours selkie tales: 'I've always been drawn to tales of, and related to, the silkie (selkie) for some reason. Always wanted to adapt one for the theater but they don't seem terribly easy to find v-- granted I haven't really gone out of my way on this but I would think versions of it would be more prevalent than seem to be. Any good sources?'Jessica Paige has a suggestion about seal folk: 'Duncan Williamson's Tales of the Seal People: Scottish Folk Tales. I actually have this book at home, but I've yet to look into it, so I can't vouch exactly. Duncan Williamson's a pretty good source himself, though . 'Lenora adds another: 'One other: The People of the Sea, by David Thompson. Less the stories than a study of the stories and the culture, but a handy little bo ok. 'She went on to say, 'When I started working on a novel with selkies, I also went for a 1950's book called The Saga of the Grey Seal by RM Lockley, a naturalist's diary about their study of seals on a Welsh shore. No folklore, but some biological details that can come in handy when trying to interpret the people.'

Robert Tilendis is a bit taken back by the question: 'Favorite? Gad! I don't know about that, but one set that I really enjoyed recently was Louise Erdrich's telling of the 'Potchikoo Stories 'in her collection Original Fire. They're a wonderful blend of serious stuff and bawdy humor told in the direct, unadorned way of the Native storyteller, following the career of Potchikoo in life and death. Busy little guy, he was. Other than that, I tend to favor Trickster stories -- Coyote/Raven/Rabbit, Anansi the Spider, Loki, Br'er Rabbit, that whole crew. They sort of bridge myth and folktale in a lot of instances, and the archetype is one that fascinates me, since he's both god and buffoon, perpetrator and victim. Come to think of it, Potchikoo is maybe the Trickster one step removed.'

JoSelle Vanderhooft orders another Icelandic vodka from the bar. and as she is sipping appreciatively at her drink, she says: 'Are we counting more 'modern' fairy and folk tales too? If so, I'm a sucker for Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince and Other Tales, and 'The Selfish Giant 'in particular. Tears me up every time. If that's not on then I'm going to pick the tale of Savitri from The Gita. I first encountered this when working as a dramaturge for Miami University of Ohio in early 2005. One of the graduate students had written the tale into an adaptation. For those unfamiliar with it, it's basically the story of a virtuous Hindu bride who's learning and devotion convinces Yama, the god of death, to return her the prana (soul) of her husband. I also love anything dealing with father/daughter issues. Hence, any permutation of the Electra myth resonates big time with me, as does Donkeyskin.'

I'm Iain MacKenzie, the sometimes cranky Librarian here at Green Man, here with a cautionary tale to tell. Denise Dutton has been walking around muttering dark things about our Editor this week, so I checked out her review of three supernatural romance novels (Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study, Michelle Sagara's Cast In Shadow, and Deborah Hale's Destined Queen) to see why this was so. Her comments suggest he was indeed being unusually cruel in giving her this shite to read for review: 'When my editor let me know that three new bodice-rippers had just come in, I eagerly snapped them up. I was looking forward to a bit of light reading; Staying Dead, another book in Luna's line of fantasy romances, was an enjoyable diversion. Hey, I read romances from time to time (I used to go through two Harlequins a night back in high school -- hooray for used bookstores!) How bad could this be? Hoo boy.' After reading her words, I bought her not one, but two, drams of the finest single malt we had in the Pub!

On the other hand, April Gutierrez in an Excellence in Writing Award winning review brings us a look at a film that has been the cause of much excitement around GMR for many, many months now -- Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Mirrormask. April says that 'Mirrormask, Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's joint venture with Jim Henson Productions, is an offbeat, charming film that fans of all three will likely adore.' Denise Dutton, our Film Editor, adds 'I caught the teaser trailer a few weeks ago, and I have to say it looks like an interesting, beautiful film. Read April's review to see exactly why she thinks the film is such a crowd-pleaser!

