'The Goblin was mad at her because he had learned she didn't believe in his existence. Of course, she had never seen him, but with all her reading she ought to have realized he did exist and have paid him a little attention. On Christmas Eve she never thought of setting out so much as a spoonful of porridge for him, though all his ancestors had received that, and even from women who had no learning at all. Their porridge used to be so swimming with cream and butter that it made the Cat's mouth water to hear about it.' -- Hans Christian Anderson, 'The Goblin and The Woman'

 

 

 

7th of November, 2004
 

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Goblins and faeries everywhere, dancing, laughing, playing wild music and pranks . . . witches and wizards, casting spells and illusions . . . music and magic everywhere. Against the flickering low light, masks and books for your admiration or purchase; masks, in fact, everywhere you look, along with gowns and wands and wings. And in the shadows . . . well, our minds tell us that there couldn't possibly be actual goblins here. Or could there?

When Brian Froud and Ari Berk are around, anything is possible, and so it was at the Goblin's Ball last Friday night here in Portland Oregon. I (Maria Nutick) and my husband attended the release party for Froud and Berk's new book Goblins (review forthcoming next issue), met the authors themselves, bought ourselves many exquisite gifts in the Goblin Market, and ushered in the pagan new year in high style.

What did we purchase? Well, World of Froud t-shirts, of course . . . didn't need to buy the book since we received a review copy a few days before the Ball. An exquisite black and silver mask. A signed limited edition print of a Froud painting, You Remind Me of the Babe, featuring Toby Froud as an infant surrounded by the goblins of Labyrinth.

With music provided by Trillian Green and Woodland, both bands that I recommend highly, and a well planned and very moving Samhain ceremony to send out the old and greet the new, the Ball was a lovely coming out party for a lovely book. Brian and Ari are delightful gentleman, and the crowd, like the crowd at the Froud's Faerieworlds Festival, was friendly, fun, and delightful.

A similar Ball, held in the Green Man Pub, was a bit more exciting, but then when a senile troll insists upon forcing a dance upon a cranky dragon, things can get out of hand rapidly. Best say no more about that. But most of the broken crockery has been swept up, so all's well that ends well.

Cat Eldridge has a wonderful interview this week, with another favorite of Green Man readers, author James Stoddard. Cat asks many astute questions, and Stoddard provides fascinating insight into his work: 'The original idea for Evenmere came from a recurring dream I used to have in college, of wandering an enormous house with endless rooms and secret passages. I wanted to see if I could recreate the feel of the dream. The story grew from that. I tried to write it in my twenties, but realized that it needed to percolate in my brain for a few years -- which turned out to be about 15 years, actually.'

And I'll let Cat tell you about our featured music review:

Yes, the new writer on board is Paul Brandon, author of acclaimed novels, Swim the Moon and The Wild Reel. Yes, he's an accomplished musician with his own Celtic band, Rambling House, down in Brisbane where he now lives. And yes, that's him over there drinking down a pint of the Winter Ale that Reynard just tapped. And he's a bloody fine music reviewer as well. This week, he turns his attention to a bonny bunch of Celtic albums (Meantime's The Blue Men of the Minch, Mike Katz's A Month of Sundays, Dalla's More Salt!, 3sticks' Red Moon, Laura Risk's 2000 Miles, and Cleia's This Side of the Moon) that we just got in for review.

Now you can go to the review to read his opinions, but first consider where he wrote this review: 'It's not my fault. Really. Cat told me that it's traditional that for one's first Green Man review you get to do it in the broom cupboard. Being all young, wet and critically naive, I of course believed him wholeheartedly. I'm just trying to ignore the occasional snigger and chortle coming from the other side of the door. Still, it's a very nice cupboard, as cupboards go. Not at all Harry Potterish or even vaguely musty. Just a slight horsy pong from Jack Merry's boots. Nice ambient light, just enough to write this by, and I have to say, it's much bigger inside than I would ever have thought.'

