Something at stake in a Richard Armitage audiobook

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Longtime readers are aware that I’m not a huge fan of Armitage’s audiobooks (or audiobooks in general, for that matter). There are some that I have enjoyed, and one that I really loved, but since his association with Audible I’ve been regularly less than enthused. (I should add that, while I’ve not written about it, I loved the first three discs of Lords of the North but doubt now that I’ll ever be able to finish it.) I’m not in the group of people who’d pay to hear him read the phone book, and honestly, 2018 was rough on me just because there was so little visual output. I know there were reasons for that and I don’t blame him for it, but my reaction to the situation remains the same. I do care about what he is reading, and in my opinion Armitage’s voice by itself is 25 percent of the pleasure Armitage the actor provides when we can actually see him. I’ll take it if here’s no other option, but I’d prefer matters otherwise.

I got a bit of money extra in the spring, and so I bought a few of the many books that appeared in 2018/19, in part to because I still truly appreciate what some of his other projects have done to inspire me, and to even the score in terms of remuneration. The Other Queen — I got through the first half of the first CD. Not my thing (I kind of thought it wouldn’t be; I’m very picky about historical fiction and the work itself is extremely run of the mill). The Snowman — I’m saving this for when I’m actually enjoying the snow, which I wasn’t this year as it hung on for six weeks too long. The Man from St Petersburg — I got all the way through it, driving back and forth to work, but the material is so dated; can men really write about women like this nowadays and still get away with it? The Murderer’s Son — I had meant to make a separate post about this and might still so I’ll just say I was disappointed by both the material and the narration, although I listened to it all. Oh, and although I didn’t want to put any money in a criminal‘s pockets, I did get Heads You Win from the library. Stopped five minutes into disc two, thinking I’d gotten a faulty copy, and went to disc 3, and then realized that the repetition was the author’s idea of a good plot concept. Yeah, no. Took it back to the library. Didn’t bother to listen to The Christmas Hirelings after reading the first chapter online. I think there are still five more from the recent glut for me to catch up on, three Joy Ellises and the two “suspense” items. Maybe someday. In the fall, perhaps, when I have long drives again.

But I had thought about writing a post about the books I have listened to with the title: Why, if Armitage is such a respected audiobook narrator, with multiple Audie nominations and now awards, does he continue getting (mostly) such crap material?

Maybe it’s just as well, because Marcus Aurelius falls into the category of “material that is not crap.” I’m not a classicist and I haven’t read Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν in the original, but I read it in ancient civ class when I was an undergraduate and didn’t think about it. I took a graduate class that touched on it briefly and again I didn’t think about it much. But the universe dropped it in my lap again in the fall of 2013 — somehow a publisher decided to send me a free copy of it, and that was a rough fall due to mom’s death, and it made its way into my bookbag and I read it again and reread it — passage by passage, in waiting rooms and restaurants and in spare and stolen moments, probably ten times at least. It was an addictive read for me, perhaps because I felt I was suffering on so many levels. Since then, when I’ve taught ancient civ, I’ve always included excerpts of it in my own courses (often Book 5, because the beginning is so striking, but also sometimes Book 8).

So now Armitage has really gotten something into his hands that has a lot of intensely personal meaning to me. That hasn’t really happened as of yet (as his Hamlet was not Shakespeare’s). I admit I’m a bit concerned as the one text that he’s read that bears some weight with me is something I never listen to. Lots of people love the Classic Love Poems, but to me, they are read much too quickly, almost without poetic insight or feeling at all, as if he were just trying to rush through them. I felt that way about several of the poems, but in particular, I was disappointed by his rendering of To His Coy Mistress; it had none of the desire and flirtatiousness I associate with that piece, which I’ve smirked about since I was sixteen or so.

And I wonder what Marcus Aurelius means to him. It’s not an unusual thing to turn to the “Meditations” when suffering; people have been doing it for almost two millennia, and it’s possible that Armitage also encountered (or re-encountered) it in a recent moment of grief. It’s also certainly possible that he’s been aware of the text for longer or in other contexts. All I can say is: I really hope this reading doesn’t rush, and that we get a sense of what the text might mean to him from his reading of it. For once, Richard Armitage: I am all ears.

