Hmmm... What's this scribbled note I found in A Companion to the Folklore, Myths and Customs of Britain? 'Tam Lin books to read this winter in prep for senior thesis-- Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron, Cecilia Dart-Thornton's The Battle of Evernight, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock, Patricia McKillip's Winter Rose, 'Tam Lin' in the graphic novel series Ballads and Sagas as illustrated and edited by Charles Vess, and Jane Yolen's Tam Lin.' I'm impressed -- good reading all for what the Russians call the old wives' winter.
Pamela is a lovely lady -- I remember from her visits here that she likes a small winter afternoon tea with everything vegan about it. Her summer one is more likely to have a piece of fruit or a mock-ice-cream bar in it.
Jane on the other hand prefers something more elaborate, as she noted once when she was here to a Several Annie who was on High Tea duty -- 'Several different kinds of teas with demara sugar and milk. Perhaps Lady Londonderry or Irish Breakfast or Earl Gray. Finger sandwiches: tuna mayo on brown bread, cucumber and mayo on white, ham spread on brown. Some petite fours, slices of carrot cake, and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.' As she says, Yum.
So indeed it's true that Green Man has a long and rich literary heritage with many a noteworthy writer stopping by here for an afternoon tea, or weeks on end to work on their latest manuscript as this document from our archives below will bear witness to...
From the diaries of L.L. Littlesworth, Esq.
East Wing Library Belfry Tower,
The Green Man estate,
August 11th, 1865
This afternoon, my good friend Charles Dodgson and his charming companion Alice came for tea. The Cheshire Cat I see often, as he regularly makes his rounds from the conservatory to the kitchens to the library here at the Green Man estates. But the library belfry, where I keep my personal effects and from where I write this account, is blessedly Cheshire-free, most days. And it is peaceful -- no bells here since who-knows-when. These Green Man estates have been here what seems like forever, though every few generations someone feels compelled to expand upon what lay here before him. The entire library wing of this rambling place looks positively Medieval, though I suppose such is the fashion again, what with the Gothick modes and the emergence of the New Romanticism.
So -- no bells in this belfry, just books, books, books. And scrolls and codices, more than one illuminated manuscript. Several inscribed stone tablets lean in corners which come and go as stealthily as the Cheshire Cat. Never before I came to work here did I see a place with so many corners, nor such a propensity for those corners to disappear when the fancy took them. Rumor has it some long-ago librarian here used the library's extensive collected works on the Grey Arts to imbue the walls with a sort of ethereal elasticity. It enables us to continually acquire as many new books as we need, you see, without ever having to let any go.
The estate managed by the School of the Imagination is an easy walk from here; quite close, though closest on third Mondays and full moons. The other side of Oberon's wood is sometimes quite close indeed, depending upon the circumstances of the hour and His Fey Majesty's pleasure.
When Dodgson and his charge arrived I took them straightaway to the library for tea. Miss Alice is most enamored of the belfry. 'Why, it's rather like a rabbit hole, is it not, Mr. Littlesworth?' she said. 'Only it goes up, up, up rather than down, down, down; and it is lined with books rather than roots.'
Upon which my friend Dodgson mumbled, in an off-hand way, one of his famous doublets -- 'Books -- boots -- roots.' He's always thinking, is my friend Dodgson. His mind never rests. And Miss Alice! So fetching a child, and so intriguing. Once Dodgson created her, he could no sooner undo his work than any of us can undo any auto-manifesting fabrication, or flight of fancy made real.
