… have come into my possession of late, as a result of things Christmassy. A recap, with comments:
Print: I picked up The Middle English Breton Lays, from the TEAMS series. I haven’t read as many of these as I would have liked, but they’re a great deal of fun, and may be a nice way to get modern-day readers of fantasy and the like into medievalia. Notes are extensive, and glosses seem sufficient.
Jeff Sypeck‘s Becoming Charlemagne. It’s a look at the political and cultural forces at work during the coronation of Karl, King of the Franks as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Because the period we think of as the Middle Ages covers about a millennium, there’s a lot of stuff that can sneak past even folks who study this stuff — especially some of us lit types. Consequently, I think books like this can be useful (and fun) both for laymen and even for folks in the field. The style is readably novelistic, but he’s done his homework and there are extensive end notes.
Meanwhile, today I scored mint condition copies of the four Edgeworks collections of Harlan Ellison’s work for the retail price of a single volume. I know they’re chock-full of typos, but such a deal, and I now have the screenplay for Harlan Ellison’s Movie.
On the audio front:
P.T. Walkley’s Adventures of Track Rabbit. Smart, energetic power pop, from a young songwriter worth watching, and even more worth hearing.
The Contrast — Forget to Tell the Time. I love these guys. David Reid is clearly influenced by Elvis Costello and Television, but if you like Rickenbacker-charged, New Wavy guitar pop, you can do a lot worse.
IQ — Are You Sitting Comfortably? I’ve owned this on vinyl for years, and had a CD copy that a student borrowed and then graduated without returning. This was during the band’s attempt to go commercial while maintaining their prog roots. The result is neither fish nor fowl, but is a pleasant listen in a Hogarth-era Marillion kind of way.
The Shangri-Las — The Millennium Collection. Is there any pop music that can be any more joyous or any more melodramatic than 60s girl-group stuff? The Shangri-Las and Shadow Morton say no.
Harlan Ellison — On the Road, vol. 3. Spoken-word stuff from one of my favorite writers. Yeah, he’s an atheist and a self-proclaimed bleeding-heart liberal, but he’s not stupid, and he’s never dull.
Stan Ridgeway — Neon Mirage. He just keeps putting out great, quirky albums. This latest one’s a little darker than his last couple, but he’s one of those guys you can recognize from a mile away and be glad you did.
Pearls Before Swine — The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings. Psychedelic folk with a singer-songwriter who sounds like a cross between Dylan and Sylvester J. Pussycat, Sr. That doesn’t sound promising, but the songs from this CD (which includes the group’s first two albums from 1967-68) are fragile, loose, surreal, and breathtaking. I’ve been wearing this out since Saturday. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.