'There's a difference between getting money for what you do and doing it for money. If you don't do it for love, or because you think it needs doing, get out and let somebody else do it. If nobody does, maybe that means it shouldn't be done.'
— Emma Bull, Bone Dance

25th of July, 2004

Main Page Archives Search GMR Letters Resources
Books   Interviews   Recorded Music

Come, come -- If you're done with the cinnamon infused Mexican chocolate French toast that the kitchen staff has been having folks sample this morning, I want to show you something. Over there, on the other side of the main lobby from the pub entrance, is the inside door to the Green Man Gift Shop. I bet you never even noticed it -- we do keep the lights a bit dim in the lobby. That's for atmosphere, you know!! And our gift shop is intentionally unobtrusive. You wouldn't expect neon lights, would you?

Actually, the entire lobby of this building was very likely an indoor shopping mall back in the early days (you know, the late sixteen hundreds . . . ) So it's not surprising that we should still have one small shop to remind us of those days. At least it looks small from here -- you'll be amazed when we go inside to discover how deceiving that appearance is!

From this part of the lobby, you can see (now that you are looking) a wooden door set between two decent-sized leaded glass windows. There's even a nice carved wooden sign over the door. As we walk closer, you may notice that some of the wares offered in the gift shop are on display in the windows. A couple of the house brownies take considerable pride in their window dressing skills, so I hope you appreciate what they've done with the arrangement of the t-shirts!

Yes, there is a door to the gift shop on the outside of the building, too. But it's pretty well covered with ivy, and the stone path leading up to it is grown over with thyme, so it's no wonder you never noticed that one!!

Let's stop for a moment to read this week's reviews, and then we'll continue our tour. . . .

Jack Merry here. Several years back, I did a review of what I thought was all the studio albums (not including collections mined from various sources) released by The Pogues. I was wrong in that belief, so I've updated that review to included several more CDs, the last album by that group featuring the snaggled tooth wonder 'imself, Sean MacGowan. The producer of that album was the now deceased Joe Strummer who would replace the now almost completely incoherent MacGowan on the next Pogues tour as the lead vocalist. (How was Strummer as their vocalist? Bloody fine judgin' by the boot I have 'ere.) MacGowan would later form a group called The Popes which sounded (sort of) like The Pogues. Go read my review to see why I think they are one of the $#@! bands ever.

Now I'm going to tease y'all. . . . Sometime this fall, we'll be doing a look at the creative output of Joe Strummer, The Clash, and Big Audio Dynamite, the band Mick Jones formed after Strummer pissed off from The Clash. SPike's doing a retrospective look at The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite; Nellie Levine giving us an in-depth examination of Strummer, I'm looking at officially released Clash DVDs, and a number of folks are doing book reviews that relate to these performers. It should be a bloody interesting issue.

Before I take your leave, I found a story on line at this site that a Pogues re-union is in the offing: 'Billboard reports: 'Irish rock act the Pogues will stage a brief reunion tour, its first since 2001, in the United Kingdom, beginning Dec. 13 with a two-night stand at Glasgow's Academy. According to the official Web site of frontman Shane MacGowan, the group will also play Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester and Dublin. A Dec. 20-21 stand is slated for London's Brixton Academy.' I hope they have better luck with MacGowan showing up to perform than did I the three times I paid for tickets to concerts which were canceled at show time due to 'im being AWOL!

Maria Nutick speaking. I believe I've mentioned before that I am both honored and absolutely gleeful to be able to edit such a stable of superb writers. This week is no different, as we have some truly fascinating stuff for you here.

Nathan Brazil has his second review of work by Mark Chadbourn, and if his review of the Age of Misrule series sparked my interest in this author, this review of the first in the next series by Chadbourn has me on my way to the bookstore to track down these books! Nathan says that '[T]his first book in the Dark Age sequence shares the same earthy, realistic dialogue, and skillful characterisation of its predecessors. Yet it differs in a number of ways, stylistically. The author has chosen to strip down his story, with everything and everyone revolving about the centre.' Read his review of The Devil in Green for more.

