Ahhh, there you are. Did you find something interesting to read in our Library? Ahhh, excellent choice -- I first read that novel a half century or so ago... I was very happy I did so as it was a cracking good story! MacKenzie, like all of our Head Librarians, is justifiably quite proud of the rather impressive fiction collection here, but the best stories oft times are not contained within the pages of a novel or a story, but are those told where folks gather late in the evening when the fire grows low. And we have such a story for you this edition...
After you read that story, a smorgasbord awaits your attention -- songs inspired by the writings of Neil Gaiman, a look at Bruce Springsteen on tour, Irish American songs of old New York, how a woman created the first female fantasy hero, the mythical lore of Ireland, the joys of midwinter themed music, a box set of the very best of English singer Ralph McTell, ukuleles, and the most prominent American composer of the past thirty years to name but a few subjects cover this edition.
Finally, we have letters -- pros, cons, points of information, you name it. guess, now that summer is waning, you've all settled down at your computers and writing desks again. Well, it's good to hear from you. Go here for all of these communiques!
Do you know about tinker's marks? Gypsies use them, too. Even plain old tramps when there were any still on the American roads. They're the marks that say, 'Kind Woman Here, This Dog Bites, Move On, This Is A Cop's House.' I think there's some sort of mark on the doors of the Green Man here, that says 'Uncanny Travelers Welcome. If you've walked a far road from a strange place, come on in.'
The Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room has a fireplace surrounded by overstuffed armchairs. It's a grand place to curl up and read on autumn nights, but it's also where the insomniacs and transients gather when it gets close to midnight. If you can't sleep, or you're trying to avoid actually leaving the building because you don't have a place to sleep --this is the place to be. And when it's late in the year and late in the evening, the stranger stories get passed around and read aloud.
We had this fellow here a while ago -- I think he bribed MacKenzie with some old books to let him spend the evening by the fire. He called himself a story teller and he had this leather satchel full of very old, tattered ledgers --the kind you keep accounts in, entered with a steel nib at a lectern. Though, to tell the truth, he didn't look like he could read or write: scarred face, eye patch, a leather jacket and one of those pointy leather caps you sometimes see in Howard Pyle's Robin Hood illustrations. Which I guess may be why MacKenzie asked him to read to the late night crowd from those old ledgers. MacKenzie's got a funny sense of humour. And a soft spot for storytellers, too.
So, these books: they were journals. This guy sat down cross-legged on the hearth and spread the musty volumes around his knees like a deck of cards. He claimed they were transcriptions of real histories, copied over and over, retold, retranslated, never quite forgotten. They were Robin Hood stories, of course, narrated to some anonymous scribe by Hood himself. But they were not the ones Pyle illustrated --definitely not Merry Adventures. Not the wronged nobleman, not the cheerful brigand nor amiable freedom fighter, either; no, the guy he was reading about was like some ancestral Saxon highwayman, the kind that takes your money and your life and then sells your corpse to the rag and bone man.
The Robin Hood he told us about was a psychopath, plain and simple. Sure, he stole from the rich -- that's where the money is, as some bank robber said. From the sound of it, the only things he gave to the poor were early graves and social diseases. He had a real personal hatred of the Sheriff but I don't think it was about anything special. Hood just hated authority. He and his feral buddies would stalk the Sheriff's men just for the fun of killing them. They'd strip them to the skin when the poor sods were dead, and mutilate the bodies --the narrator claimed the Sheriff had once scarred Robin's face, so every man at arms that Robin murdered had his nose chopped off and his face slit from top to bottom.
The nastiest part was that the nameless scribe had written down Hood's story in the first person: a boastful list of murders, robberies, good old-fashioned tricks like setting a cottage roof afire with the terrified farmer still inside. He told that old one about going to the Fair disguised as a one-eyed man to take part in an archery contest. But instead of winning the prize, this Robin Hood lost: then waited for the real winner after the contest, and gouged out both his eyes.
Our guest read it all out with a matter-of-fact glee. You could really imagine this clever, bestial outlaw recounting his deeds to some terrified clerk. And the storyteller kept glancing up with a slantwise grin as he read, that one eye blue as a gas flame, amused to be regaling us with tales of murder and rapine in a hero's name.
