We start off this edition with two Winter reading recommendations -- Jane Yolen's The Wild Hunt novel from which the above quote comes and Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice' short story. Both are, in their own unique manner, ethereal, bone-chilling, and of a terrible beauty all at once! They are indeed perfect winter reads.
The first is a work that I bring down from the Library when the days grow short and winter is hard at hand as The Wild Hunt which is largely set in a house across two universes during a winter where the weather is as bad as it will be when Fimbulwinter comes to be. The story told here is that Herne the Hunter, He Who is The Lord of Winter, is battling The Summer Queen in all her awful aspects.
Keep in mind that you must get a copy of the 1995 hardcover edition which our Editor still gives away as Winter Holiday gifts. As we said in reviewing it, '[W]hat Yolen has lovingly crafted is a tale that fits in a compact work of less than one hundred and forty pages, which includes the amazing illustrations by Francisco Moro including this cover illustration that complement her text perfectly. And the odd, not quite chapters tell the tale far better than a conventional novel would. I can picture this being read aloud on dark winters night around a fireplace dancing with the shadows the fire creates.'
We like 'Solstice' so much that we not only reviewed it but we also published a lovely chapbook edition and have the exclusive audio version of it was read by the author herself! We said in our review that 'Solstice' packs an amazing amount of sensuality into twelve short pages. My mouth watered at the descriptions of luscious delicacies -- even though I was two days into a nasty flu when I read them. Everything explodes onto the senses of the reader's imagination -- the host's bright yellow suit, the heat from the fire and the candles, the throb of the music.' Now I won't spoil your fun as to what is going on this Winter Solstice party but suffice it to say that many a Green Man staffer wants to be at that party! And I think a few really were there . . .
Now a letter to Old Nick . . .
Office of Jack Merry
6 December (Nollaig) 2009
Mr. Kris Kringle
Dear Mr. Kris Kringle,
I maintain my position as Subordinate Scribe to the Green Man Review staff thanks to your yearly deposit of anthracite coal. As fuel prices rise, my punishment -- a subject upon which I will not waste exposition -- helps defray the cost of heating the GMR Office Building. Without the coal, the GMR staff will fire me. This is why I protest your recent choice to switch from coal to rock-oratorio.
I understand your decision. I know coal is expensive to ship. I also know you got a great deal on both the DVDs and CDs of Sony's Handel's Messiah Rocks -- A Joyful Noise. And finally, I know most people on your naughty list would prefer coal over this soulless interpretation of the most famous English oratorio. Still, I beg you to reconsider.
Compared to coal, these discs are cheap but they produce more misery than acid rain. Almost every aspect of this production feels derived -- Jason Howland's adaptation of Handel's music contains all the soul of a ringtone. The Boston Pops string section look bored and unimpressed by conductor Keith Lockhart's tight leather pants and studded belt. MiG Ayesa -- best known for almost becoming a replacement for INXS's frontman Michael Hutchence -- gives a runner-up worthy performance. And baritone J. Robert Spencer invokes a theater camp kid pretending to be a hard rocker rather than a hard rocker falling for Christ.
And then there is LaChanze. I exclude her performance from my earlier remarks. Like sunset colors deepened by air pollution, she brings beauty to this noise. The soft timbre of her voice poorly matches the distorted guitar and rock orchestra. However, it adds an earthy element to Handel's celestial messenger. This unexpected quality transforms the inaccessible nature of the divine into something tangible. LaChanze transforms heavenly elation into human joy. But her voice does not save this production. It only reminds the listener of the beauty he or she is missing while suffering through Handel's Messiah Rocks -- A Joyful Noise.
I know my plea comes late in the season. You probably received your shipment from Amazon months ago. Don't distribute them. Let Sony and Integrity Music carry that shame. It would be far more humane of you to feed the CDs and DVDs to the already dying polar bears.
Please Mr. Kringle, return to coal. American and German coal companies need your business. I need your annual delivery. And the GMR office building needs the free fuel. The one thing nobody needs is to find a Trans-Siberian Orchestra knock-off in their stocking.
