Damn, it's October! The days still have a bit of warmth by afternoon but Gus, our gardener, has harvested almost everything save the root crops and pumpkins as we've already had a light frost or two; and Bjorn, our Brew Master, claimed the very best of the latter for his legendary spiced pumpkin stout, a variant on the traditional pumpkin ale. Our Librarian, Mackenzie, said of this brew last year that 'it was a remarkably well crafted stout -- the pumpkin flavor is subtle and smokey.' We expect an equally great libation this year!
Speaking of things that taste great, do read the story of Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook, being challenged by this question -- 'Have you ever thought about how versatile chocolate is? Savory or sweet, main course or dessert - but always heavenly. I'm sure a fine chef like yourself could make us a whole meal where every dish contained some chocolate.'
Befitting the time of year, our featured review as chosen by MacKenzie this outing is of the new edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. -- you'll find a link to our review of it below -- but over this way is our special edition on Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. If you like short fiction of a fantastic nature, you need to know what's in these twenty delicious volumes! There's certainly many an fine evening of reading in store for you!
Other reviews that Mackenzie suggests you should pay attention to include The Victoria Vanishes, a mystery novel by Christopher Fowler that has lots of London pubs in it, Charles de Lint's newest chapbook, Yellow Dog, and Kage Baker's The House of the Stag, a prequel to her The Anvil of the World novel are the book reviews that piqued his interest -- and the CD reviews that made him want to listen to the recordings included looks at he Duhks' Fast Paced World, two recordings by Nordic group Frigg, and Far, Far From Ypres which features music from the First World War.
Please note that our next edition's all about Patricia McKillip and her writings. We'll have an interview with her, a look at her literary career, interviews with both her and Kuniko Y. Craft, the artist who illustrated the covers for most of her Ace editions.
That man is going to drive me mad some day.
What did you just say? 'Perhaps he already has?' If it wasn't so close to the truth I'd swat you for that.
Honestly, Mr. E. is a fine man to work with most of the time, but he has his peculiar ideas. 'Mrs. Ware,' he says, 'have you ever thought about how versatile chocolate is? Savory or sweet, main course or dessert - but always heavenly. I'm sure a fine chef like yourself could make us a whole meal where every dish contained some chocolate.'
And me nodding along like a ninny. The first thing I knew, I was thinking of recipes I'd eaten or heard of or dreamt up. The sly boots had me hooked on the challenge.
Then again, feeding the Green Man Building's inhabitants is a challenge any day, and thank all the Powers I have such a good staff. Access to the best of ingredients, too, and a reference collection of recipes going back centuries. There are advantages to working for a Building like this one.
Of course, I work for the Building. Did you think Mr. E., or anyone else, could own the Building? Not in the slightest. It brings people (and others) here to serve it in various roles. Some stay for a few days or months, some for years without number. Liath our Archivist has been around, off and on, for centuries, they tell me. And who are 'they'? Why, house elves and brownies who've been here even longer than she has. Anyway, I've been here a long time. When I arrived here as a sous-sous-chef I promised the Building I'd stick around till I got bored, and I've never been bored. I've worked my way up through the ranks, met and married Mr. Ware (may he rest in peace), raised three daughters and a son and dozens of bouvier des Flandres puppies, trained chefs who now work in the best establishments on both sides of the Border - and never been bored.
Yes, I suppose little challenges like Mr. E.'s must contribute something to the lack of boredom.
Anyway, I suspected he was really dreaming of endless desserts when he set my mind thinking on his little challenge, so I drew up my menu with care. Simplicity and quality were my watchwords.
We started with a mixed green salad drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette, made with the finest in produce from Gus' gardens and raspberries from a little patch in a clearing just inside Oberon's Wood. Where was the chocolate? Infused in the vinaigrette. I make my own, of course, and I soaked some cocoa beans in it overnight.
Then we had a hearty, all-in-one main course -- tamale pie. It's basically a thick chili (I had to make a batch each of con and sin carne) cooked under a cornbread crust. Plenty of peppers, plenty of meat (or plenty of beans), plenty of tomatoes -- and a healthy dose of powdered cocoa. I found a container in the back of the east pantry that looked like it may have come from an artisanal co-op in Aztec territory (possibly pre-Conquest, though I wouldn't like to say for sure). I told you the Building gives me access to the best of ingredients.
