Friday, September 14, 2018

FFB: THE SHAPE OF THINGS edited by Damon Knight (Popular Library 1965); THE UNKNOWN 5 edited by D. R. Bensen (Pyramid 1964)

I've been ill for much of the week, so reduxing...with apologies...but these were among my less popular reviews of years past...

Friday, December 17, 2010

FFB: THE SHAPE OF THINGS, edited by Damon Knight (Popular Library, 1965)

from the Contento indices:
The Shape of Things ed. Damon Knight (Popular Library SP352, 1965, 50¢, 206pp, pb)
· Introduction · Damon Knight · in
· Don’t Look Now · Henry Kuttner · ss Startling Stories Mar ’48
· The Box · James Blish · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Apr ’49
· The New Reality · Charles L. Harness · nv Thrilling Wonder Stories Dec ’50
· The Eternal Now · Murray Leinster · nv Thrilling Wonder Stories Fll ’44
· The Sky Was Full of Ships · Theodore Sturgeon · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Jun ’47
· The Shape of Things · Ray Bradbury · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Feb ’48
· The Only Thing We Learn · C. M. Kornbluth · ss Startling Stories Jul ’49
· The Hibited Man · L. Sprague de Camp · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct ’49
· Dormant · A. E. van Vogt · ss Startling Stories Nov ’48
· The Ambassadors · Anthony Boucher · ss Startling Stories Jun ’52
· A Child Is Crying · John D. MacDonald · ss Thrilling Wonder Stories Dec ’48

This thin volume, without making much of a fuss about it, was the first (and [I incorrectly wrote back in 2010] perhaps still is the only) Best-of the Samuel Merwin and Sam Mines years of Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, the Other Good sf magazines of the late '40s and early '50s [Mines had actually published a The Best from Startling Stories that included fiction from TWS, during his run with the pulp titles]...magazines with not as distinct personalities as Astounding Science Fiction, John W. Campbell's revolutionary magazine being challenged finally, in part by writers and editors developed and inspired by Campbell but also by (as, for example, Bradbury) writers who were never too compatible with the ASF ethos, or Planet Stories, by the end of the 1940s not only the home of elegant space opera and a regular market for Leigh Brackett and others, but by those years fully as good and about as diverse as ASF...and such magazines stressing sophistication and good prose as Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and briefly also such others as Knight's own Worlds Beyond and Howard Browne's mixed bag of the early Fantastic and the upgraded Amazing.

But, for a while, Startling and Thrilling Wonder, as burdened by their pulp-era titles as was Astounding or Amazing (at least Fantastic, and its predecessor Fantastic Adventures, and Weird Tales had descriptive titles that had some specific relevance to their content), were publishing a range of often fascinating and innovative material, including the likes of Philip Jose Farmer's The Lovers, which dealt directly with tragic interspecies romance and helped establish Farmer's reputation, and the contents of this volume...ranging from James Blish's elegant technological "problem" story (how do you rescue a city encased in an impenetrable force-field?) to Ray Bradbury's whimsical notion of a woman who gives birth to an apparently healthy blue pyramid, to Charles Harness's typical blend of space-opera and mind-blowing philosophical and cosmological speculation...Harness is yet another underappreciated writer in the field, except among those who really love and know This Kind of Thing...his influence on his younger contemporaries Jack Vance and Poul Anderson, particularly, seems pretty clear to me.

I've read that on the strength of this kind of material, Startling managed to become for a while the best-selling of sf magazines, presumably outselling Astounding, just starting to drift due to Campbell's fascination with Dianetics, psi powers, and other matters from the fringes of science, and Amazing, just after Howard Browne dumped the lunatic-fringe-stroking Shaver Mystery material (akin to Ancient Astronauts and the more irresponsible UFOlogy coverage then just coming into vogue, with, as with Dianetics and other pop mysticism, some past-life regression elements) that Browne's predecessor Ray Palmer had used to put that magazine into the circulation stratosphere...and before the insurgence in late 1950/early 1951 of Galaxy.

