CD Review: The Poems of T. S. Eliot, Read by Jeremy Irons

Eliot ironsT. S. Eliot’s poetry is some of the finest of the 20th century. I’ve long been a fan of The Four Quartets, four long poems that Eliot wrote between 1935 and 1942, which were has last major works in verse. There are a number of recordings of these poems, by Eliot himself, by Alec Guinness, and by Ralph Fiennes, but this recording of the Quartets, along with much of Eliot’s other poetry, sets a new standard. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

From early poems like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Hollow Men to The Waste Land, which cemented Eliot’s position as one of the leading modernist poets in the English language, to the Four Quartets, Irons gives riveting performances of these works. They are slow, measured, with a low, sometimes almost lugubrious voice, that suits the poetry very well. For The Waste Land, he is joined by Eileen Atkins, with whom he alternates parts of the poem.

These works were originally recorded a few years ago for BBC Radio 4, and it’s very important that they are now published on CD. It’s the most complete set of Eliot’s poetry, and the set is about 3:40 long.

I strongly recommend not buying the digital version of this on Audible. I did, and requested a refund, because each poem is listed as a chapter, with no name, just numbering; Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. This isn’t something you will always want to listen to in order, and you may want to pick one or more poems when you listen to it, and it’s a shame that Audible can’t provide chapter names.

There is subtle musicality in Irons’ readings, and he brings out the depth of these poems. If you like Eliot, you must own this set.

Audiobooks on Vinyl?

From Billboard:

The resurgence of vinyl continues, as Hachette Audio, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, and Wax Audio Group has announced a new series of vinyl + digital audiobook titles in 2018. The range will include releases read by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jerry Garcia, Amanda Palmer and Steve Jones, among others. The series launches with David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water, which is available today (Feb. 27).

WTF? Seriously, why would anyone do this? No one is going to listen to an audiobook on vinyl. This is just capitalizing on the lets-buy-vinyl-so-we-can-flog-it-on-eBay-in-a-few-years boom.

Among such creative executions of Hachette and Wax’s audiobook-on-vinyl titles: Wallace’s This Is Water is available in two limited collector’s editions — 1,500 copies will feature a blue-and-white water-inspired design for online orders, while independent bookstores and music stores will get 500 copies on orange colored vinyl.

“Creative executions…” Pfft.

Episode #93 – Simon Vance on Narrating Audiobooks

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxIf you’re an audiobook listener, you will probably recognize this voice. We welcome Simon Vance, one of the most widely appreciated narrator of audiobooks. He discusses what it involves to record audiobooks, and how the audiobook industry works.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #93 – Simon Vance on Narrating Audiobooks.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

The Millions : Running in the Wake – The Millions

When I started running, I was stately, yes, but too plump, and I took to the roads in the morning to take in the crisp air and give myself a bit more margin of error to drink beer.  About half a decade later — a year ago now — I found myself waving goodbye to my wife on a chilly, wet October morning as she drove out of the empty parking lot of Mount Vernon, once George Washington’s estate on the banks of the gray Potomac River, back to our warm home, 19 miles away, and our kitchen, and two cats, myself left with just a bag of water on my back, an MP3 recording of an Irishman reading seeming gibberish for 35 hours — i.e., James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness dirge Finnegans Wake — and a GPS watch to track it all.  And, of course, space-age sprays and pastes slathered on my peaks and valleys to prevent chafing.

I like the idea of listening to Finnegans Wake when running. It’s the kind of book that you simply can’t follow, so you can just go with the rhythm of the words, and pick up on bits and pieces of it as you go along.

Source: The Millions : Running in the Wake – The Millions

The Next Track, Episode #8 – Listening to Words: Audiobooks and Spoken Word Recordings

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxIn the latest episode of The Next Track, Doug Adams and Kirk McElhearn discuss spoken word recordings. How to get them, how to manage them, and how to listen to them. And we discuss how the history of recording started with recordings of spoken word content.

“Like a Victorian call center.”

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #8 – Listening to Words: Audiobooks and Spoken Word Recordings.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Listen to Audiobooks with the Overcast Podcast App on iOS

I’m a big fan of Marco Arment’s Overcast, which has become the only podcast app I use on iOS. The most useful feature is the Smart Speed adjustment, which speeds up podcasts by eliminating small bits of silence. I listen to many of my podcast at around 1.5x, and they sound just find, not at all like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

One thing I had long wished Overcast could do was play audiobooks, to take advantage of the Smart Speed feature. Most audiobook players let you speed up playback, but only at set increments, such as 1.25, 1.5, 2, etc. But Overcast’s the Smart Speed feature increases the speed more flexibly, and the different settings, taking advantage of the silences that are eliminated, aren’t fixed intervals, but change depending on the audio file you listen to.

The latest update to Overcast allows paying users to upload up to 2 GB of files to Overcast’s server, then stream or download them to the app. (Overcast is free for its basic features; it offers a voluntary patronage model which unlock this feature, along with a new dark theme.)

So how do you listen to audiobooks with Overcast? You can only use audiobooks that don’t have DRM; books that you’ve ripped from CDs or downloaded without DRM. But it’s a real annoyance to have lots of little files, as is generally the case on CDs.

Doug Adams has long sold an app called Join Together, which can stich up a bunch of small files into larger files to make it easier to store and listen to audiobooks. Doug has written a blog post explaining how to use Join Together and Overcast to listen to audiobooks.

If you are an audiobook listener, I strongly recommend you check out this solution.