Theatre of The Mind: Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn

The best known of the many, many works that Peter S. Beagle has written is this novel, his second novel, written way back in 1968. (A Fine and Private Place was his first, written eight years earlier.) The story itself is one told over and over, as our reviewer notes in her review: ‘The plot is a classic quest structure — an impossible goal, a motley company, heroes, villains, monsters, magic, desperate chances, bittersweet success. The Last Unicorn in the world sets out from her enchanted wood to discover the fate of her kin. She finds danger and challenges. She acquires companions. She battles evil, loses, suffers a form of exile, then wins and frees the unicorns. In the process she becomes, briefly and agonizingly, human. Then she goes home.’

What makes it is that Beagle is every bit as good as, say Charles de Lint or Jane Yolen in making an oft-told story fresh. And our Theatre of The Mind has the author reading the first chapter of this novel, a treat indeed! So let’s listen now to this beginning of a superb tale.

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Preview: Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer: The Flower of Muscle Shoals

Cahalen Morrison already has released one of my favorite albums of 2014, his excellent collaboration with Eli West I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands. Now comes news of a forthcoming release by Morrison and his new band Country Hammer. It’s called The Flower of Muscle Shoals and it’ll be out August 19 on Free Dirt Records here in the U.S.A. Where his earlier recording was steeped in acoustic old-time and bluegrass styles, this new record draws on the dusty country-western music he grew up with in New Mexico. He’s now living in Seattle and newly married – the album’s title is a tribute to his bride, a native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama – and his band includes some primo Northwestern country musicians including Country Dave Harmonson of Zoe Muth’s Lost High Rollers on pedal steel. You’ll see him on this video from Seattle radio station KEXP, a performance of that title track that also features Portland’s Caleb Klauder on mandolin. If you love classic country-western music, this will whet your appetite for The Flower of Muscle Shoals.

Review: Maria Kalaniemi: Ahma

We have another CD from Finnish accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, titled Alma. Kim Bates says it best, I think:

I am always amazed that these instruments are so much maligned by those who just don’t get the variety of styles being played or the richness of this instrument. There is more to the accordion than passionate Parisian ditties, raucous Celtic reels or those clunky polkas one can hear in all-night drives across Wisconsin. Now, there are references to some of these styles on Ahma, a snippet here or a reminiscent phrase there, but this is a lovely example of Finnish accordion music that is dance oriented, yet creatively produced and arranged for listening.

For a blow-by-blow, so to speak, read her review.

Review: Mike Craver: Bosh & Moonshine

We seem to have another one of those reviews of another one of those musicians who doesn’t fit neatly — or even barely — into a category. Let Lars Nilsson give you the set up:

Bosh & Moonshine contains songs from four musicals, all about a troupe of music hall entertainers touring the Midwest in the 1880s. Everything on the record is sung and played by Craver himself, quite an achievement, but add that I was convinced it was a group of musicians and singers before I read the sleeve notes and you will be even more impressed.

Sound fascinating? Well, for all you fans of the unclassifiable, there’s more, so read Lars’ review.

Story: Lammas

I’m here, filling in as your host in the Pub this afternoon at the last minute for Janey, the Cornwall smallpiper, so that she can put the final flourishes on some dance tunes she’s been writing for a contradance that we’re doing in honor of Lughnasa.

Yes, Lughnasa (or Lammastide) is fast approaching. As always, we at the Kinrowan Estate will be celebrating this feast for Lugh of the Long Hand in our usual way: lots of food, drink, and music. And there’ll certainly be a story or two told by one of our storytellers.

Bjorn tells me that the strawberry mead made with the Border berries, the ones that start out red and end up white when fully ripe, is perfect for decanting. That, along with the India Pale Ale he named Riverrun IPA in honor of the hops they raised specifically for us, should do nicely to quench our thirsts.

Being as it’s a feast of ingathering, as well as a feast of bread (lammas), it’s a great time to meet old friends and find new ones. We’d love to see you there tomorrow, but if you can’t make it, bake some fresh bread and see if you can’t find a copy of Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz.

Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (editors): The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, 5th Annual Edition

They just kept getting better, from all reports. I think our reviewer for the fifth annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror said it best:

Overall, the selections in this Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror intrigued me, charmed me, frightened me and made me think. Ultimately, this collection (the first I have read cover to cover) has shown me why many readers and critics consider this year’s best anthology of genre work to be the best in the field. I highly recommend it not just to readers curious about what was hot in 1991, but readers who like their fantasy and horror edgy, daring and thoughtful.

If you want see what led to this conclusion, read the review.

Essay: Jim Frenkel on The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror

Theere was once a truly great anthology series called The year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (well the first were called Year’s Best Fantasy). In addition to the short stories, supplemented by a list of honorable mentions, each edition includes a number of retrospective essays by the editors and others such as Charles de Lint.

