Sunday, the 20th of November, 2005

The next biweekly issue will be published on Sunday, the 4th of December, 2005

Book Reviews Featured Reviews Music Reviews
 
  Letters from our Readers

A-soul a-soul a soul cake, pray good missus a soul cake
An apple a pair a plum or a cherry, any good thing to make us merry
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for him who made us all

God bless the master of this house and the mistress also
And all the little children that round the table grow
Likewise your men and maidens, your cattle and your store
And all that dwell within this house we wish you ten times more

Traditional

Ahhhh, plump pork sausages sizzling in their own fat, eggs any way you like them, palacsinta, pumpernickel bread thick with lekvár, goulash topped with sour cream, fresh brewed coffee with cream so thick it stands up . . . Sound good? It is. After a night of playing music, the musicians are always hungry, quite hungry indeed. So Bela pleased the lot of them -- fussy that they be at the best of times -- by delivering a crate of spicy Kolbasz sausages packed in ice and sawdust along with another crate that contained Páter Sör, a most excellent Hungarian wheat beer. And yet a third crate loaded with other Hungarian goodies.

Meanwhile Kage Baker, author of The Children of The Company, the latest in her Company series, has been teaching the bakers in our kitchen to make a most excellent soul cake according to what she says is a traditional Scots recipe. Let's listen in as she tells them how she makes these nibblies . . .

Barm Brack is a soul cake -- traditional Scots recipe calls for a bean or silver coin or some other token to be baked into it and the person getting the winning slice gets fame or good luck or sacrificed or whatever, deciding on how much of The Wicker Man you take seriously. I leave the tokens out of mine, personally. Life is enough of a lottery as it is.

You add one tablespoon each of yeast and sugar to half cup lukewarm milk and let it become bubbly (that's the Barm). Then you sift into a bowl two cups of flour, three tablespoons sugar, half teaspoon each allspice and nutmeg. Cut in three tablespoons of butter. Then you make a well in the buttery flour mixture and pour in a beaten egg and the Barm. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a stiff elastic dough. Then you add a half-cup of currants or raisins or dried cherries or what have you that have sat overnight in wine, whiskey, rum or what have you. 'Brack' means 'Spotted' in Scots. Knead in the fruit and set the dough in a warm place to rise about an hour. Transfer the dough to a loaf pan and bake at three hundred and fifty until done-- half hour -- forty-five minutes maybe? Serve while watching The Uninvited, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Nightmare Before Christmas or some other Hallowe'en standard.

Ymmm! Now come join us in the Great Hall for this most scrumptious breakfast. Those musicians who are not eating and drinking are now playing a piece made famous by another Bela, Bartok to be precise -- 'Magyarbecei öreges csárdások'. Lovely in a November-ish sort of manner, isn't it?

 

We get a lot of fiction for review here at GMR -- easily a hundred novels, collections, anthologies, and chapbooks covering everything from supernatural romance thrillers (the new generation of 'bodicer rippers') to quite a bit of fantastical literature.

The featured review this edition is of a novel, errr, defies easy definition so Kelly Sedinger was pleased, but terribly confused by what he just read: 'Mark Helprin's new novel (his first in a decade) is about two characters who may be very intelligent (or very stupid); it details their adventures when they are forced into an unfamiliar land (or it does not); it is a pure farce with humor bordering occasionally on slapstick (or it is a withering social commentary); it is a delicate romance (or it is a powerful statement on contemporary politics in not one but two nations); it is a book that celebrates the English monarchy (or skewers it with almost angry glee); it is a book that lovingly pokes fun at American presidential politics (or ruthlessly savages it); it maddeningly indulges linguistic wordplay for pages at a time (or it showcases some of the most beautiful pure language I've read in quite some time); it contains magic (or it does not); it's a book that had me often wondering why the hell I was reading it at all (and then would, within five pages, remind me). Freddy and Fredericka is all of those things.'

