'I smiled as I recalled that gloomy day. We had been reading tales
of chivalry in the mausoleum. In a fit of nobility I led her outside
as the thunder roiled and I stood among the grave markers of unknown
mortals -- Dennis Colt, Remo Williams, John Gaunt -- and swore to
be her champion if ever she needed one. She had kissed me then,
and I had hoped for some immediate evil circumstance against which
to pit myself on her behalf. But none occurred.'
-- from 'The Shroudling and the Guisel' by Roger Zelazny
11th of July, 2004
What is fact and what is fiction are often matters that cannot
be decided. Have you watched a Punch and Judy show? Did mean old
Punch with his murderous intentions towards Judy seem any less
alive for you because he was made of cloth and manipulated by
a puppeteer? Were you even aware there was a puppeteer? I wasn't,
while watching! Is John Gaunt of John Ostrander's Grimjack
any less real than Winston Churchill was? And what
about that ever-so-troublesome puppet in Carlo Collodi's The
Adventures of Pinocchio
? As Jacob Burroughs was quoted in
Robert Heinlein's The
Number of the Beast
as saying: 'Let me tell you, you non-existent
reader sitting there with a tolerant sneer: don't be smug. Jane
is more real than you are.'
I'm Jack, one of many, many House Jacks and Jills
here down the centuries. Some doubt that we really exist, and
insist that we are but a story spun by tellers of tales very late
at night in hopes of garnering one more pint, a few more coins,
or a warm bed. I've no doubt that I exist, but that proves
nought, as I might be just part of that tale someone else is telling.
. . What is true, what is not, largely depends on what you wish
to believe in. And what I've been thinking about lately is how
easy it is for that which is not real to be taken for that
which is. And how things refuse sometimes -- or ofttimes -- to
fit into neat little categories. Like we Jacks and Jills, they
defy easy definition. All I know for sure is that all of us are
an aspect of the same narrative.
Which brings me to the matter of our new section
of reviews. Indeed we review literature, film in all its guises,
music, live performances, and even staffers' favourite venues.
But what about a tour t-shirt
for Eddi and the Fey's War for the Oaks tour? Or Brian Froud and
Jessica Macbeth's Faeries'
Oracle? Or perhaps a particularly tasteful collection
of prints which Charles Vess did for Gaiman's illustrated Stardust?
Where do these cultural artifacts fit? In the new section that
we are calling the Treasure Trove. The truly weird, incredibly
cool, and prolly even quite silly review items that don't fit
elsewhere will end up here. It's modeled (in a way) on the Cool
Stuff section of Scifiweekly, where they've reviewed everything
from the Hellboy action figure to (I kid you not!) the Pigs in
What we will review will depend on what gets sent
to us, so expect to be surprised! Our inaugural review for the
Treasure Trove is this week's Featured Review of a wonderful
set of puppets the good folks at Folkmanis sent us!
From Editor-in-Chief Cat
Eldridge: 'It's been an exceptionally good summer for
fiction reading for me, with this being one of the better reads.
And that's saying something as I've finished not one, but two
Charles Stross works (Iron Sunrise and The Atrocity
Archives), Kage Baker's Mother Aegypt collection, and
Neal Asher's The Skinner novel, to name just some of what
I've read! All were excellent but for sheer fun nothing beats
reading a Thursday Next novel for the first time. If I may make
a comparison of a literary nature, what the Thursday Next series
reminds me most strongly of is the metaverse that Robert Heinlein
was attempting to create in his later novels, particularly The
Cat Who Walked Through Walls and The Number of The Beast.'
Now go read his featured review of the new Thursday Next novel
from Jasper Fforde, Something
Jack here. As I write this, I'm wearin' a Fairport
Convention t-shirt (black of course) from one of their late 90s
tours. Like so many Green Man staffers, I have a strong
liking for that British folk rock band. Certainly Michael
Hunter who edits the #$@! finest email newsletter, Fiddlestix,
the fanzine of the Australian Friends Of Fairport, is more than
merely qualified to review their newest CD, Over
the Next Hill.