That guy was one authentically Uncanny Traveler, I'll give him that. He had that funny Somerset accent, where 's' is said with a slur that turns it into 'z‚ -- an old, country accent, that remembered wood smoke and wet thatch and ale drunk before it was quite ready. Not only could he read, he had a compelling voice, too: a sort of rough velvet buzz, like his voice box had been damaged once and healed over a long, long time. When he lifted his head to look over his audience, I could see a scar around his throat, as well: like a rope burn. Of course.
When he was done, we were all sort of stunned, except MacKenzie. Nothing bad fazes him unless it happens to a book. He looked round, calmly stroking the cat asleep on his lap, and told us all sternly that Truth was not only stranger than fiction, it was scarier. Then he sipped his whiskey, turned his gaze on the smirking storyteller, and said, 'But you'd better go now.' And the guy up and went, satchel on his shoulder, leather jacket swirling round him like a cloak .
What really chilled me was that as he passed me, he looked down and sort of tipped up his eye patch like a salute. And under that patch was a perfectly good, perfectly cold, blue eye.
Cat Eldridge was delighted to see this cool book show up at Green Man: 'Forget Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls graphic novel. Without any doubt at all, the absolutely best graphic novel of 2006 is Neil Gaiman's Absolute Sandman -- Volume One! And one of the best literary efforts of the year as well! The Sandman was the most acclaimed comic of the '90s. Now given that Neil Gaiman has been writing professionally for over twenty years, with a extensive list of well-known novels and comics including Sandman, Neverwhere, Death: The High Cost of Living, The Books of Magic, Good Omens, and American Gods, that is quite a claim by me. His latest novel, Anansi Boys has recently been released to great acclaim, and Fragile Things, his latest collection is quite enjoyable as well, but that Sandman remains his best known and arguably his greatest creative affair to date is quite amazing!' Read his loving review for a look at what is the definitive printing of an artistic masterpiece!
Midwinter: A Celebration of the Folk Music and Traditions of Christmas and the Turning of the Year is the longish title of a Free Reed offering which Mike Wilson found to his liking: ' I approached this collection with equal amounts of caution and intrigue. However, from the first few tracks I immediately warmed to Midwinter and any caution was quickly abandoned as I became increasingly captivated. The four discs are accompanied by an exquisitely illustrated 136-page book that describes each track in great detail, alongside a good helping of seasonal anecdotes, bringing the whole project to life. There are recordings made as far back as the 1920s, with some tracks recorded this year, specifically for this collection. The breadth of material includes poetry readings, traditional music renditions as well as contemporary selections.' Read his review for all the tasty details on this impressive undertaking!
Now where were we? Oh, conversing of apple wood smoked Cheddar.. home made mince pies... Ryhope Wood hard cider.. Ymmm! Oh, and let's not forget that lovely loaf of fresh baked bread that I see sitting on the counter near Mrs. Ware...
But you were also askin' about what we'd read for books... So let's see...
There's are more than a few leftists on the GMR staff so it's not surprising that one of these leftists, Donna Bird, looked at these two biographies, Anthony Arthur's Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair and Kevin Mattson, Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century: 'Like a lot of people, I first encountered Upton Sinclair in high school English class. We were required to read The Jungle, his classic 1906 novel about the meat packing industry that is widely credited with providing the impetus for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. It's one of the only books I read in that period that I actually remember with some appreciation. We have a copy in our home library, along with a copy of his later novel Oil! We also have a copy of a 1992 book, titled The Campaign of the Century (Greg Mitchell on Random House), about Sinclair's unsuccessful 1934 run for Governor of California -- as a member of the Democratic Party! ' Read her review for a look at these biographies and you might just appreciate SInclair just a bit more than you did!
In a succinct review, Faith J. Cormier tells us about a novel from Kate Coombs: 'The Runaway Princess is quite the romp. It's another one of those modern fairy tales that sets cliché's on their ears, and it does so fairly neatly.'
Faith has far more than do I as I'd bloody well never wait 't il the fourth entry in a series hoping it;d get better: ' The Younger Gods is most definitely the best of the series The Dreamers. This isn't quite vintage Eddings, but it's much better than the first three books, The Elder Gods, The Treasured One and Crystal Gorge... ...And as I said, The Younger Gods is far and away the best of the lot. It moves faster. There is less philosophizing and explaining. Best of all, we get answers. Abruptly, a little over half way through the book, we come to the section 'the Dream of Omago' and boy, does everything fall into place. The cosmic mysteries are revealed, and it's all clean-up from there on in.'