Rachel Brown wanted to like her review material this week -- Leah Cutter's The Caves of Buda -- but found it lacking despite a few good points: 'The Caves of Buda is admirably ambitious and willing to explore new territory for fantasy. It's based on Hungarian folklore and largely set in Budapest, has one protagonist with Alzheimer's Disease and one with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and switches between the present day and WWII. I approve of ambition and originality, so I had hoped to be able to write a rave review of it, and perhaps encourage other fantasy authors to also take paths less traveled on. Unfortunately, this particularly path leads to less-than-thrilling territory. Like many thoughtful and high-minded novels, The Caves of Buda is so busy being historically, medically, and folklorically accurate that it forgets to be entertaining.'

Though Neil Gaiman is a beloved Green Man fixture, I hadn't actually read much of his work prior to my tenure here. What I tend to do now is read one of our reviews and then go out and fetch the material in question. Now that I've read Matej Novak's thoroughly researched and enticing review of 1602, I'll be adding more Gaiman to my library. Matej convinces me in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review: ' . . . it is not absolutely imperative that a reader be familiar with the specifics of all these people, places and events, but it is fascinating to see how Gaiman can bring together and play with so many historical details to form a coherent, cohesive whole. This being a Neil Gaiman work, there are clues everywhere. Even Scott McKowen's striking covers are not only part of the story, but also pieces of the greater puzzle. The series may be a joy to read, but it's an even greater joy to read again as you watch it all come together, and all those little things you missed the first time around suddenly jump out at you as vitally important.'

Kelly Sedinger says that Kenneth Oppel's new novel is 'told in the wrong medium.' That doesn't mean he doesn't like it, mind you: ' . . . Oppel's gift for conveying the visual element of the story is so strong that I think this book shouldn't have been a book at all. At the very least, it should have been a graphic novel, with panoramic art by, say, Paul Gulacy or Colleen Doran -- but even better would be a motion picture. This is exactly the kind of story I would expect from a really well-made summertime adventure matinee, right down to the score by John Williams. No, this isn't actually a criticism of Oppel's novel, but surely there HAS to be a Hollywood producer somewhere who wants to do a movie that's original and fun, as opposed to remaking the same old tired TV shows and movies that were already done well thirty years ago. Airborn tells a wonderfully rollicking adventure.'

I'm fully admitting to bias in the case of our next review. I read the books in question many years ago, and adored them beyond all reason. So when I discovered that they were again available, I procured review copies. But then Mia-the-Editor whispered maybe you should find someone else to write this review . . . someone with a little more objectivity. Since Web Assistant Rebecca Scott is one of our experts on Greek mythology and culture, and since these books are placed in that setting, I gave them to her. To my delight, she loved them as much as I do: '[Richard Purtill] borrows smoothly from mythology, history, and archaeology to create a living setting for mythological events. Interestingly, in all three of these books, he avoids directly depicting the most famous events of the myths concerned. He comes closest in the third book, where he does show some of the major events of the life of Helen of Troy and Sparta, but he skips over the period of the Illiad itself. His plots are, instead, built around the myths, concentrating on what made it possible for the myths to happen or to be resolved. There's also the mythology itself, my own first love. He knows it inside and out, better than I do, and is very faithful to the stories. Every time I thought I'd caught him out and sat down to do the research to prove it, I proved myself wrong instead.' Rebecca takes an Excellence in Writing Award -- not for her decidedly good taste in agreeing with me, but for her brilliantly knowledgable review of The Kaphtu Trilogy (The Golden Gryphon Feather, The Stolen Goddess, and The Mirror of Helen). Now, go order these books today!

