I’m playing recorded music this afternoon as the Neverending Session took advantage of this warm May day to decamp to the Courtyard to play among the gathering of punters who are enjoying the weather too. Yes, that’s Drive the Cold Winter Away by The Horslips, a group which most folks don’t realize did some rather superb trad music. And yes, I know an Englishman by the name of John Playford composed that piece but it’s been adopted by Irish musos as if one of their own was responsible for it!
The Mountain of the Women: Memoirs of an Irish Troubadour is the autobiography of Liam Clancy, the youngest member of the Irish folk music group, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. If you’ve any interest in Irish music, you need to read this.
A crack Irish album from a Breton native? Alan Stivell‘s Brian Boru proves you don’t have to be Irish to make a great Irish album! Of course, Irish music flows from Irish culture and history so reading R.F. Foster’s The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland is an excellent work for you to read.
Next up is the Bothy Band, a most outstanding Irish band, and I will lead off with ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ from their appearance at the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival in the summer of 1976, as I think it’s one of their best tunes. I’ll follow that up with ‘Music in the Glen’ from their appearance at 1977 Sidmouth Folk Festival.
Speaking of old hag tunes, here’s a quote about them:
She looks like the wizened old crone in that painting Jilly did for Geordie when he got into this kick of learning fiddle tunes with the word ‘hag’ in the title: ‘the Hag in the Kiln,’ ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me,’ ‘The Hag With the Money,’ and god knows how many more. Just like in the painting, she’s wizened and small and bent over and … dry. Like kindling, like the pages of an old book. Like she’s almost all used up. Hair thin, body thinner. but then you look into her eyes and they’re so alive it makes you feel a little dizzy.
It’s excerpted from Charles de Lint‘s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ story which is collected in Dreams Underfoot.
Likewise I suggest knowing William Butler Yeats better is a good idea as well. Start off with John Unterecker’s A Reader’s Guide to William Butler Yeats which gives you a well-rounded look at his verse; after that, Eily Kilgannon’s Myths and Magic of the Yeats Country which she says is about ‘The beautiful region of Ireland that includes Sligo and northwest Leitrim is rightly called the Yeats Country because it was the source of some of W. B. Yeats’ finest verse. He may have brought fame to it, but it gave poetry to him.’
Bring this conversation full circle is my last reading recommendation, to wit Breandan Breathnach‘s Folk Music and Dances of Ireland which is a slim volume you can read over several pints in the evening and gain a full knowledge of this subject.
Now some music to finish off. Hmmm, what to play? Ahhh, how about A Jig of Sorts by Nightnoise? Yes, that’ll do nicely!
Another stout for you?
Shadows Fall is set in Simon R. Green’s multiverse. All of Green’s fiction, and I mean all of it, from the Deathstalker space opera series to the new Secret Histories series, takes palace in the same multiverse. So characters from the Drinking Midnight Wine one-off novel show up in the Nightside series; a character here will in a few brief comments explain how key players who are Rodents of an Unusual Size in Drinking Midnight Wine came to be in that strange town; Giles Deathstalker will play a role in the Secret Histories series; and the importance of werewolf blood will show in the multiple stories. (Don’t ask — it’s literally a bloody story.) It’s obvious to me that Green has had a great deal of fun writing his complicated, intertwined stories over the past few decades. And Shadows Fall allows him to make very, very good use of all of the stories which have come before in Green’s sprawling universe.
