There’s nothing for your comfort in the place where I was born
Someone’s got the roses ’cause my people got the thorns;
My people are the poor ones, their country made of stones
Their wealth is in persistence, in stories and in bones
Oysterband’s ‘One Green Hill’
Come in — I’m trying to find the top of my work table and so far I’ve not succeeded. It’s a mix of new books for the Estate Library, books I’m reviewing and a host of other things from audiobooks and journals with articles I’m interested in to samples of Library software which is a useless thing to send us as we use the Bibliotheca universalis™ software which learns what we need as things change here, or sometimes decides what’s needed even if we disagree…
Libraries, particularly old ones, are strange creatures full of folklore about themselves. Our Library has stories told about it of indexes gone feral, vanished Head Librarians, helpful ghostly apparitions, or even have hidden rooms. Like our Library, our reviews are also often strange creatures full of things you didn’t know existed…
A first novel in a new series by Genevieve Cogman found favour with Cat: ‘The Invisible Library combines storylines I love: alternate Earths, steampunk, and libraries. That it is well-written comes as a pleasant surprise, as usually the stone soup approach to writing fiction results in indigestion from too much grit and too little real flavour. This is really tasty!’
Gary looks at the first book in a series by a well-known author: ‘William Gibson, best known as one of the inventors of cyberpunk, has crafted a novel of the here and now, weaving together the threads of the unravelled 20th century into a thrilling tapestry of the 21st. Pattern Recognition is a tense, tautly constructed and darkly funny tale of post-9/11 angst and what may be the brave new world of globe-spanning Web-based community.’
We have another first from Robert — well, sort of: A collection of stories from the late Poul Anderson: ‘At long last, someone has begun the monumental task of issuing the late Poul Anderson’s classic stories of the Polesotechnic League in internal chronological order. Hank Davis, who compiled this volume (there are three volumes in total), has expanded the timeline to include some League prehistory and the series is being called The Technic Civilization Saga. Anderson was one of the luminaries of the Golden Age of science fiction, and his stories of the League rank with Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy series and Heinlein’s Future History as landmarks in the field.’
And speaking of traders — and we were, if you read the previous review — Robert has a look at a book that turns several genres on their heads: ‘To set oneself up as someone who can actually describe John Clute’s Appleseed is tantamount to hubris. . . . What if James Joyce had written Alice in Wonderland, with, perhaps, Philip José Farmer as the editor? Taking, mind you, the entire history of science fiction, complete with footnotes, as a subtext and adding touches of the history of Western civilization and fitting it into a nice little adventure/thriller?’
Elizabeth took in a viewing of the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust novel and found it to be an engaging, if not precisely faithful rendition: ‘Rare for a fantasy-novel adaptation, the film succeeds as a stand-alone movie, that is, it has a well-paced, coherent, smooth-flowing narrative that never leaves the book-shy members of the audience feeling left out. Fans of the novel may be disappointed (although hardly surprised) to find that Gaiman’s bittersweet, laid-back fairytale has been translated into a more conventional, happier movie, but more conventional doesn’t equal entirely conventional, and this engagingly quirky movie is still guaranteed to entertain.’
Jennifer L.S. Pearsal’s Big Book of Bacon gets reviewed by Gus: ‘Yes bacon. We use a lot of bacon at this Scottish Estate. Bacon in cheddar and bacon rolls, bacon and tomatoes in eggs, bacon in beef stew for a little extra flavour. Even one enterprising Kitchen staffer even created ice cream with smoky bacon and chocolate as its flavour. It actually tasted rather good. Well you get the idea. So when I discovered this book in a pile of galleys sent to us, I decided to give it a review.’
Jeff Koehler and Fajer Al- Kaisi’s Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea audiobook gets reviewed by Reynard: ‘Tea is my favourite beverage since I was resident in southern Asia some decades ago as it was much easier there to find good tea than it was to find even one cup of coffee that was anything but horrible except in the high-end tourist hotels which I generally didn’t frequent. ’
Muzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s Yugoslav Folk Songs which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’
John goes to an epic summer festival: ”What We Did On Our Holidays’ was the title of Fairport Convention’s second album for Island records in 1969. To paraphrase said title a little, what I did this year on my holidays was go to Cropredy in Oxfordshire for ‘Fairport’s Cropredy Convention’. But it wasn’t for the first time. In fact this was my eighth trip to Cropredy in the last ten years. So I am by no means a ‘Cropredy Virgin’. While it was familiar this year, it was also different, and exciting for reasons that will be revealed in the course of this review.’
For a break from the heat Gary reviews Black Ice by a piano jazz trio that’s international in flavor. A Dutch pianist leads the ensemble, backed by an Icelandic bassist and a Dutch drummer with experience in rock and pop as well as jazz. Like its namesake, Gary says this album has a shiny surface but hidden depths.
Some unusual things cross Robert’s desk, it seems — for example, a recording of John Adams’ The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies. (Yes, it’s music.) As Robert puts it, ‘Two things about John Luther Adams: Like other composers of his generation his path to composition followed some surprising twists — in his case, from rock bands to Frank Zappa to Edgard Varèse to Morton Feldman. Second, he lives in Alaska, where he relocated permanently in 1978.’ To find out why moving to Alaska is important, read on.
Another composer with — well, an unusual background is Eric Whitacre. Robert notes ‘Eric Whitacre is one of those contemporary composers whose background is as patchy as it is eclectic. He was thrown out of his high-school marching band, in which he played the trumpet, for being a troublemaker. As a teenager he played synthesizers in a technopop band, with the aim of being a rock star — or at least the dream. He then joined a chorus, reportedly by accident, at the University of Nevada, which he was attending as a Music Education major.’ Read how this all turned out in Robert’s review of Cloudburst and Other Choral Works.’
The Fey are great lovers of fashion so it’s no surprise that Donna got to look at a catalogue for one show by them which is our What Not this time, Eugenie Bird’s Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand: ‘This book is a trifle, a whimsy, a delightful confection. I was going to call it a “delightful bit of fluff,” but as a ten by twelve inch hardbound volume, it’s a wee bit too substantial to be called fluff. Also, at the asking price of forty dollars US, it packs quite a financial wallop for a trifle — but so does all fashion.’
So let’s finish off with the song whose opening lyrics led off this edition. This song first showed up on Alive and Shouting, a 1995 limited edition live album which was followed by Alive and Acoustic, another live album, several years later. ‘One Green Hill’ is performed here as part of their Bremen, Germany concert on the 3rd of April 1996.