First Lines: The Book of Ballads

Neil Gaiman was my gateway-drug to Charles Vess, since he did the illustrations for Gaiman’s Stardust. Then came his illustrations for Peter Pan, and Instructions, again with Gaiman. Finally, his work on Gaiman’s Sandman and The Books of Magic are very pleasing to the eye.

Some time ago, I picked up a copy of Vess’ The Book of Ballads, which contains the great songs and folktales of the English, Irish and Scottish traditions in sequential art form. So, it’s old tales, retold and illuminated, followed by the original. Now, I’m not that familiar with those traditions, nor very inclined to change that. The main thing I took away from this volume is that it’s quite pretty.

Book read
Charles Vess (et al.) — The Book of Ballads
First line
I’m off to school ma. (from The False Knight in the Road by Charless Vess with Neil Gaiman.)

Seen Live: Vellamo

Once upon a time, there was time to kill in Almere, and a folkgroup called Vellamo (Pia Leinonen on vocals and Joni Tiala guitar) were playing a gig in the library. That’s about all I have.

They, however, have a video for one of their songs, which should give you an idea.

Seen live
Vellamo, binnentuin Bibliotheek Almere, on september 28th, 2014

First Lines: The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains: A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds, written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Eddie Campbell, is a lovely edition of the story first published in the Stories anthology. As such, I read it before.

Two men, one small and one large, walk through Scotland towards the Black Mountains on the Misty Isle (which is also called the Winged Isle), to find a cave. A cave where gold is to be found, or so men say. They find the cave. And, perhaps, also truth.

We were a mile from the place when I said, “The island. You asked if it would be there. Surely, an island is there, or it is not there.”

Calum hesitated. He seemed to be weighing his words, and then he said, “The Misty Isle is not as other places. And the mist that surrounds it is not like other mists.”

We walked down a path worn by hundreds of years of sheep and deer and few enough men.

He said, “They also call it the Winged Isle. Some say it is because the island, if seen from above, would look like butterfly wings. And I do not know the truth of it.” Then, “‘And what is truth?’ said jesting Pilate.”

It is harder coming down than it is going up.

I thought about it. “Sometimes I think that truth is a place. In my mind, it is like a city: there can be a hundred roads, a thousand paths, that will all take you, eventually, to the same place. It does not matter where you come from. If you walk toward the truth, you will reach it, whatever path you take.”

Calum MacInnes looked down at me and said nothing. Then, “You are wrong. The truth is a cave in the black mountains. There is one way there, and one only, and that way is treacherous and hard, and if you choose the wrong path you will die alone, on the mountainside.”

Book read
Neil Gaiman — The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains (illustrated by Eddie Campbell)
First line
You ask me if I can forgive myself?

First Lines: The Deeper Meaning of Liff

Unlike that feeling you only can say what it is in French, there are things there aren’t any words for yet. John Lloyd and Douglas Adams’ The Deeper Meaning of Liff (the 1990 revised and expanded version of 1983’s The Meaning of Liff) matches some of those common experiences, feelings, situations and objects to some of the thousands of spare words that spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places.

Ever had to take a decision that’s very hard to take because so little depends on it (like which way to walk around a park)? There’s a word for that: deventer. That irritating man next to you at a concert, who thinks he’s the conductor? He’s a thrumster. A badly suppressed yawn? That’s a wawne. To indignantly deny something which is palpably true? To hoff. You get the point.

Book read
Douglas Adams & John Lloyd — The Deeper Meaning of Liff (A Dictionary of Things That There Aren’t Any Words for Yet)
First line
Aalst (v.): One who changes his name to be nearer to the front.