For tea, Cook had laid out quite a feast for our guests (she spares no such labors on simple me!) -- hardboiled eggs sprinkled with Paprika from the Indies; lovely slices of delicate fish which virtually melted on the palate; cakes a variety of shapes, and cordials a dozen colors. Dodgson remarked most favorably upon the fare, but I noticed Miss Alice refrained from the repast. When I directed her to the fish, she said -- most politely, for she is an extremely well-behaved child -- 'Thank you ever so much, Mr. Littlesworth, but once one has seen a fish in all his livery, it is not quite the same to see him spread wide upon a platter, and seems not quite the thing to eat him.' When I offered her the plate of eggs instead, she remarked, 'Oh Mr. Littlesworth! I couldn't...not since it was explained to me by a most insistent mother pigeon that only serpents eat eggs. I think I look not the least like a serpent, do you?' Upon which I hastily reassured her in the negative. Dodgson was of no assistance. He merely smiled -- indulgent of Miss Alice or myself I wouldn't presume to guess.
In desperation, I piled the girl's empty plate with cakes of every variety, thinking I'd never met a child who would say no to cakes at high tea. But she demurred, fixing me in a dolorous gaze with those enormous eyes of hers. 'Mr. Littlesworth,' said she -- 'A girl who grows all out of proportion for the simple act of eating a cake once might be pitied. She might be praised if she does it again to remove herself from a fix. But a girl who makes a habit of eating cakes, randomly and with no thought to the consequences to her size and shape....' She shook her pale head with finality. Our Green Man Cook is forever speaking of putting herself on a reducing diet, but I had quite the strong feeling that was not what Miss Alice meant at all.
After tea, I asked which portion of the estate my guests would like most to see. 'Just please, Mr. Littlesworth, not the conservatory,' said Alice. 'The Cheshire Cat has told me often what a lovely place the Green Man conservatory is -- how delightful its flora, how accommodating its fauna. He has recommended most strongly that I visit it while here. But I have decided not everything the Cheshire Cat says is true, strictly speaking.'
At which Dodgson laughed. 'Are we speaking strictly?' he said. 'I make a habit of never speaking strictly, if it can be at all avoided.'
And so my guests decided they would explore the library wing itself, which if I do say so has quite a bit to recommend it. It has the shifting corners, of course, and the telescoping stairwell, which expands or contracts according to the seasons and to its willingness to allow access to a particular book. The library has been most accommodating during my tenure as its keeper. We have a benign relationship, this strange old wing and I. I like to think we co-operate together to provide excellent archiving and retrieval services for the many, many volumes which come our way from around the globe and around the clock, as it were. I'm not always sure all our volumes exist in the same temporal frame-work, though they may share the same shelves of magicked planks.
The remainder of our afternoon passed pleasantly. Time went quickly, as it does when spent in good company. The Cheshire Cat made an extended appearance late in the day, his grin materializing first and fading last, beaming down from its position atop the shelves on the upper landing of the belfry. Miss Alice pointedly ignored his presence, and asked me to explain my new toy, a tintype camera. I deferred to the Good Doctor's superior knowledge, and he rambled for the remainder of the afternoon, blissfully unaware, I believe, that his young companion was engaged mainly in snubbing the looming feline and his enormous smile. I knew already most of that which Dodgson explained, but his enthusiasm was charming. He is a lovely man when his interests are engaged. His stammer virtually disappears, and he is then the most eloquent of scholars, and the very best of company.
Now the light is fading from my tower. Even that light which reaches here, far over the tops of trees fringing Oberon's wood. I see the Old Mill Pond from my window. If I look very hard, I can make out pale wisps of smoke rising from the chimneys of the School of the Imagination. I picture my friends there, Dodgson perhaps writing in his journal as I do mine. His Alice -- that strange, wonderful creature which is so like an actual human child and yet so unlike -- perhaps she sleeps. In this odd twilight which exists between day and night, anything is possible. I think a creature so strange and lovely as Alice might outlive even her creator Dodgson and myself. Will she, I wonder, still be teased by the Cheshire Cat long after these papers crumble to dust; long after some future generation of Green Man librarians decide this old belfry is no longer useful, or that some of these books must go?
I slide back onto the shelf by my desk this slim volume Dodgson gave me upon his leave-taking. I run a finger along the title inked onto the spine -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Part of me thinks she will outlast us all, this girl-child entity made real by the power of words alone. For that and for her, I love these books around me all the more.