We’ve reviewed this novel a long, long time ago so I’ll let Michael Jones who reviewed it tell you about it: ‘Shadows Fall is definitely one of Simon Green’s odder, more ambitious done-in-one books. Released a good fourteen years ago at this point, it’s an odd beast, reflecting an earlier style that defies easy description. Present are characters and organizations and concepts that will come back in later books, such as the Warriors of the Light and Bruin Bear, and the idea of overlapping genres; fantasy, science fiction, comic books, and children’s cartoons all mingle and interact in Shadows Fall, giving it an epic feel of anything goes. Also present are the bizarre ideas, catchy names, and evocative descriptions that can be found in just about any Simon Green book you care to name, from Lester Gold the Mystery Avenger, to Jack Fetch the silent (yet deadly) scarecrow. However, in a distinct change from the norm, Shadows Fall lacks the over-the-top uber-characters that populate his Nightside, Deathstalker, and other series. For all that Leonard Ash cannot die because he’s already dead, the Fae are scarier and nastier than anything alive, and James Hart wields unimaginable power, there’s a very strong sense of most characters as, well, human and vulnerable. And that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s oddly refreshing to see such normal characters, and ironic that they should exist in a town populated by faded legends and forgotten heroes.’
Shadows Fall is, along with , oone of the only two works of fiction set in his multiverse that are not part of a series. And until now, they were the only two works not produced as audioworks. Now Audible, one of my favorite sources for good things to listen to, in the guise of Audible Frontiers has produced both.
I hadn’t read this book in I’d guess five years, so I was ready for another encounter with it and I generally find that listening to a work I’ve read several times gives me a fresh perspective on it. Shadows Fall proved to be true to this belief.
Kevin Stillwell is the narrator here. His first credited acting job is on Star Trek: Voyager in 1997 where he played Moklor, a holographic Klingon in a program run by B’Elanna Torres in the Day of Honor episode, so he has proper sf credits to his name as in addition, done Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards and the Viscount of Adrilankha series, and Fritz Leiber’s The Ghost Light (a novel I’ve never heard of to my surprise), to name but a few of the genre works he’s narrated.
So how does he do here? Quite magnificently. Audioworks always make me listen to everything in a way that reading never quite does. I was catching details here that I overlooked when reading the novels, including references to the rest of the multiverse that I missed when reading it. Certainly that is due in large part to Stillwell nicely voicing each character, and there’s myriad characters here!, in a manner that catches the essence of that character.
I particularly like the dry, flat voice given to Leonard Ash, the walking dead man, and the fussy Victorian feel to Father Time. Oh and the Sea Goat sounds like the drunken, offensive being that he certainly is. None of which will make any sense to you until you listen to Shadows Fall which you certainly should!
Go here to order this superb work of fantasy. And science fiction. And horror…
Imagine an old forest witch, a crone with a cackle and gnarled hands. Well Justina did one of those when she was here the first time. Alas the Troll proved more elusive in design. Much more elusive. And of course, this troll was not the vision of just Justina, the potter, but instead was created on a collective basis.
There aren’t many descriptions of them in Old Norse and what exist are more intent on describing their personality as in the Prose Edda: ‘Troll kalla mik trungl sjǫtrungnis, auðsug jǫtuns, élsólar bǫl, vilsinn vǫlu, vǫrð nafjarðar, hvélsveg himins – hvat’s troll nema þat’ which roughly translates as ‘They call me a troll, moon of the earth-Hrungnir, wealth sucker of the giant, destroyer of the storm-sun, beloved follower of the seeress, guardian of the “nafjord”, swallower of the sun: What’s a troll if not that?’ Other Old Norse sources note they are magical creatures with special skills, but that doesn’t say if that was good or evil. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s universe, trolls are large humanoids of great strength and poor intellect.
What they found with the help of Iain, who called on what he calls L-Space to ask private estate librarians in Norway to dig deep into their archives for folk material not commonly accessed by folklorists, was that they are dark and slow of movement and covered with a tangle of foliage, like a forested mountain brought to life. Now this of course added a whole new level of complexity to this project as most trolls under the bridge projects use a smooth looking design with almost no fine work. Justina however noted this actually made the project easier as the leaves, moss and such would make hiding the seams easier.
The first step was what is called a one sixth scale model of the troll-to-be. Now keep in mind that no one expected Justina to work full-time on this so she danced a lot, gossiped in the Pub while listening to the Neverending Session, spent hours reading in the Library, taught the Several Annies (and anyone else interested) basic and advanced pottery, and indeed, as I noted she did the first time, had a torrid romantic encounter, this time with one of the Several Annies.