Leona Wisoker has a delightful little mystery novel revolving around one of our favorite topics here at GMR: food. Translated from Carmen Posadas' original Spanish novel by Christopher Andrews, Little Indiscretions is the story of a chef who knew too much about goings on outside of the kitchen and ended up dead: '[T]hat 'hmmm' moment is one I've missed in many books lately, where the action is nothing if not predictable and the villain blatantly obvious. This one kept me guessing until the end, with its many hooks and side trips and twists. The characters are well drawn and detailed, the flaws of each person carefully presented and used to advance the story...I enjoyed this book very much, and am looking forward to picking up more of Carmen Posadas' work.'

Michael Hunter, who edits Fiddlestix (the Fairport Convention e-zine) weighs in with an in-depth interview with Jeff Lang. 'Who is Jeff Lang?' you ask...'masterful guitarist...great songwriter...singer with an unaffected Australian accent...[and] a friendly down to earth person...' Have a look at this fascinating conversation, you may discover some more new music you can't live without.

Good morning, and welcome to the music section! David Kidney here, back from my trip to Lugano Switzerland where I saw the finish of the Tour de Suisse (it ended in front of my hotel!). Who knew? It's a beautiful country, even if the people are a bit sports-centric. They celebrated Portugal's victory over England in the EuroCup with two hours of racing their Smart-cars up and down the mountain roads, honking their horns! Meep-meep-meep-meeeeeep! Shouting 'Portuguese! Portuguese!' at the top of their lungs. Now I don't mind a little excitement, but remember...the game didn't end til 11:30 pm local time! Anyway, we have music, this week, from around the world too.

Richard Condon is up first, with a look at the Rough Guide to the Music of France. Very interesting it is, too. After opening by wondering how hard it must be to create these compilations, Richard then considers all the French artists NOT represented here, before he concludes that this CD is 'valuable for having brought a number of interesting artists to the attention of a wider public,' whoever that public might be. Well, read this Excellence in Writing Award winning review for yourself and you might be part of the target audience for this Rough Guide.

Now, down here in my office in the sub-basement, SPike's been listening to the Clash and Joe Strummer, preparing for his next review...but I've gone even further back in rock history, thanks to those Aussie re-issue kings at Raven Records! The liner notes quote Julie Driscoll as saying, 'Sometimes I think about my job as a pop singer and...wish I could [do] something really big...I've got to be satisfied with what I'm doing right now.' If what you were doing, Jools, was creating the music (with Brian Auger and the Trinity) on A Kind of Love In: 1967-1971 then you should be very satisfied indeed. I also got to hear It's the Sound by Tracy Spuehler. Tracy's been described as 'alt-bubblegum edgy power-pop' but if you can't get your mind around all that...bear in mind that listening to Ms Spuehler led me to use words like 'naivete in the lyrics,' and 'insoucient vocals,' a cool summery album.

Peter Massey has been talking about Dulaman at the Green Man Pub over a Guinness (or two). 'Dulaman is a tight little band that shows a lot of promise...on one hand they are a Bluegrass band and on the other...a young contemporary folk band.' If that description intrigues you, read all that Peter had to say about their album Four Years in November.

And finally, Barbara Truex looks at Andrew Cronshaw's On the Shoulders of the Great Bear as she asks the age old question, 'if I play music [for you] from the Arctic Circle during a long August heat wave, will it cool you off? And will African drumming or steel drums warm you up on a cold January day?' Discover the answer, along with Barbara while she grooves to some Finnish zither playing!

So that's it for this week. Nashville Bluegrass from Cheshire, UK; 'alt-bubblegum edgy power-pop' from LA; a guitar master from Down Under; B3 Blues from the 60s; a retrospective of la musique de France and cooling sounds from Finland . Who says the Green Man doesn't know where it's at? It's everywhere!

I can't begin to tell you about everything that's available here, but I'd like point out a few tasty items that we are selling, plus a few that friends of Green Man are offering for your consideration!

