These fragile, worn, faded, thin, cheap paper-bound books. They smelled of dust, and mould, and age. They smelled, faintly, of pee, and tobacco, and spilled coffee. They smelled like things which had lived. They smelled like history. ―
It’s a wet day here with constant rain and wind enhanced by the sound of thunder as extremely violent storms roll across the Estate. By no means a day to be outside, so Kinrowan Hall is busy from the Kitchen and Pub in the basement to the private flats for senior staff on the top floors of this ancient, sprawling building.
My Several Annies are managing Library affairs such as need doing so I’m putting together this Edition while sampling the just tapped Summerland Ale named after a certain novel by a baseball loving staffer and munching on some most excellent Riverrun cheddar cheese and a quite superb smoked garlic beef sausage.
My reading this week has been an old favourite, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country, so I’ve been listening to music from it as done by Zahatar on their Little Country album, plus music from Kathryn Tickell and Billy Pigg as well as Janey Little, the smallpiper in it, was inspired by them. Now let’s see what’s in this edition…
Brendan said he enjoyed and learned a lot from The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs, a serious and scholarly look at the subject. ‘Be warned, though, if you are in the least offended by words like “cunt,” “prick,” “fuck,” or “pubic,” or the various sentences that usually contain these words, then do not read this book.’
Cat, our Editor in Chief, found a lot to like in Seanan McGuire’s Indexing books: ‘I’m re-listening right now to one of those things that Seanan McGuire does so ever well: she takes a familiar story and make it fresh. … I first read it as novels when they came out some six years ago and then listened to it a few years later. Now being home confined due to three knee surgeries, I’m doing a lot of audiobooks and this was a series I wanted to revisit while working on other things.’
He says Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks features a protagonist somebody is trying to kill as he moves along a time-travelling road. As one does. ‘Zelazny really didn’t do plots all that well, but he was gifted at developed unique characters and settings. So, like so many of his novels, this one’s true strengths lies in the unique nature of the setting, combined with the character development…’
Diane says she learned a lot about classic children’s literature from the details about the authors’ lives detailed in Don’t Tell The Grownups. ‘If you ever wondered at the appeal of Kate Greenaway’s winsome lasses with their wispy Empire gowns, if you’ve ever contemplated the universal charm of Winnie the Pooh, if you’ve ever tucked The Secret Garden into your suitcase to peruse on vacation, then Alison Lurie’s book of essays is for you.’
Jack looks at the fist volume of a much praised anthology series: ‘One could do far worse for winter’s reading pleasure than any volume of the YBFH. I certainly have spent many a night when the snow was falling, the wind howling, and the temperature colder than I care to know, reading from one of these fine volumes. The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection was a good start to a series that has indeed proved to be the best of its kind, period. My kudos to Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling for an excellent start to what would be a long running series.’
Lahri highly recommends Hy Bender’s The Sandman Companion for all fans of Neil Gaiman’s epic graphic literature series. ‘If you fall into the avid fan category, then The Sandman Companion is an essential supplement, or concordance, to the series. Gaiman’s stories are thick with mythological characters and references from around the world. He also pays constant homage to his favorite authors, films and books, and he is a devil at hiding clues and foreshadows of future stories in earlier issues. Author Hy Bender is exhaustive in searching out these intricacies of Gaiman’s work and does an excellent job of putting them all into context.’
Cat to the Dogs was warmly regarded by Naomi: ‘To be honest, I owe Ms. Murphy an apology. The first paragraph of this novel elicited an audible groan from me, and some fast second thoughts. After all, who wants to read about a woodrat dangling (still warm by the way), from the mouth of the protagonist, even if he does happen to be a tomcat? Well, I persevered, and by the end of the first page was intrigued, if not engrossed, in the unfolding tale.’
An (un)novel set in a future Tel Aviv caught the interest of Richard as well: ‘Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is barely a novel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, it’s a loosely connected series of stories featuring a rotating cast of characters, and the gently ramshackle DIY nature of the narrative structure matches up perfectly with the DIY, maker-centric vision of the world that Central Station presents.’
Robert first has a look at what he hopes is the beginning of a new fantasy series by Tanya Huff, The Enchantment Emporium: ‘It’s coming on May Day, and the Aunties are all baking pies in preparation for the ritual, when the news comes that Allie’s Gran is dead, by way of a letter from Gran herself. She’s left Allie her business in Calgary — a small business, she writes, that has become crucial to the local community. It’s not until Allie gets to Calgary that she begins to realize just what community Gran means. And it’s in Calgary that things start to get really weird.’
He also has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’
Warner says that Stephen R. Bissette, Mark Morris, Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon and Stephen Vol’s Studio of Screams ‘is an impressive piece of horror writing, a love letter to a snapshot of the genre that simultaneously takes a look at the damaged nature of the culture which produced it. Rather than simply finding the sins in the past, this book holds that disturbing mirror up to the current events relating to said culture as well. Easily recommended to horror fans who have the slightest interest in the genre.’