J.J.S. Boyce has a look at a new book from an author not originally associated with fantasy: 'S.E. Hinton has had an interesting career. She sold her first (and subsequently most well-known) novel, The Outsiders, when she was only 17. That was in 1967. In the years since, her career has been punctuated by long breaks and abrupt changes. She surpised everyone by writing two children's books in quick succession in the '90s. Now that she's back, she's writing for an adult audience again for the first time in over 15 years. I can assure you that you will find no cute bunnies or lessons about sharing here. Indeed, Hawkes Harbour alternates between periods of chilling darkness and more lighthearted, but oftentimes very much adult, escapades. As for the dark: I'm as surprised as anyone to see a tale of supernatural horror from this highly-acclaimed storyteller. It's a departure for her, to say the least, but she jumps in with both feet, and does not disappoint.'

'Italian Popular Tales, first published in 1885, was the first comprehensive collection of folktales from Italy published in English. It is meticulously organized by subject (fairy tales, tales of Oriental origin, etc.). This is not just a collection of stories, however, as each one is introduced and commented on in the text. The copious endnotes list the origins of each tale and cross-reference their various stock elements. They also include variants on several of the tales, some of them quite long, that were not included in the body of the book for whatever reason.' Find out what Faith Cormier thought of Italian Popular Tales, originally collected by Thomas Frederick Crane and now re-edited by Jack Zipes.

Faith also reviews the sequel to Peter David's popular Knight Life. Unfortunately, she didn't think as much of One Knight Only: 'It's wildly exciting, but as I read it I kept thinking, "Peter David is better than this." You have to understand, I'm a Peter David fan from way back. He's literate, he's funny, he tells rip-roaring action stories, he's full of bad puns, he can make the goriest scenes funny with a well-thrown throwaway line. So where the devil did this not-nearly-well-enough-disguised fable of September 11 come from?' An Excellence in Writing Award to Faith for this one!

Cat Eldridge finished up his interview in time to turn in a book review as well: 'I have definitely been spoiled this past six months in terms of truly exceptional reading. That's really 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. Now the Iron Sunrise novel is hard sf, which we don't review, but I will note that there are better than even odds that it'll get nominated for major award come this time next year with it winning a Hugo not out of the question. But before I digress, let me give you the succinct statement of why you should run out now and purchase this book: if you like the universe that was depicted in the Hellboy film, you are simply going to love the universe that Stross has created in The Atrocity Archives. Really. Truly.'

David Kidney has a pair of reviews for us -- and I hope we don't have to pay the subject of one of the books! 'It's wrapped in a tie-dye paper cover with a cartoon Wild Man Fischer leaping and singing. Incredibly lifelike! And inside there's a copy of a receipt that states 'I, Larry Fischer, acknowledge receipt of $200.00 cash as an advance for the comic book entitled The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, by Dennis P. Eichhorn and J.R. Williams. Larry Fischer will receive a 1/3 share of the creators' royalties on this book.' It's signed in scribbly hand by Larry Fischer, and dated 4-19-04. That's good, don't you think? After all, the Wild Man should make some money from the exploitation of his legend by these guys. The first story in the book is J.R. Williams' first hand account of meeting Fischer. It was at a comic book convention and the Wild Man was none too pleased that Williams had used his likeness in a comic book. 'He seemed to think he'd been exploited and had somehow been cheated out of money -- which wasn't really true: the small amounts of money Denny and I made on the the stories (which appeared in Real Stuff) hardly made up for the amount of time and effort we put into producing them. . . .'

David takes an Excellence in Writing Award for his second review, a look at a book by Robert Shaw: 'This delightful little volume, Classic Guitars, has six pages of introductory text in which Robert Shaw quickly tells the story of the guitar's development -- and then the pictures start. Just in time! The photographs are carefully constructed studio shots by Michael Tamborrino with the guitars standing upright, at attention, in front of a drapery. There are solo shots and sometimes a guitar is paired with its appropriate amplifier. Once in a while families of guitars are displayed together. Always crisply focused, centred and tempting to the eye of a guitar lover like me.'