For dessert, I kept it simple. People had a choice between Mrs. Cormier's dark chocolate cake with fudge icing, made the day before so that the fudge could melt just a little everywhere it met the cake, and homemade chocolate ice cream. Every staff member I could get my hands on had to take a turn at the churn. I promised those who did that they could have both cake and ice cream if they so chose.
When it came to the beverages, the other obsession around here besides chocolate, I consulted with Reynard. I needed cold and hot, alcoholic and not. Dear Reynard! I can always count on him. He found me a couple of barrels of Sam Adams' Chocolate Bock and Young's Double Chocolate Stout, and a selection of chocolate liqueurs (including every sort of Godiva under the sun) to add to coffee or pour over the ice cream. I had hot and cold chocolate milk, too, of course -- must fight osteoporosis whenever we can.
Was it a success? Was it a success? That comment I will swat you for! What meal of mine has ever been less than a success? The Building wouldn't allow it, and neither would I!
John Benninghouse notes, quite correctly, that Americans don't think much about World War I. 'In Europe, however, the First World War is much more keenly recollected with memorials and graveyards in abundance. For instance, it is nearly impossible to find a town in the UK that doesn't at least have a cenotaph commemorating its soldiers who died in the war. Scotland did its part on behalf of the British Empire in 1914-18. Indeed, more Scots served than from any other part of the Empire. Consequently Ian Green of the Scottish label Greentrax has assembled Far, Far From Ypres, a 2CD collection of songs and poems of those grim years.' To discover how that turned out, read his review.
Our featured book review this go-round is from Denise Dutton, who waxes downright poetic about the coming of Fall.. and this year's installment of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology. 'It's no secret that October is my favorite month of the year. The leaves start to turn, pumpkin pops up in just about everything sweet and savory, and Halloween caps everything off. This year things are even better, with the release of the newest entry of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series, and it starts the month off with wonder and magic. Looking for something to amaze, thrill, or scare you? Chances are it's in here.' You'll need to read her full Excellence In Writing Award-winning review to get tidbits on the stories themselves, but how can you pass it up when she concludes, 'there are plenty of fantastic things to stir your imagination, as well as those that bump in the night and slither in the darkness for those who, like me, love a good scare this time of year.'
Meanwhile, Craig Clark reviews Christopher Golden's The Boys are Back in Town, about a man at his high-school reunion who catches someone tinkering with his and his friends' pasts, and finds it a delightful treat -- 'It's always fascinating to watch an author develop, and The Boys Are Back in Town is a big step forward for Golden, one that shows how he was perhaps training his literary muscles for a larger task, such as the recent The Veil trilogy (beginning with The Myth Hunters), in which all of his skills come to fruition.'
Richard Dansky heartily enjoyed Howard Waldrop's collection Other Worlds, Better Lives -- Selected Long Fiction 1989-2003 -- 'Howard Waldrop at the height of his powers, cranky introductions and all, is about as good as it gets. These pieces are not just for lovers of science fiction; there's barely any of the hard stuff in here at all. They're for lovers of the craft of writing and of story, for those who appreciate the possibilities inherent in an already-told tale in the hands of a master.'
While Richard was initially hesitant to try the licensed property anthology Hellboy -- Oddest Jobs, edited by Christopher Golden, but found that his fears were unwarranted -- 'Spiced with illustrations by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, and edited by frequent Hellboy contributor Christopher Golden, Oddest Jobs demonstrates not only the versatility of Mignola's creations, but also the breadth of its admirers.'
Next up, Richard gives The Victoria Vanishes, a mystery novel by Christopher Fowler, a shot. While he notes that this novel has a bit of an artfully contrived quality to it, 'It's far better to enjoy the pleasures it offers -- and again, there are many -- than to try to dissect them, better to marvel at the intricacies of the plot architecture than to call in to question whether the story's central supports are indeed load-bearing.' (After reading Dansky's review, Fowler noted 'It was very much intended to be the ne plus ultra of that kind of story, with a heavy, deliberate nod to Edmund Crispin's The Moving Toyshop.') Read his interesting review here to see what Fowler means.
Richard's thirst for books as yet unslaked, he moves on to Davie Henderson's ecological thriller Tomorrow's World, which unfortunately leaves a bad taste in his mouth -- 'Tomorrow's World isn't an awful book, but between its hectoring of the reader, its weak mystery and its abrupt, Pollyanna ending, it's not a good one, either. The sentiment is noble, but the execution is week, and ultimately, not worth the read.'
