I have been appallingly remiss at posting on my blog during the past year. I shall now make amends and get up to date. I shall start with the audiobooks I have completed since my last post.
More short(ish) Dickens
In January 2013 I completed another of Charles Dickens’ “Christmas” books, following The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth in previous years. This year’s was The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.
More longish Cleek – hurray!
This was followed in March by my eventual completion of Cleek of Scotland Yard. This is more or less a sequel to the first Cleek book Cleek: The Man of the Forty Faces, unlike The Riddle of the Purple Emperor and the Riddle of the Frozen Flame, full-length stories which were each about one case, and both of which I found frankly a bit disappointing. Both of the latter were authored by both Thomas and Mary Hanshew, and just not up to the standard of the books written by Thomas alone, in my opinion. Anyway, if you enjoy a good unlikely detective romp, I’d recommend listening to The Man of the Forty Faces first, and then Cleek of Scotland Yard.
A difficult Saki
I then made what is probably a bad decision. I chose to record The Westminster Alice by Saki, a parody of Alice in Wonderland set around 1900 in Westminster, the seat of British politics. Now, Saki is generally very, very funny… but this book relies so heavily on topical humour relating to the politics of the day that much of its charm has evaporated like the morning dew. So much so that I found myself spending hour upon hour researching turn-of-the-century politics, war, religion and public figures to find out what on earth it was all about.
I ended up by recording and uploading to the Internet Archive the notes that I’d made, but in all honesty it didn’t really rescue what was a bad choice for a LibriVox recording. The upside is that I learned a lot about politics and the South African (2nd Boer) War in the process.
An alternative history
I had never heard of Aristopia: A Romance-History of the New World, but was introduced to it as an interesting recording possibility. It is an alternative history of the United States, documenting what might have happened if one of Captain John Smith’s Jamestown colonists had discovered an immense reef of gold, and used his vast wealth to benefit the poor and disenfranchised of Europe by providing them with immigrant transport to his new ‘Commonwealth’ in the New World.
It can’t be described as great literature, certainly. The characters (of whom there are few) don’t come to life at all. It draws heavily on More’s Utopia and Captain Smith’s diary. However, as the first novel-length example of the alternative history genre, it is interesting and was worth recording.
Did I mention More’s Utopia?
As I hadn’t ever read Utopia, it occurred to me that I should record that too. There was already a recording of the 17th century Burnet translation in the LibriVox catalogue, so I thought I would go back to the original 16th century translation by Ralph Robinson, and chose the version which William Morris printed at his celebrated Kelmscott Press, with his own introduction. It wasn’t very easy to read! However I did enjoy it, and feel that I am slightly less ignorant now.
I have many other things to tell you all, but those for another day. I promise it will be soon.
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