Steven McDonald begins with a review of one of Tony Hillerman's Navajo themed mysteries, Hunting Badger. Steven says 'Hillerman's stories tend to be less about the mechanics of mystery story-telling than about the atmosphere and character -- if the Navajo elements were stripped away from the novel, not much would remain. This is far from a negative aspect -- Hillerman's Navajo mysteries really should be read for the characters and the settings, rather than the plots, moving beyond the mechanics of things into the spiritual and emotional interconnections. Indeed, there are many elements in these books that should stick with the reader beyond the end of the story, inspiring further exploration, whether it's into the history of the various interconnected tribes or the complexities of curing ceremonials.'

Steven wasn't as happy with his second subject, but he takes an Excellence in Writing Award for his astute review: 'Authors Robert Perry and Mike Tucker have turned in their share of 'Doctor Who' fiction in the past, although their abilities hover solidly around the journeyman level when it comes to the quality of the stories they tell. They are adept at pacing out a solid, if not memorable, novel-length story and keeping the reader reasonably entertained throughout. This, indeed, may be the problem with Companion Piece -- that it isn't a full-length novel. It reads very distinctly as though it was meant to be, with pacing that is looser than it should be for a story coming in at approximately 35,000 words and a tendency towards being frustratingly abrupt in places.'

'It is not often that one gets to read the memoirs of a peasant, because it's not often that a peasant writes a memoir. This particular peasant was Breton, which is, for those fascinated by a part of the world that is unique and mysterious, a plus. As editor Bernez Rouz points out in 'The Story Behind This Story,' Jean-Marie Déguignet was not a particularly nice man, and much of his story has been left out of this volume, particularly the paranoid ravings of his later life. As Rouz himself points out, 'these circumvolutions, which become unremitting from the ninth book on, make the reading an ordeal.' This volume, at just over 400 pages of print, has been rendered from nearly 4,000 pages of manuscript. What is left is of more than casual interest to anyone interested in Britanny or the history of the nineteenth century, particularly as told from the viewpoint of one who had little respect for authority and was not one of those by whose deeds history is made (or so we are told).' Robert Tilendis also earns an Excellence in Writing Award, for this review of Memoirs of a Breton Peasant.

Robert also reviews an anthology entitled High Mountains Rising: ''Perhaps all the stereotypes of Appalachian folklife ought to be discarded. The culture of Appalachia is neither unique nor monolithic.' Thus Michael Ann Williams summarizes her chapter on Appalachian folklore in High Mountains Rising, a broad, even panoramic study of the history, economy, and culture of the southern Appalachian Mountains. This is a point that is made over and over again in this volume, from C. Clifford Boyd Jr.'s beginning chapter on the Native American context of early Appalachia through H. Tyler Blethen's description of the early white settlers, and perhaps most pointedly in David C. Hsiung's examination of stereotypes and Michael Montgomery's discussion of the language of the region. What we think we know about the region discussed in this book -- the southern mountains from West Virginia to Georgia -- is not always, or even nearly always, the case.'

Finally, Elizabeth Vail takes home a not necessarily coveted, but sometimes unavoidable, Grinch Award for her review of Breathmoss and Other Exhalations: 'Ian R. MacLeod is an intimate lover of the run-on sentence, and his rambling paragraphs, coupled with sharp interjections of sci-fi terminology (some woefully unexplained, some revealed all too meticulously) make for one long, frustrating, and wholly unpleasant read. As an avid fantasy reader, I'm no stranger to foreign terms, made-up words and invented languages, but the sheer density of such make-believe in his stories is staggering. By the time one comes to the stretched-out end of one of these aggravatingly long-winded tales, the desire to comprehend the story itself is lost, replaced with a single-minded determination to safely navigate the thorny maze of MacLeod's prose.'

We're introducing both a new section and a new reviewer this week. The video game industry is rife with fantasy themed games, and it's high time that Green Man took a look at this new branch of storytelling aimed at the technically minded fan. We're happy to have new reviewer Anton Strout, something of an expert in the field of gaming, joining us. Of our first offering in the game section, Anton says 'When a video game weaves an amazing tale, I'm as happy as ebola in a monkey. You will find no greater tale than the first game that moved this reviewer to tears, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OoT). There are many factors that amass to make a game stupendously great but at the core of any modern title that is truly worth its salt is a well woven story. Ocarina of Time is near perfection not only in that regard, but in all others as well.'

