Top critical review
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Great book, terrible reading
on March 11, 2005
As Amazon has a propensity to affix customer reviews from one product to a similar but importantly different one, and as the company continues to refuse to let us sort comments by the edition to which they apply, I offer this disclaimer: I'm reviewing the edition of Barzun's *From Dawn to Decadence* read by Edward Lewis. Please note this is not the same reader appearing on the ABRIDGED cassette edition, which is read by Herrmann Edward.
While it's a huge boon to have the book available for listening, please be warned that this Barzun lover finds Edward Lewis's narration extremely difficult to listen to. I may not make it past the second tape. His voice is thin and his intonations unnatural. He comes off sounding, to my ears, entirely self-conscious and out of his element, perhaps out of his intellectual league with a writer of this caliber. It's almost impossible to focus on Barzun's wonderful prose, so distracted am I by the effort I perceive in its reading.
Further, and this is mere speculation, it sounds as though the reader's voice has been digitally manipulated at times in order to achieve a producer's desired intonation in key spots. That may not, in fact, be the case--what a laborious task that would be, across 43 hours of audio!--but in any case, something is very odd in the reading and something is very odd in the audio itself.
(This is especially painful now, as I've just listened to George Orwell's *Portrait in Sound*, nine intoxicating hours of Orwell's essays and novels read with sensitivity and aplomb by the British actor George Rose, who I will always hear and relish in my mind's ear when I read Orwell in print.)
The work at hand may be one book where it's best to stick with the proper paper edition, if possible, especially since Barzun's presentation is less linear than we're accustomed to, offering suggestions for further reading in little "pull quotes" within the pages and where they're most relevant, rather than in a list at the back of the book.