Next on his reading list is the novelization for the film Hellboy II --The Golden Army, by Robert Greenberger. One rarely expects much from a novelization of a popular movie, and in this case, Richard's expectations were sadly met. 'What, then, are we to make of the novelization of Hellboy II?' he wonders. 'Unfortunately, not much. The book, written by veteran comics author Robert Greenberger, follows the course of the film faithfully, but faithfulness is about its only merit.'
Cat Eldridge takes great delight in Charles de Lint's newest chapbook, Yellow Dog, declaring -- 'Read it for the vivid descriptions of the Southwestern desert; read it for a taste of what The Mystery of Grace will likely be like... Hell, read it if you've never read this writer before to see just how good he is!'
April Gutierrez takes a peek at Small Favor, the latest book in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, and finds that even at its tenth installment, the Dresden Files are showing no signs of being shallow one-offs -- 'Highly entertaining, action-packed, and with a serious emotional underpinning, Small Favor is another excellent entry into this series.'
Next, April continues Green Man's recent fixation on all things Hellboy with a review of Hellboy -- The Art of the Movie, edited by Scott Allie. 'A book consisting of just the script, with its sharp, witty dialogue, and insightful creator commentary would've been treat enough. But it wouldn't merit the subtitle, if that's all there were. And indeed, there's so much more here. Every page of text has detailed illustrations, schematics, character designs, storyboard images and more.'
Lory Hess tries out Farah Mendlesohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy, an in-depth academic study of the fantasy genre, and discovers that academia and genre literature aren't natural enemies after all -- 'Farah Mendlesohn takes fantasy seriously. Other scholars may tend to skip over the genre, or feel the need to explain or excuse their focus on popular fiction, but she takes for granted the worthiness of a body of literature which relies on the creation of ‘a sense of wonder.''
Tammy Moore fell headlong into fantasy powerhouse Robin McKinley's newest novel Chalice, and truly enjoyed the ride -- 'McKinley's world is captivating and her characters, and their plight, compelling.' Read more of her insightful review here.
Kestrell Rath takes on an omnibus review of horror anthologies starting with Al Sarrantonio's Halloween and Other Seasons, Matt Warner's Horror Isn't a Four-Letter Word, and ending with The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature. Did Kestrell emerge unscathed, or does she now sleep with a nightlight? Read her Excellence In Writing Award-winning review here, to find out.
Next on her reading list is Wilde Stories 2008 --The Best of the Year's Gay Speculative Fiction, another anthology, this time edited by Steve Berman. Several of the stories caught Kestrell's attention, and you can learn more by reading her review here.
Elizabeth Vail tackles Precious Dragon, the third adventure for Liz Williams' paranormal sleuth Detective Inspector Chen -- 'Detective Inspector Chen is still going strong in his third outing in Liz Williams' compulsively readable fantasy / sci-fi / horror / mystery series, although readers new to the series would do better to start with earlier books like Snake Agent or Demon and the City. While Precious Dragon figures generally as a stand-alone novel, certain aspects of the plotline are dependent on knowledge of the first novels in the series.'
Matthew Scott Winslow finally buckled down and read Stephenie Meyer's eyebrow, controversy, and teenage-hormone-level-raising novel Twilight. While he finds some cause for praise, most of it is backhanded -- 'In spite of the large sales this series has garnered, this isn't truly great literature and won't stand the test of time, but it is enjoyable and fun and worth a read if you have a spare afternoon.'
He had more success reading The House of the Stag, by Kage Baker, a prequel to The Anvil of the World -- 'Because of its focus on the lives of just a handful of characters, this is not epic fantasy, but it feels like it should be because of the nature of the Lord of the Mountain's character. Therein lies a bit of a disappointment, but that was only short-term. Overall, this is an enjoyable novel that fills in the past of one of the more enigmatic characters of the land of the Yendri and the Children of the Sun.'
Oh, my, yes! We have music, lots of traditional artists and a few old favorites, and some interesting departures from the norm. Here's the scoop --
An old favorite didn't quite do it for Denise Dutton -- 'The problem with [Al Stewart's Sparks Of Ancient Light]? The first four songs are too damn good. If the song list had started in the middle, there'd be a top note ringing in my head at the end of it all. As it is, the sparks of light here may not be ancient, but they're faded to vague recollections of the fire that started things off.' Get the backstory here.