Green Man Review t-shirts have been offered for decades in various designs. When we entered the digital age, we decided to do a new one that reflected the digital format of GMR which is how this design came to be, The front artwork, design by Lahri Bond, graphic designer for Dirty Linen, is indeed the greenman that we've used for years, but the backside artwork with Pan sitting on the computer -- again designed by Lahri -- reflects the merging of mythical and digital realities that makes us so bleedin' interstatial. Grey Walker would later designed yet another design that made use of the computer in a more abstracted manner.

Our most successful products of the past few years are now being handled directly by Will Shetterly, he of Dogland novel fame, and husband of one of the coolest folks you'll ever meet, Emma Bull. Ever hear of Cats Laughing? As Maria Nutick says in this review, 'The Green Man Library may be the only place where you can go to read William Shakespeare's The Trapping of the Mouse or Edgar Allen Poe's The Worm of Midnight while listening to the music of Gossamer Axe or Snori Snoriscousin and His Brass Idiots. The world of literature is a big, big place, and it's an intrepid and meticulous soul who can keep track of the shifting tapestry that we call 'reality'. There are books within books and bands you can only listen to in your imagination. So you're to be forgiven if you've seen references to Cats Laughing in novels like Bone Dance or the Bordertown series and assumed that they were only another fictional group like Wild Hunt or Eldritch Steel. But if that was your assumption, it's time you learned the truth: Cats Laughing were very real, and they were one hell of a band -- and they live on in these CDs, and they're still one hell of a band.' Go here to purchase these must have CDs!

Will added, 'The first Flash Girls CD and both Cats Laughing CDs are available again at Emma's and my new shop which has the same name as our small press of the 1980s, but this one has no physical location, which seems appropriate. (But the products are real!) You'll find other things for sale there, too, as the whim strikes us.'

Which is a terribly nice way to bring up these items...

Now it's rumoured that Eddi and the Fey only exist within the text of Emma Bull's War for the Oaks novel, but I don't believe it's true. Why, we've had visitors here to Green Man Pub swear they saw the band play in Minneapolis nigh unto twenty years ago! Now I admit that they had a few rounds of Old Boar Applejack (motto is 'Hard cider for hard drinkers. Favoured by the Gentry when listening to the Neverending Session'), and it doesn't help that our staff wears black Eddi and the Fey 'War for the Oaks' tour shirts quite often. Yes, you get get them in both large and extra-large sizes, all cotton of course. Will has several variants for sale which you can pay for here. A very nifty selection of bumpersticks and other Oaks themed stuff can be found there too.

What's that playing on the flat screen over in the corner, you ask. Oh, just the War for the Oaks movie trailer. There was a movie?!? Sadly no, but there's a great twelve minute trailer featuring Emma, Will, and more amazing great folks than I can mention here. On our soon-to-be sales page, you'll find ordering information for this trailer and all the other goodies mentioned here. It'll make you just a bit sad that the film itself was never produced.

Now here's a rarity that I thought would never be commercially available -- the War for the Oaks movie script! Now a copy of this has been in the Green Man archives for decades now, but there was no sign that Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, or Will and Emma as they are affectionately known hereabouts, were thinking of letting it be made available. But over a breakfast of huevos rancheros and stone ground corn muffins recently at the Hard Luck Cafe, he told me that a publisher had agreed to publish both this script and the script they did for Nightspeeder. He said, 'The script for War for the Oaks will be available soon from Black Coat Press as part of a series of unproduced scripts by writers known in other fields.'

On a related note, Green Man Review is published by Midsummers Eve Publishing which I'm pleased to say has started producing a nifty line of chapbooks for your purchase. The first chapbook was Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice' tale which was designed by grey Walker and the next will be 'A Bird That Whistles', the prequel to the War for the Oaks, which will be published this Fall on the 20th anniversary of the original publication of that novel. Our Editor is promising a press conference in the Pub on it as soon as the final design is approved by Emma!

Now feel free to explore the nooks and crannies of this pace to see what tickles your fancy. I'll be in the Pub sampling a just tapped cask of early season Pumpkin Ale. Bjorn, pur Brewmaster, is quite pleased with how good it is.