For most of its extended run, it was edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, with Windling primarily responsible for the fantasy and dark fantasy content and Datlow for the horror content. From the sixteenth edition (covering works first published in 2003), Windling’s role has been taken by the team of Kelly Link and Gavin Grant. The cover art for every edition was done by Thomas Canty. Now the summation by me misses perhaps the most important person in this series, and that would be the packager, Jim Frenkel, as he was responsible for picking the editors, the cover illustrator, and delivering the finished product to St. Martin’s Press for publication.

So it’s well worth your time to read his essay on how Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror came to be. You can read it here.

Review: Angela Carter (editor): Old Wives’ Fairy Tale Book

We’ve touched on this before, how fairy tales, especially as rendered by writers such as Hans Christian Andersen in the nineteenth century, were devoted to reinforcing solid bourgeois values, especially in terms of acceptable behavior for boys and girls: boys were adventurous, brave, sometimes foolhardy, but always plucky and victorious; girls were shy, demure, not prone to adventures, and usually fearful (assuming beasts and/or ogres and the like).

Then came the twentieth century and the women’s movement. Aside from its activities in the political sphere, “Women’s Lib” had an impact on literature in a big way. Fairy tales weren’t spared, either. There have been a number of collections of “feminist” fairy tales and folk tales (I differentiate because folk tales have a different history and different purposes, although there is sometimes considerable overlap), ranging from anthologies of tales with female heroes to collections of retellings, both in prose and poetry, by feminist authors.

And guess what we found in the Archives: a collection edited by Angela Carter of fairy and folk tales from around the world featuring women as the protagonists, told in their original form, more or less, with their original flavor. Read Michael Hunter’s review to get the feel of the Old Wives’ Fairy Tale Book.

From the Letters Bag: Life Is Like That, Especially for Reviewers

Aha! A disagreement! (You know it had to happen.)

From: Gregory Garrison
Subject: Response
Date: 16 Nov, 2005

Hello,

I have a response for Irene who wrote a review of Intrigues by Sharon Green. It’s true that the book is the beginning of a series called The Blending Enthroned, however there is an entire 5 book series before this book called The Blending in which as she put it “the rules of whatever fantasy world is laid out here”. Any reader that doesn’t take the time to open up the second page of the book and see the sequence of novels the author has written deserves what they get. However, not at the expense of the author, maybe Irene once she finds out if she hasn’t already will decided to start the series from the beginning instead of the middle. Not every series is like Star Wars and can get away with starting from the middle, can you imagine picking up the first book of The Malloreon by David Eddings and trying to figure out what was going on without reading the Belgariad series? I don’t imagine so. Anyway, thank you for your time and please let Irene know if someone hasn’t already.

Thanks,

Gregory

Books Editor April Gutierrez responds to Gregory’s response:

Gregory,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on Ms. Henry’s review of Sharon Green’s Intrigues. As Ms. Henry is no longer reviewing for Green Man Review, I’ll respond on behalf of the ‘zine.

I believe that Irene makes it fairly clear in her review that she’s aware there’s a full five books preceding the one she was given to review: “Intrigues, by Sharon Green, is the first book of a sub-series, The Blending Enthroned, which is the second group of books following The Blending, a five-part series. Says so right on the cover; I can’t say I wasn’t warned.” She also goes out of her way to point out that some series can be picked up part way through, especially at a logical starting point as a first volume of a sub-series, such as Intrigues, and uses this in contrast to her experience with this particular volume. I think this demonstrates that she was aware of the book’s place in Green’s oeuvre, and had certain expectations — or hopes — for it, which were not met.

Maybe Irene once she finds out if she hasn’t already will decide to start the series from the beginning instead of the middle.

Unfortunately, when we are sent books to review, we typically aren’t sent a full series (generally only the most recent volume of such), so unless a reviewer on staff has read or owns the preceding books, the book will have to be reviewed by someone coming into the series cold. This is not uncommon, if also not ideal. Publishers and authors alike should be prepared for that reality.

Again, thank you for taking the time to comment on the review, even if it wasn’t to your liking.

Regards,

April Gutierrez
Green Man Review Book Editor

Review: Folkmanis: Camel and Lop-Eared Rabbit

It’s been a while since we had some puppets for review, and we finally got what looks like a couple of winners. Of course, everything we’ve gotten from Folkmanis so far has been a winner, so that’s no surprise.

Today we have a Camel and a Lop-Eared Rabbit, both of which are fairly large — a little beyond real “hand puppet” size — but both, it seems, very charming.

And as an added plus, we have some audience reactions for you. Just read Kelley Caspari’s review to see what that was like.