And yet, these magazines from the Thrilling Group pulp chain, which had been morphed (essentially) into the paperback publisher Popular Library, had been so thoroughly eclipsed, a dozen years after the titles were merged and folded, so that the packaging for this book didn't even bother to mention opposed to highlighting the kinds of writers and fiction they were publishing. (Popular Library had published several Wonder Story Annuals in the '50s and '60s, to test the waters, apparently, for the old title.) That legacy stands...even if this volume is now as obscure, certainly to the average reader, as the magazines it draws from.

Also about Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and the Thrilling Group
Also about Damon Knight

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: THE UNKNOWN 5 edited by D. R. Bensen (Pyramid 1964)

This fine and somewhat influential collection is for several reasons newly, sadly has a cover and a new (in 1964) illustration by John Schoenherr for the previously-unpublished story in the collection, the Asimov...but the other illustrations were from the pages of the original story appearances in Unknown and (its later title) Unknown Worlds, by the recently late (in 2009) Ed Cartier. (In fact, Schoenherr, best known for his Dune and other Analog and also wild-animal/landscape painting, is the [in 2009] only living contributor to the book.) (When Pyramid was bought in the latest ‘70s by HBJ, this anthology was re-issued with an absolutely hideous, by intention, Rowena Morrill cover.)

Also, it was published 45 years ago this month…in its turn 21 years after the folding of Unknown Worlds, in it's turn founded 70 years ago, with much nostalgic and not so nostalgic reminiscence in editor D.R. Bensen’s introduction, who notes that in the US-still-neutral WW2 years, the ads in Unknown and other fiction magazines lent themselves to suggesting ways to keep that $30/week job, rather than such late 1963 concerns as nuclear war (the introduction was clearly written before the Kennedy assassination). Today, of course, we’re much further along, and often most concerned with keeping that $600-900/week job.

Unknown, of course, was the fantasy-fiction companion to the hugely influential sf magazine Astounding, as mentioned in previous posts, and during its 3.5-year run it was the other major pole in fantasy-fiction publishing in the pulps and pulp-like magazines to the similarly legendary Weird Tales (in Unknown Worlds's later years, it was published in a larger size and with better paper than the pulps, with a fairly staid cover format that looked more like The Atlantic Monthly at the time than like the pulps…all factors which might’ve led to its folding in 1943, when paper supplies were getting tight and publisher Street and Smith cut back on several fronts.) Actually, 1939, when Unknown was founded, was a good year for fantasy magazines, with Ziff-Davis first offering Fantastic Adventures (though it was originally primarily a science fiction magazine), the Thrilling Group/Standard Magazines launching the shortlived Strange Stories, and the Munsey magazine group beginnin Famous Fantastic Mysteries, primarily a reprint magazine but publishing some notable original fiction. But in the early ‘40s, the post-Lovecraft/Robert Howard/Clark Ashton Smith Weird Tales and Unknown were the most prominent titles devoted exclusively to fantasy. It’s often been thus since—when Unknown folded, both WT and eventually Fantastic Adventures gained new, good contributions and contributors…even if the latter never completely shed hack adventure fiction cheek by jowl with the better work. When WT folded for the first time in 1954, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction had arisen beginning in 1949 and continuing to the present, while FA was folded into the more ambitious new Fantastic in 1954…though, unfortunately, the tendency toward hack was simply transferred over to Fantastic for the next several years (the notable Beyond Fantasy Fiction sprung up for its run from 1953-1955 as a companion to Galaxy Science Fiction). However, F&SF and Fantastic remained the most visible and consistent markets for new fantasy till Fantastic’s first run ended in 1980 (it was merged with its sf stablemate Amazing Stories, and has been revived spottily since).

Which is a long way ‘round to get to the news that F&SF, now in its 60th year, is dropping frequency to bimonthly status for the first time since the early ‘50s, and that Realms of Fantasy, which has held that “other fantasy magazine" status for 15 years, has been rather abruptly folded by its publisher (April’s will be the last issue); the revived Weird Tales, probably the next most visible US fantasy magazine, seems to be continuing, even as Fantastic will supposedly be relaunched again.

In his headnote for one of the stories within, Bensen notes that the axolotl in the Cartier illustration included with the Sturgeon story is the adult form of the “mud puppy,” apparently the then fairly recent subject of a running joke in Mad magazine…which, coincidentally, is dropping its frequency this year from monthly to quarterly, as Time Warner cuts back at its DC/Mad comics division…

So, finally, to the book’s literary content, an attempt to, even more than with its predecessor The Unknown, concentrate on stories that had not been reprinted from the magazine…including a previously unpublished lead-off story by Isaac Asimov, “Author! Author!” This had been in inventory at Unknown Worlds when the magazine folded, and Asimov had never placed it elsewhere, and it's an amiable if slightly stiff tale of a writer literally haunted by his insufferable detective character, who attempts to steal his creator’s life.