Faith offers up a slightly puzzling note: 'Despite the title, The Nobbie Stories for Children & Adults is not a storybook. Let me clarify.' You think I'm going to spoil a set-up like that by tellin' you more? Hee. Go read her review of this C.L.R. James to gether charming explanation!
Where's Neil When You Need Him? is not a book 't all, but it's in this section as all of it was inspired by a very well-known and incredibly prolific author as April Gutierrez notes here: 'When I first saw the description of this CD, I begged GMR to nab it for review, thinking the perfect complement to our many other Gaiman-related items already up on the site. What a perfectly marvelous concept, asking a diverse group of musicians to draw on Gaiman's vast assortment of stories for inspiration. Suffice it to say I had high expectations for Where's Neil. Unfortunately, Where's Neil doesn't quite meet those expectations of mine. Oh, it's not a bad CD at all. In fact, it's pleasant enough in its own way. Just not terribly . . . memorable or inspiring, really. Which seems to have skirted the point, if not entirely missed it. With such a wealth of diverse material to draw from, I would have expected a wider variety of song styles, but that's sorely lacking here. There's a lot of electronica/synthesizers and a lot of slow tempo songs. And not a heck of a lot else. No blues, no country, no real folk. No out and out ball to the walls rock. A pity.'
Now you do know that David Kidney really loves rock and roll? So it shouldn't surprise you thathe love this book: 'Bruce Springsteen. You've heard of him right? When he first appeared on the scene he was ignored, then declaimed as the next Dylan, then as the 'future of rock and roll'. The bookshelves are starting to fill up with biographies, assessments, critical reviews and picture books about this singular American artist. Dave Marsh has already written two Springsteen biographies (Born To Run and Glory Days) and now he looks at the venue where the Boss shines brightest -- he concert stage -- with Bruce Springsteen On Stage 1968-2005. It's quite a volume.'
Now let's pay attention to what Kestrell Rath has to say in Excellence in Writing Award review: 'I feel I should preface this review with an explanation. It's October here in New England and, as I keep telling people, Halloween is my Christmas, so I like to draw it out just a bit. For thirty-one days I get to show off my extensive collection of Halloween socks, watch almost as many horror movies as my dark little heart desires, and generally spend the month viewing the world with my Halloween goggles on. So maybe it is just me, but Greg van Eekhout's new chapbook Show and Tell and Other Stories offers more than its fair share of tricks and treats. My favorite trick is the way he manages to get both horror and humor in his science fiction.'
Robert M. Tilendis looks at the latest, The Machine's Child, in one of the best sf series, The Company series, ever done: ' The more I read of Baker's Company novels, the less I'm inclined to think of them as a 'series.' Not, at least, as we generally think of series, whether in the guise of The Story That Wouldn't End or as an ongoing group of stories with shared characters and milieus. What Baker is doing is putting together an extended mega-novel with all of time and all of humanity as its focus. By this stage of the game, it's become something on the order of Wagnerian opera, but accomplished with characters and relationships rather than with musical leitmotifs. I am reminded of a remark a friend made to me about Götterdämmerung to the effect that by that point of the Ring, it was just grand opera. I observed that by that point, the audience had three operas worth -- roughly eleven hours -- of emotional and psychological associations to deal with because of Wagner's leitmotifs. Baker has done pretty much the same thing, just not with music.'
C. L. Moore's Judgment Night collection definitely was a publication Robert liked a lot: 'these are solid stories, not at all the hack work we tend to think of when someone mentions the pulps, and serve to fix Moore's place as a major voice in science fiction of the Golden Age. This edition is a facsimile of the original Gnome Press edition of 1952, and it's a trip down memory lane, from the cover by Frank Kelly Frease to the stories themselves. It's also a good reminder that science fiction, from its earliest days, was a lot more serious than most people think, thanks to writers like C. L. Moore.'