George MacDonald was a true gent when he dropped by from time to time to use our Library. Deborah J. Brannon tells us this edition about a well-known tale of his: 'At its heart, The Princess and the Goblin is a simple tale about being true-hearted, sincere, empathetic, kind, honorable. . . . I could go on for quite a while in this vein, actually. Fitting all those traits into a story must surely make it instructional and complicated, I can hear you thinking. Yet this is simply not true with George MacDonald's charming fairy tale. All these qualities are implicit within the characters of his subjects and are thus presented as desirable and worthy of emulation.' Sound a little too good to be true? Not exactly -- see what Deborah has to say about the book's saving graces.
Now, typically letting a reviewer's cat out of the bag isn't something we tend to do here at GMR. But the opening of this lovely review by Michelle Erica Green gave off such a tantalizing pull that sharing only seemed right. 'Don't let anyone scare you off from The Fountain by convincing you that it's science fiction or fantasy. . . . I didn't see it in the theater because I was told that it was hard to follow the jumps in time -- one storyline takes place in Inquisition-era Spain, another in the present day, and a third, apparently, many thousands of years in the future -- so when I finally watched it on DVD, I expected to have greater admiration for the superb cast (Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn) and the visual effects than the drama itself. . . . I couldn't have been more wrong.' So what are you waiting for? Head on over to her Excellence In Writing Award winning review to see what else she has to say!
Maria Nutick headed out to the multiplex recently, and came back with a look at the new movie based on Holly Black and Tony DeTerlizzi's The Spiderwick Chronicles. This series is much beloved around here, so we waited with baited breath for her assessment. In a nutshell? 'Spiderwick fans should thank Nickelodeon for not bunging up this one.' What's that? You say you want more? Well then, you'll have to head over to her Excellence In Writing Award winning review and see why she thinks Spiderwick escaped catching the dreaded Adapted Novel Syndrome that so often strikes popular books.
Our final featured review finds Gary Whitehouse out and about in Portland, Oregon, to catch a live performance of The Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band and Jason Webley at The Doug Fir Lounge. 'The name of the Big Damn Band is part of the joke, of course. It's just three players: The Rev. on guitars and vocals, his wife "Washboard" Breezy on washboard and his brother Jayme on a minimal drum kit. The Rev.'s resonators and his Gibson flat-top are miked acoustics, and Breezy's washboard is also miked, and the drum kit includes a five-gallon bucket in addition to kickdrum, snare and foot-pedal cymbals. And that's it; but they play and sing so emphatically that they're nearly a force of nature. There's no way you can sit or stand still when they're playing. It's joyful country blues with a boogie beat.' Sounds like all the ingredients for a fun night! Read Gary's review to see just how much fun!
Camille Alexa looks at the debut novel by Russian writer Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret Life of Moscow. Sounds like an expose of rich capitalists to me, but, says Camille, 'it is the story of a young woman in 1990s Moscow -- unhappy, displaced, maladjusted Galina. Upon giving birth, Galina's young sister (cheerful, pretty, parental favorite Maria) inexplicably turns into a bird and flies out the window. Galina and a crew of unlikely comrades follow clues and cues into a mysterious city below the city, a secret, alternative Moscow, where time, place, and reality have startlingly elastic parameters.' Sounds intriguing, no? See Camille's thoughts about it.
Camille also looked at a reprint of Patricia McKillip's 1973 novel, The House on Parchment Street. Perhaps it's just showing its age, but Camille had reservations, particularly in regard to the packaging -- 'While not my favorite cover ever, it's at least consistent with the interior. There's nothing too definitive to give away the exact age of our protagonists, Carol and Bruce. But the paperback cover leaves no doubt these are children. Not teenagers, not 'young adults,' but children. So when Bruce's father indicates his son was seen smoking, and tells him he's old enough to be making his own decisions about such things, it's a bit of a shock, from a reader's viewpoint.' Read Camille's review for the whole story.