Scott Gianelli pulled no punches in his review of two releases from Nordic folk group Frigg -- 'With their self-titled debut CD and their sophomore effort Oasis, Frigg have quickly established themselves as the best young band in Nordic folk music.' So there.
Deborah Grabien, by her own account, is a long-time Tori Amos fan, so maybe it's no surprise that she had this reaction to Amos' new release, Live at Montreux, 1991-1992 -- 'Watching and listening to her shows at Montreux from that same period, I wasn't expecting the same emotional reactions. I'm older, my responses have taken turns down different alleys and, in any event, I'm harder to blindside. How much of what hits a person in the gut at 30 will do the same at 50? Well -- there's always Tori Amos.' Funny thing about that.
So what happens when a high-profile performer puts together a new band? Some pretty good things -- Michael Hunter thought so, at least -- 'So if we leave such pondering and possible over-analysis to one side and concentrate on Suited & Booted itself, it's easy to appreciate the album as its own work, and a thoroughly enjoyable debut recording.' Get the full story from his review.
And here comes David Kidney with another survey of recent blues releases. ''Why I Sing The Blues'? There may be all sorts of reasons. Why I listen? Because the music moves me. It moves my feet, and it moves my heart. And that's what it's all about. These three new releases keep it going!'
David also took a listen at another couple of retrospectives from Stax Records -- 'Stax Records re-introduced itself to the world with a series of brilliant retrospective CDs celebrating their long history. We've seen a two-disc history of their biggest hits, Stax artists doing Motown and the Beatles, and now Stax has brought out a couple of new releases by some legendary practitioners of the soulful music that came from their studios way back when!' Well, all I can say is 'Yay!'
Peter Massey found a new enthusiasm in Scottish harmonica player Donald Black. Of Black's Keil Road he says -- 'Donald has put together a gentle collection of airs and compositions by contemporary writers that hold an infinity for this part of Scotland.'
Peter was less enthralled by Marianne Segal's new effort. 'I can't honestly say I found the [The Gathering] riveting. Although the musicians perform faultlessly, none of the songs hit the spot for me, they don't seem to go anywhere or have a purpose.' Ouch. See the rest of his comments to get the full picture.
And a bemused Peter also commented on Dovetailing, the debut effort of a duo called Two Roads Home. 'Not that bad,' Peter?
Christopher Tuthill found an album that needed to be made -- 'Black 47's new album Iraq is one of those rare feats-a political album you want to listen to over and over. Listening to it you think of Bob Dylan's protest-era songs ('Masters of War' comes to mind) or some of the more trenchant Ramones work, like 'Bonzo Goes to Bitburg. ' Black 47 is definitely taking a risk with this angry, political album, and they carry it off beautifully.' Read his review to find out why.
Chris also had a good time with two releases from the Brunos -- 'Listening to the folk music of the Brunos on their CDs Bloody Knuckles and Ricker's Ghost, you feel almost as if you are in the room with the band. It is hard to decide which one has a better lineup of songs, but listening to either one will give you a good idea of the Brunos' sound and depth... The Brunos play a brand of folk music so earthy and fun to listen to that you want to invite them into your home for a party.'
Christopher White was disappointed in Spirits and Ghosts from The Band from County Hell -- 'I wish I could be more enthusiastic, but found myself thinking how generic the disk seemed, generic as in musical genre. Here is a modern era, rollicking, rowdy pub and festival Celtic band that might go down nicely with a pint or two of stout, but I struggled to find anything that truly set them apart from dozens of other practitioners.' It wasn't all bad, but you'll have to read his review to find the good parts.
Christopher was a lot happier with his next assignment -- 'The only fault to be found with Fast Paced World by The Duhks is that anything this good should be longer than 42 minutes. This is a release that leads to multiple use of the 'repeat disk' button on the CD changer.' There's a lot more to it, of course.