That model went through, I think, at least a dozen iterations before it was considered right by just about everyone present here this Winter. It was indeed leafy, mossy, and similar to what one of Tolkien’s Ents might have looked like if it was far more stocky and a great deal shorter. (One of the models now lives in a museum in the home city of the Norwegian Several Annie who got the project going; Justine took one with her; and four got sold by us on behalf of her.) And so the project stood until after Candlemas as we agreed no one should would work on it during the Winter Holidays.
And that’s where I’ll the tale for now, as Chasing Fireflies, the contradance band that I’m calling for this coming weekend, wants to go over the list of dances they’re considering. Gossip has it that they’ve been intensely interested with the dances of John Garden, the Australian composer and Jane Austen scholar, so it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve come up with!
OK, a little bit about myths. Perhaps not so strangely, we have a fair number of works on the mythology of various peoples. Equally unsurprising is the number of these works devoted to the myths and folklore of the British Isles.
For example, take W. Y. Evans-Wentz’ The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries. Although somewhat dated, it says here, it does pull together a lot of folklore from the Celtic lands.
And as long as we’re going all Celtic, let’s take a look at some of the Irish myths and folktales as related in Mary McGarry’s Great Folk Tales of Old Ireland. You’re never going to understand the Irish until you know their stories, we’re told.
Of course, no discussion of Irish myth and folklore would be complete without William Butler Yeats — or maybe not. See what you think after you read our comments on his Mythologies.
Let’s take a slight detour for a look at a story filtered through the great Welsh cycle, The Mabinogion, namely Louise Lawrence’s The Earth Witch. It’s about a boy.
Broadening our scope a bit, we have a short commentary on Jane Yolen’s collection, Favorite Folktales from Around the World, which is just what it says it is.
And finally, an attempt to fill the shoes of the late Joseph W. Campbell — J. F. Beirlein’s Parallel Myths. Is it successful? Read the review.
There’s lots more in the bin (someone’s been at the Archives again), so we’ll be back soon.
There are everything from ashrays (sea ghosts) to wulvers, a sort of werewolf but, alas, no trolls in Scotland. There is however now a splendidly ugly and rather large troll under the bridge over the river below the Mill Pond. How it got there is a story worth knowing which is why I’m telling you in this letter.
Several years ago, we had a potter in residence here, Justina, for an entire winter, during which she built a most magnificent kiln of a rather frightening size as she was interested in creating life sized men, women, and other creatures. Most are now in museums and private collections around the world but we kept several including the one of Robert Graves that lives in the Reading Room named after him. More than one visitor has been startled by it late at night while doing research as it seems to shift location by itself when they’re not looking. Or someone has an odd sense of what’s funny. It’s very fast, and quite strong!
But nothing she did was on the scale of what was contemplated by the Several Annie from Norway that decided the area under the Mill Pond bridge needed a troll. A full-sized troll to be precise, which meant it had to be created in sections given it would be fourteen feet tall and ten feet across its shoulders. So I had the Steward contact Justina and ask her if she’d like to be here for an extended winter contract. Not surprisingly, she was delighted.
She arrived in late October and set up a studio in the cottage she used years back. The Troll Under the Bridge project she figured would take ’till Candlemas at least. (I think she was looking forward to a long winter of conversations, music, contradances, good food, and reading.) Though she could’ve lived in the cottage, she asked if she could have one of the third floor rooms and the Steward agreed with a note of amusement in his voice. Did I mention she had an affair with one of the musicians the year she spent here?
Iain lost his entire current crop of Several Annies for an entire fortnight while they met with Justina to brainstorm this project. We had the clay needed on the Estate but a considerable amount of other supplies were needed that caused the Steward to become a whiter shade of pale, as a fourteen foot troll is best constructed of solid weather proof pieces and that required an even bigger kiln. Justina’s stay would likely be through Beltaine, at least as she openly admitted that this was going to a trick project with likely several spectacular failures before she and her crew got it right as she has an idea for it that would nake it look truly living.