There's a happier ending to Camille's experience with McKillip's Moon-Flash. 'It's quite gratifying to revisit books from one's childhood. Actually, it can be gratifying or disastrous. I'm pleased to say it was the former for me with Patricia A. McKillip's Moon-Flash. Originally published by Argo Books in 1984, Moon-Flash is one of a duology, though this first book is absolutely readable as a stand-alone novel.' And read it she did.
Master Reviewer Donna Bird found a serendipitous bonus while searching for wall calendars -- two substantial and informative books on Orientalist art. Let her tell it -- 'Yes, I found a calendar (scenes from Egypt by the Scotsman David Roberts) but then I kept looking down the list. These are typical art books, large and heavy, hard-cover, solidly bound, printed on glossy coated stock. They are very pricey, even at discount, but decidedly worth it if you want to learn about Orientalist art, the people who painted it, and the places that inspired their work. They are sufficiently different in both their approach and in the selections of paintings they offer as exemplars to justify buying both of them if Orientalist art is one of your passions!' Well, it's one of mine, so I was delighted to read her thorough and appreciative review of Kristian Davies' The Orientalists and Gerard-Georges Lemaire's The Orient in Western Art.
Donna also had time (don't ask us how!) to take a look at what is almost a classic of modern Italian literature. 'This very unassuming little paperback showed up in the Green Man mailroom a while ago. I happened to read the blurb on the back cover: 'Set in the 1860s, Lampedusa's The Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.' I hesitate to admit to having a specialty in fiction about dying European aristocracies, but I think it's true. . . . I'll confess that my exposure to books set in Italy is somewhat limited. . . [so] I approached this novel with a bit of trepidation.' And how did it turn out? See her review to find out.
Donna also had occasion to look at a book about the women of the Ottoman Empire, Asli Sancar's Ottoman Women -- Myth and Reality. She found it somewhat problematic, noting 'Sancar's thesis . . . is that women living in the Ottoman Empire were neither depraved nor saintly as different stereotypes would have it, but were rather as complex and multi-dimensional as any other women. That is, quite frankly, a non-starter as far as I'm concerned -- it could be said of virtually any group of women regardless of their ethnic or historical attributes.' See the results of her examination here.
Donna winds up her reviewing this edition with some comments about Frederick Reuss' fictionalized account of his great uncle. 'If you do a Google search on the name 'Max Mohr,' the first entries that show up refer to a punk rock composer born in Frankfurt in 1962. The Max Mohr whose life is depicted in this eponymous novel is definitely not that person. This Max Mohr was a German Jew who died in Shanghai in 1937. Trained as a medical doctor, he also wrote plays, novels and poetry, which were all banned by the Reichstag in 1934, the year he left his home in the Bavarian Alps for a new life, leaving behind his Protestant wife Kathe and their daughter Eva.' While finding Mohr both moving and powerful, she did have some minor complaints. Get the full story from her thoughtful review.
We seem to have a lot of charm this edition. Faith J. Cormier discovers a memoir from Paul Collins about moving to an English village -- 'Sixpence House is a very late 1800s sort of book, as is appropriate from an author who studies the literature and history of that period. It's the gentle sort of rambling memoir that people used to write back then, full of digressions and extensive quotes from other works, relevant and less so. Now, this is the sort of thing I love, but if by any chance you don't, you might as well stop reading now.' Stop reading? Not a chance.
Faith also had a chance to check out James Owen's Here There be Dragons and its sequel, The Search for the Red Dragon. Faith says the series starts off with a bang: 'I suspect it's the sort of book you can re-read multiple times from different perspectives, trying to see what clues you will pick up that you missed before. . . . It's a real rip-roaring page-turner. It's fast-paced and covers a wide canvas, geographically, historically and culturally.' And the second book is up to snuff: 'I think it was very sensible of Owen to separate the two stories by nine years. After all, we know that in our reality the main characters did not have long mysterious periods of absence. They are, after all, real people, and their lives are catalogued in minute detail in many other sources.' So, two thumbs up for these two books.