Just savour his opening statement: 'Assuming for a moment that
one actually can judge a book or CD by its cover, there are possibly
a few clues on the packaging of this new Fairport Convention recording
that changes are underway. The most noticeable, of course, is
that, with almost a handful of exceptions, this is their first
album since 1979 not to be on the Woodworm label; instead it is
the initial release of Matty Grooves, a new label set up by Dave
Pegg and Simon Nicol. The personal matters which have led to this
necessity are documented well enough, but the fact that they have
quickly set up this new label must be taken as a positive sign,
as indeed could the title of the set be seen as another clue to
the band's current mindset. They have gone over many 'hills' through
the decades, and as far as ends of eras go -- this is also most
likely the last CD to be recorded at Woodworm Studios -- this
isn't a bad one! It must be said they have turned the upheaval
to their advantage and put together a collection of tracks which
is their strongest overall for quite a long time.' So grab a pint
of your favourite libation and let's drink deep to Michael as
a writer, Fairport as a band, and our good luck to have them both!
In our new section, the Treasure Trove, we're exploring
what is often catalogued in modern libraries under the heading
of ephemera. This week Matthew Winslow looks at puppets:
'There are few things that can rouse me from my generally lethargic
state in the Green Man Breakroom, but the offer of some
puppets did the trick. When the illustrious Chief offered
them up for review, I threw in my lot and won out over the competitors.
And I'm glad I did. Just like the three finger fairies my daughters
own, these two puppets are true winners. I have had to restrain
all my kids from playing with them long enough for me to do 'research'
on them for this review.'
Brazil says: 'Whenever a writer of fiction has a hit novel,
any publisher associated with him scrambles to stick their nose
deeper in the trough. What this means is a sequel, and if that
too is a hit, the back catalogue is raided. Sometimes this produces
unseen masterpieces, while on other occasions the result is a
work that, although readable, was written some time before the
author had really perfected his craft. This is the case with The
Ragwitch, a novel originally published in 1990, five years
prior to the first publication of Sabriel, the book that
made Garth Nix into a well known author, world-wide.' See why
Nathan considers The
Ragwitch merely ordinary in his astute review.
Express a deep interest in, or write a stellar review
of a book involving, any particular subject, and it's likely we'll
come to associate that subject with your name. This explains why,
when I [Maria Nutick]
think of hoboes, I think of Craig
Clarke. This week he takes a look at another book on the
mythos: 'The mythology of the hobo is fascinating. We perceive
their lives as a combination of freedom and struggle, and their
often-celebrated poetry does nothing to quash that idea. Multi-award-winning
author Lucius Shepard delves into this world with both factual
and fictional results. An article, a novella, and a short story
appear together in the themed collection, Two
'I have,' says Denise
Dutton, 'a rather large collection of short stories that
take up more than their share of room on my bookshelves. Some
are stories about dragons, others describe a single day from the
viewpoint of a select number of authors. But most of them are
horror. From Edgar Allan Poes tales to Clive Barkers
Books of Blood, these collections draw me. Ill usually
down them in one sitting or on a lonely weekend, re-reading the
good ones, shrugging off the bad ones, and then crawling into
bed to see if any of the stories really got me. And a few
of them have. Some of the stories that get me when the lights
are out can be found in this collection, a sampler of tales old
and new by Richard Laymon.' She explains why the stories in this
new Cemetery Dance collection got to her in her review of Madman
Stan and Other Stories. Oh, and she picks up an Excellence
in Writing Award as well!
knows more than a bit about Alan Moore and other such graphic
storytellers and artists. This week she gives us her take on a
new printing of an older work from Moore and Jose Villarrubia:
'Alan Moore, known primarily as a cutting edge comic author (From
Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Watchmen),
is no slouch when it comes to other artistic endeavors. He's written
a novel, songs and even poetry. The
Mirror of Love is one such foray into the realm of poetry.
Originally published in 1988 in comic form (as part of an AARGH!,
or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia, comic anthology)
as a protest against England's anti-homosexual Clause 28, Mirror
encapsulates the history of same sex love, from pre-history to
Sappho to today.'
'Around a summer campfire . . . beneath the covers
with a flashlight . . . a candle-lit house during a storm . .
. these are all good places for Ask
the Bones, a book of scary folktales from around the world,
which brings little shivers whether read alone or out loud with
others.' Nellie Levine
receives an Excellence in Writing Award for her review
of this book of tales retold by Arielle North Olson and Howard
Mythopoeic Society is chock full of learned folk dedicated
to preserving the Really Good Stuff for the rest of us. Here Liz
Milner reviews Charles Williams' The
Masques of Amen House, a worthy though highly specialized
piece of literature reprinted by the Society: 'Amen House is the
London office of Oxford University Press. It was Charles Williams'
workplace from 1908 to 1945. Williams wrote the The Masques
of Amen House to entertain his colleagues at the Press. Unlike
the pallid parodies of popular songs and movies that many of us
endure as part of the Christmas office party ritual, Williams'
Masques are highly original allegorizations of people and
events at the Press.'