Ahhh that was a knock on the door… I see I’m needed in the apiary right now as the lads are moving the hives out to the gardens for the growing season and I need to check over their preparations. I’ll finish the story in the next letter.
With affection. Gus
PS: You’ll find the books on the history of ravens in our folklore you wanted enclosed with this letter. As always, Iain grumbled when I checked them out so please be careful with them!
The overarching premise in the All Souls trilogy is that there are four intelligent and separate species on Earth: Humans, Demons, and Witches are warm-bloods, Vampires are cold-bloods. Humans and Witches reproduce by the usual way, Demons appear to be the equivalent of the mythical Fey children who are placed in the cribs of Humans in English folklore in our world, and Vampires, well you know how they are created.
At the heart of this trilogy, which started off with A Discovery of Witches, are Diana Bishop, a Witch whose parents were murdered when she was young, and Matthew de Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin who is a fifteen-hundred-year-old Vampire. Now, keep in mind that there is a very ancient concordance that prohibits on pain of death any romantic relationship among the species in order to keep Humans from getting restless. Or at least that’s the story told.
At the end of A Discovery of Witches, Diana and Matthew are on the run from, well, just about everyone, save their families. So Matthew comes up with a clever solution: make use of Diana’s time-walking abilities as a Witch. So they walk back in time to 1590, landing first near Oxford before moving on to the de Clairmont estate in war-torn France.
The story really gets going when they settle into Elizabethan London, a world torn asunder by religion and sorcery. We also meet Matthew’s old friends, including Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh, and two characters named Gallowglass and Hamish. (Marlowe and Raleigh are part of the secretive School of Night.) Their mission in Elizabethan London is to locate an agreeable Witch to assist Diana in controlling her erratic but powerful talents, and to locate the much sought after Ashmole 782.
The real joy in hearing Shadow of Night is that Harkness has brought to vibrant life what London felt like in the age of Elizabeth the First in all its terrible beauty and overwhelming squalor, from the street markets to the houses of the powerful families who ruled society there. Interestingly, food and wine were the manner in which the setting was evoked, although food and wine are less important than historical features and characters are in this book. Harkness, like all writers, is less interested in the historical reality than she is in fleshing them out as characters, as you’ll discover with, say, Marlowe.
It’s a lovely, tale provided you’ve listened to the first book in the trilogy, and I’ll assume you have or you wouldn’t be reading these words. Jennifer Ikeda once again does a superb job of giving voice to each character here from the major characters down to minor ones that you would never notice if you passed them in the street in Elizabethan London.
And no, I won’t tell anymore about the story, as you don’t want me to do so! Suffice it to say that I’m very much looking forward to hearing the yet-to-be-released final novel, which apparently is still being written, to see how she wraps this fascinating story up, as true trilogies are rare indeed.
Ahhh, mannerpunk. It is combat with sharp but mannered words, not steel, but it still draws blood. The protagonists are not pitted against the usual monsters and invading armies that the reader finds in much fantasy, but rather their families and peers. The plot of a mannerpunk takes place within an insular society, and though duels may be fought over matters of honour, the chief weapons are one’s own words.
As Ellen Kushner said in an email, Mannerpunk is ‘A clever way of referring to Fantasy of Manners. FoM refers to work with roots in the social comedy of writers like Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde and Georgette Heyer, rather than the heroic and mythic tales that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien and his followers. It is usually, though not always, urban rather than rural.’
Swordspoint, which starts with ‘Let the fairy-tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood new-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as the single spot of claret on the lace cuff’, is the quintessential mannerpunk novel, and the one to start with if you want to see what mannerpunk is. As the reviewer notes: ‘Every once in a while, being a reviewer offers a special perk, whether it’s a new book by a favorite author, a new find who stands head and shoulders above the crowd, or the chance to take another look at an old favorite. So, when the Chief asked for a fresh look at Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, I was more than happy to agree. Call it “mannerpunk,” call it “fantasy,” call it what you will, it is still one of the best examples of speculative fiction I’ve ever read.’
