Can you smell it? No, not the Turkish coffee I'm drinking. That other earthy smell. That's spring here at our offices. Windows are open, everyone's ambling this old estate looking at the plants coming up, and I've even overheard more than one couple contemplating doing the two backed beast in Oberon's Wood when it gets just a bit warmer.
Yes, I have very good hearing except when the ravens are being annoying and then I pretend that I can't hear all that well.
And there's always contradances going on here -- what better way to check out a new partner? After all, G B Shaw once said 'dancing is the vertical expression of the horizontal desire.' Read on for a look at a dance recently held here as Chasing Fireflies with Reynard on concertina, Béla on violin, and a lovely piper-lass named Finch was playing...
After that, take a look at our lovely reviews and interviews -- Interested in English music? Do listen in as contradancer and musician Tim Hoke interviews renowned poet / musician / storytellerr Robin Williamson; for Irish music, we suggest our interview with legendary Irish fiddle-player, Martin Hayes, conducted for Green Man by Michael Hunter; in the book reviews, we suggest reading Kestrell Rath's look at Gavin Ashenden's complex and fascinating work on Charles Williams who was a poet, novelist, theologian, and member of The Inklings; or perhaps a read of Robert Graves' The White Goddess -- A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth as tackled by Robert M. Tilendis is up your alley.
CD Reviews? Oh, yes -- we got those too including Peter Massey reviewing a set of recordings by England's Copper Family! And Mike Wilson was lucky enough to spend a few days up at Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival back in February! So read on!
Come on in, you're just in time! We haven't started yet... don't just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I'm Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I'm also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we'll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and... oh, there's a fiddler missing! Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub?! I've danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something. As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we'll walk through the first dance. You'll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, it's very easy. It is so! It's just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don't you worry, the other dancers will help you.
Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?
It's that new porter that's been tapped in the pub, I'm sure. Béla's developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You're certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you'll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in...
Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Let's dance 'Lady of the Lake.' Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back... cast around. Do a ladies chain over... and back. Now balance and swing with that person below... and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You've got it! Now, everyone back to place and we'll dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please...
Our first feature is an interview with legendary Irish fiddle-player, Martin Hayes, conducted for us by Michael Hunter, at the end of last year -- '...in a way you kind of have to let the music inhabit you, and it kind of does in a way tell you what to do, it does play itself out through you. Because like I said at the beginning, you have to get out of the way. It's one of those things, so when you do the music is just there and it's all very obvious when it's happening. In a way, you don't have that much control over it, you're just kind of the messenger of the music.' Find out what else Mr. Hayes had to say by reading the full interview here!
Next up we feature another interview! This time, Tim Hoke catches up with the renowned Robin Williamson -- 'Well from my point of view, I started out with the notion that it might be a good idea to use different instruments in different ways in one piece of music. I admired that kind of stream of consciousness writing of people like Jack Kerouac, you see? I decided I would try to write in a free-flowing style like that. But I also liked traditional music, so it was kind of paradox between those two things -- contemporary improvising, stream of consciousness stuff, and traditional stylized, ancient styles. And then I tried to use instruments that I couldn't play, like naive painting, you know, trying to make sounds on things. This is the days before the synthesizer. So I was just making noises on different kinds of instruments.' Robin's interesting tales can be found in the full interview.
A collection edited by James Lowder gets the approval of Faith J. Cormier -- 'Up for some rip-roaring, two-fisted tales of adventure? You're in the right spot. Astounding Hero Tales is a collection of adventure stories in the tradition of the early Twentieth Century pulp magazines. Not sure you're up for macho, formulaic tripe? Please read another paragraph or two before you dismiss this anthology out of hand. The majority of the stories were, after all, commissioned for this volume and written since the turn of the Twenty-First Century, so they don't have quite the traditional faults.'
Elizabeth A. Whittingham's The Evolution of Tolkien's Mythology -- A Study of the History of Middle-earth left Faith with a question -- 'I have the feeling that unless you read the whole mass of work from beginning to end in as short a period as physically possible, you're not going to have a real overview of Tolkien's genius; and if you do read it all that fast your brain is likely to explode. I don't think someone who had no knowledge of Tolkien's works would really get much out of The Evolution of Tolkien's Mythology, but that's not who the target audience is. This isn't an introduction to the stories, it's a way to deepen your understanding of them, and perhaps even be brought to think about a few of the underlying ideas for yourself
George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois, and Daniel Abraham collaborated on an interesting sf tale -- 'What would you do if you could start over, completely start over? More to the point, what would you do if you had to start over? These are the questions that Ramon Espejo has to answer if he's going to survive, in any form. He also has to come up with an answer to a question that is even more basic to his identity -- 'Under what circumstances do you kill one of your own kind?' Hunter's Run is his answer.' Do read Faith's review here.