Bartholomew L. Bhea
Here we are in the middle of the holiday season. No matter where you turn, you're probably hearing Christmas and holiday tunes, over and over again. Unfortunately, what we usually get are warmed-over renditions that make elevator music sound cutting edge. So it is with much joy that Loreena McKennitt's second album after her nine-year hiatus is a Christmas album. Reviewer Patrick O'Donnell got the opportunity to review A Midwinter Night's Dream, McKennitt's tenth album, which is out just in time to save us from the holiday-tune doldrums. What can we expect from a collection of thirteen traditional holiday tunes by a musician of McKennitt's caliber? Read Patrick's Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to find out!
Robert M. Tilendis tackles Kurt Schwitters' Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales, 'a tale that is not all about glass slippers and poisoned apples. 'Schwitters'fairy tales' are actually tools to subvert the fairy tale as a form, using the magical logic of traditional fairy tales to present an absurdist view of humanity. This volume, ably translated and with an insightful and valuable introduction by Jack Zipes, is the first collection of these tales in English. It's a must-have, I think, for students of folklore, of art, and those who want just to read something edgy, funny, and provocative.'
More music wrasp up our featured reviews section as Chris Tuthill, our new Live Performances Editor, recently saw Ian Anderson in New York, in a show he called 'a laid back affair that left me wanting more.' Anderson played a selection of Jethro Tull acoustic songs and introduced some interesting new material. He also saw the score of The Fellowship of the Ring performed live to film at Radio City Music Hall in October, and highly recommends this lavish production. He says 'The elegy for Gandalf was particularly well done and was a highlight of the show; Kaitlyn Lusk's solo performance at this point was beautiful and captured the tragedy of the scene unforgettably.'
Donna Bird starts us off with a review of J. Sydney Jones' The Empty Mirror and Requiem in Vienna, a set of murder mysteries that take place in 19th century Vienna. Says Bird, 'While the mysteries are indeed quite satisfying in their complexity, and the characters are sympathetic without being overly sweet, I found the setting and the historical background to be the standout elements in this series. Jones' obvious familiarity with the city's streets, buildings, cuisine and weather -- combined with his evident fascination with this period in the city's history -- enabled him to provide a lot of detail that makes these novels especially enjoyable.'
Next, she takes on The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte, a novel that pleased almost as much as it confused -- 'The novel is rich with literary allusions, I suspect even more so in the original Spanish than in the English translation. Although I consider myself highly literate and well read, I'm sure I only caught a fraction of them. I wonder if footnotes or endnotes would be helpful or if they would get in the way nearly as much as the unfamiliar references do?'
Faith Cormier is up next with her review of Farley Follows His Nose, written by Lynn Johnston and Beth Cruikshank, a children's book about Farley, the famous fictional (and now fictionally deceased) dog from the Canadian 'For Better or For Worse' comic strip. According to Cormier, it's 'a nice, cute little children's book. It follows the classic additive pattern -- that is, actions (in this case, smells) pile upon actions in an order that must be traced in reverse to resolve the story. Pedagogically, this strengthens children's memories and logic skills.'
Richard Dansky next reviews Darrell Scheitzer's Living With The Dead, a story about a city filled with unchanging corpses, and believes the premise is still fresh -- 'Living With The Dead is a weird tale in the truest sense, a phantasmagoria described in dream-language. There are no explanations to be had -- no lengthy exposition as to why the corpses are delivered here, or where they come from, or why they never rot -- nor do there need to be.'
Afterwards, he gives Red Sky File, by Denise Vitola, a try -- and ends up giving it the scarlet letter -- 'In the end, there's yelling and shooting and screaming, not to mention lycanthropy, and the mystery gets solved. But it's an unsatisfying ending, one that comes from a plot that lurches in a new direction each time a new character offers an infodump.'
Richard Dansky finishes his reviewing an Excellence in Writing Award-winning look at Legacy, by Thomas Sniegoski, about a shiftless teenage loser who discovers his long-lost dad is an eccentric billionaire superhero. 'At a little over 200 pages, Legacy fairly flies along. There's not much time for anything but Lucas and Hartwell, and the plot that keeps them moving forward. What we see of the world and its inhabitants is mostly brief glimpses, hints that there's a whole lot more to Seraph City than the laser beam-tight focus with which Raptor sees it. But it all feels natural and appropriate to the setting, and it leaves the reader wanting more -- and more adventures in this world.'
