Friday, February 19, 2010

A book review

A lovely book review of Stories from Songs can be found at:
CM Magazine

An excerpt from the review by Kay Weisman:

De Vos's writing is thorough and scholarly, yet accessible. Each thematic chapter covers several relevant ballads; she provides plot summaries, alternate titles, performance histories, critiques of critical research, and discussions of contemporary literary versions, including novels, short stories, graphic novels, poetry, and internet resources. She also includes numerous tables that organize related details such as the developmental stages of a particular ballad or the variants of a song.

For example, author's section on "The Gypsy Laddie," from the chapter on tragic love stories, notes that this is a Child ballad, type 200, about a lady who, enchanted by the gypsies, follows their leader, Johnny Faa. Her husband rides to fetch her, killing 15 gypsies in the process. De Vos describes several common variations, noting artists such as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie and the versions they have sung. She cites more than fifty alternate titles for this song, including "How Old Are You My Pretty Little Miss?" and "Black Jack Davey," and summarizes the history of this ballad in a chart with entries dating back to Plato in the fourth century. In addition, she cites and describes more than thirty critical interpretations of this song, published between 1932 and 2004. She notes three related novels (including Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass), three short stories, three poems, one picture book, and three relevant web sites. Each literary adaptation is fully described and critiqued.

De Vos does not discuss melodies, preferring to concentrate instead on the stories. Her work is heavily footnoted, and her numerous references will serve as a useful resource for other researchers. Multiple indexes (author/illustrator/musician, ballad, and title) assure that readers will find what they are looking for, making this a good choice for high school or university fine arts collections.