Cleve Cartmill, busy over several decades as a ghost-writer for the likes of Leslie Charteris and possibly Henry Kuttner, as well as under his own name (and famously at the center of a WW2 investigation of his atomic bomb story for Astounding, “Deadline”), has a clever if perhaps excessively folksy deal with the devil story with “The Bargain”…Stephen Vincent Benet or Manly Wade Wellman might well’ve done a bit better with this story…perhaps this kind of thing requires a three-name byline.

Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Hag Seleen” follows (originally published, with some justice, as by Sturgeon and James Beard [not the chef]), a good example of Sturgeon’s work for the magazine, but not among the greatest (such as “It,” considered here previously as part of Knight’s The Dark Half, or “Shottle Bop”). Sturgeon’s child characters could sometimes be a bit cute, and this is an example.

Alfred Bester’s novella “Hell is Forever” might be the earliest published example of Bester’s devotion to “dazzlement” as a technique…keeping this, and such later work as The Demolished Man and “5,271,009,” moving at a breakneck pace with sudden flashes of invention and deft turns of plot. He hasn’t mastered it yet, in this tale of a Hellfire Club-like group who find themselves damned to customized private hells after they wade into deeper water than they expected…but the work is both rewarding fun and promising for what he would go on to do…including a number of other novels, the last and most purely criminous reconstructed by Charles Platt for posthumous publication, Tender Loving Rage.

And "The Crest of the Wave," Jane Rice’s tale of a murdered thug’s posthumous retribution for his murder, is a good, if unextraordinary, example of that kind of borderline crime-story horror, with fine detail.

In short, this gives a good sense of what a good issue of Unknown was like, if not (nor could it quite be) an example of the absolute best the magazine published.

It should probably be mentioned that Bensen’s one sf novel was named for the letter column in UnknownAnd Having Writ…

    The Unknown 5 ed. D. R. Bensen (Pyramid R-962, Jan ’64, 50¢, 190pp, pb)

For newer reviews of rather older books, 
please see Patti Abbott's blog...

Friday, September 7, 2018

FFB: FAR OUT by Damon Knight (Simon & Schuster 1961)

First edition cover by Tony Palladino
There are writers who have been more influential in sf and fantasy than Damon Knight, though at least secondarily not so vary many (through the sheer number of writers instructed or influenced by the Clarion Writers Workshops, initially primarily his work, and that of his widow Kate Wilhelm, his partner in this as well as other things, and cofounder Robin Scott Wilson and all the administrators and instructors who worked with them and have carried on the tradition), along with such other work as his critical writing, his co-founding the SF Writers of America, his editorial projects, and the excellence of so much of his fiction. My favorite writer who wrote a considerable amount of sf probably remains Avram Davidson. But my default choice for the best sf (and sometimes fantasy) writer we've had tends to be Damon Knight, most days. Far Out was his first collection of short fiction, published a decade after he began writing fiction he felt good about, his first story to get much attention being the bitter little joke story "Not With a Bang"...but it, like his other joke-stories in this collection, the Twilight Zone-famous "To Serve Man"  and "Cabin Boy", is not solely a joke story, but a reasonably complete statement about human society (and others) and a fully-realized narrative, in this case about the small things that will have finally utterly doomed humanity after atomic war...and the not so small reasons why that, it can be argued, wouldn't be as unjust a result as it should be. (It's a rare Knight story that is populated by a cast of mostly noble characters, though there are always a few good people among those less concerned with anyone but themselves. He's not quite Ambrose Bierce, but his vision can be as dark, certainly, as most hardboiled crime-fiction writers. And not always was he so relentlessly downbeat, as such other stories here as "Special Delivery" and "You're Another" demonstrate brilliantly, in their wit and subversion of some of their own darker implications. Some later stories might swing from the charmed contemplation of "God's Nose" to the utter cold rage of "Masks"...)

