Have you ever stood in the April wood And called the new year in? / While the phantoms of three thousand years fly as the dead leaves spin? / There's a snap in the grass behind your feet and a tap upon your shoulder. / And the thin wind crawls along your neck -- It's just the old gods getting older. / And the kestral drops like a fall of shot and the red cloud hanging high / Come -- a Beltane. -- Lyrics are from 'Beltane' which is found on the 2003 remastered edition of the 1977 Jethro Tull album, Songs from The Wood , which also has a live version of 'Velvet Green'.
A fair warning -- lots of folks here are more than a bit under the weather as we held our usual Beltane celebration as is our custom in Oberon's Wood and all were invited to attend. Food beyond compare, including a roast pig prepared by Jonathan St. Laurent; drink ranging from St. Helena coffee to the finest of in-house ales; music by Drink Down the Moon and A Murder of Crows; storytelling by Taliesin, Twain, and other noted shanachies of an immortal nature; and other forms of bacchanal undertakings that can't be described here were part of the revelries.
Guests who didn't have fey blood in them had to ask Winter, our Head Publican, to give them what we assumed were useful directions! Everyone who attended did bring a small offering to honor the Lord and Lady of the Wood as they are always honoured above all else. And do read our story this edition for a more personal take on what Beltane meant for one who was there.
Oh, do also read our reviews this edition, as our reviewers have been rather busy despite the unseasonably warm weather that has allowed us to move the banana plants out of the Conservatory to their summer home. (Look for banana curry, banana and crab fritters, and coconut banana ice cream at evening meals!) My recommendations? The Beastly Bride collection, as curated by Ellen Datlow and Terri WIndling, gets a very nice write-up as do two mystery novels by Claude Izner, Murder on the Eiffel Tower and The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise, both translations from French to English with excellent results, along with the complete works of Red Priest, a baroque music ensemble, and A Mind to Kill, a Welsh mystery series worth seeing.
It had not been an easy time for me -- I couldn't forget they way he had looked into my eyes and torn my soul open. He hadn't left empty-handed -- he'd taken me with him, at least the parts that counted, and left the rest behind. And now it was festival time, the time of crops sown and sprouting, of young birds and animals beginning to explore their world, of green in the trees and flowers everywhere, masking last year's fallen leaves. It was a time to celebrate the renewal of the world, although I didn't feel particularly renewed.
It was not exactly a year and a day, although that was what he intended, he told me later. He confessed his sense of time wasn't very reliable. But I saw him striding through the crowd, lit by the balefire, and oblivious to the stares -- polite stares, for the most part, but stares nonetheless. Perhaps it was his great raven-black wings, or his unearthly beauty, or the fact that none of that beauty was hidden -- he hadn't quite got the idea of clothes, it seemed, although he wore a crown of apple blossoms and oak.
He walked right up to me, and I was suddenly, unaccountably angry. I had no reason for it -- he'd promised nothing, and in fact had warned me away -- but I was angry enough that when he looked into my eyes, I looked right back, not giving an inch. He smiled. 'Come with me.'
He took my hand and led me to the edge of the field, turned me around, then put his arms around me. 'Hold on.' A great beat of his wings and we were aloft. We rose until the fields, the House, the Wood grew tiny, until the entire world was a speck. He whispered in my ear, 'You are like the sun.' And then he let me go.
I didn't fall, not far, at least. I saw a flash of gold in the corner of my eye, and with a stroke I was next to him again. He laughed then, a joyful sound. We soared, we played among the stars, saluting the Sisters as we passed. We danced, and jumped the fire, but our fire was the Sun itself. And finally we paused, laughing, hovering, facing each other amid the stars. He took my hand and placed it against his chest. I felt his heart beating, felt the Universe beneath my hand. I looked into his eyes -- the first time I had done it on my own -- and I began to understand. A thought struck me. 'How old are you?'
He smiled again. 'Let's go home.'
We dropped through the stars and back into the world, where the dancers still danced and the fire still crackled -- we'd been gone no time at all, it seemed. He taught me a little trick to make the wings disappear. 'They can get damned awkward when you're lying down.'
