Thursday, July 09, 2015

librivox splurge

I moved house. As the drive to the office is now ten minutes not five, and as I've been making a few round trips to Frome and elsewhere, I thought it was worth downloading a bunch of Librivox audiobooks. (The splurge is, of course, free.)

Here's what I've listened to so far:

Marlowe, both parts of Tamburlaine the Great. A bit of a trudge through Marlowe's incessantly mighty line. It's not the fault of the readers - David Goldfarb and a good supporting cast. It's just that the uncut text needs something more than reading aloud to spark it into dramatic life. Listening to this, you are made aware that none of the participants are in the same location, and that each has recorded their speeches separately.  (As often in my own silent readings of Tamburlaine, I found the most lively part is the digressive episode at the beginning of Part 2 when the Christians under Sigismond betray their alliance with Orcanes.)

Benito Perez Galdos, Electra.  (see other post)  Here's proof that Librivox readings of plays can be very involving indeed. This is a proper performance. Brilliant production, recommended.

Balzac, Eugenie Grandet.  Absolutely wonderful. (I'd read it before, but a very long time ago). I am now at the age when everything in Balzac at last makes sense. Well, perhaps not all the financial details: I still don't entirely grasp how Grandet makes such a good thing of his brother's bankruptcy. The story (with its infinitely slow opening chapter) has me wide-eyed and gripped: it all seems real and unexpected, as if described events unfolding within my own family circle. Terrific reading by the great Bruce Pirie. (The only thing I'd comment on is that he somehow makes me really take to old Grandet, even in the face of all his selfishness, self-interest and tyranny.)  

Dostoyevsky, The Gambler - Good reading (mostly by Bill Boerst) - the book is entertaining and empty-headed. Doesn't really make me want to go back to this author whose books I so devoured as a teenager, though I realize The Gambler is not by any means a fair sample.

Chekhov The Lady with the Dog and other stories. A surprisingly disappointing experience. I'm a massive fan of Chekhov's short stories, but listening to these one after another doesn't show them off to best advantage. The downbeat endings tend to come as shocks or mere stops; unable to see the page, I had little sense of them arriving. And then there was no opportunity to reflect, to look back over the text and to admire the artistry: instead, I was straight off on another jaunt to some usually inconclusive destination. The details blur. The doctor who doesn't marry the pianist. The kiss on the theatre stairs. The pistol-shot. The jealous husband at the army dance.

Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho. Here's an author who is really new to me - at least, I've never read any of her books, though I imagined I knew something about them, I supposed I could "place" her. Now, all my thoughts are being revised. "Love the scenery of S. France  - the author must have remembered her travels well"; so I comment at this early stage.   (I was still near the beginning of vol 2). I've since discovered that she had never been on any travels. Her only trip abroad, later in life, was to Belgium.

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