Donna Bird looks at some of the espionage thrillers written by an author she hadn't known about -- 'One day last fall my spouse asked me if I had ever heard of a writer named Alan Furst -- he'd seen copies of several of his novels at our favorite independent bookstore. I hadn't, so I checked them out the next time I visited the bookstore. They looked interesting, so we requested review copies from Random House. Our publicist contact sent a sample of the titles in the series. (Although Random House has re-released these in a very handsome and affordable set of trade paperbacks, many of the titles are also quite readily available in hard-cover editions, if you prefer a larger and sturdier volume.) Figuring that sooner or later I would want to read them all, we picked up some of the other titles from said local bookstore. I ordered the rest from the usual online sources. Viola! Another series stacked beside my worktable!'
Andy Diggle (author) and Goran Sudzuka (illustrator) have, according to Cat Eldridge, created a memorable story in Hellblazer -- Lady Constantine which he say 'is a rather delightful romp in a series which otherwise can be bloody awful more often than not! It is also true that this series is a relatively rare example of a Hellblazer spin-off miniseries, but then again, she did start off as a Sandman character. Oh, did I mention that Lady Johanna Constantine herself is witty, sexy, and a truly kick ass character? Though I will stress strongly that she shares the Constantine family trait of never, ever being someone you should trust not to stab you in the back if need be.'
Kestrell Rath looks at 'Gavin Ashenden's complex and fascinating work on Charles Williams, poet, novelist, theologian, and member of The Inklings, the literary group whose famous members included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. While Alchemy and Integration serves as a Rosetta stone for interpreting the metaphysical and theological complexities of Charles Williams's work, it also provides historical background to some of the threads woven through the literary and magical traditions of the early part of the twentieth century.'
Take heed when she says that 'Bride of Frankenstein is full of Elizabeth Hand's usual luxurious prose, and her style compliments the light-and-shadow feel of the German expressionist images. Fans of early literary and film horror in particular may enjoy the game of catching Hand's many references to horror classics.'
Her last review is a look at yet another collection of short tales -- 'Within the four hundred plus pages of The New Weird are contained everything the reader might need to become familiarized with the kind of story labeled 'new weird.' Not only does it include a selection of stories representative of the new weird but also a variety of perspectives intended to document a series of questions such as what, precisely, the new weird is, when it happened, if its still happening, and whether labeling such literary movements say anything significant about the state of genre fiction. The question I found myself asking most was who the intended audience was for this book, as the literary criticism which alternated with the stories gave me the feeling that I was supposed to be allowing myself to be dragged into the debate, rather than merely reading and enjoying the stories. If you are a fan of the weird tale, the stories in this anthology are well worth reading, but readers may wish to sample the accompanying commentary in smaller bites.'
According to Kestrell, Walter Jon Williams has penned a delightful romp -- 'Implied Spaces is an action-packed story written in an elegant and wryly-humorous prose style. If Dumas was alive and writing science fiction, he might well have produced a novel like Implied Spaces.' Read her review to see why this is so!
Robert Graves' The White Goddess -- A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth is tackled by Robert M. Tilendis. I cannot do his thesis any degree of justice by teasing out a bit of his commentary here so you'll just have to read his insightful commentary here.
Robert notes in his review of The Dog Said Bow-Wow that 'Michael Swanwick has won five Hugos for short fiction in six years. There aren't that many people with that many Hugos at all, and most of them are legends. That all of these awards were for short fiction should give some indication as to his abilities in that area, which I always think of as the writer's equivalent to a painter's drawings or a composer's piano pieces - they can be anything from sketches to polished, major works, but they reveal, I think, more often than not, what the writer's concerns are.' So how did these stories fare. Read his review to see why it was a mixed bag!
Kathleen Bartholomew who edited book reviews this week choose this review for an Excellence In Writing Award as she said it was, and we quote, 'grand, balanced, vivid, lucid and involved.' Bravo, Robert!
Christopher White looks at a YA novel, Scott Mebus' Gods of Manhattan -- 'In this post-Potter world, more authors than ever seem attracted to writing for adolescents. And given the acclaim and success J.K. Rowling has achieved ... including the great wealth now enjoyed by the previously struggling author ... why wouldn't more authors be giving adolescent fiction a shot? Scott Mebus joins the pack with Gods of Manhattan. He begins by borrowing the underlying concept from Neil Gaiman's excellent novel American Gods, namely that those individuals who are remembered and perhaps even revered by a sufficient number of people live on as Gods.' Read his review to see why Chris thinks it could've been a better novel.