This year brought a new chapter in the Harry Potter series -- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince has already been reviewed by GMR -- as well as a new film. Denise Dutton takes a look at Hollywood's latest installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 'Puberty can be a bitch. Just when you start to get a handle on school, life throws a wrench into the works. For Harry Potter, life throws in the whole tool box when he realizes that he's been selected to compete in the legendary and extremely dangerous Tri-Wizard Tournament. His fourth year is going to be tougher than he thought, and that's not counting the return of Voldemort's evil minions, the Death Eaters. How's he ever going to find the time to ask someone to the dance?' Ah yes, the old school days. Green Man staffers remember them well. Read the review to see if this film manages to capture the feeling of the novel, and our reviewer's interest!

The concept of a live review of a videotaping seems a bit convoluted, but trust our Assistant Music Review Editor, Music Review Production Editor and Master Reviewer, David Kidney, to pull it off. 'Together with about 100 of Ron Sexsmith's fans, friends and family,' he was invited to be in the audience for the videotaping of an episode of a new music show called Beautiful Noise. After a long wait while the production crew did the mysterious things TV production crews do, David was treated to the fun of watching band members let their hair down and jam during lengthly breaks for lighting or battery changes. It all added up to 'three hours of a private audience with one of the world's finest songwriters and his excellent band. And did I mention the special guest? 60s pop star, and songwriter Andy Kim joined Ron on-stage for a surprise rendition of 'Baby, How'd We Ever Get This Way.' To read more about David's 15 minutes of fame, click here.

Bela, our resident Hungarian (we think) violinist oft times refers to what happened between the Wars in Europe. So 'tis appropriate that Donna Bird has an indepth examination of six works -- Ilya Ehrenburg's The Fall of Paris, Sarah Gainham's Night Falls on the City, Elsa Morante's History: A Novel, Simone Signoret's Adieu, Volodya, Arthur R. G. Solmssen's A Princess in Berlin, and Lajos Zilahy's The Angry Angel that were published variously between 1943 and 1986 which take fiction as their way of looking at that era. She says 'These novels are all about life in Europe in the years just before and during the series of invasions, occupations, transportations and other hardships that came to be known as World War II. I know that it is not our custom at the Green Man to pay attention to events this recent in history. But let me explain how this came about.' Read her review to see what she thought of these novels. Donna earns an Excellence in Writing Award for her herculean effort!

Craig Clarke says: 'As a follower of the work of author Joe R. Lansdale (feel free to check out my reviews of The Drive-In, Bumper Crop, and The Boar here on GMR), I look forward to each new release with relish. When he's on, he's one of the best writers alive, and even when he's a little off, he's still vastly entertaining. This has led me to seek out works that I've not read before, just to see what I've been missing. Upon seeing the cover of Zeppelins West at my local library, I naturally assumed it to be another off-kilter Western in the style of Dead in the West; I wasn't far off. Zeppelins West turns out to be more of a mixed bag; however, as Lansdale attempts to replicate some of the more out-there fiction of his favorite author, Philip Jose Farmer, but neglects to focus on a single storyline along the way.' Read his review of this steampunkisk alternative history novel and its sequel, Flaming London, for all the steamy details!

Richard Bowes' From The Files of The Time Rangers will be on the list of 2005 Best Fiction which our Editor, Cat Eldridge, will put together next year: 'I really like a well-written time travel adventure. Unfortunately, they are, in my opinion, quite rare. Exemplars of this genre include Kage Baker's sprawling The Company series/ Fritz Leiber's Change Wars series, which, alas, consists only of a short novella, The Big Time and The Change Wars, a collection of twenty tales; Robert Heinlein's The Cat Who Walked Though Walls; Charles Dickinson's Shortcut in Time and Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. The very best of that group is by far The Company series, so it's fitting that Kage provides the introduction to this novel. Much like Kage's new work, The Children of the Company, just out on Tor as I write this review, From the Files of the Time Rangers is a mosaic novel which is a fix-up of previously published material from the soon-to-be defunct Scifiction Web site, F&SF, Bending the Landscape, and Black Gate. Now you really don't care that some of the material here was previously published elsewhere as it's likely that you, like me, never saw those pieces. All you care about is how good it is in the present form.' Read his detailed review to see why he liked this impressive novel!