18th of July, 2004

'If I told you the whole story, your head would burst. There is no one story, there are branches, rooms... corridors, dead ends.' -- The Storyteller

Well, we had a bloody good idea for this week's continuity. 

I'm a fairly new addition to the staff, my name is Zina Lee, and I love and play Irish music, which was why I first came to the site -- to read reviews on Irish music.  Now I write some of those reviews, or would, if I could clear a space of longer than 5 minutes on my calendar.  Really, I'll start writing again real soon, here.  By the end of July, I promise, Cat, you'll have them on your desk.  Honest.

Errr, but back to the bloody good idea.

See, there's this convention that we use here at Green Man, one that you'll find all over the Net. Communities that are built online and that exist solely in etherspace often use a metaphor for themselves, that of -- well, of a community, the same sort of physical community that you get anywhere on the planet.  One where people live and breathe and work and care and argue and die. 

Back in the day, I remember the original Geocities model -- there were community leaders (and I was one of those), and the whole thing was modeled after a city, complete with streets, blocks, neighborhoods and small groups that formed larger groups within the overall group.  Geocities was swallowed whole by Yahoo, but I still remember the neighborhood feel of the original, and am constantly reminded of the community building that went on there in the new communities I belong to now out in the ethers.

Our community metaphor here at GMR is of a large city of medieval framework and busy modernity, and my clever idea was to map this city for you this week.

There's only one problem with this clever idea, and that is that no one on staff can agree on what this city looks like, how the streets are laid out, or even what it's name is. We've sort of made the thing up piecemeal, conjuring up places, people, and buildings as we need them.  There's a medieval-ly laid out old section of town, there's magic places and buildings, and pragmatic shopping, and places to drink, swim, learn new and old things, fall in love, fall out of love, or learn to juggle.  There's a building in which we 'exist' here at GMR, where we write, gather to talk about everything from good and bad writing to asking for names for the new family cat, do all the myriad tasks that you must do in order to keep a publication such as GMR afloat.  There's a pub, there's schools, there's everything you could ever need or want, including some places where no one in their right minds would go.

We've been slagged for being just a little too twee, off our collective rockers, or of living in a fantasy world.  But, over and over again, people who work and band together on the Web will start referring to themselves as a community, and, if they're as imaginative and creative as all this crew, they'll eventually build themselves a new place out of electrons and good wishes. Why is that?  What's this drive towards building a place and a community for yourselves even if it's only in your imagination?  Why do we insist on making places for ourselves even if they don't, technically, exist? I'm not a psychologist or sociologist.  But I've been around the Web now since almost the beginning, and one thing that I've learned is this:  there's real people on the end of those keyboards, terminals, cables, and wires.  And real people are social animals;  we like to band together, and we're passionate about things, and we close ranks often, it seems to be a human thing. 

Somewhat weirdly, the communities built on the Web can be more strongly connected than our real-world ones.  When was the last time you spent time with your neighbors in a real, connected, and meaningful fashion?  I just got back from a week spent flying about the country, meeting online friends to play music.  Some of these people are old acquaintances by now, and a small handful are the kind of friends you can call in the middle of the night for help, the ones you know you can tell anything and they'll still love and accept you afterwards..  The house we've built online, these Irish player friends of mine, has no form, etherical or otherwise, and we've never gone to the effort of erecting walls or buildings, but the community we've built is just as strong despite that.

Maria Nutick here. Before I tell you about our featured review, we have a couple of staff changes to announce. Our Aigne, Grey Walker, has moved on. We wish her the best and hope that she knows how much we'll miss her. We've revived the position of Managing Editor, and I've been asked to assume that role. And we're proud to announce a promotion, as Rebecca Scott steps up to become Webmaster Ryan Nutick's new minion...er, I mean, Assistant Webmaster. Congratulations, Rebecca! We'll have more promotions coming soon. In the meantime...