What tends to set a Knight story apart is the lived-in feeling of his settings, the relative believability of his variously flawed characters, the unflashy deftness of his prose. He was not one to introduce too many startlingly new concepts into the fantastic fiction vernacular, but he would think about them intelligently and ground them in credible human terms better than nearly anyone else of his time, or before or since. He mostly avoided the hobby-horses that could derail even the best of writers drawn to fantastic fiction, "inside" the self-conscious community or "out", and he was, like most of the best of his colleagues, a very conscious artist indeed.  

The descriptions of bohemian life in the 1950s in "You're Another", one of his most underappreciated stories, are far from the caricature of most of the Beats, much less of less-engaged writers about such milieux, while getting across the draw and compulsion of an artist's calling, and doing so through the employment of a few telling details, the kinds of supplies a painter might be very happy to finally find in stock in a supply store, for example (Knight's first professionally-published work was a panel cartoon, and he was an occasional illustrator early on), while also dealing with human drama engagingly, with graceful offhandedness at times, the tragic and delightful senses of life engaged and only infrequently underlined or italicized. His short fiction was a model most of us should aspire to emulate...he didn't write a fully-realized novel till the last several years of his career, but some of the chapters in those severely flawed early novels are similarly impressive as the shorter works up to and including the novellas. And what is of the fantastic in his fiction, as suggested above, is not slighted, rarely if ever a thin vehicle for metaphor, believable within its context even when dealing with, say, the demands of the fetus being carried to this case, the stern and slightly sadistic, telepathically communicated demands of the very special creature in "Special Delivery"...again, wit and intelligent thought, and the sense of life lived are all present and awaiting the reader.  If John Cheever were perhaps a bit less visibly anguished, John Collier a bit less irascible, they'd read even more like Knight than they do. Muriel Spark is a bit less spare, but not too distant. 

I continue to wonder why such incisive work as "The Country of the Kind" and the then-new "The Handler" were left out of this volume, but the inclusion of "Babel II" (in which a visiting alien's kind offer of a recreational intoxicant from his culture leads to the impossibility of communication through written or spoken language between humans) or the small bouquet of time-travel stories help make up for this. 

Any collection of Knight's worth reading, even given how diffidently he would title also the subsequent early collections, such as In Deep, Off Center and Turning On.
First paperback edition cover by Richard Powers
    Far Out Damon Knight (Simon & Schuster, 1961, $3.95, 199pp, hc)
    • Introduction · Anthony Boucher · in
    • To Serve Man · ss Galaxy Nov 1950
    • Idiot Stick · ss Star Science Fiction Stories #4, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine 1958
    • Thing of Beauty · nv Galaxy Sep 1958
    • The Enemy · ss Venture Jan 1958
    • Not with a Bang · ss F&SF (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) Win/Spr 1950
    • Babel II · nv Beyond Fantasy Fiction Jul 1953
    • Anachron · ss If Jan 1954
    • Special Delivery · nv Galaxy Apr 1954
    • You’re Another · nv F&SF Jun 1955
    • Time Enough · ss Amazing Jul 1960, as “Enough Time”
    • Extempore · ss Infinity Science Fiction Aug 1956, as “The Beach Where Time Began”
    • Cabin Boy · nv Galaxy Sep 1951
    • The Last Word · ss Satellite Science Fiction Feb 1957

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

UK first paperback cover by Josh Kirby

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Insinuation (Not All Fathers and Daughters, But No Angels): Saturday Music Club

Evie Sands: "While I Look at You"

Bôa: "Older"

Kasey Lansdale: "Rise of the Phoenix"

Samantha Fish Band: "No Angels"

Thievery Corporation: "Voyage Libre"

Bôa: "I Love You"

Ana Tijoux: "Volver"

Jasmine Rodgers: "Icicles"

The Scarlet Furies: "Water and Rocks"

Kasey Lansdale: "Okay"

Sharon Gilchrist: "Roanoke"

Underappreciated Music: August selections: Aretha Franklin memorial, Leonard Bernstein centennial month

The monthly assembly of undervalued and often nearly "lost" music, or simply music the blogger in question wants to remind you readers/listeners of...Aretha Franklin's funeral happened yesterday, among other remembrance (and, sadly, inevitably, more deaths); August 18th was the centennial of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. 

