This is a first-rate collection of essays by one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. The reader, Frederick Davidson, is excellent (as usual). As other reviewers have pointed out, the recording skips in places; this happens especially often in the latter half of Part 2. In nearly all cases the skips are tiny and it's easy enough to fill in the missing word (and it really does seem to be just one word that's affected), but there are a few more substantial skips. This isn't really acceptable, frankly, but I found it detracted less from my enjoyment of the book than one might think. It's not ideal, but it's hardly a fatal flaw when the content is so very good.
The complete contents are as follows:
- "Such, Such Were the Joys"
- Charles Dickens
- The Art of Donald McGill
- Rudyard Kipling
- Raffles and Miss Blandish
- Shooting an Elephant
- Politics and the English Language
- Reflections on Gandhi
- Looking Back on the Spanish War
- Inside the Whale
- England Your England
- Boys' Weeklies
- Why I Write
This dramatization, in eight half-hour episodes, apparently dates from 1993. Rene Basilico's adaptation of the novel is skillful, though perhaps inevitably some important elements of the story (particularly to do with Pym's childhood) are omitted or only mentioned briefly. The production is good, and James Fox is excellent in the lead role. My only complaint is that some of the acting is at times a little cartoonish. It's as if the program came at a time of transition between an older, "stagey" style of voice acting and a modern, more naturalistic approach. Fortunately the problem is mostly confined to minor characters. Although this program is not quite up to the standard of the BBC's recent (superb) cycle of le Carre's Smiley novels, it is still effective and enjoyable overall. Here's hoping the BBC will release more le Carre dramatizations!
Bill Bryson is always great, but this book is a particular favorite, and as a reader Bryson is marvellous -- low-key, endearing, and very funny. It's like spending hour after delightful hour in the company of a dear friend with an inexhaustible supply of fascinating and amusing anecdotes. I've never been to Australia -- yet -- but I love it dearly as a result of this book. In fact, when I read Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice" not long after completing this book, I got so homesick for Australia that I read the Bryson book all over again. I really can't recommend it highly enough.
I sampled a wide variety of readings before settling on this one, and I couldn't have been happier. David Buck's narration is superb. This is the one to get!
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