The Shadow of Albion, says our reviewer, ‘follows the adventures of Sarah Cunningham of nineteenth century Baltimore, Maryland who, while travelling to England, finds herself transported into an England with an alternative history and into the life of English socialite, the Marchioness of Roxbury. In this history, Charles II, rather than having been succeeded by his brother James, is succeeded by his son, the Duke of Monmouth, who has been proclaimed legitimate by Charles on his deathbed, as he confesses to marrying the Duke’s mother, Mistress Waters, while in exile. So the Stuart family rather than the Hanover hold the English throne. America is still a colony of England as there has never been any reason for a war, and magic still exists and is accepted by society. One element of history that has not changed is Napoleon Bonaparte still desires to take over the world.’
Next up is Steven Brust and Emma Bull”s Freedom & Necessity which, though not marketed as mannerpunk, has some of the best dialogue ever written involving manners and wit. Our reviewer notes ‘the book is that terror of English majors everywhere, an epistolary novel. Depending on how one classifies Bridget Jones’s Diary, the form hasn’t been used well in the genre since Stoker took it for a spin in Dracula, and the format itself is enough of a challenge for readers who were expecting a more straightforward narrative. On the other hand, the epistolary format allows for multiple perspectives on the events of the plot from all four of the main narrators, all of whom bring something unique to the table. A story told from any one of their viewpoints, or from an omniscient one, would take away much of the pleasure of unraveling the novel’s mysteries as the characters do so themselves. The joy of discovering what’s really going on is only part of the book’s enjoyment; the rest is in seeing how the characters do so in their own ways.’
My final recommendation is Susanna Clarke”s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book long enough to occupy you all summer. Once again, let’s listen to the reviewer: ‘Susanna Clarke’s novel is superb. There’s no other one-word summary for it. Much has been made already of the Austenesque aspects of her style, but it warrants saying again — the dialogue and the descriptors ring utterly, authentically Victorian. Much has also been made of the footnotes, some of which are short stories in their own right, and some running for several pages. (Not always, it should be noted, necessarily the same ones, though there is a strong correlation.) Both of these things are true, and bear repeating — as does the fact that Jane Austen is one of the bestselling authors of all time, and has not been out of print. One could do far worse than to borrow aspects from the best.’
Four mannerpunk novels, full of sharp wit, interesting characters, and fascinating settings. So brew up a pot of your favourite tea (mine is Lapsang souchong), settle into your favourite reading spot, and choose any of these wonderful reads. You won’t be disappointed!
Charles de Lint says, ‘It’s been another great year for readers and anyone who complains that there aren’t any good books out there anymore just isn’t paying attention. My problem is trying to find the time to read all the great titles I do want to read.
My favourite of the year has to be Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel (Scholastic), though her adult novel for this year, The Probable Future (Doubleday), is also a real winner. These are closely followed by The Parrot Trainer by Swain Wolfe (St. Martin’s Press) and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Knopf).
I’ve also really been enjoying Holly Black’s collaboration with Tony DiTerlizzi on The Spiderwick Chronicles (Simon & Schuster) and Hannah’s Garden by Midori Snyder (Viking, 2002 — which, for those of you keeping track, is actually a somewhat different version of what would have been the fourth book in the Brian Froud Faerylands series).
What else? Well, Peter Straub and Dean Koontz showed us once again just how good they are with, respectively, lost boy lost girl (Random House) and Odd Thomas (Bantam). Greg Keyes reminded me why I can still enjoy high fantasy with The Briar King (Del Rey) and Charles Dickinson’s A Shortcut in Time (Forge) proved, as Niffenegger’s novel did, that there’s still innovation to be found in a time travel story.
And just to deviate from genre fiction for a moment, I have to thank Robert Crais and Andrew Vachss for so ably feeding my hardboiled fiction fix with their books The Last Detective (Doubleday), Only Child (Knopf), and The Getaway Man (Vintage Books); the latter two are by Vachss.