Robert got lost in a work by Daithi Ó hÓgáin:' The Lore of Ireland is subtitled 'An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance.' That somewhat terse description hides a wealth of information in entries ranging from a short commentary on the mythical king Tighearnmhas (in whose reign gold was first discovered in Ireland, and who came to bad end) to an exhaustive discussion of the origins, permutations and meanings of the Fianna Cycle. It's a treasure house of names, places, stories and ideas -- everything from a short biography of Ní Mháille (Grace O'Malley, a sixteenth-century pirate queen who once visited Queen Elizabeth) to St. Patrick, and from pigs to fairies (not as far apart as you might think.) I admit it -- I spent hours wandering from cross-reference to cross-reference.'
Ahhh, you have a good ear! That indeed is 'Twa Corbies' which is off Hark! The Village Wait by Steeleye Span. Yes, that's the original line-up of Ashley Hutchings, Maddy Prior, Tim Hart, Gay Woods, and her husband, Terry Woods. It never survived long enough to perform in public as both creative and personal differences broke up that version of the group as you can read in Brian Hinton & Geoff Wall's Ashley Hutchings: The Guv'nor & the Rise of Folk Rock, but they did leave us their stunning 1970 debut album... Speaking of Steeleye and Maddy Prior, Michael Hunter has a few words to say about several reviews he's working:
A number of CDs from Park Records - two showing the depth of Maddy Prior's activities outside Steeleye Span. Maddy & Girls' 'Under The Covers' has Prior teamed with Abbie Lathe and Claudia Gibson on a collection of contemporary covers. Maddy Prior sings PJ Harvey and Shania Twain! Who'd have thought it? The other set is titled 'Collections', a best of Prior's solo work from 1995 to 2005; so vast that two CDs were needed to do it justice.
Also in a double CD from Lindisfarne, comprising the previously separate CDs 'Here Comes The Neighbourhood' and the live 'Untapped and Acoustic'. Both come from the late 1990s when the band was adjusting to the death of founder member Alan Hull.
Now on to our reviews this edition...
Now listen up a minute as Christopher Conder has soemthing you should hear: 'Conceived by Nashville scenesters John Cutliffe and Andrea Zonn in response to the devastating tsunami that wrecked much of Southeast Asia in the tail end of 2004, Hands Across the Water is an impressive display of networking. Starting with Darrell Scott being joined by members of Danœ and culminating with an instrumental duet between Jerry Douglas and Altanâs Ciaran Tourish, the 16 tracks draw together major roots artists from both sides of the Atlantic in unique collaborations, making it a must-have for collectors. The back cover lists 39 largely Irish and American featured contributors, most of whom will be familiar to Green Man readers. Inspection of the sleeve notes shows plenty more musicians of the calibre of Danny Thompson and Bonnie Raitt squeezed in as session players, too. Naturally, with profits going to benefit child victims of the tsunami, I would be mortified if I had to report a poor album to you, so it is with pleasure that I can assure you this, if not faultless, is nevertheless well worth your money.' Now you can go back to gabbing, listening to the Neverending Session, and drinking Guinness!
David Kidney had better hope that was realized for these recordings: 'Jac Holzman of Elektra Records once called Cyrus Faryar 'the Persian minstrel of Barham Boulevard.' Faryar was of Persian descent buthe hailed from Honolulu, where he grew up with Dave Guard (of Kingston Trio fame). After Guard quit the Trio, he formed another group called the Whiskeyhill Singers, and Faryar was his first choice. Faryar then joined the Modern Folk Quartet, helped Paul Beaver (Beaver & Krause) on an album, worked with Phil Spector and Cass Elliott and later Firesign Theatre, Linda Ronstadt and others before returning to relative obscurity in Hawaii. In 2003 he played on Teresa Bright's Quiet Nights album. In the midst of all that activity, Faryar managed to record two obscure records of '70s folk music. Collectors' Choice Music has recently released these two albums [Cyrus and Islands] in their series of re-issued music from the Elektra vaults. It's interesting stuff, if a bit dated.'
David loves ukuleles, so this recording appealed to him: 'Gently Weeps is a solo album. That's correct, just Jake [Shimabukuro] and his Kamaka ukuleles, and his amazingly dexterous fingers. Long-time readers will know that we here at GMR are uke fans. Jake is one of our heroes. Right from the first blue notes he pulls from his Kamaka, on into George Harrison's classic melody, you know that you're in the presence of a master.'
