Henry James, master craftsman of American realism, offers a study in building tension with The Aspern Papers, his fictional account of literary intrigue, manipulation, and the limits of biography. Performed matter-of-factly by Adrian Cronauer, The Aspern Papers are set in Venice, where canals and luminous sunsets backdrop the clash of personalities at the story’s heart. An editor believes an old Venetian woman possesses the secret and long-hidden documents of a great poet (based on Percy Bysshe Shelley), so the editor goes to Venice hoping to obtain the prized papers. What follows is a partly philosophical inquiry into what a writer can own of his own work, and the sort of dual climax for which James is so celebrated.
An editor and literary critic becomes obsessed with the life and work of poet Jeffrey Aspern, who long ago died at a Romantic and tragic young age. Now, the editor pursues the only living person to have known Aspern - the 80-year-old Juliana Bordereau. But more than memories of Aspern, Juliana has secreted away papers belonging to the poet - papers she would rather see burned than passed on to future generations.
As the editor roams the canals of Venice attempting to wheedle the papers out of the old woman, Juliana relives memories of the poet she knew for so long. Meanwhile, her live-in companion, her spinster cousin Miss Tita, plots an escape from her sheltered life. Could those notes and letters play a role in her escape? In his usual manner, Henry James weaves these strands together in a moment that culminates in a single withering glance.
Public Domain (P) Recorded Books, Inc.
This recording is only available in formats 1 or 2. I downloaded the format 2 version and found the sound quality so poor I could not even complete the book. I usually download format 3 for my MuVo, so I was very surprised by the difference one level made.
What I like about Cronauer's reading is that he is subtle in depicting the voices and emotions of the characters. For me, listening to this recording is close to the experience of reading the Henry James text.
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