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Paradise Lost Audio CD – Audiobook, Dec 1 2005
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One could hardly hope for a more intelligent reading of Milton's epic poem, relating Satan's temptation of Adam and Eve and their fall. Anton Lesser's clarity, expressiveness, and careful weighting of each phrase deserve high praise. The dialogue comes across like Shakespearean drama, and while Lesser doesn't vary his voice much, he strikes the right note for each character. In Satan's soliloquies, when he whispers, Lesser's reading is thrilling; but when he thunders, his somewhat thin tenor makes him sound querulous rather than grand, so where we expect tympani, we get a snare drum. Still, Lesser provides so much else it seems small-minded to cavil at this flaw. He makes Milton exciting. W.M. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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Prior to listening to this unabridged audio version, I was only dimly aware of PARADISE LOST. I knew it was an epic poem about Satan's fall from grace, and knew that it was quoted in the Star Trek episode "Space Seed." ("It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.")
British thespian Anton Lesser brings the saga dramatically to life. It is a delight to hear a great actor speak great verse and tell an epic tale.
You still have to pay close attention to the proceedings. Multitasking throughout will leave you baffled and doing much rewinding. This is not for those with short attention spans. Focus is required, but you will be rewarded.
For those who revel in marvelous spoken word performances, this is highly recommended.
Paradise Lost is a notoriously difficult text, full of learned references to mythology, history, and geography; the language is dense, the syntax twisted, the sense frequently obscure; and the poem is just plain long. Perhaps surprisingly, Anton Lesser's reading makes it possible to ride over all these difficulties; his intelligent and varied readings make the sense clear even when the language isn't. One hears the infinite variety of the poem, the delicate and touching parts as well as the stirring and sublime, the innocence of Paradise and the magnificent evil of Satan. I've read Paradise Lost perhaps half a dozen times over the years, always with notes; this is the first time I was sorry to reach the end of it.
But what about the abridged version? I don't recommend it; Milton builds up his climaxes on a vast scale, and a "great moments from Milton" approach weakens their effect. Also, on the abridged version, Eve is read by an actress. This seems to me a mistake; Paradise Lost is full of voices -- Satan and all the demonic throng, the allegorical figures of Sin and Death (Sin is also a woman), God, the Messiah, the angelic host, Adam and Eve -- and to single out one of the voices is to falsely highlight and distort. (Plus, the part is read with an odd accent, almost Irish; what is that about?) It must be granted that all of Lesser's skill can't make God Himself more than a cold and distant abstraction. But that is what Milton wrote, and probably what he intended.
So, my recommendation is to spend the extra and get the complete set. It's something you wouldn't want to miss!
I found that listening to "Paradise Lost" did meet my expectations. I had to concentrate, but the effort was well worth it. I couldn't race through it and enjoyed it as intended. Anton Lesser did an excellent job as usual as the reader. His voice seemed appropriate for this type of work; though I agree with another reviewer that a more powerful voice may have been appropriate for the voice of God.
I really enjoyed Milton's vision of the creation and fall. The epic descriptions of the heavens and Satan and the other characters were vivid and I could see why this is considered such a great work. From a theological perspective, it was interesting to see his view of the origin of the angels, the Son, and Satan. He did a very good job of taking cryptic verses from the Bible and other sources and expanding them out into a powerful story.
I highly recommend this audio book and feel that this is a very good way to be introduced to Milton.
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