John Lee gives a hearty but flawed performance of "Ulysses." The energy and the humor come through -- this is, after all, one of the funniest books ever written -- but there are quieter moments as well, and these fare badly: Lee delivers everything at a breakneck pace, not so much narrating the book as declaiming it.
In addition, there are some errors in the production design of the audiobook that detract from its effectiveness. First and foremost, "Ulysses" is full of music, from snatches of song to the quarter-hour tolling of a bell tower. All are rendered in the same straightforward declamatory prose style of the rest of the narration. Second -- and it's possible this is a problem with the Audible rendering rather than the original audiobook -- the episodes all run together without a second's pause between them. Whether you view the book as three long chapters or eighteen separate episodes, there are clear indications of breaks throughout the text, each accompanied by major changes in tone, style, and narrator. Here, the last sentence of one and first sentence of the next seem to be delivered in the same breath.
It seems to be using a better (more recent) text than the Naxos version. The Naxos version has a number of other flaws as well, but it does a far better job of capturing the music and the rhythm of the narration than Blackstone's offering. If Blackstone were willing to undertake it, a little re-engineering of this title could make a huge difference and might justify a higher rating.
I purchased this title several months ago on CD and have been hoping for some time that Audible would make it available. It's an unusual version of the Divine Comedy: a fresh translation with a kind of built-in study guide. Brief explanations of most of the allusions in this complex poem are woven into the text. For example, where Dante might refer to "the Eagle," this translation says: "the Eagle, emblem of the Empire."
There is one drawback to this, and that is that Dante's allusions are not always so clear-cut. The translator has typically chosen a single concrete tag line among the many possible annotations. But this audiobook is an introduction, not a substitute for an intensive study of Dante. It's meant to be an enjoyable and comprehensible audiobook, something that will give you more of the Divine Comedy on a first listen than you can get from most of the others available.
I've read the Commedia several times in a variety of translations, and despite my familiarity with many of the passages, I found these small additions to the text quite helpful. It's easy when reading the poem to forget who was a Guelph and who was a Ghibelline; this audiobook helps you keep it straight.
Although I haven't seen the text in print (I'm not sure if it's even available), the translation appears to be prose. The translator has tried to capture some of the poetic energy of the work by making extensive use of alliteration rather than rhyme. Most of the time this works admirably; sometimes it's a strain.
Grover Gardner, a Virgil among readers, gives his usual sterling narration.
I would suggest, if you do get this, that you listen to it in small doses. Despite the helpful features of the translation, Dante's poem remains dense with symbol and meaning. There's a lot to take in. Go slow and savor.
The Brothers Karamazov is a wonderful book, and deserves to be read by many more people than might be willing to tackle the whole thing. This audiobook comes to the rescue. It's a remarkable achievement. It manages to get in every character, every incident, every philosophical digression I remember from two previous readings of the whole thing. And it does it without rushing. The pacing is steady throughout.
Unlike the four or five hour versions typical of abridged audiobooks, this one appears to operate at the level of the word and phrase rather than the level of the incident or chapter: a little snip here, a small excision there; it all adds up to a version with about 56% of the original text intact. It's more a condensation than an abridgment. Yes, you're not getting the whole thing, but you're getting a solid and thoughtful selection, not a hack job. The Grand Inquisitor is still there in all his confounding glory.
And you're getting Simon Vance. As a narrator of 19th century novels, Vance is nearly without peer. (He's pretty good with contemporary books as well, it's just that I've listened to more of the other.) Maybe not a man of a thousand voices, but he's got a couple hundred at least, and many of them are on display here - none of them for show, all of them in the service of the novel.
Of course, if you can and want to, you should eventually tackle the whole thing. But give this one a shot in the meantime. Or give it a shot if, like me, you've read it before and just want a somewhat faster "review." Except it doesn't feel like a review when you're listening to it. It feels like Dostoevsky.
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." - Jojen Reed. #ADanceWithDragons
Dante did a masterful job here and coupled with the excellent narrative by Grover Gardner this was without a doubt a true joy to listen to.
The imagery created by Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso was done immensely well. I found Dante's depiction of Inferno (Hell) exceptionally well written and the translation of Herbert Kenny seems to have done it justice. I personally thought that it was the best of the three explained in this prose. I say that not to take away from the impact that Purgatorio (Limbo) and Paradiso (Heaven) created because those two (2) sections were also quite impressively worded and translated. One would think that due to the somewhat specific mention that was made to certain persons, places and cultural idiosyncrasies that was very evident in the book that it would be difficult to follow at times but I found it very easy to follow. It really is quite timeless if you ask me, it should be able to resound quite well if you are interested in any theological writing or if you are simply a fan of expertly written prose of epic proportions. There is nothing I can take away from the writing itself and outside of someone simply disagreeing with the concepts he puts forward I doubt there is anything anyone will be able to take from it.
There are a number of different versions of this book on the website and I was very concerned by the reviews regarding the narration until I came across this one. I started listening to this title very critical because I was essentially preparing for the worse... but I was surprised... Pleasantly so! The narrator did in fact do the book justice! He keeps the pace well and was able to keep you well enough engrossed in the story.
Overall, just plain masterful all around. This was time well spent! And most definitely have replay value!