Cat also looked at The Draco Tavern, a new collection from one of his favourite authors, Larry Niven which he says ' collects all of the previously printed Draco Tavern tales, with a few new pieces thrown in for a bit of value added like all the extras we get on DVDs these days. Draco Tavern is a rather unique place, as it was constructed after humanity's first contact with the technologically advanced alien race called the Chirpsithtra, who look like very large lobsters (sort of). Draco Tavern is owned and operated by Rich Schumann, who invested in a bar built at Mount Forel Spaceport where the Chirpsithtra first came to Earth.(The fortune he used was from developing something a Chirpsithtra told him.) This bar's a mecca for both humans and aliens alike. A costly mecca, as food, drinks and other intoxicants -- such as sparklers for the Chirpsithtra -- are not cheap. But still the Chirpsithtra come to drink in the bar and apparently to tell tales. Humans, in turn, come to drink at the bar to see the aliens, hear them tell their tales and (sometimes) to do business with them, if possible. And everyone, particularly the proprietor of this cafe, Rick, will always listen to a good story.'

Norman Hood and Leta Davis have compiled a look at a major fantasy artist in Parting the Veil: The Art of Nene Thomas which April Gutierrez was glad to get the review copy of: 'Nene Thomas is a fantasy artist I have heard good things about (from a mutual friend), and whose artwork I have seen occasionally at anime conventions, but about whom I know relatively little other than that she had her commercial start with Magic: The Gathering cards. So when offered the opportunity to pore over a book dedicated to her art, I jumped at the chance. I'm pleased to say that I'm glad I peeked behind the veil (and tickled to discover inside a print clearly modeled after the aforementioned friend!)' Read her review to see why this flawed look is still worth your time.

April also looked at a choice manga-related novel release from Makoto Inoue: 'As I write this review in the fall of 2005, Full Metal Alchemist (FMA) is arguably the hottest anime and manga property in the U.S. (rivaled perhaps only by the ninja-centric Naruto). FMA takes place in a world not unlike our own, except that magic -- in the form of alchemy -- exists. The overriding principle of alchemy is 'equivalent exchange.' Want to repair that crashed car? Fine, but the material has to come from somewhere -- not thin air. Because of this principle, revivification of humans is forbidden. But two bright and desperate young boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric, grief-stricken at the loss of the mother, defy this edict and attempt to bring her back to life . . . with disastrous results. Ed now possesses a prosthetic arm and leg of metal (hence, Full Metal Alchemist) and Al has been reduced to merely a soul clinging to a precarious existence inside a suit of armor. The anime and manga explore their attempts to find the semi-mythical Philosopher's Stone, which will purportedly return them to full humanity.' Read her review to see what adventure befalls the brothers in this novelization.

Charles M. Schulz's The Complete Peanuts: 1957 to 1958 is, according to David Kidney, almost perfect: 'Schulz's nimble sketches are perfect for conveying the simplicity of this community. Over 100 of the strips included here have never been reprinted since they first appeared. The drawings are timeless. And so are the stories. There are many more volumes to come. I treasure the four on my shelf and look forward to the rest.'

Lars Nilsson, bless him, looks at five (!) mandolin instruction books from musician Mike Marshall: 'The mandolin is a nice little instrument. Smaller than a guitar, it has the advantage of being tuned as a fiddle, which enables you to play fiddle music on it as well as using it for accompanying purposes. The double strings enable tremolo picking, and the closeness between frets and between strings allows for quick, virtuous runs across the fretboard. It is easier to play fast on a mandolin than on a guitar. But on the other hand, the tone is rather short and sharp. Playing long notes on the mandolin is almost impossible, unless you perform them tremolo style. Mike Marshall is one of those mandolin players who uses the instrument for different kinds of music, as this series of instructional books proves. The Chord Book is more than just a list of mandolin chords. Marshall shows how chords are built, different inversions of chords, and gives examples of interesting chord changes and chord scales. As with the other books in this series it is not aimed at the beginner, rather at someone who masters the basics of the instrument, and wants to move on. I also expect they can give hints to the professional player.'