Family features heavily in this week's live offering. Our newest staff member, Aurora White, is the daughter of staff stalwarts Barbara Truex and Chris White. She continues the Green Man legacy in this, her first review. Her subject is the dysfunctional family of Henry II of England as depicted in James Goldman's celebrated play, The Lion in Winter. 'This, she writes 'is a script filled with the manipulations and battles of wit among all the family members living under the roof (and the thumb) of King Henry II. They include his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, currently imprisoned by Henry but home on 'holiday leave,' their three sons, Richard, Johnny, and Geoffrey, all of whom are vying for the throne. And we mustn't forget Philip Capet or his sister Alais. The script itself is brilliantly written, fast-paced, and a challenge for any company of actors to pull off properly. The Portland Stage version of this amazing show unfortunately only 'broke even.''

Find out how the Portland Stage Company fell short by reading her review.

Jack Merry, at your service. Some besotted Irish-American band member was fighting with an equally-drunk member of a Welsh punk band over who deserved the snout of the wild boar from the feast we did last night for members of Local 564 of the International Guild of St. Nicholas (representing Santas, Santa's helpers, department store elves, tree trimmers, candle lighters, wreath crafters, gift wrappers for hire, chestnut vendors, Christmas pudding makers, sleigh drivers, carolers for hire, bell ringers, and related trades), which is why SPike's not here to do commentary as he had to take both of them down to pond for a very cold dunking. Last I saw he had each of 'em by the ear . . . or possibly by their nose rings. . . . 

But we have lots of music to discuss this week, so grab a pint of your favorite beverage and we'll get started. . . . 

Sarah Brightman's La Luna is reviewed by J.J.S. Boyce who leads off his review with a great rant that you should go read, but ends his review on a positive note: 'unlike some who purport themselves to be singers, Ms. Brightman is capable of carrying a song on her voice alone, without endless remastering, or dozens of back-up singers. I appreciate that. Anyone who is open to a broader range of musical choices, and can appreciate the alternately ethereal and powerful styles of these diverse genres, would do well to check this one out. Anyone who wants to hear what a real singer sounds like, ditto. Broaden your horizons, and let the music take you away.'

Unwired: Europe is one of dozens of albums that we've reviewed which World Music Network has released; mostly they are very good with just a few clunkers. Richard Condon in his Excellence in Writing Award winning review says this is one of the better ones: 'This is a delightful collection, with hardly a track that does not make me want to listen to the complete original recordings by the individual artists represented here. I have sometimes expressed misgivings about compilations by 'various artists,' particularly when there is little real musical connection between them, which is certainly the case here. 'Samplers' often try to be all things to all listeners and fail in the attempt. 'Completist' fans may buy them for the one cut by a favourite musician that is unavailable elsewhere (but there is nothing unpublished on this CD) and then quite probably re-record the piece concerned so that they do not have to listen to the rest of the CD every time. Other copies will be bought on impulse by purchasers who have heard one or more of the performers and will subsequently seldom, if ever, be played. In the case of this particular compilation, supporters of the worthy causes associated with it (Amnesty International and the New Internationalist magazine) may buy it as a gesture of support without necessarily intending to listen.'

David Kidney tackled four Blues albums (David Jacobs-Strain's Ocean or a Teardrop, Janiva Magness' Bury Him At The Crossroads. Paul Reddick's Villanelle, and Dan Treanor & Frankie Lee's African Wind). He sums up what he felt thusly: 'The four discs contained in these packages are of so distinctive, so well played and recorded, that I find it hard to choose one over the other. Okay, I have a predilection to the Reddick CD, but I am crazy for that raw, primitive blues sound. There's some of that on African Wind too. Then David Jacobs-Strain contains so much nice guitar work that . . . well what about Janiva Magness's amazing vocals. I give up. You're just going to have to get all four of these CDs. Thanks for that Northern Blues. Keep up the good work!'