Letters Editor Craig Clarke brings us our featured review this week: a brutal horror novella from Brian A. Hopkins. Craig notes 'Brian A. Hopkins is an acclaimed writer and editor (he has won Bram Stoker Awards under both guises) who also operates an innovative publishing company (Lone Wolf Publications, which produced the multimedia anthology Tooth and Claw, Volume One and another Stoker winner, The Imagination Box), yet who still has time to crank out terrific work for other smaller houses like Earthling Publications. El Dia de los Muertos ('the Day of the Dead') is his most recent Stoker recipient, winning the 2002 award for best novella...Coming in at a mere 100 pages, El Dia de los Muertos is tight, crisp, and fast, with not a word wasted.' Which, incidentally, sounds like most of Craig's reviews...which is why he picks up so many Excellence in Writing Awards -- and here's another one for you, Craig!

Donna Bird is up first this week, with a pair of extremely diverse reviews. The first is a work of nonfiction by noted choreographer Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life: 'The Creative Habit is a fast and easy read. Just under 250 pages long, it has relatively large type, lots of white space, and some interesting design features like the use of red type for some of the text and gray-scale or black background with reverse type on some of the pages. Each of its twelve chapters focuses on a concept related to creativity and ends with a series of exercises that the motivated reader can use to work on his/her creativity.'

Donna also reviews a book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, set in mid-twentieth century Barcelona. Donna says 'The Shadow of the Wind is a book about a book. In fact, the title of THIS book is the title of the book IN the book. And the dust jacket for this book is printed to look weathered and creased, with a faux red leather spine apparently intended to resemble the book in the book. Oh, dear, I hope I haven't utterly confused you!'

'I have waited a long time to read The Shape-Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn. For years, it has existed at the periphery of my consciousness. My eyes have always been drawn to its spine whenever I wandered the fantasy section of the bookstore. It has simply always been a book I knew I wanted to read, yet never managed to get to. I maintain that some books come to us in their own times, when we are ready most to enjoy or find enlightenment in their pages. Finally, today, was The Shape-Changer's Wife's time for me.' Hmmmm . . . I wonder if Deborah Brannon enjoyed the novel? Find out in her Excellence in Writing Award winning review.

Craig Clarke is a nose-to-the-grindstone reviewing machine this week -- which is great, because we adore his reviews! In addition to his featured review, he has a new/old work by Richard Matheson for us: 'The history of Come Fygures, Come Shadowes is nearly as interesting as the story inside. Early in Richard Matheson's career, he outlined the entire arc of what was to be a 2000-page novel about spirits and mediums. His publisher at the time, however, warned him that a book of that size would be prohibitively expensive and would not sell. Due to a lack of confidence in his instincts, Matheson stopped writing the novel to work on more commercially viable projects, leaving only a tiny portion written of what may have proved — based on what has been published — to be a defining work of his career . . . The published portion of Come Fygures, Come Shadowes only covers a part of the whole storyline.'

Craig also has a look at an intriguing reference work by Leslie Dunton-Downer and Alan Riding. 'Any visitor to a random bookstore will uncover myriad books on Shakespeare,' Craig notes, 'but DK's Essential Shakespeare Handbook is one that truly fulfills the promise of its title. With all the works divided into color-coded sections for Histories, Tragedies, Comedies, and Romances, it's easy to find the one you want. There is also a section on the Narrative Poems, but 400 of the almost 500 pages are devoted to the 39 plays in the canon.'

As Faith Cormier explains, '[t]he Wee Guides are a series of introductions to aspects of Scottish history, whether an era or a person.' Charles Sinclair's Wee Guide to St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore explains a good bit about the couple: 'St. Margaret and Malcolm Canmore had pivotal roles in the history of the British Isles. Their marriage united the Celtic and the Saxon royalty of the time. Their daughter Edith (Matilda) married Henry I of England, adding these same Celtic and Saxon bloodlines to those of the Norman conquerors.'