I am pleased (yes, pleased -- I'm not always cranky, just much of the time ) to announce that we will have a look at Neil's personal thoughts on the potential for a repeat performance and the future of Mirrormask as a manga (among other topics), stay tuned for April's interview with Neil in our next issue!

Will Shetterly, author of some of the finest reading i've ever had the pleasure to do, went with his lovely wife, Emma Bull, to see Serenity. So what did he think of it? Oh, quite a bit I'd say: 'This is the Serenity review for people who haven't seen the movie: Go! That's all you need to know. If this review was posted on a general interest site, I'd have to warn you that Serenity is a science fiction adventure story packed full of quips, bullets, and heart, but you're reading this on Green Man Review. You may like your fantastical elements in quieter forms than Joss Whedon offers, but even if you do, smart dialogue and quirky characters will please you.'

Ahhh, the Sixties. Sex, drugs, acid rock... Truly a great time for many of us. (And no, you may not see the faded photos of what I looked like almost a half century ago!) David Kidney who may or may not remember that era says of the music 'Psychedelic music was originally so named because it sought to recreate musically the mind-expanding experience of LSD. 'Psychedelic, man!' The center of this music was unquestionably San Francisco, with bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Jefferson Airplane. Straight from Haight-Ashbury to you they brought in special lighting techniques, extended trippy solos, exotic Middle Eastern modal influences, and more..'. far freakin' out!' These three recent albums provide a workshop on one band's efforts to expand the minds of a nation.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award winning commentary on three recordings by Jefferson Airplane -- The Essential Jefferson Airplane, Red Octopus, and Blows Against the Empire -- to get a strong whiff of what their music is like. Now where did I leave that t-shirt from Amsterdam that said . . . oh, never mind!

Donna Bird says 'Generally speaking, Zorro is entertaining and readable. Chilean [Isabella] Allende writes in Spanish, so this edition is a translation. A net search on the translator, Margaret Sayers Peden, tells me that she makes her living translating Spanish texts into English, and has done this work for most of Allende's earlier writings, so I am confident that she knows what she is doing. Thus (alas!) I must blame Allende for the occasional turgidity of the prose, so at odds with the story. In part this is a matter of very long paragraphs (covering a page or more of space) that seem to wander around a lot. Allende has provided considerable rich detail (some might call it excessive) on topics that are evidently of interest to her, such as the culture of the Spanish Gypsies, the political situation in Spain during the early years of the nineteenth century and the near utopian community Lafitte founded on Grand Island, near New Orleans.'

Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story is recommended by Craig Clarke but be advised that he has a note of caution as well: 'I'd like to offer a warning: reading two Chuck Klosterman books in a row may literally be too much of a good thing -- Klosterman Overload, if you will. Almost immediately after devouring his 'low culture manifesto,'Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I dove right into the more recent Killing Yourself to Live. This book (subtitled '85% of a True Story') is based on his article '6557 Miles to Nowhere,'which was originally published in Spin Magazine, but which I first read in the wonderful music journalism anthology Da Capo Best Music Writing 2004.'

American Science Fiction TV, says Denise Dutton, 'deals with Science Fiction 'mytho-history' from the 1980's to the present, using the 'televisual revolution' of the '80s (approximately 1985, to be precise) as its spark point. Can a book that hopes to show overall genre themes be able to do so convincingly with only a 20 year span to work with? With a few lapses into professorial didacticism, it does just fine.'

Lory Hess found Mark I. West 'A Children's Literature Tour of Great Britain good enough to bring up remembrances of things past:, but says it's lacking in the fine details: 'Mark I. West, a professor of children's literature at the University of North Carolina, seems to have his facts pretty straight, but doesn't include any personal anecdotes about his travels, or many juicy bits about his subjects. You would find the same in any respectable encyclopedia. There is a section of black and white photographs, taken by the author and not very atmospheric, but no maps or other illustrations. West also has little to say about the landscape or countryside that inspired so many great British children's books; he focuses on houses, objects, or even statues associated with authors, some of which will only interest a real fanatic.'

Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana gets recommended by David Kidney but he cautions us that 'This is not a book for the casual reader. There are levels, and depths to Eco's writing, and to these symbols, which require thought, even contemplation. But it does have its visceral side, in the reproductions of so much ephemera.'

Liz Milner has a classic for you: 'Absurdly smug burghers with fantastical names and tangled genealogies who devote themselves to pipe smoking, eating and all the comfortable arts face a supernatural onslaught from Faerie. A 50-year-old hero who is outwardly the smuggest of them all, but who inwardly is screaming and is haunted by dreams of 'a long, straight road,' sets out to save them. Sound familiar? Well, it's not The Hobbit or anything by Tolkien. Hope Mirrlees‚ Lud-in-the-Mist was first published in 1926, a full 11 years before The Hobbit. Moreover, in the Introduction to the Cold Spring Press reissue of Lud-in-the-Mist, Douglas Anderson explains that although they lived in the same Oxford suburb for a time, Tolkien and Mirrlees never met. There is no evidence that they were even aware of each other's work.'

Carter Nipper was sorely disappointed by a James A. Moore novel, Blood Red: 'The vampire legend is one that is very familiar to horror readers these days. In order to grab and hold a reader's interest, an author needs to offer something new and unique, a perspective or interpretation that goes beyond the expected and opens new territory for exploration. Moore has not done this here. Though he does twist the mythos slightly, he remains within well-explored bounds and offers nothing beyond the usual cliches.'

Serenity, the comic book series is also review by Will Shetterly: If you see the Serenity comics, admire the covers. If someone gives the comics to you, put them in mylar bags and hang them on a wall, or give them to people who can't read English and don't plan to learn. Do not open these comics. Yes, Joss Whedon shares the story credit. Everyone fails sometime. Read the rest of his review to see where Whedon went tragically wrong!

Robert M. Tilendis is his Excellence in Writing Award winning says 'The Best of Philip Jose Farmer is probably missing someone's favorite stories. It is, however, a superb collection that demonstrates the range and power of one of the most exciting science fiction writers of all time, one who broke all sorts of barriers, not only those unspoken taboos of subject that everyone subscribed to within the genre, but barriers of style and approach. In doing so, he provided some of the liveliest fiction in the field. For some reason, Farmer has been allowed to go largely out of print, which is unforgivable. This collection, I hope, marks the beginning of rectification of this egregious error.'

Three novels by Michael Moorcock -- The Dreamthief's Daughter, The Skrayling Tree, and The White Wolf's Son -- get looked at by Robert who notes 'In any list of 'most important 'in modern speculative fiction, there has to be a space near the top for Michael Moorcock. Read his detailed review to see how these three novels fit into that impressive body of work!

Christopher White in reviewing The Musical Worlds of Lerner and Loewe notes that the book itself 'features a quote from the New York Times Book Review, on both the front and back covers, calling Gene Lees 'one of our most valuable music journalists. That may be, but I found the book too annoying to enjoy, however edifying it might be regarding the lives, loves and personal flaws of the legendary creative team responsible for so many classic Broadway musicals.'

Does the line 'Someone left a cake out in the rain' give you the horrors? Or do you just love to hear 'MacArthur Park' over and over again? Either way, you'll enjoy David Kidney's review of Jimmy Webb's appearance in the 'one-moose town' of Guelph, Ontario. Webb, who also wrote 'Galveston,' 'Wichita Lineman,' and 'Up, Up and Away,' is, according to David, is a delightful storyteller who possesses 'a powerful and melodic keyboard technique and a voice that is honest, a baritone, homely, and he is not afraid to push it. He apologized for the inadvertent yodel, but to my ears his voice just added to the message in the songs. Songs of longing, love, and humanity.' To read more, click here.