David also looked at an album from Poco, Running Horse, which he was quite impressed with: 'That was the way it was with Poco. There was real sense of joy in their music, and they've been able to keep that joy through all the changes that have gone down over the years. All the personnel shifts, and label moves, health troubles and ego clashes, these guys still sound like they love making this fine country influenced rock music.'

John Langstaff Sings, The Lark in the Morn and other folk songs and ballads is from the folks at Revels which Langstaff founded. Now Peter Massey found Langstaff to be a bit of a surprise: 'I was surprised to learn that John Langstaff was born in 1920 in Brooklyn Heights, New York, only because he has a trained baritone voice and on these recording he sings with a 'very English BBC Radio' accent. As such his pronunciation is absolutely word perfect. Admittedly, this may not be the sort of thing we are accustomed to hearing these days from folk singers, as regional dialects have been revived to some extent by some performers. This is to give the music and words more warmth. John sings the tunes as noted down by Cecil Sharp, so it is left to the beauty of the tune to carry the song with little improvisation. I have to admit I found the whole of the CD somewhat mesmerising as I listened to his words, even though most of the songs I have heard many times before.'

Lars Nilsson found English dance sort-of-traditional band Whapweasel's Relentless to quite moving: 'My feet are tapping. The beat is steady, though changing with every new track. The drums and the bass drive the music along, while the cittern and keyboards add colour and atmosphere, and the melodeon and the saxophones give us the melody lines. The feel changes all the time, from the rocky to the laid back. Memories of The Committee Band, Edward II and others pop up from time to time.'

Karen Ashbrook and Paul Oorts' Celtic Cafe is an offering from Maggie's Music that Robert M. Tilendis was less than pleased with as his 'impression is that Celtic Café owes as much to 'new age' as it does to Celtic traditions, which makes for a pleasant CD, but not one that is going to stop you in your tracks.'

Sivan Perwer's Sivan Perwer is from Caprice Records, which releases both Nordic music and various regional musical genres such as Kurdish in this case. Robert had a confession about listening to this album: 'This album is one of those things that I have been avoiding. On first listening, not only was I not impressed, I was somewhat put off. (Chalk it up to a steady diet of music from everywhere except the West for perhaps too long; I wound up listening to Mahler and Depeche Mode as a form of rebellion.) However, duty dragged my nose to the grindstone, and I'm glad it did: Sivan Perwer is an exceptional experience.'

Ahhh, I love it when a reviewer nicely sums up a album in a simple, straight forward way as does Gary Whitehouse with this album: 'Dolorean's enigmatic Violence in the Snowy Fields is a refreshingly lovely record, simple in sound but not simplistic in its portrayal of complex emotions and relationships.' Now read his review to see why he came to this conclusion!'

Chris Stamey's Travels in the South found favour with Gary: 'Stamey is an indie-rock institution. He helped define rootsy independent rock in the late 1970s and early 1980s as part of The dBs. Since then, the Chapel Hill, North Carolina native has labored away under the radar as a solo act, in ensembles with like-minded players, and especially as a producer of alt-country acts over the past decade. Travels in the South, his first solo in more than a decade, finds him in a mood that's part nostalgic, part forward-looking.'

Charlie Robison's Good Times and Live Across Texas was two Texas artists that Gary found dramatically different. So different that I'd do injustice to his review to pick out a piece or two to quote here, so just go read his excellent review!

Giant Sand's ...is All Over the Map challenged Gary:'Though Gelb continually references popular culture, either obliquely or head-on, Giant Sand's music is about as close to anti-pop as you'll find. It demands much more of the listener than more standard fare, but it rewards accordingly.'

Now I must go off in search of SPike as the two musicians were muttering something about dunking him instead. I do hope that the ice hasn't formed on the Skating Pond yet or all concerned will be needing a hot toddy, a warm blanket, and a roaring fire before too long!

That's it for this first issue of November. Come back next week and, as promised, I'll have a review of Goblins, Cat Eldridge will have a review of Charles Vess' gorgeously illustrated The Book of Ballads, and Ryan Nutick will have an interview with Holly Black! See you soon!

 

 

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Updated 8 November 2004, 14:15 (RN)