The immortal value of a physical book is no news. Yet you will agree that the growing proliferation of audiobooks is remarkable for multiple reasons. An audiobook saves time, it is even more portable and flexible than a physical book and it is simply a leisurely pleasure to be read to. Leaning back on comfortably placed damask cushions with a tea mug and listening in almost parallels the experience of a mediaeval lord or lady, minus a minstrel struggling in the candlelight - instead you have an iPod for your audiobook. Having pictured that, an audiobook comes especially preferable since it eases the experience for us with nasty eyes. One can now take a shower with Neil MacGregor and let the imagination whirl in the noise of Shakespeare's restless world without even a wee eyesore!
AudioGo - BBC Audiobooks, excel in productions that are desired, sought for, anticipated and simply loved. Neil MacGregor's Shakespeare's Restless World is no exception. The hardback was published in September and the paperback is due in April. Given the physical involvement of the 20 objects MacGregor has selected to paint Shakespeare's noisy era, you will not be blamed for picking up the actual book with illustrations rather than the audiobook. But what this remarkable audiobook lacks visually it makes up audibly.
MacGregor wrote and presented the programme initially for BBC Radio 4. And it has undoubtedly been a great idea to record the audiobook in that format and within the same context. So that it is not a usual performative reading of the source book but our ears are tuned to the sounds of our own restless world as much Shakespeare's. We hear MacGregor walk into the British Museum, talk to a staff member in a Jesuit school in Lancashire, visit Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, jest-joust with a fight coach, turn a revered leaf in the British Library, talk to the Dean of Shakespeare's Church in Stratford-upon-Avon and muse on Ariel and Prospero at the entrance of the BBC studio.
We learn about the wars and witches, mannerisms and massacres, kings and courtesans, plague and puritans, tourism and theatre, apprentices and apparitions, religions and regalia of Shakespeare's, indeed, restless world. MacGregor tickles our imagination with tales from an alive and kicking faraway world pregnant with history and events. Each tale spins around one of the 20 objects and is presented comprehensively and comprehensibly. Besides MacGregor, we hear Gregory Doran, Jonathan Bate, James Shapiro and other experts, scholars and historians live-quoted on a certain point they are expert on. This makes the programme more veritable, rich, multi-dimensional and simply fascinating. The sound effects and occasional Elizabethan music create an auditory magic that stirs up the mind - so that you not only time-travel across the restless world of Shakespeare but do so with fellow enthusiasts over a mug of tea.
Even if you already own a hardback, do get thee the audiobook version. Without belittling the virtue of a book, the audiobook of Shakespeare's Restless World is a totally different and most memorable experience!