And finally, anyone who thinks YA fiction is too kiddie-lit for them, isn’t reading what’s out there. Many YA books are edgier and of far more interest (at least to me) than so-called adult fiction. These aren’t genre books either, but were particular favourites of mine for this year: Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn (Simon Pulse), Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (Speak), and Define ‘Normal’ by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown).
For more detailed descriptions of why these books appealed to me, many of them were discussed at longer length in my column Books to Look For which appears monthly in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It can be accessed on the Internet here.
Happy holidays folks.’
My absolute favorite series from GraphicAudio is Alex Archer’s Rogue Angel series. It’s fun, fast-paced, and based just enough on the real world to make me wonder if the story being told could have actually happened. Warning: spoilers, lots of them, are in this review.
Rogue Angel is an ongoing paperback series of pulp novels published every other month since July 2006 by Harlequin Publishing’s Gold Eagle division and written under the house name of Alex Archer, a practice used in pulp publishing since at least the 1920s! The first eight novels were written by Victor Milan and Mel Odom with new writers joining the series starting with book nine including Jon Merz and Joseph Nassise. As usual with pulp series, there are a lot of books and that has meant GraphicAudio has a lot of source material to work with — neatly explaining why there are thirty-six Rogue Angel audiobooks thus far!
Other than Annja, our globe trotting archaeologist, avenger of wrongs using the Sword of Joan of Arc, and, believe it or not, a host on TV’s Chasing History’s Monsters series (where she does not bare her tits, unlike the other hostess, who admittedly has much higher ratings that Annja), there are apparently only four ongoing characters — one is the five hundred year old immortal Roux, now somewhat reluctant mentor of Annja and a failed protector of Joan; fellow immortal Garin Braden, who was Roux’s apprentice five hundred years ago and now is his enemy more or less; the ever annoying Doug Morrell, Annja’s producer at Chasing History’s Monsters, and Bart McGilley, a NYPD detective and an old friend of Annja’s. (Not a love interest though. Though there is sex in her life, mostly offstage.) The voice characterization of the principal characters is excellent, as I expected from other GraphicAudio series I’ve listened to, and secondary characters are generally sketched out well too.
City of Swords is the most chilling of the adventures to date, as it centers on Christian terrorism. Dog-headed men are sighted by tourists and locals in the French city of Avignon. Annja Creed finds herself repeatedly and violently targeted by vicious mercenaries who want her sword. She eventually traces these attacks back to their source, which is self-professed descendant of King Charlemagne who is convinced that if he collects mankind’s most precious and holy swords, he can fulfill his medieval ancestor’s failed goal to build the City of God.
The swords are for his new crusaders, men and women, who will do what he wants up to and including mass murder. What he’s doing is far worse than merely collecting swords of long-dead Christian warriors because he’s intent, by means most foul, to build Charlemagne’s legendary, never-completed City of God. And he’s determined to purify the city of Avignon of all infidels, be they Muslims, Buddhists, Scientologists, or even Christians of sects that he disapproves of — which appears to be all of them.
City of Swords has a very high cringe factor as regards our heroine. In the process of stopping our mad Christian warrior, she will be hurt severely, imprisoned, and just plain tortured. All for the possession of a sword that she cannot give them.
The stakes are higher here than usual and I think this is the first Rogue Angel adventure where Annja Creed is truly a heroine fighting for justice against a truly evil person, as many of the previous adventures involve foes who are simply banal in their crimes. Not so here, and I’m very impressed by how the writer handled her in this outing. She was angry, frustrated, and genuinely scared. Damn fine writing.