After that, Cat Eldridge has an Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, as well as Building the Mote In God's Eye, an intriguingly original tale of first contact. 'There is nothing here that doesn't work -- Niven and Pournelle worked together seamlessly as writers in a manner that you rarely see. Amazingly enough, this was the first collaboration between Niven and Pournelle, two award-winning masters of science fiction, and it combines Pournelle's deep knowledge of military affairs with Niven's superb artistry at creating interesting, believable aliens.'
April Gutierrez is next up, with a review of Stephen King's Just After Sunset, a collection of short stories from the master of horror. 'Just After Sunset is a solid, entertaining collection that mixes classic King with stories that stretch beyond horror and suspense and are as genuinely touching as the scary stories are, well, scary!'
Next, Gutierrez tries out The Taint and other Novellas -- Best Mythos Tales, Volume One by Brian Lumley. 'Lumley adeptly varies the setting and plot for each story, resulting in a fresh perspective. Yes, the necessary tropes are there -- ancient volumes of dark lore, references to the Old Ones, cursed family inheritances, the descent into madness -- but he takes these building blocks and uses them to construct stories that enhance the mythos, even as they diverge from it.'
After that comes her review of Hellblazer -- Scab, by Peter Milligan, Eddie Campbell, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stephano Landini, Goran Sudzuka. While the graphic novel meets Gutierrez's standards, it does leave a little to be desired -- 'Across all three stories, despite the changes in personnel, the art is consistently solid. However, it lacks some of the gritty realism of previous issues, coming across as a bit more generic -- Constantine [the protagonist] is more chiseled, less ravaged than in days past, which isn't quite the right look.'
Robert M. Tilendis is next up at bat, with his Excellence in Writing Award-winning reaction to Philip Jose Farmer's The Other in the Mirror, a collection of three short stories, which doesn't disappoint -- 'Philip Jose Farmer was throughout his career an iconoclast, tackling subjects within the framework of science fiction that other writers in the field avoided. (Remember, he's the man who brought sex into science fiction -- in 1952, when sex was seldom discussed publicly -- even post-Kinsey.) In these three novels he's done it again. And being by Farmer, of course, they are eminently readable, seductive and rewarding.'
Next, Tilendis reviews Outlaw – the Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, with mixed results -- 'Visually, it's a rewarding work, and the story, while not an edge-of-your-seat sort of thing by any means, does support itself. I can't promise that I'll be dipping into this one frequently, but it's worth a look or two.'
Finallty Robert t tackles two volumes of the Secret Six graphic novel series -- Six Degrees of Devastation and Unhinged, and finds that the artwork and writing (if not the characters) is pretty heroic -- 'These two collections are really DC in top form. Gail Simone's stories are complex and twisty enough to keep us engaged and although they run to formula, they're fresh enough that we don't really notice.'
Starting us off this edition is Master Reviewer Donna Bird's review of Lavord e Dignita by Ned Ludd, which, Donna tells us, is more 'a musical project than a band.' Although the album is two years old, it only just arrived at the Green Man offices, and Donna got the opportunity to review it. Was the wait worth it? Read her review and find out!
Next up is a review of one of British folks rock's staples, Steeleye Span, who have a new studio album out. Michael Hunter brings us this Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Cogs, Wheels and Lovers. He reports that 'from the opening track..., it is clear they are still in a creatively fertile period and certainly understand what folks rock is meant to be about.' Does Steeleye Span still have what it takes? Apparently so, but read all of Michael's review to see how they're doing.
Master Reviewer David Kidney brings us a number of short reviews this time around. First up is Skitter on Take-Off by Vic Chestnutt. David tells us that 'Chestnutt was first presented to the world as a protégé of REM's Michael Stipe and has become something of an icon over the years, and hearing him this way, absolutely naked, may be the best thing that could happen to him.' Hmmm. Naked playing? Sounds like an interesting review.
Next, David looks at Fire in My Bones, a black gospel music compilation. Giving us just a brief run-down of the artists on this 3-CD set, David lists Elder Beck, Rev. Lonnie Ferris, Snooks Eaglin, Rev. Roger L. Worthy and His Sister Bonnie Woodstock, Sister Matthews, Georgia Fife & Drum Band, the Mississippi Nightingales, Harmonizers, the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir, Br. Willie Easton and His Gospel Guitar, the Golden Stars, and Napolian Strickland... and they're only the tip of the iceberg! Check out David's review for more about this compilation set.