'Do you need to sleep?'
'That's not the only reason to lie down.'
We joined the dance and jumped the fire again, in line behind fox-haired Kit and his cat-eyed lover, just in front of one of the Annies and a very handsome youth from the Court in the Wood. And we ate and drank and joined the singing, and finally took our leave.
And the rest of the night is none of your business.
Our featured book review this issue comes from Lory Hess. Lory reviews a reprint of a mystery novel, The Red House Mystery from A.A. Milne (yes that A.A. Milne, and yes, mystery novel). Lory says it's quite the pity for fans of mystery that this was Milne's sole foray into mysteries, because 'Milne's take on the genre was as breezily accomplished as any of his other pursuits.' Lory earns herself an Excellence in Writing Award with this review.
We're featuring two film reviews this week, and the first is by Kelly Sedinger. Kelly looks at the first volume of the terribly exciting DVD release of a beloved American favorite: On the Road With Charles Kuralt. As Kelly notes in his delightful review, 'This is wonderful stuff . . . it seems to me that a person would have to be curmudgeonly on some kind of epic scale in order to dislike what Kuralt accomplished in the years he produced these vignettes.'
Robert Tilendis takes home an Excellence in Writing Award for his extremely thoughtful look at an anime series he greatly enjoyed. ' I'm warning you,' Robert says, 'whatever preconceptions you have about anime had best be jettisoned right now: this one is dense, layered, complex, edgy, and beautifully executed.' He might well be talking about his own review, as well -- see what else he has to say about Loveless.
Donna Bird takes another look at a series she's previously been less than happy with, William Dietrich's historical adventure series, and comes away much more pleased -- she gives The Barbary Pirates high marks, noting that 'the title and setting piqued my interest'. Donna earns herself a Excellence in Writing Award with this review.
Donna also reviewed two novels by Claude Izner, Murder on the Eiffel Tower and The Disappearance at Pere-Lachaise, both translations from French to English. She notes they provided a welcome relief from 'the darker mysteries I have been reading,' and that they came across as 'light, humorous to the point of being farcical'.
Before we leave the serious behind entirely in favor of lighter fare -- Donna chose to review two books together, in spite of different authors, because of their topical similarities -- 'both are suspenseful tales of the lives of journalists living in Germany during the years the National Socialist Party was in power.' First up is Rebecca Cantrell's A Night of Long Knives, followed by David Downing's Stettin Station. Far from cheerful, these novels are still given a provisional thumbs-up; read on to find out why.
Donna finishes up her hefty stack of reviews with Jenny White's The Winter Thief, third in a series she's had mixed reactions to. However, she says, 'I am pleased to report that my hopes were fully realized in The Winter Thief!' Find out what prompted this glowing review here.
Richard Dansky believes Robert Jackson Bennett shows 'impressive talent' during his debut novel, Mr. Shivers. 'Much of it is better than good,' he says. However, he's not entirely thrilled with the overall work; find out about the flaws he spotted here.
Richard is even more critical of James Knapp's State of Decay; right up front he says, 'Whoever wrote the back cover text . . . owes [Knapp] an apology.' He does consider the weak spots in this novel to be 'far outweighed by the book's strengths'; find out more here. Richard earns an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
But Richard's not impossible to please; he likes Tom E. Sniegoski's Where Angels Fear to Tread, noting that this book, third in an ongoing series, 'opens the door to even more possibilities' down the road and is 'fun to follow along with'.
Denise Dutton discusses Volume Four of Whedon, Moline, and Loeb's graphic novel Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- Time Of Your Life. She's clearly a fan of the series, and finds Volume Four something of a disappointment as far as the artwork goes -- 'these illustrations don't look like a best effort', she notes, but has no such reservations about the storyline itself.
Speaking of grim and disturbing, Tammy Moore picked up The Satan Factory by Thomas E. Sniegoski. She leads with the statement that 'Mobsters and monsters rub shoulders in this enthralling foray into the violent and uncompromising world of vigilante pulp hero Lobster Johnson.' With an opening like that, how can you not want to read the rest of her review?