Now I will turn to the audio production itself. This work was adapted, not abridged as audiobooks used to be, for GraphicAudio by Casey Jones, who has adapted quite a few of the works that this company has done. It is superbly directed by Nanette Savard. Nanette Savard also is a voice actor in many of the GraphicAudio works. City of Swords stars Colleen Delany, Richard Rohan, James Konicek, Kimberly Gilbert, Matthew Bassett, Steven Carpenter, Allison Thomas, Bradley Smith, Christopher Sheeren, Danny Gavigan, David Coyne, Elizabeth Jernigan, Eric Messner, Evan Casey, Jonathan Watkins, Ken Jackson, Michael John Casey, Mort Shelby, Rose Elizabeth Supan, Nick Depinto, Nora Achrati, Thomas Keegan, Tim Getman And Yasmin Tuazon. I remember those names from the GraphicAudio adaptations of Simon R. Green’s Deathstalker and Forest Kingdom series, two other excellent series.
As I expected, all the voice work here was spot-on, but I was really amazed once again by the scene-setting background noises, which allowed for a more nuanced, more intimate soundscape than one normally gets in an audio production. Sword fights, to give an obvious example, are hard to do right but here each fight has a different texture; likewise the sound of in-close fighting often falls flat, but here there is a properly claustrophobic feel to one of the more violent encounters which take place.
Go here to order this most superb production!
At times, sorting out the Archives here at Sleeping Hedgehog and Green Man Review can feel like a cross between an archeological endeavor and a whirlwind trip around the world. And of course, L-space is always a risky maze in and of itself; but that just makes the adventure all the more fun! A recent stroll through to brush off a few of our older reviews unearthed some wondrous gems: mainly music, but two book reviews were also found. Each one was gently cleaned and is now set in a more prominent spot for your enjoyment.
On the front shelf for our loyal patrons, then, is the following array:
Stemmenes Skygge, an album by Kirsten Braten Berg, Marilyn Mazur, and Lena Willemark. This album, “initially conceived as a project for Norway’s most prolific jazz festival in Molde,” features a huge whack of award-winning talent and struck the reviewer as both “terrifying” and “difficult”–but the skill of the performers pulls it together well.
An arguably easier title to pronounce sits beside it: Sceni, by KlezRoym. This one hops us from Norway to the Mediterranean, but never fear, there’s a link in that both albums involve jazz–as the reviewer notes, ”all klezmer, being the hybrid genre that it is, has a little Gypsy, a little jazz, and maybe a little Mediterranean harmony.” And what KlezRoym does with those ingredients is to “add their own mixture of moxy, imagination, and excellent improvisational skills to the music.” Sound interesting? Read the full review here.
Moving sideways from klezmer to Rom, we have Maskarada, by Taraf de Haidouks; the reviewer notes of this CD that “While most of their music is relentlessly upbeat to the point of being frenetic, Maskarada marks a slight departure from the Tarafs’ usual offerings.” Read on to find out more.
The last of the CDs on the shelf this time around involve, once more, jazz from Northern Europe; we have a double review of two CDs from the same producer, Amigo Musik. Of the first, the reviewer says, “Koyo is the sort of disk that makes me want to fly to Stockholm, find out where Oddjob is playing, and book a table near the stage for every night they’re booked.” If that isn’t high enough praise, we don’t know what is! And the second feature in this review covers an interesting take on jazz: an all-percussion band called Peaux that “ defies easy categorization.” Read the full review here to find out more.
Moving away from music now, we have two book reviews on display: both take us far from Northern Europe, deep into the Middle East. Cairo Modern, by Naguib Mahfouz, was first published in Arabic in 1945. How has it translated to English, and how “modern” does it seem today? Read on to find out.
Last of all we have another double review, and these books share not a publisher but something far more interesting: one book, The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan, was written by a gentleman named James Morier. The other, Ottoman and Persian Odysseys, published considerably later, is a record of the correspondence between James and his two brothers, all of whom served as diplomats. Read the full review of these two volumes here, and follow the reviewer on a ”long literary journey that spans several centuries and traverses the Silk Road and a few more obscure routes”.
When you’re ready to come back and put your feet up in your own comfy chair again, check in to see what reviews we’ve posted since you left…we’re sure to have more journeys in store for you!