There are no happy endings. There are no endings, happy or otherwise. We all have our own stories which are just part of the one Story that binds both this world and Faerie. Sometimes we step into each others stories, perhaps just for a few minutes, perhaps for years – and then we step out of them again. But all the while, the Story just goes on.” ―
Food often has a story attached to it, as does the chili prepared by Mrs. Ware and her excellent staff for for the eventide meal tonight. The beef in it is sourced from High Meadow Farm, the other proteins are beans and corn grown here, the chilis gifted to us by The Coyotes, an all-woman Celtic band from Arizona who stayed and played here a Winter past, and the exquisite spicing is … well what goes into the spicing is known by Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, but otherwise it’ll remains a secret to everyone save our Head Cook.
The Sleeping Hedgehog for August of 1880 says a traveller from the Southwest USA showed the Head Cook of the time how to make this chili. It’s been made every winter since and is always quite popular among everyone here. We added grated cheddar cheese to it when a neighbouring farming estate started up a cheesery between the Wars and we traded honey and other farm products for it.
Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this Edition…
Andrea looks at an Appalachian-set tale: ‘Ghost Riders is the latest novel in Sharyn McCrumb’s “Ballad Series.” Ghost Riders is different from the others in the series in that there is no mystery (in the “mystery novel” sense of the word) to be solved. In the other books, the storyline goes back and forth between past and present, the stories linked sometimes obviously and sometimes tenuously. Usually in the “modern” story there is a mystery which the story in the past fleshes out or provides with a new insight. In Ghost Riders there are two separate tales from the past and a storyline set in the present. The narratives set in the past are linked by a chance meeting but still remain separate tales. One of these stories has a direct influence on the present. There are various characters, past and present, whose lives intertwine briefly in interesting and occasionally surprising ways.’
April was fascinated by Marija Gimbutas’s The Living Goddesses, in which the Lithuanian American academic outlined her controversial theories about goddess worship in prehistoric Europe. ‘Gimbutas has chosen a mix of Neolithic and Indo-European cultures to demonstrate the growth, assimilation, and eventual decline (but persistence) of the goddess in religion,’ April says. ‘Well written, and easy to read despite the richness and breadth of the material, this text is invaluable as an introduction to both Gimbutas and study of Neolithic goddess worship.’
Cat looks at the urban legend retold yet again, of a ghost girl asking for a ride home on the anniversary of her death: ‘Seanan McGuire decided to tell her own ghost story in Sparrow Hill Road which, like her novel Indexing, was originally a series of short stories published through The Edge of Propinquity, starting in January of 2010 and ending in December of that year. It appears they’ve been somewhat revised for this telling of her ghostly narrator’s tale but I can’t say how much as I’ve not read the original versions.’
David reviewed one of many biographies of Frank Zappa, Kevin Courrier’s Dangerous Kitchen. ‘Courrier has provided an eminently readable volume that covers every aspect of Zappa’s life. He covers the albums one song at a time; he provides brief biographies of all the musicians who came and went through Zappa’s bands. He is respectful, but maintains enough distance that the reader can still make up his or her own mind about Zappa’s achievements.’
Donna turned in a comprehensive review of two books of ancient history in the Islamic world, Hugh Kennedy’s When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World, and Justin Marozzi’s Tamerlane. ‘In many respects, these books complement each other in helping the reader gain an understanding of Central Asia and the Middle East during the Middle Ages. Of the two, I would say without hesitation that When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World has a much more scholarly foundation.’
Iain was, perhaps not surprisingly, favorably impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘We’ve reviewed damn near every book that Patricia A. Mckillip has published over the many decades she’s been writing. Indeed the editing team is updating the special edition we did on her so that it can be republished this Autumn, as many of us here think of her as befitting the Autumn season. And so it is that I’m reviewing what I think is the first academic work devoted to her.’
Jennifer takes a look at a series she wishes she’d discovered sooner, namely Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series: ‘Once in a while I find out I’ve missed something important in the book world, some classic that’s been out forever that I somehow never noticed when it was first published, something that turns out to be wonderful. Then once in a very great while I find something I wish I’d read thirty years before it was ever published.’
Michael put a lot of work into an omnibus review of several of the early installments of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series. ‘Over the course of ten volumes now, Steven Brust has charted the career of Vlad Taltos, skipping back and forth out of sequence to give us his beginnings, his endings, his rise and fall within the Jhereg organization. We’ve followed his progress through life and death, war and peace, prosperity and exile. And we’ve truly grown to know this extraordinary man, in his own words, through his own voice.’