Patti Abbott: night music

Brian Arnold: Billy Preston: "That's the Way God Planned It"

Jayme Lynn Blaschke: Friday Night Videos

Paul D. Brazill: A Song for Saturday

Jim Cameron: Farewell to Aretha;  Bobby Hutcherson: Smokin' at Montreaux

Sean Coleman: The Kinks: Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire

Jeff Gemmill: Top 5s; Suzanne Vega: Solitude Standing Jane Willow: Q&A; Mikaela Davis: Delivery; Aretha Franklin in Concert, 2014; Aretha Franklin R.I.P.; Shelby Lynne: Here I Am; Mikaela Davis: Disposable Camera

Keiko Hassler: X: "Some Other Time"; "White Girl"

Jerry House: Roger Miller & William Hauptmann/Original Cast: Big River; Hymn Time; Music from the Past

Jackie Kashian: Kristen Studard on dance music

George Kelley: Aretha Franklin: The Atlantic Singles Collection 1967-1970;  Aladdin: The Musical; Ben Yagoda: The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song

Kate Laity: Song for a Saturday

Steve Lewis: Music I'm Listening To

Barry Malzberg: Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic: "Francesca da Rimini" (Pyotr Tchaikovsky) and

Tuba Skinny: "Tom Cat Blues"

J. Eric Mason: Madeleine Peyroux: "All My Heroes"

Todd Mason: Aretha Franklin: Rest in Glory; gods of rock (including Franklin and Ray Charles in duet)

Inez Matthews: "Stay Well"

Laura Nakatsuka: Nikodimos Kabamos: Kratimata in Mode 1 and

Azi Schwartz: Hasidic Kaddish

Andrew Orley: The Young-Holt Trio: "Ain't There Something That Money Can't Buy?"

Charlie Ricci: The Hooters: "All You Zombies", "Fightin' on the Same Side"/"Wireless"; John Prine: John Prine; Jakob Dylan: Seeing Things 

Richard Robinson: Miklos Rozsa, the Victor Symphony Orchestra and Sabu Dastagir: Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book

Jeff Segal: Superorganism: "The Prawn Song"; "Night Time"; "Something for Your M.I.N.D."

W. Royal Stokes: Tony Pringle and the New Black Eagle Jazz Band

George Russell and the Swedish Radio Jazz Orchestra: Vertical Form VI

"Event I" - 9:07 "Event II" - 15:03 "Event III" - 4:36 "Event IV" - 9:24 "Event V" - 1:59 Recorded in Estrad, Sodertalje, Sweden on March 10, 1977.
George Russell - conductor, arranger Arne Domnérus - soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet Ian Uling - tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute Lennart Åberg, Bernet Rosengren - tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute Erik Nilsson - baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, flute Americo Bellotto, Bertil Lövgren - trumpet, flugelhorn Håken Nyquist - trumpet, flugelhorn, french horn Jan Allan - trumpet, french horn Ivar Olsen - french horn Lars Olofsson, Bengt Edvarsson, Jörgen Johansson - trombone Sven Larsson - bass trombone, tuba Rune Gustafsson - guitar Stefan Brolund - electric bass Bronislav Suchanek, Lars-Urban Helje - acoustic bass Björn Lind - electric piano Vlodek Gulgowski - synthesizer, electric piano Monica Dominique - celeste, organ, electric piano, clavinet Lars Beijbon, Leroy Lowe - drums Sabu Martinez - congas

The Brubeck Quartet and the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein: Brubeck Plays Bernstein Plays Brubeck

Bernstein/NYP: Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Symphony Orchestra (Howard Brubeck)
Brubeck Quartet: "Maria"; "I Feel Pretty"; "Somewhere"; "A Quiet Place"; "Tonight"
Brubeck Quartet: Jazz Impressions of Japan (apparently added as a bonus to BPBPB)

Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles: "Spirit in the Dark"

Friday, August 31, 2018

FFR: THE ZOO STORY by Edward Albee, performed by William Daniels and Mark Richman (Spoken Arts Records 1964?); NO EXIT by Jean-Paul Sartre (as translated by Paul Bowles), performed by Donald Pleasance, Anna Massey and Glenda Jackson (Caedmon Records 1968); LUV by Murray Schisgal, performed by Alan Arkin, Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach (Columbia Masterworks 1967?); JUST SO STORIES, Volume II by Rudyard Kipling, read by Sterling Holloway; music by Tutti Camarata (Disneyland Records 1965)