 

David Kidney here to introduce another fine eclectic batch of recordings which are reviewed today. Eclectic is the key word, because since I began slogging away here in the sub-basement of the GMR building we have changed our parameters considerably. We still are committed to finding the best folk, and celtic music available, but we also cover blues, world music, jazz and classical. Because, after all, it's all music, isn't it! Today we have John Denver, Norwegian dance tunes, a variety of celtic albums and some ambient pedal steel! If that's not eclectic...I don't know what is!

Kate Rusby is one of those great English 'folk-babes.' Paul Brandon is a big fan (aren't we all) and had the joy of reviewing her new CD The Girl Who Couldn't Fly. Paul effuses 'Kate Rusby's voice does something to me. It contains some mystical bits of melancholic ache and beauty that it can reduce this self-confessed cynic to something resembling an old dog having its belly rubbed. It's an almost indescribable quality . . . Maybe it's all to do with the slight Yorkshire accent that slips into her singing, perhaps it's the songs themselves. Maybe it's magic.' Yeah, I think it's magic and so did the editors who gave Paul an Excellence in Writing Award for this one!

Denise Dutton is a big John Denver fan, and she's thrilled that RCA/Legacy is re-issuing his albums on CD. About the newest re-release she says, 'Rocky Mountain Christmas was first released in 1975, and according to the liner notes, it was the first Christmas album go 'go gold.' With its collection of classics both spiritual and secular, along with a few original pieces, it's easy to see why. Just about every song here is a good one, with only a few small lumps of coal to sift through.' A bit early for Christmas music for my taste, I usually like to see Thanksgiving go past first...but some of you may want to get a jump on things!

I mentioned Norwegian dance tunes, and Scott Gianelli looks at the self-titled CD by Tre Nyhus. 'The CD will definitely appeal to performers in spelmanslags, or fiddlers groups, who are looking for Norwegian tunes to perform for dances or for pleasure. People who like to dance Norwegian will like a few of these tunes as well...The tunes are all good, and the liberties the Nyhuses take with some of the arrangements do enhance the sound of the album and make for a compelling listen. I don't think Tre Nyhus will turn people who've never heard traditional Scandinavian music into full-fledged converts, but any fan of Nordic fiddles will enjoy listening to this disc.' You can decide for yourself, but read the rest of the review.

Myself, while I was fairly busy digging the Jefferson Airplane material that was our featured review, but I still found time to listen to some countryish singer-songwriters. Countryish? Well... Bobby Bare, Melwood Cutlery, James McMurtry and Wayne Scott ... and what did I find? 'These four discs have more than a few things in common. First of all, the cover photos all portray men with cowboy hats or guitars. Rugged looking guys. Their ages may be disparate, but each one of them looks worldly wise. Their mouths are closed, tight-lipped; their eyes squinting or hidden by shades or hair. And the acoustic sound of these four recordings links them together. Individually, each has something to say, and his own way of saying it.' You'll have to read the review to find out more.

Green Man has a reputation for its well selected omni reviews, where a writer assesses a set of varied recordings which have something in common. This time it's a Celtic Music omni as Peter Massey listens to albums by The Midden, Ciaran Tourish, Dana & Susan Robinson and Talisman. He looks at each one individually and says, 'They have their own unique sound that can only get stronger as experience and song-writing develops. Get this album, it is well worth having;' 'from a professional artist who is a virtuoso in his field. Trust me, you will enjoy this;' 'I liked this album very much . . . the songs carry that hint of C/W or Bluegrass beat to them, adding quintessential elements that ensure they remain American;' ' . . . if you are a hammered dulcimer player or just an enthusiast, this is the album for you.' Four albums, four recommendations. Read the whole review to see just what's so good about them!