Book Editor April Gutierrez took some time off from editing to bring us a report on an unusual 'memoir.' 'Liza Dalby has led an interesting life, it's safe to say. A cultural anthropologist by trade, she's spent a number of years in Japan, including one year as an actual geisha in Kyoto, developing not just a fluency in the language, but a love of the culture, both past and present. In East Wind Melts the Ice, she combines that affection with her knowledge of gardening, natural history and Chinese culture to craft a 'memoir' of a year's passing.' Read April's review to find out her reaction.
April also found time to look at two books by Angela Carter and a commentary on the second. 'Wise Children . . . is comprised of stories within stories. The framing story concerns events occurring on the day of Melchior's 100th birthday -- which also happens to be Nora and Dora's 75th birthday -- but Dora runs away with the narrative and lays out a memoir for the 'Lucky' Chances (as the sisters were known professionally), beginning two generations before they were even born, with their paternal grandparents.'
The second, 'Nights at the Circus, . . . is a fanciful tale of a winged English woman, an American journalist and the exceedingly bizarre circus that draws them together. Sophie Fevvers, the 'Cockney Venus,' is a famous aerialiste, or trapeze artist, whose claim to fame are the giant wings that keep her aloft during her act. She claims to have been hatched from an egg, and that the wings emerged as she grew up. At the novel's open, American Jack Walser, a reporter determined to get to the truth of the matter, has been granted a private interview with Fevvers.' Helen Stoddart's Angela Carter's Night at the Circus, says April, 'is an accessible and comprehensible read. It reveals some of the layers and nuances not readily apparent to the casual reader, particularly the political underpinnings.' Sounds like a nice package.
Michael M. Jones takes a look at a couple of adventure/thrillers with a . . . hmmm . . . varied cast of characters. Jennifer Rardin's Jaz Parks series gets high marks, says Michael: 'This series has a lot going for it, with a blend of humor, action, adventure, intrigue, mystery, and supernatural mayhem, highly reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer during the height of its popularity. As urban fantasy, it's got a strong voice, and a nicely flexible premise, and a great setup, and it's just fun in general. I'll be looking forward to seeing the world fleshed out more in books to come, and it'll definitely be interesting to see how the characters continue to grow and develop.' Sounds like a treat.
David Kidney, who wears many hats here at GMR in addition to his Master Reviewer's headdress (and quite a headdress it is), came up with something unusual. 'This is the first time, though, that I've seen a book devoted to only one guitar. Not just a model, or a brand, but one single guitar. . . . Phil Taylor has been the guitar technician entrusted with David Gilmour's guitars for over thirty years. When he asked his boss about doing a biography of the Black Strat, Gilmour replied . . . 'It seems a daft idea to me, writing a book about an ordinary guitar that I bought at Manny's.' Well . . . if only it were that simple!' Simple? See for yourself.
David also looked at a collection of Cowboy Stories illustrated by Barry Moser. David notes that it is 'a book filled with cowboy stories from a variety of authors. Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry, Zane Grey are listed on the front jacket, but inside there's also Louis L'Amour, Elmore Leonard, Max Brand and Luke Short -- some of the finest writers of the old west ever,' so the quality of the stories is what one might expect. But what's the real highlight? Check his review to see what stood out for David.
And the eclectic Mr. Kidney has some thoughts on a personality who has become a stage play, a Broadway musical, and a film in his review of Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street: 'Author Peter Haining admits, in his 'Note' at the beginning of the new edition that, 'when the first edition of this book was published over a decade ago in 1993 there was still much in dispute about the life of Sweeney Todd, the Nineteenth Century serial killer. Subsequent research . . . [and some] important historical discoveries . . . have now, I believe, established his existence beyond doubt.''
