Naxos of America, known for its discount-priced classical music label, is relaunching its British-produced spoken-word line, targeting the book and library trade. These literary productions (titles include works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Joyce and Proust) are noteworthy for their beautiful readings, crafted productions and fine fidelity. Typical of the sensitive fare is this Keats compilation, which juxtaposes the doomed poet's verse with his personal correspondence and provides biographical context along the way. The Naxos formula also includes music, in this case Benjamin Frith's stirring performances of piano works by Mendelssohn. A substantial accompanying booklet sketches Keats's life and provides print versions of the poems. The letters, written from 1816 to 1821, reveal the urgency of the poet's creative passions in the face of his own coming death from TB. It's a touching unfolding love story as well, ending with a suite of letters to his wife, Fanny. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Despite various recorded readings of Keats's poems, this is the first time an audiobook has been structured around his letters. Surrounded by brief but apt commentary, these writings reveal his closeness with his siblings. After nursing a brother who died of consumption, Keats became haunted by the prospect of his own early death, a concern that infiltrates many of the letters. The earlier ones also reveal his discomfort around women and his determination never to marry. This might seem strange for one of the greatest Romantic poets, but another look at the poems, which are read by Samuel West and Matthew Marsh, proves his most loving entreaties are abstractions. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" as he says in "Ode on a Grecian Urn," which was written during the early period of his infatuation with Fanny Brawne, the one woman he wishes to love in the flesh. Prohibited from doing so, he wrote works that alternately idolize and criticize. This is a rare glimpse of the poet presented in a nonscholarly format. Recommended wherever there is interest in Keats or Romantic poetry.--Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\