Peter also got to try out Peggy Seeger's Love Call Me Home an album of folk music about which he said this ' . . . this is a fine album from one of America's revivalist folk singers. She has seen fit to record the songs as handed down, sometimes with the original tune or arrangements that have altered slightly in the folk process. I thought this was a good idea, maintaining the American tradition, and I think you will appreciate it also.'

Lenora Rose has a listen to Yasmine White. She says 'I'd recommend her second album much more widely [than her first]. The band gives it a polish and a pop appeal, and Yasmine has proven now that she can stretch, and adapt, and remain true to herself all at once, as few can. She deserves a broad audience -- and if she keeps on as she's begun, she'll earn one very soon.' Sounds interesting, eh!

Jazz? Did somebody ask where the jazz is? Well, Mike Stiles has a hat trick of new jazz CDs for you. Rosa Passos, Boka Halat and Beyond the Pale ' . . . here are three CDs coming from different directions that hedge on the borders of jazz. It's some ineffable combination of composition, roots interpretation, and collaboration by which these works transcend into something more than easily identified genres. The pleasure of writing about these particular releases arises from the diversity from which they approach their marks.'

Now, Daniel Lanois used to live just down the street from some friends of mine. He produced Eno, and U2 in the city in which I work. His family still lives around here, even though Daniel has moved south . . . but he still manages to captivate with his unique sonic textures. Gary Whitehouse reviews his latest work. 'The album approaches ambient at times, on the pensive 'Deadly Nightshade' and the long final track, 'Todos Santos,' and flirts with New Age with 'Flaming Greentop' and 'Telco.' But overall, Belladonna is a well-constructed and paced instrumental exploration of mood and texture. Fans of pedal steel, if they're not too dogmatic about how it's supposed to sound, should check it out.'

Gary also had a listen to a very special Miles Davis album. Ascenseur pour l'echafaud' . . . is a one-of-a-kind album, an audio documentary of the making of a movie soundtrack by Miles Davis, as he was poised on the brink of his big popular breakthrough. Davis was in France for a brief tour with a quartet in the winter of 1957 when he was asked to provide music for a film by the young director Louis Malle. He and a quartet of musicians went to a makeshift studio for a private screening of Malle's film, Ascenseur pour l'echafaud (translated variously as 'Lift to the Scaffold' or 'Elevator to the Gallows') and improvised the music for the soundtrack. Miles had been given a previous showing of the film and told what the director wanted, so he had a few days to work on some sketches before the recording date.' Want to know how it all turned out? Read Gary's Excellence in Writing Award review!

Gary used to be last, in almost every issue because his name came up last in the alphabet. Leona Wisoker has taken care of that! Her review of the Ditty Bops ends like this, 'I think the Ditty Bops, like Fleetwood Mac, may be better live than studio recorded. I'll gladly go to see them again. They've only been playing for about two years now; Warner Brothers signed them on after their eighth public performance, so they've got a good early start compared to some musicians out there. Even with their limited experience, they've already gathered a solid group of fans. I'm very impressed with what they've accomplished so far, and I look forward to picking up their next album.' I think I want to hear this band!

That's it for today. What a selection! Isn't music wonderful!?!

A number of well-known writers including Kage Baker, Neal Asher, and Terri Windling also offered up their opinions as to their most beloved tales, so come back next edition to see what they had to say!

But the last words this edition are from Kelly Sedinger on why he likes Fall: 'Autumn's always been my favorite season, for so many reasons. I love the fact that I don't spend my days in some degree of perspiration. I love the feeling of encroaching coolness in the air, and the fact that at night I can use a comforter again. I love how clear the air gets once the southern humidity stops coming up Buffalo way. I love how my wardrobe expands again; t-shirts and shorts give way to long-sleeve t-shirts and henleys and denim shirts and overalls. I love the return of football, the way Friday nights feel like an event again, and the scent of leaves and apples in the air. What do I love best, though? Maybe it's my daughter going back to school. Or maybe not.'

 

 

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Archived 15 Jan 2006, 20:20 GMT (LLS)