Robert M. Tilendis reviews an impressive work of travel writing by by John Gimlette, earning himself an Excellence in Writing Award in the process: 'It occurs to me, reading John Gimlette's Theatre of Fish, that there are certain prerequisites for being an effective travel writer. One must be, obviously, fairly peripatetic in nature, and interested in the exotic and new. One must also be very accepting, non-judgmental, and open to a wide range of differing attitudes. It also seems to help if one has an unrestrained, completely irreverent, and somewhat bizarre sense of humor. Mmm . . . and a heavy dose of fearlessness. That helps.'

Jerry Hewitt and Daryl F. Mallett have created an impressive bibliographic work according to Robert Tilendis, The Work of Jack Vance -- An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. Robert says we are 'treated to an introduction by Robert Silverberg and an afterword by Tim Underwood, who as half of Underwood-Miller began reissuing Vance's works in deluxe hardcover editions in the 1970s. As I said, there is a lot of information here, and anyone who takes science fiction seriously is going to find this a valuable resource indeed -- it manages to give not only a solid listing of the work of Jack Vance, but a very good sense of what the world of science fiction writing and publishing was like in the Golden Age.'

Robert here, thinking about letters.

Sometimes we put our foot in it, sometimes people only think we've put our foot in it. Reader Sue Devoe takes Jeff Skolnik to task for misremembering a blues club, that, as it turns out, Jeff never visited, although he renders a quite acceptable mea culpa.

And then musician Dana Lyn takes Lars Nilsson to task for quite a different reason. Lars seems to be under fire this time: Peter Knight also had words to say about one of Lars' reviews. Then there are those very refreshing times when we are not taken to task at all, although that can have its own brand of edginess, as the final exchange between Jenny McCaffrey and yours truly about Morton Feldman demonstrates.

SPike 'ere! I'm back! Been writin' me @#$%in' memoirs! Tryin' ta recall all the good times, somehow it's easier than thinkin' of the hard times, dontcha know! Any road...I'm back checkin' out the CD reviews for the week! Crikey! It's for the fortnight I reckon! Ain't it!?!

Richard Condon writes first about a couple of French Canadian groups! New CDs by Le Vent Du Nord, and (should I say 'et'? Been visitin' friends in Montreal!) La Volute,. about which he says '...both of these recordings were made by Québec folk musicians, the resulting music displays some differences...[and similarities]...These two recordings illustrate the vitality of music from Québec: while there are musicians like this around, the tradition is in good hands.'

Next up is me ol' mate David Kidney who 'as taken me absence as a chance to listen to music a bit mellower than I usually allow in the office! At least Danny Weis plays electric guitar! Dave reminds us of Mr. Weis's pedigree! 'Danny Weis! Wow! From founder of Iron Butterfly (but don't blame him for 'Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida') to the first super-group Rhinoceros; from backing Janis Joplin, the Everly Bros., Lou Reed and many more, Danny Weis has been an intrinsic part of the music scene for decades. Sweet Spot is his first solo album, and what a welcome thing it is!' An' yeah! It's pretty funky!

Then Dave dug a handful of acoustic guitar records! New albums by Kirk Elliott, Harry Manx, an' Don Rooke all from North of the border! Dave says, 'These three new recordings by Canadian guitar players give ample evidence that the acoustic guitar is still one of the most emotive, vibrant instruments available. Each album features comments on the package. These quotes range from Kirk Elliott's song-by-song description to Don Rooke's statement of purpose, and Harry Manx's simple observation, 'The way I see it, Blues is like the earth and Indian music is like the heavens. What I do is find the balance between the two.' Balance is something we all seek to achieve. From walking, to riding a bicycle, to maintaining relationships, it's an important element in every part of our life. Each of these three musicians has his own way of finding balance.' An' he's not jus' talkin' 'bout philosophy . . . he's talkin' 'bout the music! Read on!

Peter Massey gives us three reviews this issue! Sharon Knight's Song of the Sea is up first. And Peter says, 'Breezing in from California, this is Sharon Knight's 4th album and although it says on the back cover 'Celtic', it left me wondering when is Celtic not Celtic? Because if you are a staunch traditional Celtic music folkie, this album might leave you slightly bemused and wondering too.' He says quite a bit more, but you'll 'aveta read that for y'self!

