“Anyway, death is so final, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” asked Richard.
“Sometimes,” said the Marquis de Carabas.
If you look down to the bottom floor of the central well of the Library, you’ll see our card catalog on the wall nearest the circular staircase. Yes, a physical card catalog, as I feel it’s important for the Several Annies, my sort of Library Apprentices, to understand the relation of books to each other and nothing does that better than a physical tracking system. The card catalog represents one hundred and seventy years of the constant evolution of this Library and the entire Kinrowan Estate by extension.
Got a subject you’re interested in? Oh, cider making? Our card catalog has a précis of each book on that subject, the year published, the author(s) and of course where it’s located, as the Library has myriad locations, from the cookbook collection housed just outside the Kitchen to the botanical books that Gutmansdottir, the naturalist studying The Wild Wood, has in her work space, and the extensive fiction collection on the wall behind us.
A good review works like that as well. It, when done right, not only helps you in telling if you’ll be interested in seeking it out (and some of our reviewed books take a bit of effort to find as many are long out of print, or are of works done on presses long gone) but also places it within the greater landscape of literature itself. And our music reviews also do this, so that you know where Dexy’s Midnight Runners falls in the history of the 70s Birmingham, England, music scene and why their ‘Come On Eileen’ caught on with the MTV listening public.
All of our literary and related reviews in this section this time are of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. To my not surprise given its popularity among the staff here, I discovered that we’ve reviewed it quite a number of times – as a book of course multiple times, as an audiobook several times, as a BBC series, as a graphic novel and even as a theatre production, so I decided to bring all of those together here.
April leads us with the graphic novel that was made of it: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’
Cat is up next with a recently released full-cast production audiobook of Neverwhere: ‘I spent nearly four very entertaining hours listening to the latest interaction of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a full cast production that I swear was completely rewritten yet again for this production. Gaiman would win the 2015 BBC Audio Drama for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Drama for this series. He certainly deserved it!’
He also looks at Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text: ‘There are any number of editions, many in the author’s preferred edition, of Neverwhere from inexpensive paperbacks to really costly hardcover editions signed by Gaiman. And of course, it exists as a digital publication in the same author’s preferred edition, not to mention as a graphic novel, a BBC series which is interesting if flawed, and a full cast audio-drama, which is splendid. But the edition I own, well, aside from the audio-drama and an ebook, is the illustrated edition with artwork by Chris Riddell.’
Cat has a small treat for us to finish off his reviews: ‘Neil Gaiman’s “How The Marquis Got His Coat Back” is a fun appetiser of a story though it really should be put back into Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text where it really belongs instead as an appendix at the end, or as a separate audio story, as it’s really just a chapter within that greater story. It’s wonderfully played here by the cast of Paterson Joseph, Bernard Cribbins, Samantha Beart, Adrian Lester, Mitch Benn and Don Warrington with a special appearance by Neil Gaiman as he always does in his radio productions.’
The audiobook version of this novel has a second review by Kestrell that starts off this way: ‘I’m not a big fan of audiobooks. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy having someone read to me, because I do — I’m even married to a man who reads to me as often as I let him.’ Now read her review to see why Gaiman narrating it won her over!
She had some worries about a stage production of this novel before she saw it: When I sat down to view Lifeline Theatre’s live stage production of Neverwhere, I had my doubts. Works of fantasy offer a particular challenge for live theatre in that the fantastic often translates poorly to the limitations of the flesh and the material world, resulting in bad fur suits and the omission of many favorite passages.’
Rebecca, who loved the novel, watched the BBC series that became that novel. Did she like it? Let’s see: ‘I enjoyed the show. I really did, despite all the things I’ve tutted over in this review. And if you’re a Gaiman fan, or a Dr. Who fan looking for something new, or you like urban fantasy and don’t mind the BBC’s style, you’ll probably like it too. But if you’re addicted to The O.C. or Friends or some other shining example of American TV, you’ll probably be happier skipping it.’
Richard finished off these reviews by giving us a second opinion on the novel: ‘Neverwhere is the story of a not-quite-nebbish named Richard, who is a perfectly archetypal young executive. He’s got a suitably generic job, a suitably socially climbing fiancee and a suitably mundane existence being harried along by the demands of each. Richard’s is exactly the sort of life that could do with a swift kick of magic, and that’s exactly what he gets.’ Now read his review to see why he thinks this tale of London Below is worth reading.
As a woman who grew up snarfing on all sorts of Japanese Kit Kat bars (#HapaLife), Denise decided to see how the other half lives by eating her way through several flavors Hershey’s has on offer in the States. First off, Kit Kat Duos Mint and Dark Chocolate. ‘… this one seems to be the one that would play well even in Peoria. Mint and dark chocolate. Sounds refined, no? Yes.’
