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January 12, 1987 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-01-12

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Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 12, 1987

Books

Singletusk
By Bjorn Kurten
Pantheon Books
$14.95
There once lived a group of
"Blacks", a group of "Whites", and
their offspring called "Browns" on
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the continent now known as
Europe. Single tusk, by Bjorn
Kurten, is a fictional narrative of
how these homo-sapiens (Blacks)
and Neanderthals (Whites) lived
together during the latter years of
the Ice Age.
Kurten's new novel is the sequel
to Dance of the Tiger. The first
book introduced the reader to Tiger,
a homo-sapien, who fell in love
with Veyde, a proud Neanderthal
leader. Tiger settled with Veyde,
and they produced a generation of
sterile, hybrid Browns. Kurten
admits that at the time Dance of
the Tiger was written there was
some controversy over the poss -
ibility of the Neanderthals and
sapients co-existing in Europe. In
his postscript, however, he cites

recent evidence of the high proba -
bility of co-existence, and discusses
other aspects of Ice Age life as
well.
Kurten is one of Europe's
leading paleontologists. He has
lectured at Harvard University and
has worked extensively in other
parts of the world. His postscript
analysis of Ice Age culture explains
interesting facets of that period's
societies. His second novel itself,
however, is not as enjoyable.
The book concerns Whitespear,
Tiger's nephew, who travels in
search of a holy shaman (revered
doctor/priest) to cure his father's
serious illness. At the same time,
his Brown cousin, Avens, searches
for the evil shaman (feared doctor/
priest). She feels the Browns are

social outcasts, barren people with -
out a purpose in life. With the
powers of the evil shaman,
however, she can form a renegade
band of Browns and seek vengence
on Blacks and Whites. By doing
this, she wants to prevent the
production of more Browns , since
they are destined to unhappy lives .
The plot is sketchy and the
novel remains a simplistic frame -
work without sufficient devel -
opment. There is little emotional
depth in the main characters and
even less in the secondary char -
acters. For example, the reader is
given a detailed description of
Avens by Whitespear in the first
chapter. She does not reappear,
however, until the end of the no -
vel. Her journey in search of the

evil shaman is probably more
entertaining than Whitespear's (for
the most part boring) journey.
More importantly, the reader never
witnesses the emotional changes
Avens experiences throughout the
story to emerge the character she is
by the end.
Singletusk does provide, how -
ever, an enjoyable glimpse at what
life might have resembled before
our time. Kurten does a nice job of
combining fact with fiction, and
dispels some anthropological myths
in the process. It is interesting to
note that, according to Kurten,
some of the fantastical events that
occur in the novel were actual
cultural practices performed years
ago. He contends that Ice Age
societies were much more culturally

advanced than previously believed
and that violent aggression, as
personified by the cartoon caveman
image, was rare. Kurten's char
acter, Whitespear, supports this
evidence by shunning violence and
promoting peaceful communi -
cation. He is a talented craftsman,
creating exquisite designs from flint
and other stone. Many of Kurten's
other characters also possess artistic
skills.
Singletusk paints a colorful
picture of a past society, but its
overall effect is disappointing. For
more entertaining anthropological
fiction one should check out Jean
Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series
that has dominated the recent
bestseller list, a list Singletusk
probably will never see.

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Peformance

Records
Joe Louis Walker
and the Boss Talkers
Cold is the Night
Hightone
This is a solid, easily likable
album and a strong indication that
Walker is ready to take an
important place in the new wave of
young blues musicians. The 36
year old San Francisco resident
plays his version of "contempoary
blues" with skill and sincerity.

Walker sings these songs of
infidelity, loneliness and love as if
he's been there a few times. He
wrote or cowrote all but three of the
tracks and displays skill in penning
strong, diverse songs.
Particularly impressive are the
album's closers, "Ridin' High" and
the Budy Guyish "Don.'t Play
Games." They reveal Walker and
the Boss Talkers' ability to shift
musical gears effortlessly from
uptempo rockers to more classic
blues. Both songs also feature
stinging, lyrical guitar work by

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Walker.
Walker appears on Hightone
records, the big little label that put
Robert Cray on the charts last year,
and the similarities are too obvious
to avoid. Both men mix rock, soul,
and jazz elements with their blues
to mold a unique sound. Both also
have very strong, gospel influenced
voices and are excellant guitar
technicians. However, Walker's
album tends a little more towards
rock than Stax type soul and his
voice has a rougher edge.
Cold is the Night is an en cr-
aging album and certainly pegs
Walker as an artist to keep an ey
on.
-Alan Paul'
Pete Seeger, Jane
Sapp, and Si Kahn
Carry it On
Flying Fish
Even if it wasn't a pleasure to
hear, this would be an important
release. In conjunction with Carry
it On: A History of America's
Working People in Song and Story
by Seeger and Bob Reiser
(published by Siman and Schuster)
it assembles a much needed
collection of working songs.
Folk songs played an important
role in struggles by I.W.W. and A.
F.L. organizers long before they
were subsumed into pop culture by
the Kingston Trio and, of course,
Seeger's own Weavers. Unfortun-
ately, songs like "John Henry'
"Joe Hill," and "Solidarity Forever'
became so well known that people
more or less stopped recording
them. As a result, it's been years
since all of these songs were
available in one place.
This two album set is hardly a
showcase of outstanding perfor -
mances. Of the three, only Sapp
transmits her live energy onto
vinyl. Seeger and Kahn, who works
as a union organizer when he isn't
performing, come out of the same
tradition of the itinerant balladeer.
They are strongest before an
audience and most of these cuts are
from the studio.
Sapp, on the other hand, has a
voice reminiscent of Odetta's and
her selections here, particularly
"Harriet Tubman" and "Black,
Brown, and White Blues," are
gems.
Each of the performers has his
moments, though. Seeger's version
of his sister Peggy's "I'm Gonna
Be an Engineer" transmits a good
jolt of the warm humor that has
sustained him as the premier folk
performer in America and Kahn's
"A Hayseed Like Me" shows him
in a mild mixture of humor and
def iane. -Joseph Kraus

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