Gereg Jones Muller provides a thoughtful look at Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's collection, The Beastly Bride -- Tales of the Animal People. He notes that 'with Datlow & Windling at the helm, we probably ought to expect a collection that eludes obvious categories. And that is certainly what we've got here.' Read on to find out what he saw in this 'not-unmixed delight.' Gereg earns himself an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Kestrell Rath looks at The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan in this issue, dubbing it 'a literary puzzle box that involves more than one mystery.' Kestrell points out the layered mysteries-within-mysteries for our readers here.
Kestrell then takes on Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden this issue, and deems it 'all a bit grim' and 'disturbing for a number of reasons'; find out more about those reasons here.
Next up comes not a mystery novel, but an analysis of American detective stories -- Making the Detective Story American, by J. K. Van Dover. Kestrell starts off her review by stating that 'The past decade has witnessed a dark flowering of detective stories in genre fiction', then segues nicely into a description of this book, which focuses on how the work of Biggers, Van Dine, and Hammett influenced the development of crime fiction. Step thisaway to find out whether she liked this heavy tome (over two hundred pages). Kestrell earns herself an Excellence in Writing Award for this review.
Alice in Sunderland -- An Entertainment by Bryan Talbot, another graphic novel (and a large one, at over three hundred pages and hardbound), is reviewed by Kelly Sedinger this issue. Kelly says, 'If anyone ever claims that comics are an immature medium -- . . . . this is the ideal book to give them to convince them otherwise.''Read on to find out what prompted Kelly to call this book 'amazing' and 'staggering'.
Joseph Thompson reexamines another heavy book, a novel Green Man Review has already reviewed by Leona Wisoker as you can read here -- O. R. Melling's The Book of Dreams. Joseph tells a tale of a quest to overcome his 'gut reaction' to this novel, enlisting the help of a librarian to put the contents into context, as it were. Where the previous, enthusiastic review focused largely on the language and setting of this novel, Joseph is more cautious, looking at the intended audience before making his final decision on the worthiness of this novel. Find out the conclusion of his quest to be fair here.
Robert Tilendis considers some graphic novels -- the first two are by George O'Connor -- Zeus, King of the Gods and Athena, Grey-Eyed Goddess. These novels are part of a planned twelve-volume series, and Robert says they 'provide the stories -- . . . .of the Greek gods in lively and accessible form for younger readers.' He came away with a final verdict of 'delightful'; find out why he was so impressed with O'Connor's work here.
Robert also enjoyed Jane Yolen's graphic novel Foiled, which he describes as 'fantasy with a very strong basis in reality.'
Robert was not nearly as impressed with The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross; he calls it 'a journey through every literary cliche you can think of' and dubs the final result 'frustrating'.
Moving on to a classic name in fantasy, Robert then picks up Shadowline by Glen Cook, a book he read some years ago, and finds that it's still a good read -- 'It impressed me way back when, and impresses me even more now.' Read this glowing, Excellence in Writing Award-winning review here.
Lastly, Robert looks at a decade's worth of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary comic series. Robert pulls out some rare -- for him -- praise by saying 'Warren Ellis' script is brilliant.' How brilliant? Read the review and see!
Camille Alexa was not at all impressed by Less is More. the latesrt from Marillion -- 'I c'ould see this music as background music in movies. And not the kind of background music I would enjoy -- but the kind of background music that makes the acting seem overdone and the cinematography appear to be trying too hard for elusive coolness. YMMV.'
First up for Donna Bird is Salamander which she says 'is the second outing from this very talented Scottish trio. I reviewed the first, Tangents, when it came out a few years back, and was very pleased when this one arrived in the Green Man mailroom!' She goes on to say that 'the production values are clean and elegant.'
Two by another Scottish group Cantrip round out her reviews-- 'We discovered when I was reviewing Piping the Fish that no one had reviewed Boneshaker, so I figured I would do the honors. This is the second CD from Cantrip, a quartet with significant roots in traditional Scottish music. We had the pleasure of seeing the band twice in live performance around the time Boneshaker was released, so a lot of this material is familiar to me from those shows.' Oh we should mention all three recordings involve Gavin Marwiick of Iron Horse fame who is one of our all time favourite Scottish fiddlers!