O'Donnell is taking a break from GMR for a while
to work on his own writing. While we'll miss him, of course, we
look forward to his return from sabbatical with something for
us to review! He leaves us with a look at a couple of ebooks from
Lone Wolf Publications: Brian A Hopkins' Wrinkles
and Steve Beai's Dark
Rhythms. Patrick says: 'Technology has brought us a long
way in the past 20 years. Cell phones are replacing land lines,
and instant messaging, in some cases, has replaced spoken conversation
altogether. Personal data assistants have replaced notebooks.
CDs have replaced, for the most part, records and tapes. But will
'e-books' read on a monitor ever replace the old-fashioned kind
that require page turning? Will microchips, circuitry and LCDs
ever replace cardboard, paper and ink? Will the smells of plastic
and over-heated processors ever replace the smells of binding
glue and musty paper? Ye gods, I certainly hope not. Still, there's
no sense in being a Luddite, and testing out the new is one of
the best things we can do.'
We have two omnibus reviews of illustrated children's
books this week! In the first, Jessica
Paige explores three works by Linda Sue Park -- Seesaw
Kite Fighters, and The
Firekeeper's Son -- 'set in an ancient Korea that really
was.' Jessica says that '[A]ny of these books would be a nice
addition to the shelf, whether gifted to burgeoning readers --
or hoarded for old hands.' And an Excellence in Writing Award
goes on Jessica's shelf in the Pub...
Rose looks at the second set, all written by David Bouchard
and illustrated by either Zhong-Yang Huang or Allen Sapp. 'All
three books, then,' explains Lenora, 'gained my appreciation in
different ways for their use of artistic styles and effects, and
different ways of combining with the text. David Bouchard impressed
me with the range of styles in which he could write, and the elegant
brevity of his words.' Her review of The
Mermaid's Muse: the Legend of the Dragon Boats, Dragon
of Heaven: The Memoirs of the Last Empress of China, and
Within My Heart garners an Excellence in Writing Award.
At Green Man we prefer honesty in our reviews,
so it's not necessarily a bad thing when a reviewer admits that
he or she is stumped by a work. Such is Kelly
Sedinger's experience with a work by Nick Mamatas combining
elements of the 50's beat movement history with Lovecraft's Chthulu
mythos.'My approach to reviewing,' Kelly notes, 'has always mirrored
Roger Ebert's: my task is to report the experience I had in exploring
a work, whatever that experience might have been, and to give
possible reasons why my experience may have been what it was.
My problem with Move
Under Ground is twofold: not only can I not figure out
any reasons for my experience in reading it, I'm having trouble
even figuring out what that experience was.'
'Spider-Man. Batman. Inu-Yasha. Those are the names
that spring to mind when I think of comics. I think of brightly-coloured
tights, vibrantly-scrawled action scenes spilling over several
pages, and cute teenage boys with superpowers. When I volunteered
to review Dead Herring Comics, an anthology of graphic
tales published by the Israel-based Actus, arrogant youngster
that I am, I was half expecting to open the volume and read the
works of Stan Lee or Frank Miller. Needless to say, it was quite
a shock when I actually opened the book and discovered a type
of artwork I was completely unfamiliar with. However, it turned
out to be a rather pleasant shock, all in all.' Elizabeth
Vail elaborates in her review of Dead
Ogden Nash penned the popular line 'Candy is
Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker.' In Gary
Whitehouse's review, it's the liquor which is dandy. Gary
does a fascinating writeup of Jessica Warner's Craze:
Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason, Tequila!
A Natural and Cultural History by Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata
and Gary Paul Nabhan, David W. Maurer's Kentucky
Moonshine, and Col. Joe Nickell's The
Kentucky Mint Julep.
Wisoker experienced a neat bit of synchronicity when the
author of Cloak
of Obscurity showed up at Leona's monthly writing group
just after Leona finished reading her book! Luckily, Leona liked
the material: 'At under two hundred pages, this book 'weighs
in' as a relatively quick and easy read, lightened with plenty
of wry humor along the way. I'm glad I had the chance to read
it, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Angela Wade's work.'
Does suburbia make you uneasy for a reason you just
can't pinpoint? Denise
Dutton might be able to tell you why. Denise has been
watching two versions of Stepford
Wives, as well as reading the book. Read her review,
and let her explain why '...you can bet your life that if I ever
get married, I'm gonna take a good, hard look at any suburb my
husband picks out. You know, just in case.'