~ by Servetus on June 23, 2019.

19 Responses to “Something at stake in a Richard Armitage audiobook”

  1. Actually, Amazon is releasing a new audio recording of Meditations next Tuesday, read by a different narrator. https://www.audible.com/pd/Meditations-AmazonClassics-Edition-Audiobook/1978676468?qid=1561260301&sr=1-1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=BFDN0SM5PC5NV5WTB4VC&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1

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    • Interesting. I wonder who Armitage is doing it for, then. It was a bit of a strange announcement; we usually don’t hear it from him first anyway.

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  2. I feel the same about a lot of his recent recordings however I did like The taking of Annie Thorne, the writing and the voice. I wonder how long we will have to wait to hear Marcus Aurelius, is it Audible?

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  3. 🙂 Thank you!
    A little meditation and philosophy on a Sunday morning when the heat wave is announced that is a great idea, instead of reading the latest recommendations to curb climate changes. “Meditations” according to Marcus Aurelius is accompanied by Stoic thought. This text aims at the tranquility of the soul, using the devices: “Be content to take care of the present” or “You can always find an exile in yourself!”…

    “I loved the first three discs of Lords of the North but doubt now that I’ll ever be able to finish it.”
    Me too, I loved the first one and know a few sentences by heart. But I listen to other DVDs without clinging to the text. His voice is just becoming a background sound, a lullaby during monotonous daily transportations.

    ” in my opinion Armitage’s voice by itself is 25 percent of the pleasure Armitage the actor provides when we can actually see him.”
    Just kidding, for fun! A little anatomy, worthy of a medico-legal autopsy: what percentages reserved you for the other parts of his body?

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    • yeah, I would say the strong message of the Meditations is more or less, “you can only control yourself and your own choices, so start with that and everything else will seem easier, and even if it doesn’t, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you did your best.” However, not really a solution to climate change, which will require collective action.

      anatomy: Will put it on the list 🙂

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  4. I agree about the 25%. It was frustrating last year to only be able to hear him, rather than see him, although if the audio work was his way of keeping busy it was understandable. I am excited now at the prospect of new audio work. I also agree with you about his choices. I did enjoy the Other Queen more than I expected, although the repetition was really irritating, e.g. how many times did Beth say “My fortune”. My favourites are David Copperfield, Lords of the North, the Heyers and the Joy Ellis ones (partly though because they comforted me during a crisis when I couldn’t sleep and partly because I loved his accent). I would love to read your take on the Ellis, at some point, or any others.

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    • I think the audio work was a better choice than what he did in 2013, i.e., disappear. I like the Heyers a lot.

      I’m trying so hard to get back to writing — the encouragement helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Je vous envoie mes encouragements!
        Hope you will find time for writing kind words.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m loathe to say I miss your extraordinary writing, because I don’t want to add any pressure when you are going through difficult times, but I’m looking forward to more of its .reappearance when you’re ready

        Liked by 1 person

        • it’s a fine line, isn’t it? (I also don’t like being pressured to write — but at the moment I am pressuring myself) Thanks for the good thoughts.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree with you on Heads you win..I am an audio book listener..! Copy my DVD’s to the computer..I actually deleted disc one think it was defective. For light reading I did enjoy Joy Elis mysteries..I will confess that I have a few that I haven’t read..I will buy this new one.

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    • I wonder now who’s doing the new one if not Audible. That said, I like when it’s NOT Audible as one can then get audio-DVDs.

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  6. Well, maybe he is not recording it as an audio release but as a vouce track that will go with a film/video?

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    • My immediate reaction to that was “that’s a depressing prospect.” If that’s true, let’s hope it’s something we can see without wearing 3D reality gear.

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      • Eeek, yeah, I hadn’t envisaged that…

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        • His track record is not great, imo, between interest in new media and past abridgments he’s done. I also am really not interested in watching some kind of artistic cartoon of the Meditations. It’s a series of reflections on the author’s inner life and that’s really the atmosphere in which I prefer to think about it.

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  7. Ah, nice that you have such a connection to a piece he will be reading! And I agree, some of the love poems did seem a little too rushed to me as well. Again, audio work, not for me. 🙂

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