Claire Owen found herself faced with a slightly different pirate adventure. 'Mad Kestrel offers a new take on piracy, weaving adventure, romance and magic into an enthralling, addicting read. There is enough adventure and swordplay to satisfy any pirate fan, with much betrayal, too, and plenty of the pirate speech we have come to love so dearly.'
Claire also had nothing but praise for Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely. 'Crisp, to the point and written in the more simple and literal language of North American teens, Wicked Lovely has hit the nail on the head and is utterly perfect for its genre. The interesting quotes from real books that discuss faeries, placed at the beginning of each chapter, are a simple yet tasteful addition to the novel that provide a bit more information and insight into these creatures that have plagued mankind's imagination for centuries.'
Master Reviewer Robert Tilendis refrained with some difficulty from joining in the fray over Hugo Gernsback's rightful place in history. 'Hugo Gernsback occupies a unique role in the history of science fiction, but exactly what that role is at present has generated a fair amount of controversy. He has been depicted as the visionary creator of a new genre of forward-looking fiction and equally as a high-handed editor who thought nothing of rewriting his contributors' stories to fit his ideas. In spite of the legends, I don't think Gernsback can legitimately be called the creator of science fiction, by any means. . . . However, as Gary Westfahl points out in passing in his Introduction to Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction, Gernsback, through his work the editor of the first science-fiction magazine, created the idea of science fiction.' Robert was not, however, completely satisfied with Westfahl's analysis. See his review to find out why.
Can't hardly do better than that, can we? Robert also looked at a book by a new author for him, Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms, which surprised him a little. 'I might also point out that, apropos of my comments at the beginning of this discussion, her subversion of the paradigm of science fiction and most fantasy extends to milieu -- culture, as well as individuals -- breaks the mold of what we have come to expect. Cayaba is certainly not my native Chicago, any more than Ray Bradbury's Mars was. . . . However, aside from those considerations (which I bring up mostly to point out once again that the literature of the fantastic in its contemporary forms has, aside from entertainment value, solid intellectual underpinnings), this is a seductive, engaging book. I honestly didn't think I was going to like it very much, but was intrigued not only by Calamity's unfolding personality, but the glimpses of life in a place that should have seemed strange, but didn't.' What changed his mind? You're going to have to read his review to find out.
Matthew Scott Winslow was in a bit of a quandary about an old friend's first novel -- 'So it was with much joy that I heard that Jeff had found a publisher for his fantasy series, and not some fly-by-night vanity label, either. But I was also a bit hesitant -- I know of too many friends who think they have what it takes to write a good story, but who really don't. I jumped on the opportunity to review Auralia's Colors, Jeff Overstreet's first novel, but I was worried I might have to pan a friend's hard work. (And longtime readers of GMR know I'm not afraid to report when a book is badly written, even when it results in an author getting all up in arms about it.)' So, what's the final word? Here's Matthew's verdict.
Award-winning acts for Fairport's Cropredy Convention
Award-winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and her band will play at Fairport's Cropredy Convention on Saturday 9 August 2008. With two acclaimed solo albums to her name, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Julie was awarded 'Folk Singer of the Year' at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards on February 4 2008.
Voted 'Best Duo' at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, John Tams and Barry Coope will appear at Cropredy on Thursday 7 August 2008. John has been a guiding light of the British folk community for over thirty years and Barry is well known for his work with acapella trio Coope Boyes and Simpson.
Vocal duo Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller, winners of Radio 2's Young Folk Award, will perform at Cropredy on Friday 8 August 2008.
Friday night will be headlined by legendary folkrock band Levellers (celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year). Levellers was recently honoured with the award for 'Festival Feel-Good Act' at the 2007 UK Festival Awards, voted for by the public.
The full list of acts at Cropredy 2008 will be announced shortly.
Fairport's Cropredy Convention is a uniquely-friendly festival of rock, pop and acoustic music and this year's event takes place on 7, 8, 9 August.
The popular festival attracts up to 20,000 music fans – last year, all the tickets were sold weeks before the gates opened.
'A great way to while away an August weekend' The Sunday Times