Here's something we like to see. Gary Whitehouse was tickled pink over this one -- 'Now, here is an excellent example of a record label doing all the right things. The artist in question is Jolie Holland, and the label is the So-Cal indie, Anti. Holland is an idiosyncratic artist with a strong musical vision and an independent streak a mile wide. Ever since Anti- picked up and released her first home-produced collection of tunes in 2003 as Catalpa, she has released another disc every year or two. She has continually expanded her vision as she has followed her muse where it has taken her. And now in 2008 she has emerged with The Living And The Dead, a fully realized set of tunes that comprise one of the year's best releases.'
Gary also came to a realization about young performers and old music -- 'These young folks and others like them seem intent on expanding the boundaries of folk music with elements of rock, pop, electronica and more -- a typical response of musicians in the iPod generation when the shuffle-play mode can erase the lines between genres. These musicians hear their songs a certain way in their minds, and there's really no reason that the recorded song can't sound just that way. If the musician doesn't have a skilled producer or a sense of restraint, the results can be ugly. Fortunately, except perhaps for song length, that's not the case with the Old Believers.' Read his take on why that's a good thing.
It's not just folk groups doing this, as Gary notes -- ''Gypsy punk' is a major musical trend in urban America, with bands in the Gogol Bordello mold popping up in New York and other cities like mushrooms after a rain storm. But the Zydepunks are the first New Orleans-based band of this type I've run into... This band and its music are following another national trend -- hybrids. They sing in several languages and mix the zydeco music of Louisiana with klezmer, German dance tunes, French melodies, Latin American folk songs and Eastern European rhythms. Most but not all of it is presented in a hyper-kinetic gypsy-punk dance style that's sure to get you moving. ' Read his review to see if this is a good thing.
Gary knows how to pick 'em -- 'My favorite bar band from Ohio has done it again. Speaking in Cursive, Two Cow Garage's fourth studio release, is destined to claw its way to the top of my 2008 best-of list. Its 13 tracks are packed full of heart, soul, wailing guitars and sing-along choruses; in short, the basic joy of rock music.' If you look here, he'll even tell you why.
Mike Wilson had reservations about Solas' For Love and Laughter -- 'The album begins with the charming sparkle of an exhilarating set of reels... This invigorating four minutes will leave you on the edge of your seat with anticipation of the roller-coaster ride that is to follow. And that was the problem for me -- the roller coaster has a tendency to come off the tracks on a number of occasions after this opening number.'
That's it for this time. Catch ya later.
Befitting the increasingly nippy weather and the considerably heartier fare we crave in the colder months at Green Man, we offer you up a piece originally published in our in-house newsletter, Le hérisson de sommeil (The Sleeping Hedgehog), in which Charles Stross, author of The Halting State and The Family Trade to name but two of his many works, discusses the Scottish fry...
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere; a great edition on Charles de Lint who's now beginning to set his tales in the desert Southwest; one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; and one on a fantastic new storyteller, Catherynne M. Valente who is always worth reading.
Oh, we should mention that every year that we do both best books and best music in which many of the wonderful folks we review 'ere pick their choices of what they liked for that year. And our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror series.
We have special editions coming up soon on Patricia McKillip and Elizabeth Bear. In addition, our Oak King and Winter Queen this year are gentle folk whose work all of us have admired for years.
For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at us, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring a properly poured pint of Guinness while listening to the Neverending Session, he'll try to answer your question!
GMR News is an e-mail list for readers of this publication. Each edition, we'll send you a brief précis of the week's What's New. This is an announcement-only list. To subscribe, send an e-mail from the address where you want to receive the précis, to this address. Or go here to subscribe. we also post updates on Livejournal.
Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2008, Green Man Review and Midwinter Publishing except where specifically noted such as the women at desk illustration on this page which is by Anne Anderson (1874—1940) who was a Scottish illustrator, primarily known for her children's book illustrations, although she also painted and designed greeting cards. All Rights Reserved.
Jethro Tull lyrics are copyrighted by Ian Anderson and used here as in accordance with the fair use provisions of applicable copyright laws.
A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in our metanarrative have agreed to be there. Really. Truly. Confused? Just set back and enjoy our stories within stories. And do keep in mind that opinions expressed in the metanarritve do not necessarily reflect the views of Green Man Review or that of Midwinter Publishing. They might, they might not.
Any resemblance in Continuity to persons, places, or times of anyone or anywhere living or dead, is purely coincidental unless otherwise noted. Those who know differently are unlikely to admit their involvement.
Once upon a time, A Several Annie told a story of how
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