Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: Lee Hoffman: TROUBLE VALLEY (Ballantine, 1976)

I don't know about you, but sometimes I read authors in a jag. I read most of Kurt Vonnegut's then-available novels in a string over a couple of months in the latter 1980s, having read only The Sirens of Titan (his best sf novel), Galapagos, and Cat's Cradle and the essay and short story collections beforehand, and it was time to dig in. That's how I know Bluebeard is the best of his contemporary mimetic novels, although Rosewater and the near-past historical Mother Night give it a run. I read about half of Theodore Sturgeon's collections, before the "Sturgeon Project" complete short-fiction reprints began, in the same way, having read most of the rest of Sturgeon's work sporadically over the previous two decades...and Sturgeon and Vonnegut share more than the mutual paternity of Kilgore Trout...a deep and knowing and rarely naive humanism runs through their work. As it does through the work of Ms. Lee Hoffman, RIP in 2007 and not hardly forgotten herself in several circles, but her books, if Amazon can be trusted, are almost all out of print...there's a pricey large-print edition of Wild Riders out, and another title coming soon in a LP edition, and her collection of essays In and Out of Quandry might still be available directly from NESFA Press, some examples of her personal journalism from her groundbreaking 1950s fanzine and elsewhere. But I read the simple majority of her 17 western novels in a jag in 1994, having read her impressive sf short story "Soundless Evening" in Again, Dangerous Visions as a kid, and having known she'd written some other impressive fantastic fiction, but was perhaps best known literarily for her western fiction...her fourth novel to be published, and first hardcover, The Valdez Horses (Doubleday, 1967), had won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, and had been (apparently acceptably if unexceptionally) filmed a decade later as a project for Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland. Haven't seen the film, but read the book...in fact, take on all her novels, and note how she starts out as good as anyone could want (she had already been a veteran not only of sf fan publishing, but an assistant editor at her ex Larry Shaw's magazines, and a notable zinester in the folk-music scene), in lighter or darker modes from book to book, but by her mid-1970s novels, of which Trouble Valley is one, she had achieved a practiced grace and a lean manner of slipping in the compassionate detail that helped spoil me for lesser western fiction...the protagonist of this one is not only doing his damnedest to end the conflict with his aggressive neighbors, but to do it as amicably as possible, and Hoffman delivers more tension and less melodrama, more detail to character and realistic description of human interaction than almost anyone else working in the field...this book (and its mates) read like less eccentrically-detailed Joe Lansdale westerns, or Bill Pronzini's without the slightly formal stiffness that can creep into his historical work when he lets it. Ed Gorman and Loren Estleman are in her league, too, which gives you some idea...and at least two other, much better-selling, largely in-print western writers couldn't come close to what she could do. But that shouldn't surprise anyone.

The Lee Hoffman Site:
http://www.gary-ross-hoffman.com/Lee/


Lee Hoffman posts on Sweet Freedom

As always, thanks to Patti Abbott for sustaining the Friday Books lists. Buy Ed Gorman (and MH Greenberg)'s new volume of best of the year crime fiction to get a sense of what she can do. [Not so new as it then was in 2008, when this redux post was first published, and the book managed to not include Patti's story, even though it was on the table of contents, as I recall...Greenberg was going through an even rougher patch than Ed was.]

(Possibly "forgotten" music audited while writing this one: the George Russell Smalltet: Jazz Workshop [1956, RCA]...the album where Bill Evans learned about modal improvising from Russell, so he eventually could teach it to the Miles Davis group, and they did Kind of Blue as a result. Jazz Workshop's better.)

Friday, November 9, 2018

FFB: THE AMERICAN FOLK SCENE ed. David DeTurk & A. Poulin Jr.; BOB DYLAN: DON'T LOOK BACK transcribed & edited by D.J. Pennebaker et al.; DANGEROUSLY FUNNY by David Bianculli

Hoots and Hollers: Folk Music and Its Extensions at Midcentury (...and Up Till Now...)


"Folk music is like country music for people who aren't conservative?" --James Adomian, contemplating the current Billboard folk/acoustic music album chart, on Who Charted?, uploaded February 29, 2012