Robert has a look at one of a series that has become rather more than a mere series. In this case, it’s Kage Baker’s The Machine’s Child: ‘What Baker is doing is putting together an extended mega-novel with all of time and all of humanity as its focus. By this stage of the game, it’s become something on the order of Wagnerian opera, but accomplished with characters and relationships rather than with musical leitmotifs.’
Stephen says of an Alan Garner work ,which is definitely aimed at adults, that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’
Jack had mixed feelings about a DVD featuring a concert by one of his favorite bands, Little Feat: ‘ …if you’re looking for a showcase for technical state of the art in DVD production, this isn’t it, as the video sucks and even the audio could be better in places. But if you’re in for a look at one of the coolest bands performing in concert ever, Little Feat: Rockpalast Live more than earns its chops.’
Now here’s a classic for spring! Mia reviewed Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of the 1947 stage musical Finian’s Rainbow, with Fred Astaire in his last leading role. ‘Finian’s Rainbow is a particularly tricky movie to review. Is it a lighthearted musical romance? Or is it something deeper?’ she ponders. ‘The sweeping indictment of racism is more than enough reason for me to enjoy the film. The performances are uneven but enjoyable.’
Mia says she was obsessed with unicorns in 1986 when Ridley Scott’s Legend debuted on the big screen: ‘And so, when Ridley Scott and Universal produced a movie that featured unicorns, not to mention Tom Cruise fresh from his breakthrough in Risky Business, I and zillions of other young girls lined up to see a film that would surely become a fantasy classic.’ Read her review to find out what she thought about it.
April has some chocolate cups for us: ‘Founded by Paul Newman’s daughter Nell in 1993, and once a division of Newman’s Own, Newman’s Own Organics has been a separate company since 2001. Its focus is, unsurprisingly, on certified organic foods. The company provides a limited range of organic snacks, beverages, olive oil, vinegar and pet foods. Up for review are three of the five varieties of chocolate cup candy available: dark chocolate with peanut butter, milk chocolate with peanut butter and dark chocolate with peppermint.’
Marcel Desaulniers’ Celebrate With Chocolate really pleased Mia: ‘This is one of the most sensually exciting cookbooks that I’ve ever had the pleasure of adding to my collection. Aside from being an accomplished chef and restauranteur, Desaulniers is a very fine writer. Celebrate With Chocolate is not just a collection of recipes, it’s a good read.’
Robert got a treat this week — Chocolat Frey’s Chocobloc Dark 72% with Honey-Almond Nougat: ‘Chocolat Frey AG was founded in 1887, and is presently the number one chocolate in the Swiss retail market. Like all good chocolatiers these days, Frey is environmentally and socially conscious, which extends not only to its procurement of raw materials, but to its conservation-minded manufacturing and shipping.’
April recommends Neil Gaiman’s slim YA graphic novel Odd and the Frost Giants: ‘It’s a delightful treat, though, as Gaiman’s characterizations of the denizens of Norse mythology are sharp and witty (the Frost Giant’s dismayed opinion of the lovely Freya’s true personality is particularly amusing) and anyone who’s ever felt out of place will identify with Odd’s coming of age.’
David had nothing but praise for the special edition of Joe Sacco’s Palestine: ‘Bound in hard cover, with a colour plate on the front cover, and embossed gold titles, the book just feels rich. It is solidly put together, with the original nine isues of the comic all joined, plus a wealth of support material, like Sacco’s rough sketches, some photographs used as source material and some additional text to fill it all out. I can’t imagine that it would be possible to assemble a more complete edition.’
David also reports back on Kafka, a graphic presentation of that author’s life and works. ‘Kafka is a brief, but fairly concise look at the Czech writer’s life and work. Robert Crumb provides the illustrations while David Mairowitz tells the story in text. The text is well-informed and blends biography with Kafka’s literary work, placed in context. This is a clever and eminently workable format. Especially if you believe, as these collaborators do, that Kafka’s fictions were images of his own life.’
Chuck goes on a journey with Celtic harpist Jo Morrison to explore The Three Musics. ‘There is an air of scholarship about The Three Musics. Morrison has set out to describe an aspect – or, perhaps, a triad of aspects – of Celtic music and has succeeded in doing so. She could have done more explaining the three types of music in the liner notes. Nevertheless, she has not let the lesson overmatch the music and has created a fine recording in doing so.’
