Friday, April 29, 2005

"Night Walk" by Isak Dinesen

Imagine a self-willed insomnia so powerful, so maddening that it leads you to desperate measures--and a last, feverish scene that might be a divine revelation or an insidious nightmare. The engima of an art student who is stricken by his master's death is Dinesen's own, for us to ponder. Read by Scoot.

Isak Dinesen was of course really Karen Blixen (or perhaps we should say Karen Blixen was really Isak Dinesen), who traveled from Denmark to Kenya to world fame as a spinner of tales which seem both ancient and ageless. Whether in her memoirs (such as Out of Africa) or her fiction (such as "Babette's Feast"), she maintains an elegant, somewhat detached poise that is classical in its proportions and yet very modern in its sensibilites--at least, that's what our inner critic with the hoity-toity attitude tells us. Listen on...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"The Darling" by Anton Chekhov

"The Darling" is one of this prolific writer's most celebrated short stories--and he wrote hundreds of good ones. Translated by Constance Garnett, this is a sad, wry, even touching story about a woman who needs a man in her life to know what she thinks. Read by Jonathan Strong.

The Russian writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov combined the careers of writer, playwright, and doctor--no wonder he died so young. More than a century later, people are still reading his books and attending his plays. No doubt you've done one or the other or both. In many ways, his plain-spoken, down-to-earth stories influenced the writers who came in his wake, all those who believed presenting realistic slices of life more interesting and compelling than manufactured plots.

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Mummy to the Rescue" by Angus Wilson

Nurse has a difficult case: her charge is out of control and likes to bite. Celia's guardians, her grandparents, don't know what to do with her, either, in this strange and surprising little story. Read by Scoot.

A South African childhood, an education in England, a wartime job as a code-breaker, a postwar job as a librarian, and success as a writer of fiction which perhaps owes more to the Victorians than to the Modernists all made Sir Angus Wilson the man he was. Much of his work was satirical of "Anglo-Saxon attitudes" from the beginning of the twentieth century all the way up to the 1980's; he also wrote biographies of Kipling and Dickens. He was considered an important enough writer by his English admirers to be knighted in 1980, and he died in his beloved Suffolk in 1991.