Three books this time coming at and attempting to explicate and/or contextualize the varying flavors of the popular folk-music movement of the 1950s and '60s, and particularly some of the most popular performers (and lightning rods) of that field and time. The American Folk Scene: Dimensions of the Folksong Revival is, like The Age of Rock reviewed here briefly, a somewhat haphazard collection of magazine essays, from sources ranging from the folk-music "insider" journal Sing Out! to Time, that attempts to give a mildly panoramic view of the folk-music scene as it was not quite dissipating, but instead not just bifurcating but polyfurcating if one might be forgiven a neologism...the pop-folk of the Kingston Trio and Judy Collins and many of their peers not quite riding the top of the charts any longer but still retaining an audience, while a number of the younger musicians were moving into folk-rock or were drawn to the new opportunities in country music, while others yet were remaining more or less traditionalist purists...and not a few would hop from one field to another as mood or the commercial vagaries struck. G. Legman is as dour as always, with his "Folksongs, Fakelore, and Cash" and Nat Hentoff (his name misspelled in the citation of this book in the library database WorldCat [see full citation of the anthology's contents below] and dutifully parroted in the Amazon listing) typically sensible in "The Future of the Folk Renascence" and Richard Fariña briefly represented, writing about his sister-in-law Joan Baez and this Zimmerman kid. The essays are, of course, not all equally valuable, nor does one come away with a particularly complete understanding of the "scene" as it was even at time of assembly...but it's a start. (My copy is buried deep in storage, at the moment.)


The first time I ever heard Bob Dylan sing I knew he would be a success.
He sounded exactly like Woody Guthrie, an earlier folksinger, and I
figured that if he added a few more imitations–-maybe Bette Davis and James
Cagney–-he would have an even funnier routine. --Mike Royko, "Dylan the Great"

Meanwhile, Zims, who started calling himself Dylan rather early in the 1960s, had already started making a serious name for himself by the time CBS, due to John Hammond's endorsement, started recording him in 1962, and D. J. Pennebaker did no disservice to his own reputation by putting together a cinema verite documentary of Dylan's second tour of the UK, eventually released as Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back (and including, in one early performance sequence filmed around a civil rights protest encampment from several years earlier, footage taken by Ed Emshwiller for an unfinished project that Emshwiller gave to Pennebaker). Released in 1967, the film spawned an interesting 1968 book project, which combined transcripts of the lyrics and dialog from the film with stills (this being as close to a take-home version of the film as most fans could afford in those years), not a unique project but still not that common (the Ballantines, who were always ready to innovate, were then still in charge of the publishing house that bore their name), and it's a deft job...Pennebaker warns that it's no substitute for the film, but it does provide a nice supplement to some fleeting or murky dialog...my copy of the book is from the New Video reprint of the Ballantine edition, released in 2006 as part of the "65 Tour Deluxe Edition" of the film on dvd, with a bonus disc of outtakes and related recordings and a little flipbook that allows handheld animation of the promotional film for "Subterranean Homesick Blues"...

Jack Paar: "I like folksingers. I hate hillbillies. What's the difference between hillbillies and folksingers?"

Tom Smothers: "Well...hillbillies sing higher." --Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

David Bianculli's book is still in print from a traditional (if megaconglomerate) publisher, as opposed to being a premium in a dvd set, and it shows the signs of being a megaconglomerate book...notably a lack of copy-editing, or of editorial guidance that might've sent Bianculli back to get a little deeper into the background of his subjects. The television reviewer seems to think the Weavers disappeared from the face of the Earth after their first break-up in 1952, for example, rather than having reformed in '54 and helped foster the folk revival the Kingston Trio and other commercial acts sprang from, for the most part...Bianculli even manages to mention Burl Ives and Harry Belafonte repeatedly without tumbling to the fact that Ives and other folksingers and their colleagues in bringing calypso to the US charts were also keeping a presence for pop-folk in the popular consciousness. Even about his subjects at hand, he manages to bobble--while attempting to demonstrate the Smotherses' influence on the next generation, he (rather obsequiously) overpraises Ken Burns and quotes Bill Maher's accurate memory of the song "Mediocre Fred"...without noting that that song was written by Pat Paulsen, a fact which would strengthen Bianculli's point in the passage in question. But DB clearly loves the SmoBros' work, and got some good interview material from them, their sister, and many of the others around them, and I'm not sure he overstates the importance of the Comedy Hour and its spinoffs and the fights with CBS they had. By no means a perfect book, but interesting both for the light it sheds on their early career, and their careers since the firing (and replacement by that other comedy and music series, only in this case much worse comedy and sometimes rather similar music, Hee-Haw...which CBS would high-handedly cancel in turn in its purge of "rural", older-skewing series in favor of the post-All in the Family wave of more "urban/suburban," "hipper" shows...the kind of thing the Smotherses were providing when they were fired).

from WorldCat:

The American folk scene : dimensions of the folksong revival

Author: David A De Turk; A Poulin
Publisher: New York : Dell Pub. Co., 1967.
334 p. ; 18 cm.