You'll ahve to read the review by Lars Nilsson of Tim Hart's Five after Four and The Silver Bow - The Fiddle Music of Shetland (Tom Anderson, Aly Bain and others) to get an explainaition to this comment: ' Here are two instrumental albums with some common denominators, but which are very different..'
Ahhhh, he found a good recording in Mick Moloney, McNally's Row of Flats - Irish American Songs of Old New York, by Harrigan and Braham: 'So whatever you like, good music, good lyrics, good musical productions or a piece of Irish American history, this is a record to explore. It has been running in my CD player for many weeks and I am not through with it yet. And welcome back into my world Mick Moloney, may you visit again soon.'
Robert M. Tilendis is not very enthusiatic about this release: 'the group And Did Those Feet was founded in 1992 by composer/performer Richard Ellin to showcase his own compositions. He was joined by vocalists Ina Williams, who has won many awards in singing contests in Wales and abroad, and Celia Jones, born in Canada but active on the music scene in Britain for over twenty years. Forgetting the Shadows of History is their third release.' Read his review to see why this is so.
Philip Glass's Symphony No. 8 stirs up interesting emories in Robert: 'If we are going to talk about the 'serious' music of the late twentieth century, one name that is going to come up is that of Philip Glass, without doubt the most prominent American composer of the past thirty years. For many followers of contemporary art music, Glass has been a problematic icon. I know fans of serial minimalism who turned their noses up at Glassworks and the opera Satyagraha, calling them 't oo romantic.' Others couldn't listen to Glass until his style became looser and less formal. (I have to admit, I was always willing to see Glass' ensemble in performance, back in the day, but listening to my recording of The Photographer almost caused me to break a tooth.) And then there are the symphonies.'
And he wraps his reviewing this edition with another classical trecordings worth eharing: 'Joseph Haydn, the composer who did as much as anyone, and more than most, to create the style we know as 'classical,' was also one of the wittiest artists of a witty era. He also created some of the most profound music of the time, reaching through a highly artificial style to reach emotional truth. In Orlando Paladino we get both the wit and the emotion.'
A country buffet (Junior Brown's The Austin Experience, Live at the Continental Club, Mark Chesnutt's Heard It In A Love Song,
XIT, Ten In Texas collection, Why The Hell Not ... The Songs of Kinky Friedman, and Tom Wurth's debut recording) awaits you in this rteview by Gary Whitehouse: 'Here are five CDs of good country music, with plenty of variety: A live set, two tributes and two 'solo' singer-songwriters, one an old hand, one a fresh face with some promise.'
Mike Wilson is one bloody lucky bastard! He not only got to review the Midwinter: A Celebration of the Folk Music and Traditions of Christmas and the Turning of the Year box set, but also got this box set as well to review for Green Man: 'Ralph McTell is undisputedly one of the jewels in the crown of British music, though perhaps relatively overlooked and underrated when compared to some of his contemporaries. McTell is a phenomenally talented guitarist with a genial song-writing style and a delightfully warm, reassuring baritone voice that injects all thathe performs with an undeniable authority and immediacy. The Journey is a long overdue celebration of a remarkable career that spans five decades. 66 tracks -- almost half of which are previously unreleased -- are spread across the four discs of this box set, starting with some demos recorded in 1965 and concluding with some recordings made just this year, especially for this collection. The project has been overseen by the master of box sets, David Suff, with his usual attention to detail and empathy with the subject matter. Accompanying the music is an enlightening 44-page booklet, containing an interesting collection of photos and a thorough essay, recalling Ralph's life and his career in music.
There will be no reviews next edition as we're devoting the issue entirely to Charles de Lint and his writings. Paul Brandon, a friend of Charles and a well-known author in his own right, will be penning an appreciation of Charles; Cat Eldridge offers us an interview with him; and Robert Tilendis will be doing a career retrospective of his writing. Oh, and there will be two musical goodies by Charles -- one written and performed by him, another performed by a superb Celtic group! Might there be even additional offerings to tickle your fancy? Drop by on November 5th and see for yourself!
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Last edited 10/21/06 by Béla and the rat fiddlers who are now sleeping off eating too much Caerphilly and drinking more than enough Ryhope Wood hard cider! We did save a piece of the cheese for Kathleen Bartholomew...