Monday, September 3, 2012

Samuel Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape (w/ other monologues)": Audiobook Review

This hour-and-a-half double CD collects shorter works of Samuel Beckett. Like the longer novels of his trilogy on Naxos Audiobooks, it immerses you into his confrontational barrage of language and his moving evocation of emotion. Jim Norton, whose recordings of "Dubliners," "A Portrait of the Artist," and "Ulysses" gained him acclaim for Naxos, here turns to Beckett. In the twenty-nine minutes of "Krapp's Last Tape," we get the noises of the chair in which Krapp sits, the whirr of the tape recorder, and sighs and pauses. Although we must imagine the narrator and not see him, the recording captures sharply the mood of this memory piece.

Krapp recalls his younger self ingeniously. His resigned older self plays the tape of that more smug self, in turn recalling a younger, nearly happy (?) self. I loved how Norton matched the cackle of the older man with the crackle of the younger, and the overlap of the two conjures up a wonderful dramatic moment. It's faithfully produced, with clear fidelity to the creaks and mutters.

Juliet Stevenson, also skilled with Beckett, takes similar paths back into memories and fears in a challenging eighteen-minute, rapidly recited, headlong leap back again into the past by demanding monologue, as the Mouth of "Not I." John Moffatt tackles "That Time," a burst of prose-poetry about a visit in the rain to an art museum's portrait gallery among other places from the past, as well as an A-B-C shuffle of three stages in a man's life similar to the structure of "Krapp." Peter Marinker's quarter-hour "A Piece of Monologue" is difficult, with the speaker confronting how to turn on a lamp (similar to Krapp's tapes?) and then moving into a graveside situation at a funeral--typical terrain for Beckett.

As you can see, or hear, these four selections are well matched. They explore what has happened, and how it's relived relentlessly or slowly by those now older. Looking back, they all approach their end by grasping what had gone before. (Amazon US 8-7-12)

P.S. Click (Windows Media Player and Microsoft Explorer) Naxos for a podcast memoir (71 mins.) with John Calder, Beckett's publisher. Also found: Marcella Riordan, Norton's co-reader for Molly Bloom, on James Joyce's women; Juliet Stevenson on Jane Austen; Haruki Murakami; Sherlock Holmes; Shakespeare; children's literature; John Milton; Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend;" and a great  talk about the media emerging to hear dramatized "War and Peace"--and Joyce--via audiobooks.

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