Contents:
Pt. 1: Folk and the folk arrival. Folk and the folk arrival / Sandy Paton ; Why folk music? / Pete Seeger ; Who invented the folk? / Stan Steiner ; Why I Detest Folk Music / Robert Reisner ; The folk music interchange: negro and white, / John Cohen ; The singer of folksongs and his conscience / Sam Hinton ; The performance of folksongs on recordings / Robert S. Whitman and Sheldon S. Kagan ; "Hootenanny": the word, its content and continuum / Peter Tamony ; Folk music in the schools of a highly industrialized society / Charles Seeger ; The folksong revival: cult or culture? / B. A. Botkin --

pt. 2: Mine enemy, the folksinger (topical-protest songs). "Mine enemy, the folksinger" / Kenneth Keating ; The position of songs of protest in folk literature / John Greenway ; Songs of our time from the pages of broadside magazine / Gordon Friesen ; P-for-protest / Jon Pankake and Paul Nelson ; Topical songs and folksinging, 1965, A Symposium / Don West, Phil Ochs, Ewan MacColl, Chad Mitchell, John Cohen, Moses Asch, Josh Dunson ; The topical song revolution at midpoint / Irwin Silber ; Sing a song of freedom / Robert Sherman --

pt. 3: Woody and his children: four for our time. Woody Guthrie: the man, the land, the understanding / John Greenway ; The ballad of Pete Seeger / Peter Lyon ; Sibyl with guitar ('Time' magazine) ; Joan Baez, an interview ; Baez and Dylan: a generation singing out / Richard Farina ; Bob Dylan / John Pankake and Paul Nelson ; "Highway 61 revisited" / Irwin Silber and Paul Nelson ; I will show you fear in a handful of songs / David A. De Turk and A. Poulin, Jr. ; Pete's children: the American folksong revival, pro and con / Jon Pankake --

pt. 4: Folk, rock, cash, and the future. Folk rock: thunder without rain / Josh Dunson ; Folk music and the success syndrome / Irwin Silber ; Commercialism and the folksong revival / Ron Radosh ; Is cash killing folk music? / Josh Dunson and Moses Asch ; Folksongs, fakelore, and cash / G. Legman ; The future of the folk renascence / Nat Hentof]f].

A redux post from 2 March 2012. Joni Mitchell's 75th birthday yesterday.

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Friday, November 2, 2018

FFB: THE WOMEN WHO WALK THROUGH FIRE edited by Susanna J. Sturgis (Crossing Press 1990)

from liberation: a magazine for freedom issue 0/(in*sit) issue 4.5, Summer 1993 (review written in 1990)

An impressive anthology, a sequel to Memories and Visions, reviewed last issue, and like V. 1 mostly new fiction with a few reprints mixed in. At least four stories here are about as good as they can be: the brilliant Rachel Pollack's "The Girl Who Went to the Rich Neighborhood" (a fairy tale in a modern urban setting), J. L. Comeau's hard-edged, violent contemporary horror "Firebird", and two stories which draw on Polynesian and Native American mythology, Eleanor Arnason's "A Ceremony of Discontent" and Carol Severance's "Shark-Killer". Cathy Hinga Haustein's "Earth and Sky Woman" is also very good, but it's realistic, not fantastic, and apparently was included on the strength of being about a scientist. G. K. Sprinkle's "Road Runner", Deborah H. Fruin's "New Age Baby" and Ruth Shigezawa's "Hills of Blue, an Orange Moon" are all well-handled "small" stories, by which I mean they don't invest as much in their subplots or resonances as the best stories here. Good, flawed stories include "The Forbidden Words of Margaret A." by L. Timmel Duchamp (it posits a quarantine on an Angela Davis-analog; fortunately or not, the U.S. takes more subtle measures against most of its dissidents than do most of its puppet satellites, which Duchamp credits with inspiring this story; even as an allegory for the lack of access most U.S. citizens have to dissident views, the story comes off as heavy-handed); Elaine Bergstrom's "Net Songs" (yet another tyranny overthrown by one bold individual, but AIDS-angst well-channeled); Lucy Sussex's "My Lady Tongue" (which [seemed to me at the time] to be afraid to endorse lesbian separatism more out fear of offense than actual conviction); and Phyllis Ann Karr's "Night of the Short Knives", which strikes me as a minor Frostflower and Thorn story [Karr's sword & sorcery series]--likewise Ginger Simpson Curry's "Sahrel Short Swords" has several imaginative touches but is a too-familiar tale. Nonetheless, all of these repay the reader well; less satisfactory, if still readable, are Rosalind Warren's fannish joke "The Inkblot Test", Merrill Mushroom's "Mamugrandae--the Second Tale" (just as overly cute as the author's handle might suggest), and Cleo Kozol's "Picnic Days", which would've fit well into the back pages of the late 1950s Galaxy magazine as an example of heartfelt, playful, but ultimately bootless "comic inferno" satire. This book is definitely worth owning; the best work sings, and the least hums along well enough.

for more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

from the Locus index of sf:

The Women Who Walk Through Fire: Women’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. 2 ed. Susanna J. Sturgis (The Crossing Press 0-89594-419-7, Sep ’90 [Oct ’90], $9.95, 275pp, tp, cover by Beth Avery) Anthology of 16 sf and fantasy stories by women, ten original, with an introduction by the editor. A hardcover edition (-420-0) was announced, but not seen.