I've noted before on the blog that storytelling albums, such as a Smothers Brothers item I was given as a very young child (Aesop's Fables, the Smothers Brothers Way) and a very few other comedy albums my parents bought (SmoBro, Firesign Theater) helped bend the twig, along with such inputs as an audio dramatization of Dracula I borrowed on cassette from my elementary school library (and my very young brother managed to record over) and a wider range of audio materials I found at the public library from about age 9 onward, have left me a lifelong fan of the audio drama and the well-performed reading. 

So, this week, revisiting some of the items of my past in this regard, which have become kind of remotely accessible when sought after at all...and certainly not on display for loan from public libraries or new purchase as they once were.

The Spoken Arts recording of The Zoo Story was probably the last of these I caught up with, in this week's set, and it was almost certainly not the first encounter I had with William Daniels in those days of the 1970s, but this was before I first saw the film of 1776, or of course his turn in St. Elsewhere or other, later television work...though I suspect I'd already seen him as the officious villain of the likes of The Rockford Files episodes. His name didn't mean much to me, if anything, though, any more than Mark Richman's did, though his voice seemed instantly familiar. Albee I'd heard of, mostly for Who's Afraid, but it was much more fun dealing with this bit of unprovoked parody, where (as you probably know) a somewhat fussy publishing executive is bothered while sitting, eating his lunch on a park bench, by a random stranger with a rather less settled life, and an outlook to match. Richman's bluff, somewhat reflective but arrogant swagger seemed even better-fitted to his role than Daniels's growing vexation...the role didn't allow him his later patented rage against whatever small irritants were bedeviling him. This was all but the Original Cast recording (apparently, the first US production had featured George Maharis in the Richman role, for about a week, before Richman took over), and it was an excellent introduction.

The Caedmon recording of No Exit, on the other hand, was among the first of the adult plays in the LP set format I listened to, given the horror-related theme of the work in question...and the production and performances struck me as excellent, as well as the play compelling (I don't think I was introduced to the concept of lesbianism by the play, but it wasn't too long after I learned the word, I'm sure...might've been as old as ten when I first heard this one). I was mildly aware of Donald Pleasance before the production, in much the way I was mildly aware of Sartre (I had read descriptions of his play, this Monty Python thing had a few jokes about him), but I was very impressed by this set...the recording below is slightly scratched up, but listenable:
No Exit

Now, by the time I tried this recording of Luv, Murray Schisgal's hit black comedy about suicidal and scheming NYC intellectuals in the then-present day (mid '60s), I was already a veteran of a number of plays on vinyl, and this one looked promising, even if doomed triangles (see above) were not a novel concept in my listening; I was already an Alan Arkin fan, from such films as Wait Until Dark, and was broadly aware of Jackson and Wallach...though the broad performances at the beginning of the play as recorded were a bit more offputting than I had hoped (I still haven't seen the little-loved film version, though as a stone Elaine May fan, I'll have to eventually...Nichols directed this version, and May takes the woman's role in the film, though as far as I know neither was involved with thought of the other in either version).  Another YouTube transcription of a scratchy but listenable copy (I have Never loved surface noise and worse damage on vinyl).
Luv, side 1

Luv, side 2

Luv, side 3

Luv, side 4

And while such labels as Spoken Arts, Caedmon, Argo and to a lesser extent more generalized labels such as CBS and RCA (or the little jazz label Prestige) would do spoken word recordings of often high caliber, one item that was actually purchased for my younger brother when he was only a year or so past recording over library tapes caught my ear, from the slightly improbable source of Disneyland Records...but Sterling Holloway's recording of Rudyard Kipling's fables was work that could and can stand alongside the fine work in folklore and youth-accessible literature the other spoken-word labels were offering...and the music, usually not missed in the other labels' recordings, was often not too shabby in at least such recordings as this. I don't think my parents ever got around to finding Vol. I for Eric, and I'm not sure I sought it out, but I did enjoy hearing this one with him.
"How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin"

For more purely literary contributions this week (except usually from Gerard Saylor, if he's contributing), please see Patti Abbott's blog.