Peter then moves to two new rootsy CDs, well, just EPs really! Doug Folkins with Ken Hamm, Roots and Padraig Lalor's Henry Martens Ghost. 'Doug Folkins, normally a folk rock / pop singer, trying his hand at a more folk-roots sound. Doug wrote all the 6 songs on this extended EP. He sings well and still carries that 'pop' singer element in his voice, so his fans won't be disappointed . . . Padraig [Lalor] sings in a strong Irish accent, as you would expect. He writes songs based on life's experience in the province and its history.' Thassright! More Canajans! They're ev'rywhere!

An' Mr. Massey's third review is Ginny Hawker & Tracy Schwarz, Draw Close described by Peter as '...a nice, easy-listening album with some well thought out material put together by two very experienced American traditional singers. I fancy this album will suite traditional Old Timey and Bluegrass fans amongst you.' That might let ME out, but it don't mean the rest of you can't dig this stuff!

Phamie Gow 'as released a second CD called Dancing Hands which Lars Nilsson reviews. Comparing it to her first album Lars states, '. . .Dancing Hands feels like an improvement in every aspect. This time Gow has had the good taste to invite some fellow musicians and singers to augment her own multi-instrumental abilities, and even though she has composed all the music herself, it is a varied album, where each piece of music is given its own character. Gow's main instrument is the harp, of which sheis a master, but she also is a fine piano and accordion player.' For all the details, read the whole review!

Robert M. Tilendis is the local classical music lover in the buildin'. An' he's quite a sport too. He was the first one t'offer to fix me up wif a Guinness upon my return! All right Bob!!! This week he looks at an album by Leopold Stokowski, conducting the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra in a set of Rhapsodies (Franz Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor; Georges Enesco, Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A, Op. 11; Bedrich Smetana, Ma Vlast: Vltava, The Bartered Bride: Overture; Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde: Prelude to Act III, Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusburg Music) An' while I don't pretend to understand half of what he says, Bob 'as a nice way of puttin' it! 'No one who ever saw Disney's Fantasia can forget Leopold Stokowski, who in many ways was the star of the film, even though he shared conducting honors with Mickey Mouse. [His] reputation as one of classical music's greats is still largely unassailable...[he] was, first and foremost, an interpreter, known as much for his tendency to pull out all the stops as for his musical erudition. This collection of concert favorites is a showcase for his particular brand of conducting.' Gotta love these showcases!

An' last but not @#$%in' least Gary Whitehouse listens to Curt Kirkwood's Snow. I think Gary likes it too! 'Curt Kirkwood's long-awaited solo debut is an album of subtle and off-kilter beauty. When I say long-awaited, I mean by me. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've long hoped the former frontman of the Meat Puppets would bring his twisty lyricism to the fore with a primarily acoustic album. That's what he and producer Pete Anderson have come up with on Snow.' Read the whole review an' see for y'self!

An' that's music for this time. Now it's back to th' memoirs, tryin' to remember jus' wot Fred and I were doin' on that dark road, near the river...Hmmm.

 

We continued our look in The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, at what Green Man staffers listen to when the weather turns cold and unpleasant with comments by a few more staffers. JoSelle Vanderhooft says that 'If the first is true, I'd pop in Loreena McKennit's A Winter Garden. When the five songs were up, I'd put in her earlier effort To Drive the Cold Winter Away . Then, perhaps, we could have a listen to Anonymous 4's On Yoolis Night and A Star in the East. I'm all about the Medieval motets and Renaissance-style lays!' Whereas Denise Dutton commented 'Hmm. If I wanted to banish all thoughts of a strong storm tearing the roof off, I'd put on 'Let it Snow' and settle in with a large mug of mulled wine. If I felt like tapping into the wildness of the storm, I'd pop in 'Ride of the Valkyries' and throw back a shot of whiskey. Of course, the urge to sing 'kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit' would be unavoidable.' Finally Pete Massey has a succinct response: 'My choice would be the Dave Goulder song 'January Man'. The words always ring true for me.'

 

 

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Updated Cat --20/11/05 at 15.35 GMT