David Kidney looks at three recordings that are a bit obscure even by our weird standards of what is obscure -- 'Sandy Hurvitz was a young Philadelphian songwriter, who recorded her first single at 16. It got some attention in Cashbox and Sandy managed to place song of her songs on records by the Shangri-Las, and the Vanilla Fudge. In 1967 she entered Frank Zappa's circle. FZ heard her playing the piano and offered her a spot in the Mothers of Invention! They actually performed one of her songs, a rare event for FZ. In fact, Ms. Hurvitz was 'Uncle Meat'. So it's no surprise that her first album was released on Zappa's Bizarre/Verve label. '
Robert M. Tilendis says that 'As you can tell from the titles to these collections [Johann, I'm Only Dancing. Pirates of the Baroque, Nightmare in Venice, and Priest on the Run], the approach adopted by baroque ensemble Red Priest (Piers Adams, recorders; Julia Bishop, violin; Angela East, cello; Julian Rhodes, harpsichord) is not what you'd call 'reverent.' It's not slapstick, or anything like that -- these are serious musicians. It's more that they appreciate the music, but they see it as a real, everyday sort of thing, which I consider an admirable attitude.' Read his insightful review thisaway.
Two recordings by New Music composer and performer Terry Riley round his reviews this edition.
First is The Cusp of Magic in which he introduces us to Riley -- 'Terry Riley is one of the more remarkable composers of the post-War American scene, and one whose music I have been enthusiastic about for many years. Part of the fun is that you never quite know what to expect from Riley -- he's credited with inventing serial minimalism, based on his research on gamelan, and he's got a solid grounding in classical Indian raga as well as Western music. (I attended a Riley concert some years ago in which he opened the evening with a raga performance -- he played the sitar.) He's no stranger to blues, jazz and other vernacular forms, either, as well as American Indian music. Even the motions of playing become part of the music. He's worked closely with the Kronos Quartet for many years as well -- they, in fact, commissioned The Cusp of Magic as well as a number of other works. And they all agreed that pipa master Wu Man should be included in this one, with admirable results.'
The second is Requiem for Adam which he tells us 'was written as a memorial to Adam Harrington, son of David Harrington, first violinist of Kronos Quartet. Adam died suddenly at the age of 16 while walking with his family on Mt. Diablo, near San Francisco. Riley has been a close friend of the Harringtons for many years, and Adam shared a birthday with his own son.'
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Kage Baker (1952 to 2010)
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 to 1973)
Kage Baker reading her
A reading from Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn
Elizabeth Bear reads The Chains that You Refuse
Black 47's 'Liverpool Fantasy'
An excerpt from Paul Brandon's The Wild Reel novel
Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's The War for The Oaks movie trailer
Nicholas Burbridge's 'Open House'
Cats Laughing's 'For It All'
Charles de Lint performing his 'Sam's Song'
Charles de Lint -- Some thoughts on his fiction
Gaelic Storm's 'Kiss Me'
Christopher Golden's 'The Deal'
The opening chapter of The Weaver and The Factory Maid, the first novel in Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballad series.
An excerpt from Deborah Grabien's Rock & Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery
'The Winter Queen Reel' (played by Roger Landres), composed in honour of Jane Yolen
Chuck Lipsig on 'Star of Munster' variations
McDermott's 2 Hours' 'Fox on the Run'
An excerpt from James Stoddard's 'The High House'
Tinker's Own performing 'The Tinker's Black Kettle', a jig by Charles de Lint from The Little Country
Vagabond Opera's 'Marlehe'
A Vasen tune for your enjoyment
Cathrynne Valente's 'The Surgeon's Wife'
Cathrynne Valente reading a selection titled 'The Tea Maid and The Tailor' from The Orphan's Tales
Robin Williamson's 'Five Denials on Merlin's Grave'
Uploaded Beltaine 2010 LLS 5:00 PM PST