Warren Clements writes:
While putting together my book How to Get to Heaven and Back, which took a deadly accurate but humorously tinged look at all those movies in which people die, go to Heaven or Hell, and come back again, I listened to Katzenjammer. It’s an amazing group, all women, from Norway (I think). They sing in English, their tunes and arrangements are endlessly inventive, and their idiom is pop/rock, but they range so widely that it’s impossible to pigeonhole them. Although their CD Le Pop was available in Canada — and that’s the one I played over and over again while writing Heaven — they seem to have made nary a dent in this country. I can’t understand it. They are wildly popular in Europe, and tailor-made for a wide audience. Their latest, Rockland, cost me a fortune to buy on Amazon, and it’s less rock-based than Le Pop, but it too is wonderful — as was their middle CD, A Kiss Before You Go. Should any of this intrigue you, you will find many of their live performances on YouTube.
The latest two additions to the Nestlings Press fold are Aesop, ASAP, a book of 50 Aesop’s fables translated into brisk verse, with charming illustrations by Anthony Jenkins, late of The Globe and Mail; and News of the Day, Lustily Shouted, a showcase for the witty, expert draftsmanship of Julian Mulock, who has illustrated mock-Victorian quatrains (mine) with an affectionate nod to Edward Gorey and Charles Dana Gibson (the U.S. illustrator in the early twentieth century whose specialty was the “Gibson girl,” an ever-changing young lady in the latest fashions, who was forever being wooed by presentable young men). At least of this writing, the front cover on the website is black on white, but the actual cover is a deep maroon. We’ll get around to fixing that, and may have done so by the time you read this.
Composing the quatrains for Julian’s book was an endeavour carried out whenever inspiration struck, usually while I was on the streetcar. Putting together Aesop, ASAP, was another matter. I would use my memory of the fables to write rough versions of the fables, and then consult many books of Aesop’s fables (in prose) to correct any points I had remembered wrongly. Then came the sculpting: gritting my teeth and abandoning favourite lines if they interrupted the flow or didn’t quite fit the metre. And, as I wrote and rewrote, I listened to another CD over and over again — this time the 2014 album Turning Rocks by Thus Owls, a Montreal band with a Swedish connection. Like the Katzenjammer CDs, it has very catchy melodies, though it’s far softer in its approach — as suitable for the world of Aesop as Katzenjammer was for Heaven and Hell.