Chris also looks at classic sf novel by Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, which he says 'is a clever and enjoyable piece of cyberpunk fiction by one of the leading authors in a genre that includes the likes of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Those of you who are already fans of Stephenson might well consider investing in one of the limited edition hardcover editions about to hit the market. Those of you who are not already fans should consider picking up a paperback version and delving into Stephenson's imaginative and perceptive (if not entirely accurate) early nineties view of what our early third millennium life might be like. And who is to say that in another half century or so Stephenson's vision might not prove to be more prescient than it might today?'
Mike Wilson was lucky enough to spend a few days up at Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival back in February, witnessing stalwart acts such as Angus Grant and Capercaillie, alongside relative newcomers like Fiona Mackenzie and the Scottish accordion-orgy that is known as Box Club! Several rowdy, late nights in the renowned Festival Club were also in order to round off Mike's visit! You can read Mike's full account here.
David Kidney is enthusiastic about four recent blues releases. 'A little ragtime, a little Texas songster, with echoes from early lessons from Mickey Baker!' David says of Eric Bibb, whose Get Onboard is first up. Then there's some 'rockin' Texas blues' from Albert Collins' release Iceman. Songs Famed for Sorrow and Joy is the title of one from Samuel James, which David says is 'like an anthology of short stories.' Finally, the CD from Moreland & Arbuckle titled 1861 'rocks like a melon-farmer!' And David knows his melon-farmers.
Next, David looks at another blues release, this one featuring the banjo as its lead instrument. Otis Taylor's Recapturing the Banjo takes on the challenge of placing the banjo back in rootsier contexts,' David says. What else does he say? Read his review here.
David finishes with another omni review, this of five folk CDs. 'These five CDs are bound together by quite a few cords,' he says. 'Acoustic guitars, singer-songwriter sensibilities, small labels, four of the five are Canadian (the fifth, Eilen Jewell, lived in Alaska...' Read his review here for what David thinks about nine green bottles by James Gordon & Sons, Letter from Sinners & Strangers by Eilen Jewell, Only Thing Worse by Katie Moore, A Maze in Greys by Bob Snider, and One World Dance by Ken Whiteley.
Peter Massey received the enviable task of reviewing a set of recordings by England's Copper Family, remastered from old LPs onto a new CD set, Come Write Me Down. 'If you are a collector of field recordings, or you're looking for an album jam-packed with true traditional English folk songs -- look no further,' Peter says in his review, which is here.
Robert M.Tilendis provides a little bit of the history behind Antonin Dvorák's Cello Concerto in his review of the New York Philharmonic's 2005 recording of it on Sony BMG. It is, Robert says, 'a wonderful piece of music. This is, after all, Dvorák at the height of his powers, and the writing here reveals him to be a composer of substance. This is, in many ways, a challenging work, making full use of Dvorák's mastery of mood (in this case, quite often mutually opposing moods at the same time). There is also ample evidence of his mastery of melody.' Read his review to find out what else Robert has to say about it, as well as the other works included on the program.
Robert has also written an intriguing review of a CD titled Romaria by something called The Dowland Project. 'What the Dowland Project has done is to take songs from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries (adding in a couple of their own), approaching them from the standpoints of their various backgrounds,' he says. Those backgrounds range from early choral music to jazz to Eastern European folk. 'I, at least, am enchanted,' he concludes. Read his whole Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to see if you might be, too.
Robert also finds a wide range of influences, far transcending the genre of 'celtopunk' to which Boiled In Lead is usually consigned, in BiL's release Silver. 'These guys are good, no two ways about it. In fact, Silver is a something better than good,' he says. For more of his lesson, read the review.
Gary Whitehouse was favorably impressed by two related releases by contemporary country-folk singers. Fayssoux McLean's Early and Peter Cooper's Mission Door share some of the same musicians, Gary says, as well as a high standard in songwriting and performance. 'Fayssoux has a warm, lived-in alto that's instantly likeable,' he says. 'And she and producer Peter Cooper have picked some very suitable material.' Of Cooper's own release, Gary says, 'Cooper shares some of the better attributes of fellow songwriters Slaid Cleaves, Scott Miller and Todd Snider; the latter contributes some vocals and some bluesy harmonica on several tracks, and the album finishes with 'Thin Wild Mercury,' which Cooper and Snider co-wrote about a fateful encounter between Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs.' Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Read the review here.
In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of the characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic, and his season spring...
U.S. district court Judge John Woolsey’s reason in 1933 for why Joyce's Ulysses was not obscene and could be sold in the USA. And that is why you can now read the final words of Molly's soliloquy that ends that novel....
I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
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