Vail went swinging into the theatre to see Spider-Man
2, which she pronounces 'So very, very good that
it made the original look like a cheap knock-off.' Take a look
at her review to learn her views of the acting, screenwriting,
and and just plain fun of the film.
Letters editor Craig
Clarke here. Before we took our three-week break from
our usual style of issues, I had only a few letters in the mail
can to choose from; but during the short hiatus, this ballooned
to the plethora of correspondence that I am just aching to share.
Sometimes it seems that our reviews are magnets
for complaints. Since we're not afraid to write exactly what we
think, artists will often write in asking just who we think we
are to write such a review. Many examples of this kind of thinking
can be found just by browsing through our letters archives (just
look for the ones with a lot of text).
Though not nearly as harsh as some we have received
from artists who shall remain nameless (at least until you find
them in our archives), two of our letters this issue illustrate
this concept. Richard Carbajal's
letter regarding Big
Earl Sellar's review of Jackalope's CD Weavings,
and Christopher Norman's response
to Pat Simmonds'
review of Norman's CD, The
Caledonian Flute, both provide some pretty heated reading.
Luckily, those aren't the only kinds of letters
we receive. Occasionally we'll get one from someone who really
seems to appreciate our unbiased look at the arts. Glenn
Phillips expresses those sentiments well in his letter
regarding Mike Stiles' review
of his album, Angel
Other artists who seem to appreciate what we do
include Barbara Ryan on Peter
Massey's review of Iona's Branching
Out. Michael William Harrison
also appreciated Peter's look at his First
Time 'Round album.
We received two letters about Peter's review
of the John Bull Band's Alive
and Kicking: from Neil Stuart
and Robin Boyle. In addition,
Mick Buck wrote in to thank
for his review of Everybody's
Tuned to the Radio: Rural Music Traditions in West Georgia, 1947-1979
and to answer Gary's hypothesis on why it has such a long title.
And then we get letters on myriad other subjects.
Some, like Claudia Velasco
and Erich McMann, are looking
for further detail. Our reviewers are often very well-versed --
sometimes expert -- in the areas they cover and you've just got
to be impressed by David
Kidney's intensively well-researched answer to McMann's
Others offer reminiscences that were triggered
by reading GMR: Joe Du Vall
simply was reminded of an earlier time by David's omnibus review
of the work of King
Biscuit Boy. And then there are those who want to let
us know that they just came across our site inadvertently while
doing something else online, like Loretta
Kelley, who found us while spellchecking the name 'Steintjønndalen'.
We appreciate all of these letters and encourage
our readers to write in to us, whether they think we're morons
or want to tell us what a great job we're doing. So, if you are
affected by the work we do, take the time to write in to the reviewer
or to the Letters editor,
whose email can be reached through the link at the top of the
'ere again, introducin' the music section. While Dave wuz away
in Switzerland, I wuz listening to a lot of CLASH!!! We'll be
doin' a big Clash issue later in the year! @#$%in' BRILLIANT!
Clash books! Clash music! Uncle Joe! The whole story of the English
Civil War! But I'm gettin' ahead of meself! Today we 'ave a real
cross section of music. We are nuffin' but ECLECTIC!!!(Cat here.
We will also be covering Big Audio Dynamite, the group Mick Jones
created after the Clash imploded, and the other work of the much
missed Joe Strummer. It will be, as SPike notes, @#$%in' BRILLIANT!)
Huw Collingbourne starts us off wif some Classical
music. Not bein' a fan of anythin' more classic than my old pair
of Wayfarers I know absolutely zero about this music, but Huw
knows his stuff. He wuzn't in the best mood when he popped this
rendition of Handel's Water
Music / Royal Fireworks Music .by Pierre Boulez and the
New York Philharmonic in '...but, grouchy as I was when I put
the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon
found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There's no getting
away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful
music. Foot-tapping melodies, indeed!' It cheered Huw up, an'
he so convinced the editors they awarded him an Excellence
in Writing Award!
Tim Hoke's been listening to a lot of strange stuff!
In his first of two reviews this week he looks at...well...let
Tim describe it! 'Can you imagine swing spoons playing? Give a
listen to the Shillings' cover of Mark Graham's dinosaur requiem,
'Their Brains Were Small,' and you'll hear how it can be done.