Chuck also reviewed Jo Morrison’s next album A Waulking Tour of Scotland, and he liked it a lot. ‘Inspired (and how!) by a tour of Scotland that Morrison took with her husband, she again brings together many other musicians to join her for a track or several. She includes a number of songs, as well as tunes, mostly sung in Scots Gaelic. By the way, waulking was the process by which people would soften cloth, usually tweed, by pounding it on a table. The waulking songs, several of which are included on this CD, were often used to keep the work from becoming tedious.’
Deborah found a lot more than nostalgia in Snapshots, a new album from June Millington, one of the founders of the rock group Fanny. ‘The range of styles on Snapshots is so diverse, I got whiplash in the best possible way. From classic high multi-layered harmony (no autotune here!) to early 80s echoes of David Bowie in “Grace,” to the hard-won and well-earned rage rap of “Eyes In The Back Of Our Heads” (more on this one shortly) to the pure Millington honesty and feminism of “Girls Don’t Dream (The Big Lie),” she jumps with an energy that, at six years her junior, I can only envy.’
Gary enthusiastically reviews Albat Alawi Op.99, from the Tel Aviv-based DIY band El Khat. ‘On the majestic “Ma’afan” we hear a tin drum setting the rhythm, joined by a bowed violin played by guest musician Elad Levi, known as the foremost Jewish violinist of Andalusian music. Then the rest of the ensemble joins in, its string-and-horn melody reminiscent of a Turkish court orchestra to my ears. The production, the vocals, the whole attitude, however, reminds me of ’80s Southwestern punk rock – Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Black Flag.’
Gary reviews the unique album called The Liquified Throne of Simplicity from the Slovenian trio Širom, which he liked quite a bit. ‘One of the features I like best is its utterly organic nature. Listeners might assume that some of the sounds made by this trio are electronic or synthesized, and in fact I did so myself. But everything is done on acoustic instruments, some of them invented and handmade, plus some non-vocal singing by Ana and Samo. And as far as I can tell there’s not much or any double-tracking going on, although perhaps some looping.’
Gary was intrigued by an album entitled bit by bit from Toronto singer-songwriter Evan J Cartwright, who’s better known as a drummer for various indie bands. ‘To his circular lyrics and experimental arrangements Cartwright adds the element of musique concrete (which seems to have become quite a thing this year), nestling these songs amid field recordings of birdsong, church bells and other ambient sounds he’s collected over the past few years of touring. They’re not random, either, but play into the album’s overall theme and structure.’
‘Catalan jazz, combining the blues-based American idiom with flamenco, is having a moment, and Manel Fortià is in the thick of it,’ Gary says of Arrels, the new album from Manel Fortià & Libérica. ‘The result is an exciting update for both jazz and flamenco, at least the way Fortià’s ensemble Libérica does it, mixing flamenco, folk songs and free jazz.’
‘Iberi is a Georgian men’s choir led by Buba Murgulia, a former rugby player and lifelong singer,’ Gary says. ‘That’s the Georgia the country, which coincidentally is in a region that’s very much on everybody’s minds right now.’ He gives a glowing review to the polyphonic singing on Iberi’s new release called Supra.
Some albums by “various artists” are better than others. Gary says I Am The Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey, is one of the better ones. ‘On first listen, what struck me is that nearly all of these musicians used a full band to capture what Fahey did with just his guitar. This approach could open up Fahey’s music for some folks, particularly those who wouldn’t sit down and listen to a whole album of guitar instrumentals.’
Our What Not is an action figure who’s definitely not a hero: ‘As I noted on my review of the Lady Thor figure in this series, ‘No, I don’t collect that many of these figures, despite it seeming that I might, given the number of reviews I’ve written concerning them. Right now I’ve less than a handful of them, largely because I don’t find most of them all that interesting and some that I do find interesting are way overpriced, such as the female stars for the Game of Thrones. Seriously, sixty to a hundred dollars for a five point five inch tall figure is simply crazy!’ But occasionally a figure is both interesting and reasonably priced as we have here in Man-Thing.’
So let’s have some lively music to finish out this edition. It’s a soundboard recording of Dervish at the Festate Chiasso in Switzerland nigh unto Summer Solstice in 2006 performing ‘Red Haired Mary’. You’ll be getting more cuts from that splendid concert as times goes by as the whole concert is a joy indeed.