Next up is Albert E. Cowdrey’s Revelation & Other Tales of Fantascience which ‘includes an assortment of stories by the author dating from the year 2000 up to 2015. They are varied in style and subject matter, yet each includes definite style familiar to the author’s work. A delightful introduction by Gordon Van Gelder helps to make clear the place Cowdrey holds in science fiction, reflecting the myriad different aspects of it and influences held. It is a useful piece thay sets the reader up for the contents.’
He says has a novel in translation for us that sounds very cool: ‘Ae-Ran Kim is a known quality as an author, however this first novel marks her as a skilled novelist as well. The literary community has greatly look forward to future work by this woman, as she manages to pull universal human experience from relatively niche aspects of the world. My Brilliant Life is a pretty easy volume to recommend, perhaps not for someone in the grips of a depressive episode, but for a reader who needs something that explorers and its own strange way affirms the human condition.’
He has a slim mystery for us to consider: ‘Gerry Spence is an old hand in crime writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Blood on the Table fits well into the legal-thriller genre, while also using the switch in era quite well. To anyone looking for a nice period legal thriller this would be an excellent volume to pick up.’
Denise sampled three jerkys and all were winners in her opinion. Read on for her tasting notes!
Beer infused beef jerky? She says it’s a winner: ‘Righteous Felon crafts a whole lot of jerky. But I sunk my teeth into their Victorious B.I.G. because I needed to know what beer infused jerky tasted like. This one’s a collaboration with PA’s Victory Brewing Company, using their Storm King Imperial Stout to infuse this jerky. So this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’
Next up is some very meaty jerky: ‘I get a carnivorous hankering every now and then. And when I’m too lazy to throw a hunk of animal muscle on the barbie, I grab some jerky. I love dried meat; it’s got a lot of flavor, a lot of protein, and while the majority of jerky chews like shoe leather, I tough it out. Because mmmm, meat. When I saw Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co. had Smoked Beef Chipotle Cracked Pepper Jerky that’s described as “premium meats smoked to tender perfection”, I knew I had to give ’em a try.’
Finally she finishes off with Golden Island’s Sriracha Pork Jerky: ‘Pork jerky! I’ve had beef and bison, but never pork. So I dug into this bag, curious…and hungry. The first piece out of the bag, and I got something that was stringy and thinly sliced. This is a jerky you’re gonna have to chew.’
Denise, a big fan of all things Willy Wonka since, like, forever, wasn’t sure what to expect from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. ‘I went into the theater hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. What I got was a new spin on the tale, a wicked little treat packaged for today’s audiences with a screenplay that is closer to Dahl’s book. Let’s just say I breathed a sigh of relief.’
Craig has some strong opinions about a certain superhero movie from the ’90s: ‘Director Sam Raimi’s first big-budget mainstream offering (after the success of the first two Evil Dead films) is arguably the best comic book superhero movie not actually based on a comic book superhero: Darkman.
David travels back in time to the ’60s with Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant, the movie inspired by Arlo Guthrie’s famous story song “Alice’s Restaurant Masacree.” ‘Arthur Penn took the bare bones of Arlo’s story and fleshed it out: he added characters, and motivations, and events that were far from Guthrie’s original, but he came out of it with a full bodied, honest portrayal of life in the ’60s.’
Faith does a bang-up job of reviewing several of the early entries in Frank Beddor’s series that began with The Looking Glass Wars and spun off the related Hatter M series. She starts with the original story, of which she says ‘The Looking Glass Wars is a revisionist fairy tale. You know the sort of thing: “What if ‘insert name of story here’ was based on something that really happened?” In this case, the idea is that the Alice Liddell who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was really Alyss Heart, heir to the throne of Wonderland, who ended up in Victorian England through a series of bizarre events that I will not spoil by explaining here, and was adopted by the Liddell family.’
She follows up with the sequel, which focuses on the machinations of Alyss’s evil Aunt Redd: ‘Seeing Redd is darker and more adult than The Looking Glass Wars. It’s a tinge more violent, and the violence is somewhat more graphic. (Sacrenoir is somewhere past creepy, and Blister is disgusting.) Still no sex beyond a couple of kisses, though. The doggerels of war live up to their name, and Redd on an ATV is priceless. This is definitely a good read.’
The Looking Glass Wars trilogy is accompanied by a comic mini-series Hatter M, and Faith reviewed the eponymous first issue here. It turns out, she says, that ‘…Alyss’s parents were killed in a coup staged by her nasty Aunt Redd, poster-child of Dark Imagination. Queen Genevieve’s dying command to her loyal bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, was to save Alyss. Hatter M only partly succeeded. He managed to send both Alyss and himself to Earth, but they were separated during the journey.’