The other dinosaur song on the recording, the original 'Jurassic
Jaws,' also swings. The pastoral 'To The West' is a pretty piece;
the whistle plays curlicues among and around the sustained, harp-like
tones of the hammer dulcimer.' That's Four Shillings Short's From
Ragas To Riches. .Sounds a bit odd to my ears! And then
Tim reviews the Barn
Owl Band Live CD .! He describes them like this...'The
Barn Owl Band is sizable, capable of producing a lot of sound
when everyone is playing. It would be overpowering if it were
done too much. Wisely, though, these tutti passages are not overused,
and when they do appear, you can feel the sudden groundswell of
energy (and hear the cheers of the audience). Otherwise, instruments
nimbly drop in and out of the mix, always keeping the arrangements
interesting, with plenty of tension and resolution. As befits
dance musicians, the beat never wavers, although it does swing
at times, such as their rendition of the Duke Ellington classic
'It Don't Mean A Thing'. @#$%in' great! Owls, 'tutti' an' Duke
Ellington all on one CD!
Now, since Dave (that's David Kidney to you folks)
is all rested up after takin' some time off to sample the boiled
meats of Lugano he was fit enuff to turn in four different reviews
this week. As long time readers know, Dave's had a love/hate relationship
goin' wif Eric Burdon for quite awhile. It all stems from when
'is Mum gave 'im a 'House of the Rising Sun' 45rpm for 'is thirteenth
birthd'y. His EIWA winnin' review of The
Animals' new compilation sounds a winner. 'Eric Burdon's
current tour might bring him to a small theatre near you. I think
he's playing in Ontario's cottage country next month. Seeing him
live might be a risk, but for a good 77 minutes of historic re-mastered
tracks, with an informative and well-written essay by Ian MacFarlane,
look no farther than Gratefully Dead. Psychedelic, man!' He wuz
also taken by Maggie
Brown's debut album. Her voice is a revelation, soaring,
whispering, trained in southern churches, Texas honky-tonks, roadside
bars and picnics. This is bluesy music, funky as all get out,
informed by years of struggle, and shaped by the hard life Maggie
shared with her disfunctional mother.'
While he wuz in Switzerland Dave (all right, @#$%!!!)
DAVID!!! met a bloke from Georgia who gave 'im a self-produced
CD. Entitled Essays
& Contemplations .Mister @#$%in' Kidney describes
it thus, 'there are eleven compositions gathered here. Each one
seeks to comment on, or display, an attribute of life on God's
green earth...Just right for an hour of meditation.' And finally
he discusses the
reissue of two early albums by Albert Lee (who should
be known to Emmylou Harris and Eric Clapton fans). 'Albert Lee's
guitar solos are not self indulgent timewasters, but rather intense,
subdued, melodic bursts of magic that punctuate the choruses.
Very tasteful.I told ya that we wuz eclectic! An' we ain't half
Lars Nilsson must be doin' 'is own laundry!
He wuzn't especially complimentary 'bout the new Sara Cox, CD
Arrive. 'I would
say it is rather anonymous music, which is quite comfortable to
have running in the CD player while ironing shirts, but it never
really catches your attention.' You should read the review for
more details though!
GMR's resident Celtic specialist John O'Regan
(who, by the way, just wrote liner notes for Raven Records' re-issued
2-disc set of Christy Moore LPs) (an' you thought ole SPike wuz
jus' anuvver pretty face!). He concludes 'is review by sayin',
'from high energy, uplifting Celtic rock to instrumental virtuosity
and low maintenance acoustic original ballads, this is a worthy
and entertaining bunch of albums, highlighting Celtic music's
overall diversity.' But believe you, me, 'e's got lots more to
say about these three albums! Baltinget's Classic;
The Fenians' Every
Day's a Hooley and Smithfield Fair's Winds
of Time. Read it for y'self! .
Our next Excellence in Writing Award
goes to Barbara Truex for her in depth study of a Scandinavian
group called Frifot .. 'If there are superstars to be named on
the Swedish music scene, I would like this opportunity to nominate
Lena Willemark, Per Gudmundson, and Ale Möller, otherwise
known as Frifot. The group's CD Sluring
is most certainly a masterpiece.' You see, the reviewers 'ere
don't all like the same kinda music. It makes fer an int'restin'
walk thru the halls!
Now, I know we've got some older writers workin'
'ere at GMR! Since I joined up I've noticed there's some
white hair and some balin' pates, but I never knew we 'ad an 'incipient
geezer!' Take a look at Christopher White's article about American
Gypsy by Mark Sylvester an' you'll see wot I mean! 'Incipient
geezer that I am, a recording like American Gypsy by Mark Sylvester
inevitably gets me musing on the way in which technology has changed
'The Music Business.'