David also brings us a review of Jeffrey and the Free Radikals' eponymous album. David begins his review by asking, 'who would have expected that this funky slice of Americana would come from a band from Norway?' Indeed. But is this unusual source of Americana any good? Read David's review to find out.
Finally from David is a review of two 'canine' bands -- Fabulous Poodles and Laughing Dogs. These are both re-releases from nearly 30 years ago on the American Beat label. Of one of them, David reports that 'the production is simply too gimmicky to these 21st century ears.' But do they hold up overall? David reveals all in his review.
Peter Massey reviews this edition is Frost Bites by Belshazzar's Feast. Peter writes, 'If you're a 'dyed in the wool' traditional folkie and are fan of a good dirge, then this is an album for you!' You'll have to read the rest of his review, though, to find out more about this album of 'obscure traditional Christmas songs and carols.'
Jack Merry confesses that 'it won't surprise any of you that I love hearing Breton music.' He's right -- we weren't surprised, but that's a good thing! Who else but Jack to give us a review of three albums by Breton group Loened Fall? Even though they're a small group, Jack reports that the group 'sounds much bigger to the ear.' His review gets even better, including a diversion where he gives us a bit of a history of Brittany itself, for which he wins an Excellence in Writing Award.
Patrick O'Donnell reviews three recent albums that contain 'strings, strings and more strings... that'll get your feet tapping and might even inspire you to dance around the house.' Matt Flinner Trio's Music du Jour, Yellow Moon over Portland by the Kieran McManus Experience, and Home + Beauty by Paul Anderson get the once over by Patrick in his review. An eclectic mix, but Patrick finds something good in each one.
In his next review, Patrick reviews another three albums, each of which embraces Gaelic languages. First up is A Good Suit of Clothes by Fiona J. MacKenzie, which Patrick says is 'a beautiful though often melancholy CD that recounts the experiences of the emigrant Scots who were forced from their homes and homeland during the Clearances.' Next is The Lassies' Reply by Pur, which focuses on 'Scots-Gaelic and Scots interpretations of the work of Caledonia's favorite son, Robert Burns.' Finally is Sile Ni Fhlaithearta's Is Duitse a Bheirim Gra, 'a fourteen-song trip down a much more traditional-sounding trail.' Read his review to find out!
Patrick also shares with us his thoughts on Saints and Tzadiks by Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg, 'a Gaelic-Yiddish-English collaboration that dares you to find a niche under which to file it.' We're all for interstitiality in art forms here at GMR, and this sounds like a prime candidate. Is this unique combination of musical traditions successful?
And for our final recorded music review this edition, Master Reviewer Gary Whitehouse writes about a new project that 'started as a way to help Texas singer-songwriter-guitarist Stephen Bruton deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and ended up as a memorial to Bruton, who passed away in May 2009.' In such somber circumstances, Gary notes that 'sometimes the best music is made when friends get together and play their favorite old songs.' Indeed. click through to read Gary's review of an album that he calls 'a wonderful tribute to Bruton, and to American acoustic music from the early 20th century.'
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. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did 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; not to mention ones on Kage Baker, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
We pulled together a look at the Bordertown series that Terri Windling created -- go here for that article. Lastly, we have put together a Recommended Series Reading List covering many genres from fantasy to mystery and (of course) is for your reading pleasure. You can find that list thisaway.
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 Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions?
Need a question answered? If so, send it here to Jack Mrry as our Editor is in no mood to answer questions right now as he's over there with ale-quaffing, rowdy, scruffily dressed gentlemen in that far corner of our pub. Why are they, you ask? They're all members of Local 564 of the Ancient and Venerable Guild of St. Nicholas, which represents Santas, Santa's helpers, department store elves, tree trimmers, candle lighters, professional gift wrappers, goose stuffers, popcorn poppers, roast chestnut vendors, tree decorators, plum pudding makers, sleigh drivers, professional holiday gathering hosts, carolers for hire, bell ringers, and other related trades. The Guild Hall is not far from the Green Man pub so they come here often.
Green Man Review News is an e-mail list for readers of Green Man Review. 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. Green Man Review also posts its updates on Livejournal.
Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2009, Green Man Review, a publication of A Midwinters Night LLC. The illustration this edition of Santa Claus (a merry elf) as drawn by Thomas Nast for the 01 January 1881 issue of Harper's Weekly. All Rights Reserved.
A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in the Green Man grand narrative 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 A Midwinters Night LLC. 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.
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