Finally, in Hatter M, Volume Two: Mad With Wonder, Alyss’s would-be bodyguard gets caught up in the U.S. Civil War. ‘Unbeknownst to poor Hatter M, Alyss is safe in England, being raised by the Liddell family and befriending Lewis Carroll. (The fact that Carroll later betrayed her is immaterial. During this period they were very close.)’
Craig welcomed the return to form of Norwegian death metal band Turbonegro with their album Retox. ‘Though the songs by Happy-Tom and Euroboy form the basis of the experience, it is Hank von Helvete’s vocals that truly carry the day, deftly riding the line between parody and tribute. Tongue firmly in cheek, Turbonegro crafts solid hard rock songs with a combination of wit and sincerity.’ Be warned, it’s an X-rated sort of sincerity!
David was highly entertained by Tommy James & the Shondells’ 40 Years: the Complete Singles Collection 1966-2006. ‘The first disc is packed with familiar tunes, all the original hits, and while I wish the extended version of “Crimson & Clover” was here, the single version is the one they were playing on the radio when it first came out. The production is perfect for car stereos. Man, they could mix records back in the ’60s and ’70s!’
He raved a bit about Shemekia Copeland’s Never Going Back. ‘She surrounds herself with a great band, including Oliver Wood, Arthur Neilsen and Marc Ribot on guitars; bassist Ted Pecchio; John Medeski and Ike Stubblefield on Hammond organ and Kofi Burbridge on Wurlitzer piano, she sings a dozen soulful numbers in a voice a bit higher and clearer than long time fans might be used to.’
Deborah takes a look at two somewhat related releases, Wake the Dead’s Blue Light Cheap Hotel and Camogie’s Celtic Americana. The former is a Grateful Dead tribute and the latter a Celtic flavored singer-songwriter disc. ‘The Dead covers on Blue Light Cheap Hotel run an interesting gamut of well-known to relatively obscure. They start with a cover of “Sugar Magnolia,” and I have to say, leading with this wasn’t the best choice. … Luckily, it picks up from there.’
Donna found the music on the Palestinian oud ensemble Le Trio Joubran’s Majaz “… hypnotic and mysterious. I imagined myself sitting in a coffee house somewhere in one of those ancient Middle Eastern cities (I thought of Damascus, but that’s just my current passion) with maybe a single barefoot dancer circulating around the room. I could almost smell the frankincense burning and see the candles flickering in the wall recesses.’
Gary says Ben Goldberg’s Everything Happens To Be., with a front line of Goldberg on clarinets and Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, combines jazz ideas with a lot of experimentation. ‘That unexpected pairing of clarinet and tenor up front is what initially drew me to this release. It jumps right out at you from the very beginning on the opening track “What About.” It’s a long, slow, emotional work that plays with the form of klezmer and maybe even the idea of sevdalinka.’
Gary’s taken another stroll down memory lane. This time he gives us his take on what he considers a long forgotten gem, Michael Murphey’s third LP, simply titled Michael Murphey. ‘I have to confess that I first became aware of Murphey when nearly everybody else in the listening public did, with the release of his fourth album Blue Sky Night Thunder and its multi-platinum single “Wildfire.” It was a new sound at the time, a polished version of what we now call Americana, filled with lushly recorded, very romantic songs. When I started digging into his back catalog I realized the earlier, rougher albums were much more to my liking.’
From the archives, Gary takes a deep look at Tom Waits’ three-disc set Orphans: ‘These days, the typical Waits album contains three basic kinds of works: blues-based stomps, shouted out in a voice that sounds like Sasquatch gargling gravel, backed by clattering and banging vocal-beatbox percussion; slower, quieter, usually piano-based songs of romantic longing or innocence lost or destroyed; and … well, a mulligan stew of other stuff — spoken word pieces, poetry, noise experiments and curious instrumentals. For this set, those three types have each been given their own disc, subtitled Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards.
Scott unexpectedly found himself enjoying Ragnarok and Land, two albums from Týr, a group from the Faroe Islands that makes what they call “folk metal” music. ‘I can’t really say I’m much of a metal fan, and the first time I played Ragnarok I really didn’t know what to make of it. By the third or fourth listen, though, I was totally digging it. People who simply don’t like any heavy metal won’t embrace Týr, but there’s something to be said for any record that rocks hard and has depth at the same time.
This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience…)
There are bands for which I’ve a deep liking for pretty much everything they done and so it is with Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ which I’ve heard playing off and on over the past forty years. It’s certainly an upbeat, feel good summer song much like ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s. It was recorded forty years ago this August at the Park West in Chicago.
The studio version was released on Chicago V in 1972 and peaked on the Billboard charts at number three which is bloody impressive. It was lovely enough that I’ve never gotten tired of it. But I’ve prattled on enough about it, so here’s the song for you to have the pleasure of hearing performed live.