Next up, she nibbled on Kit Kat Duos Mocha and Chocolate, which seemed to whet her appetite for a Mocha Frappe. At least for a little while. ‘And yeah, I understand that mocha and chocolate is basically coffee, chocolate, and chocolate. But I’m okay with that.’
Wandering into the world of Limited Edition flavors, Denise decided to try Kit Kat Key Lime Pie, a flavor she had her reservations about, but seemed to be pleasantly surprised by. ‘This particular combo of sweetness, umami-esque lime flavor, and silky texture is a bit too much all in one sitting. But that’s okay. That means I have some for tomorrow. Or later tonight.’
Lastly, Denise decided to try the Kit Kat Cereal Candy Bar, and has been requesting a GMR Purple Heart ever since. (I hate to tell her, but we don’t have those…perhaps Blodeuwedd can work some feline charms on her, and snuggle the pain away.) ‘DAMN this smells like candy plastic. You know what I’m talking about; when a food has so many chemical reactions going on that all you can think of is an ’80s Strawberry Shortcake doll and that “strawberry” smell. But with more plastic.’
Big Earl rhapsodizes about Doc Watson and David Holt’s Legacy in this archival review: ‘Jaw-dropping playing, great songs, fantastic stories, and more than enough yucks to keep the tempo up, all wrapped up in a beautiful package. And cheap to boot! Strongly recommended.’
Gary steps outside his usual comfort zone to review some actual rock music! And by a band from New Zealand, no less. ‘So, rock and roll. Two guitars, bass and drums. Loud, messy and emotional. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I still need it. And who better right now to provide the catharsis of rock and roll than Auckland, New Zealand’s The Beths?’
‘If you like sharply poetic lyrics in aggressively engaging musical settings, don’t sleep on this one,’ says Gary of The Felice Brothers’ new album From Dreams To Dust. ‘The Felice Brothers have been on my radar for years but I confess this is the first I’ve checked them out. I’m regretting my omission. This is smart and catchy music.’
Gary was very favorably impressed with Volume 16 of Naxos World’s Folk Music of China series, this one featauring Folk Songs of the Dong, Gelao & Yao Peoples. ‘Anyone who likes multipart ensemble singing with intricate, close harmonies will find this disc absolutely indispensable. I’m a big fan of the choral music of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and the music of the Dong and Yao people on this disc rivals anything found there.’
Percussionist André Ferrari is a part-time member of the Swedish folk ensemble Väsen, and nyckelharpa virtuoso Olov Johansson a full-time member since it was founded in 1989 or thereabouts. Gary reviews a new recording by Ferrari and Johansson called In Beat Ween Rhythm. ‘Playing nothing but the nyckelharpa, percussion and some electronic synthesizers, they’ve made a program of highly engaging music rooted in tradition but thoroughly modern.’
In her archival review, Jo was pleasantly surprised by a Celtic harp recording. ‘In general, harp recordings can capture a good bit of the enchantment of the instrument, but rarely do they come close to the magic of hearing a live harp performance. Jennifer White’s Clarsach sounds more like sitting in someone’s living room listening to them play harp live than any other I have experienced.’
From deep in the Archives comes this extensive review by Kelly of Howard Shore and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s The Lord of the Rings soundtracks. ‘Let me lay my cards on the table: As far as I am concerned, Howard Shore’s work on The Lord of the Rings constitutes not just the finest individual aspect of the films themselves, but also one of the finest efforts in film scoring of the last two decades, if not the finest.’
Also from the archives, Patrick took a deep dive into Jimmy Young’s Pipe-works, an album featuring the Scottish smallpipes, Northumbrian pipes and border pipes, and dedicated to a specific ship. ‘But this album does more than bring together different types of bagpipes. It also doubles as a tribute to Greenpeace’s first “Rainbow Warrior,” which was scuttled by members of the French Secret Service. … As such, Pipeworks is at once celebratory and melancholy…’
For our What Not this time, Robert takes us on a tour around Lincoln Park Zoo’s South Pond Nature Boardwalk: ‘ If you’re visiting Chicago and need a break from the museums, architecture tours, shopping, and theater, check out South Pond in Lincoln Park, just south of Lincoln Park Zoo, for a nice relaxing hour or two. It’s another restoration project in the Park, this one under the auspices of the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, and it’s come along quite nicely — I call it “the Lakefront, BC — Before Chicago”.’
Now lets finish off with ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, a Richard Thompson penned song which was first on his Rumor and Sigh album, as covered here by the all female Red Molly band. It was assumed when this song was released by them as there’s a red haired Molly in the song that they’d named the band after this song but instead it’s because there’s a red headed Molly in the band. We’ve reviewed several of their recordings including Love and Other Tragedies.