Fascinatin' but that's not the end of Mr. White's
opinions! He also listened to Eddy Cole's I
Know What's Going On .and 'ad this to say about it. '...this
more an EP than an LP CD, but I'm not going to complain too much.
Going out to eat, if quantity is a priority, I could head to Ton'O'Beef
for their Half'A'Heifer special with SpudNuts. Filling? Yes. Satisfying,
healthy, or delicious? Not damn likely. But, if quality dining
is important and I go to Chez Say Wha for their Petite Nouvelle
du Jour, I might still find myself a tad hungry at the end, but,
like I Know What's Going On, it sure was tasty.' Chistopher has
yet annuver review! Jenny Bienemann's Late Night Elaborations.'
.Great, anuvver chick singer! But see what Christopher says...'Jenny
Bienemann may be yet another 'Girl with Guitar' tossing her beret
into the ring, but on this well designed, self produced, and ably
performed disk she demonstrates that she more than deserves to
rise above the pack.
Finally...one more review! We 'ad so many
CD reviews turned in this week, our editor held some over for
next time, but THIS one by Master Reviewer an' all 'round good
guy, Gary Whitehouse is a goodie! Gary combines two compilation
CDs in his EIWA winnin' review. No
Depression: What It Sounds Like (Vol. 1) and Just
Because I'm a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton both featuring
a variety of artists performin' country music sound quite intriguin'.
Gary writes, 'No Depression magazine is the bi-monthly bible of
alternative country music, whatever that is. This disc does a
good job of, if not defining alt-country, at least giving some
good examples of what it is;' and 'tribute albums can fall into
a couple of different traps: the artists either too closely ape
the originals or they push them so far outside the envelope that
they're unrecognizable. Ideally, the performer paying tribute
strikes a balance between the two extremes, which is generally
the case on this salute to country icon Dolly Parton. As is nearly
universally the case with such encomiums, some tracks work better
than others.' 'Enconiums?' Where the @#$% is Dave's dictionary?
These people are so @#$%in' smart around 'ere! Maybe some of it'll
rub off on yours truly. Til next time...whether it be classical,
celtic, country (this one or some other one), blues, folk, singer-songwriter...keep
Green Man wishes to extend our heartiest
congratulations to Jasper Fforde for winning the Wodehouse/Bollinger/Everyman
award for Best Comic Novel, 2004. He gets the complete Everyman
editions of PG Wodehouse's novels, a case of vintage Bollinger,
and a live pig currently very happily living in Powys,
Wales. (No word from Fforde on what he plans to do with the pig.)
His winning novel, The Well of Lost Plots, has as its hero
Thursday Next, a literary detective and expectant single mother,
who spends her life hiding inside the plots of unpublished bad
novels. So join all of us here in the Green Man pub in
downing a pint of Dragons Breath XXXX Stout to one of the best
writers living today!
4th of July, 2004
'Dear Sir (I said), Although now
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons -- 'twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made.'
-- poem by J.R.R. Tolkien in answer to a critic
For many of us, J.R.R. Tolkien is the grandfather of fantasy literature.
His work stands (along with that of a few others, certainly) in
the central fire circle around which current authors spread their
own stories. Almost no author of traditional 'high' fantasy today
can escape being compared to Tolkien -- certainly no one who uses
as characters dwarves, elves or orcs.
When Peter Jackson and his company had the chutzpah (hubris?) to
translate the epic The Lord of the Rings into live action
films, those of us who read the story almost like our own family
history delighted and despaired. Some of those who'd read it and
thought, 'What's the big deal?' found the films made the story more
appealing to them. And many who'd never read it at all found themselves
welcomed into Tolkien's Middle-earth by the gorgeous landscape of
New Zealand and the gracious musical compositions of Howard Shore.
Naturally, upon the release of Jackson's three films, Tolkien-related
flotsam and jetsam started washing up everywhere. Plastic swords,
yes, but also books about Tolkien, about Tolkien's friends, about
Tolkien's world. Documentaries, you name it. Some of this Tolkieniana
is terrible, or just cheap. But some of it is wonderful.