If we saved up reviews for another All Tolkien issue, it wouldn't take long to fill one up. We've got two more bits of Tolkiena for you this week. Scott Gianelli has the first, with Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings. Michael Perry's book is a mixed bag for Scott: 'Perry intends the book to serve as a reference to The Lord of the Rings, enabling the reader to get a better sense of what events happened simultaneously in the story, where in Tolkien's writings a particular event is described, and a deeper appreciation of the structural coherence of Tolkien's work. Untangling Tolkien generally succeeds in these regards, especially the latter; this book is essentially an exposition on Tolkien's attention to chronological detail. Unfortunately, the book also gives every appearance of having been put together in great haste, as though the publishers were more concerned with releasing the book by a certain date than with presenting the best possible book.' Scott receives an Excellence in Writing Award for this critique.

Another Excellence in Writing Award goes to April Gutierrez as she takes us through another installment in the saga of Roland the Gunslinger. Stephen King takes the reader back into Roland's history in this sequel to The Stand: 'Wizard and Glass continues King's excellent characterization of Roland, and, if you're like me, leaves you longing for more of his past, to see the boy he was before ka (fate) stepped in and the world began to move on. This does mean that there's precious little involvement for the other companions for most of the book, but the transitory characters King populates Roland's story with more than make up for their prolonged absence.'

'Seth is the nom de plume of Gregory Gallant. He has gone by Seth since the early '80s which he says might have been a youthful error, but 'little can be done about it now.' I first became aware of Seth when he started drawing Mister X, a comic book I had followed since its obscure beginnings. He was following in some major footsteps . . . Los Bros Hernandez and Dean Motter . . . and he did so beautifully, until the story just fizzled out. Since then his work has appeared in Mother Jones, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and the New Yorker, among others . . . but his passion lies in a self produced series called Palookaville he began in 1991. The two books under discussion first appeared, serialized in the pages of Palookaville.' David Kidney is speaking of two works from Drawn & Quarterly Press: It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken and Clyde Fans: Book One.

Live Editor Liz Milner has the other bit of Tolkiena for us this week: In Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon, Brian Rosebury presents a critical assessment of the entire body of J.R.R. Tolkien's works. He also attempts to locate Tolkien within Literature and the History of Ideas and to examine the 'afterlife' of Tolkien's works in today's popular culture. He sees the book as both a complete introduction to Tolkien and his works for general readers, and as a critical analysis for fans and scholars. A shorter version of this book appeared in 1992. This new extended edition was written in the light of new scholarship and two new developments: the publication of Tolkien's unpublished manuscripts by his son Christopher, and the release of Peter Jackson's film version of The Lord of the Rings.'

'Let's see: Plucky preteen girl? Check. Parents who don't pay attention to her? Check. Spooky old house for them to move into? Check.Creepy, mean, elderly relative who lives there? Check. Bullies at the new school? Check. Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy-beasties and things that go bump in the night? Check. Looks like we've got the full checklist for a run of the mill young adult fantasy/horror novel. Fortunately, that's not what we've got.' Rebecca Scott goes on to explain that in these graphic novels, '[Ted] Naifeh pulls off darkly charming fairy tales, using classic tropes in new ways.' You'll want to pick up Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things and Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics, vol. 2 after you read Rebecca's enticing review.

Collectively known as The Pearl Saga, or at least the first three books thereof, Eric Van Lustbader's The Ring of Five Dragons, The Veil of a Thousand Tears, and Mistress of the Pearl are melded science fiction and fantasy -- a combination that Green Man reviewers and readers often find riveting. Not so for Elizabeth Vail, who picks up a combined Excellence in Writing Award/Grinch Award for her brutally honest yet entertaining look at this series: 'If Mr. Science Fiction and Ms. Fantasy both got really, really drunk at the Christmas party and had wild, unprotected sex, and then Ms. Fantasy proceeded to descend into alcoholism and drug addiction during the pregnancy, the twisted, mentally unsound baby they would have would be Eric Van Lustbader's The Pearl Saga.'

