It seems that today is not independence day, after all, but thanksgiving day, brought forward by half a year. Up and down the land, those fortunate enough to survive lockdown have been out and about, singing a Fleetwood Mac song to express their thanks to those who have helped them through it. The suggestion that we are in fact through it, or soon will be, seems questionable, but still ….
…. leaving aside the obvious domestic acknowledgements, here is my list of those who have helped me. They have kept me company on long walks with dogs and transformed the tedium of car journeys into a sinful indulgence, like chocolate.
Don Katz, founder of Audible. People tell me it’s now owned by amazon, but I try not to think about that. A standing order of £1 a month to HMRC – 12.5% of my subscription – may go some way to filling the hole of unpaid tax.
Michael Jayston, the definitive reader of Le Carré (miles better than JLC imo). I do have issues with MJ: his pronunciation of cadre, for example, to rhyme with padre, always jars with me. Cadre was my last resting place in CCF at school, and about the only thing I learnt while in it was that it rhymes with larder. Incidentally, I’m surprised how often this rare word crops up in the books, about once a chapter at a rough guess. Nor do I care for albino as ‘albeyeno’, grimace as ‘grim-ace,’ suit as ‘syute’ or physiognomy with a hard g. Never mind: Jayston is as good a Smiley as Guinness was, which is going some. And Guinness didn’t have to be all the other characters. Jayston does a lovely Connie and splendid reptilian ministers of state, and he is particularly strong when voices from north of the border are required – such as the loathsome Percy, or ghastly Lauder Strickland. His Rick Pym wants for nothing.
Harriet Walter, reader of the Balkan Trilogy. Her mastery of Romanian names and places is impressively confident and convincing. When Guy and Harriet set sail from the Piraeus, I sailed cheerfully with them, keenly looking forward to Egypt, only to find that Audible has no listing for the Levant Trilogy. Come along Harriet, what’s keeping you? I may actually have to pick the book up and read it.
Sam Dastor, reader of the Jewel in the Crown – such wonderful landscape descriptions. Once again, audible fails to complete the series, offering only a BBC dramatisation of the whole thing which is no substitute for the unabridged experience.
Joe Barrett, who did the impossible, reading Owen Meany’s miraculous voice. Audible adds an interview with John Irving as an afterthought, much of it concerned with the question of Johnny Wheelwright’s sexual orientation. Who cares?
Peter Wickham (Siege of Krishnapur), Kevin Hely (Troubles) and Mike Grady (Singapore Grip) all did their bit, perfectly pitched and paced for the slow-moving sentences of JG Farrell’s elegiac decline and fall trilogy.
Alexei Sayle, who was a tiny bit disappointing as a desert island castaway – sorry, but it needed saying – but pointed me in the direction of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour Trilogy. (Isn’t it cheating to choose three books, by the way, Lauren?) Audible’s reader is Christian Rodska. I wasn’t sure about his voice when I listened to the sample; it sounded a bit sharp. But I soon came round to him; Waugh was nothing if not sharp. Unlike Jayston he is a good linguist – although not entirely sound on Cretan place names – and he does a fine Crouchback, the blank wall upon which events and characters imprint themselves. Two books down and one to go, I don’t expect to improve on the line from book two that sees Guy walking through Crete, ‘in good heart, almost buoyant, as he tramped alone, eased at last of the lead weight of human company’.
A reminder that lockdown was not all bad.