So we here at Green Man Review have decided to devote an
entire issue to reviews of Tolkien-ish things. Books, films -- even
music. And, being GMR, we're not looking at just the new
stuff, either. Tolkien has been generating homage and attention
since he was first published, and we have reviews of some older
Tolkieniana here as well.
starts us off on a high note with a review of Matthew Dickerson's
Following Gandalf: 'Yes, I'm become callous and cynical
when an editor approaches me with a new Tolkien-related book to
review. What used to be a moment of excitement is now a moment of
dread. 'Oh, no. Not another Tolkien study that reads
like a freshman term-paper failure.' I am, thus, very, very
happy to announce that Matthew Dickerson's Following
Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victories in the Lord of the Rings
is one of the best Tolkien-studies books to be published in recent
years.' Matthew takes our first Excellence in Writing Award for
this enlightening review
'There were two things', explains Deborah
Brannon, 'that evolved in tandem as Tolkien came to write
his fictional works: the language of his made-up world, and its
topography. Indeed, his fictional languages were the inception of
his great works of Middle-earth, while the maps he drew were ever
considered a necessity. As you will find in the introduction Brian
Sibley wrote to accompany John Howe's maps, Tolkien would not hear
tell of publishing The Lord of the Rings without an appropriate
map. In this collection of maps, John Howe (who also worked on the
recent film adaptations) and Brian Sibley have attempted to recognize
the importance of maps to Tolkien's world. In their intention to
honor, they have not failed: there is no doubt that these maps are
beautiful.' Ah, the maps are beautiful...but what else does Deborah
have to say about The
Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth?
In the Peter Jackson' films, Gollum is a CGI character
based on and voiced by actor Andy Serkis. Serkis kept a record of
his work on the films, and published it in a volume entitled Gollum:
How We Made Movie Magic. Huw
Collingbourne says of Serkis' book: 'In a little over 120
pages, this book takes us through the entire history of Andy's involvement
with the Gollum character, from the auditions right through to the
release of The Two Towers. While the fairly large format
of this book (9.5 in by 7 in) and its lavish colour illustrations
may make it look like no more than a glossy souvenir for Lord
Of the Rings fans, it is much more than that. It is very much
an actor's personal account of his involvement in a ludicrously
ambitious technical and artistic experiment.'
The folks at Rough Guides send us an amazingly diverse
selection of material. And yes, there is indeed a Tolkien Rough
Guide: The Rough Guide to The Lord Of The Rings: Everything You
Ever Wanted to Know about Middle-earth. Faith
Cormier says that 'The
Rough Guide to The Lord Of The Rings lives up to its promise
of giving a thorough overview.'
And from Jack
Merry: 'Really odd stuff shows up here in the Library at
Green Man if you're not exactly looking for it. I was looking
for the BBC recording of
The Lord of The Rings that we had reviewed, but didn't find
it. I suspect that one of the staffers putting together our all-Tolkien
issue has it out for listening right now. (The card catalog refuses
to tell me who's got it. Nor will it say why it won't tell me.)
What I found instead is a quaint remnant from an earlier, less driven-by-commercial-interest
society where quality of production was higher than it is today.
This artifact, The
Road Goes Ever On -- A Song Cycle, comes from an earlier
age, the Sixties, when readers were madly obsessed with Tolkien
and his work. Here in this book composer Swann gives Tolkien characters
Bilbo, Treebeard, Samwise Gamgee, and Tom Bombadil tunes for their
ballads of the road. Tolkien approved of this and added a tune of
his own, along with a glossary of Elvish terms and lore.'
Live Performances Editor Liz
Milner contributes her wealth of knowledge to this issue
with three Tolkien related reviews. Of Greg Harvey's The
Origins of Tolkiens Middle-earth for Dummies the first,
she says '[T]here's good information here, but there's also a whole
lot of padding and a bit of misinformation.' Leslie Ellen Jones
doesn't fare much better, as Liz says of Myth
and Middle-Earth: Exploring the Legends Behind J.R.R. Tolkiens
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings '[T]he whole book feels
very rushed and superficial; a masterful summary that is waiting
to be fleshed out. The whole time I was reading it, I could hear
Treebeard muttering 'hasty, very hasty,' while Merry was anxiously
asking whether taking so many shortcuts was a good idea.' Finally,
Liz takes an Excellence in Writing Award for her look at
a book of Tolkien's essays: 'The
Monsters and the Critics is a very rewarding read for a
Tolkien geek, but of very limited appeal to a general reader.'
As revered as The Professor is, there are still humorous
takes on his work. In 1969 Harvard Lampoon published a parody by
Henry Beard and Douglas Kenney. This is a book that many people
initially found hilarious, but on rereading it, Jonathan
Northwood realized that it's not so great, after all: 'At
first glance -- when I was much younger -- I was struck by how fresh
and punchy it seemed: it had crisp prose, biting satire and astoundingly
well-realized caricatures; however, as its 1969 publication date
has continued to recede into the mists of time, the story has lost
some of its luster, and has managed to acquire a rather nasty odor
of banality.' Read his astute review for more on Bored
of the Rings.