Several books reviewed in this issue are older material. And why not? Our readers are as likely to haunt dusty used bookstores as they are to wander the New Releases aisle at Barnes and Noble. Sara Sutterfield Winn discusses two older books by Patricia McKillip, currently out of print -- but who knows when that might change? Sara describes a set of novels that bears searching for: 'The Cygnet series is a pair of books worthy of McKillip's reputation for the numinous and lovely. Both are full of magic, though they are as different as two sides of the same golden coin. In The Sorceress and the Cygnet, Patricia A. McKillip introduces the reader to the Ro family and captures the confusion, anger, despair, fear and otherworldliness that results when ancient common stories come to life and reveal the secret realities behind our songs and folk tales. The Cygnet and the Firebird continues the adventures of the Ro family as they encounter a whole new world and a new set of emotional and magical dilemmas. While both of these novels can be read independently of each other given their stand alone plot lines, they each take place in Ro Holding and involve the developing relationships and personalities of the Ro family, and when read together form a richer tale that plumbs the depth of loyalty, sense of place, love, and magic.'

Editor-at-Large Matthew Winslow has another worthy older work, a comic series just rereleased as a graphic novel: James A. Owen's Starchild: Awakenings. Matthew explains that '[M]ore than most other forays into the format, Starchild is indeed a graphic novel, being a mix of traditional prose and comic art. The story was originally told in the first 12 issues of the Starchild comic, published over the course of a few years (in the midst of which Owen ruined his drawing hand in a car accident and then forced himself through rehabilitation in order to continue the series). The art is at first a bit stiff, but Owen quickly finds himself and his style such that by story's end, the art is comfortably at home with itself and its environs. Likewise, the prose can be stiff or turgid, but by the end, the pretensions are gone and the story soars to mythic levels.'

Here at Green Man, we're all writers -- that's what we do.  And writers build things out of words.  We build ideas into something you can hold in your hands with all the heft of something that used to be a tree, can see with an inner eye, can listen to the symmetry of it's music, can partake in a draught of your own while you chat.  It's a bit of silliness, a modicum of fun, about things we're very, very serious about.

So here we have The City, which some of us call Samhain, or Midsummer.  It's stuffed full of people -- our staff and editors -- who care passionately about music, writing, the visual arts, ideas both big and small, and how those things make us more fully human.  It's streets run with ghostly inhabitants whose bodies reside in different places around this globe, some who are us, some who are figments of our imaginations. 

I hope you'll rummage around our shops, wander our streets, find your own café where they know how you like your coffee, sit and think over a pastry or two as you watch the ghostly traffic move by, and find a dialogue with yourself that satisfies that itch we all have in our souls -- that of needing to be who we are as hard as we can, as long as we can, as well as we can.

While we, the staff, enjoy our community and our varied missions (each of us write for different reasons), there would be no purpose to it all if we couldn't share it with you, those of you who read our words, share our ideas (and sometimes argue vociferously about them) and walk along these virtual streets with us.

Welcome to our city.

11th of July, 2004

'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

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 series 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 Space Playset.

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 Rotten.

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 Folkmanis 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.'

Nathan 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 Trains Running.'

'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 Poe’s tales to Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, these collections draw me. I’ll 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!

April Gutierrez 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 Schwartz.

The 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.'

Patrick 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 at Twilight 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 Girl, The 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...

Lenora 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 The Song 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 Herring Comics.

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.

Finally, Leona 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.'

Elizabeth 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 Sparks.

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 Gary Whitehouse 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 question.

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 Letters page.

SPike '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 done yet!

 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 on rockin'.

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 long estranged,
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.

Matthew Winslow 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 Tolkien’s 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. Tolkien’s 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 Lisa Spangenberg 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.'

Finally, Grey 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 At Dawn 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 work.

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, to this address. Or go here to subscribe.

Entire Contents Copyright 2004, The Green Man Review.
All Rights Reserved.

Some images courtesy of Clipart.com

Updated 25July 2004 08:20 GMT (RN)