THE CLOISTER WALK
By Kathleen Norris
Read by Debra Winger
Audio Literature, $17.95
Two cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged
Without introduction, not even the announcement of the book's title, Debra Winger immerses listeners in this firsthand account of Kathleen Norris's monastic journey. Winger immediately reinforces a sense of intimacy, a powerful element to these reflections. Her presentation underscores the simplicity of Norris's years as an oblate in a Benedictine monastery.
"Listen" is the first word of the Benedictine Order's rule for monasteries. How fitting that audio becomes a vehicle to share Norris's insights on monastic ritual, from the reading of psalms to conversations about celibacy. Winger gives attention to pace and detail, establishing a smooth rhythm for the narration. Norris reflects on her instructions for lector reading of passages from the bible - no emoting. Winger senses this caution and relies on the poetic language and images within the text.
The mention of a scarlet dress worn by Norris stands out in vivid contrast to the neutral ground of her contemplation. The three-hour abridgment of "Cloister Walk" is over all too soon. The program encourages further exploration of the reflections Norris has to share. Norris's new "Amazing Grace" will be available this spring, read once again by Debra Winger.
LADY WINDEMERE'S FAN
By Oscar Wilde
Performed by Stephanie Beacham, Jenny Funnell, Christian Rodska, Nicky Henson, et al
Penguin Audiobooks, $16.95
Two cassettes, 105 min., unabr.
Oscar Wilde's play is part of a welcome revival of recorded drama. "Lady Windemere's Fan" was first produced in 1892 and launched Wilde's succession of social comedies. Less well-known than "The Importance of Being Earnest," this play should reach a wider audience with recorded performances. "An Ideal Husband," in revival on Broadway, along with "A Woman of No Importance" and "The Importance of Being Earnest," are all available from Penguin.