Another Excellence in Writing Award goes to
for her superb review of a less than worthy book: 'The
Real Middle-earth is a reissue of a 2002 book from Sidgewick
and Jackson. The author, Brian Bates, has a Ph.D. in psychology,
is a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex, formerly of the
University of Brighton, the author of a novel The Way of the
Wyrd, and co-author with John Cleese of The Human Face,
an exploration of psychoanalysis. I had high hopes for this book,
which describes itself as 'exploring the magic and mystery of the
middle ages, J. R. R. Tolkien, and The Lord of the Rings.
I settled down to read it with expectations that, alas, were dashed
almost immediately upon opening it. This is a truly idiotic book.'
'It is somewhat sobering,' explains Robert
Tilendis, 'to realize that an author of fantasy literature,
no matter how much he may deserve the sobriquet 'great,' has generated
his own genre of scholarship. And in the scholarship of literature,
one is often left asking very nearly the same question that arises
when contemplating research funded by the U.S. Department of Defense:
'Was this book really necessary?'' Find out if Ruth Noel's The
Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth meets with Robert's
approval in his extremely interesting review.
There are books on Tolkien's use of language and books
on his music; here's a book on his artwork. Wes
Unruh looks at Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's J.R.R.
Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator and has this to say: 'I
don't think this book is for everyone. There are much more interesting,
cohesive ways to be introduced to J R R Tolkien's work, and I would
rather have seen an edition of 'The Book of Ishnessess'
published, or as complete as possible an edition of Roverandom
produced than be presented with only partial elements. And while
the text succeeds at showing the effect interplay between words,
images, and design had or might have had on Tolkien's creations,
it does so more or less in passing than by design.'
Walker looks at J.E.A. Tyler's The
Complete Tolkien Companion: 'If you only have one reference
book on Tolkien on your shelf, it ought to be this one. If you have
many books on Tolkien, but not this one, you owe it to yourself
to complete your collection with The Complete Tolkien Companion.'
Jack Merry recently
got to to view Tolkien documentary The
Real Middle Earth. Although initially not terribly
thrilled with the prospect, Jack ended up pleasantly surprised.
He says, 'Now I admit that I groaned at first, muttered somethin'
'about all the shite that Jackson films have loosed upon the buying
public such as Gollum bookends and Gandalf hats to name but two
products. However I found this DVD to be both pleasantly low-key
and well-worth watching.' Read Jack's review, and you'll likely
want to see this yourself.
Over the years, we've reviewed several film adaptations of Tolkien's
work. Our archives contain reviews of Peter Jackson's versions of
The Fellowship of the Ring
(including the Special
Extended DVD Edition), The
Two Towers, and The
Return of the King, as well as animated treatments
like Ralph Bakshi's The
Lord of the Rings, and Rankin-Bass' The
Hobbit and The
Return of the King. We've even covered a film noir
rendering of The Lord
of the Rings that features Humphrey Bogart (for real!).
Be sure to look these over while you're here.
Grey Walker reviews
in Rivendell, an album of Tolkien's poems and songs set
to music by the Tolkien Ensemble, accompanied by Christopher Lee.
While 'the musicianship is of the highest possible standard,' Grey
says, and 'Christopher Lee could read a recipe for turkey tetrazzini
and make it sound ominous and portentous. . . nevertheless, this
album gets mixed reactions from me, largely due to that elusive
thing, interpretation.' Read Grey's review to see where she agrees
and disagrees with the Tolkien Ensemble's interpretations of Tolkien's
You might also want to look at some earlier music reviews by GMR
reviewers which have Tolkien-related themes, particularly The
Starlit Jewel by Broceliande, reviewed by Tim
Hoke, Songs of J.R.R.
Tolkien by Colin Rudd, reviewed by Rebecca
Swain, and Music
Inspired by The Lord of the Rings by Mostly Autumn, reviewed
by David Kidney.
As Tolkien said, 'Roads go ever, ever on.' Wherever
your road takes you, our beloved reader, we hope it brings you back
to GMR next week for more reviews of the stuff that makes
us all, well, folk.
GMR News is an e-mail list for readers
of The Green Man Review. Each week, 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,
address. Or go here
Entire Contents Copyright
2004, The Green Man Review.
All Rights Reserved.
Some images courtesy of Clipart.com
Updated 11 July 2004 11:40 GMT (MN)