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Reading the Classics: Serendipity by Technology

This month I accidentally discovered a novel that may very well rank among my favorites of all time! I had actually begun to read another book to serve as my “Classic of the Month”. It was a reread; again a re-visitation of a favorite from my college days that I felt I wanted to share…and it may yet become a blog post one day. But just as I was getting into it, fate intervened! And oddly enough it came in the form of rabbits from Richard Adam’s Watership Down.

I’ll explain. I have recently begun using a Nexus 7 tablet. You see, back when I was a single fellow living in a tiny apartment, I was able to have an audiobook blaring from my CD player whenever I chose…doing dishes, folding laundry, cooking, playing video games. I could hear my audiobooks in, no kidding, every room of my apartment (it was a tiny place!) Marriage changed all that. Not only was there another person living in that tiny apartment that may not care to listen to my audiobooks (imagine my surprise), but that tiny apartment was soon traded in for a much larger space. We’d bought a house! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about the extra space, but it was nearly impossible for me to do just about anything and still access my beloved audiobooks. The CD players are downstairs, the laundry is on the other side of the house and doing dishes requires being upstairs in the kitchen. So for my birthday, my wonderful wife bought me the tablet. To make it even better, I bought a cool speaker system that is portable, rechargeable and links wirelessly to my Nexus 7. Finally, I had technology that would allow me to access audiobooks anywhere in the house! I really wanted to test my new system with an audiobook…ANY audiobook. There were no audiobooks preloaded on to my new tablet, so I went to the handy One Click Digital page from the library website. I downloaded the first audiobook that was available. As luck would have it, I had done a “browse all” on One Click and had sorted it by author. The first available book was by a fellow called Adams, Richard Adams. And the book was Watership Down.

To make a long story short (too late), I’m ashamed to say that I made it this far in life without having read this book. I was under the impression that this was a cuddly, bunny-friendly kids’ book. And yes, there are copies in the library’s Youth Services collection. But it really explores some themes that have no age limit. Themes like death, human nature (and animal nature), freedom & the will to remain free, teamwork and the desire to keep family safe will impact young and old alike. The novel has all the elements of a modern classic and is truly worthy of the Carnegie Medal in Literature and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, both of which it won in the early ‘70s. But just as important (to me, anyhow) is the fact that Watership Down is a darn good adventure story. And I’m hopelessly drawn to a good adventure. Adams is a veteran of WWII and, in the book’s foreword, says that he based several of the bunny characters on officers and enlisted men he knew in the British Army. I could almost picture these British officers in place of the rabbits. The novel reads like a war story…it’s teeming with military tactics and lightning raids!

But to be completely honest, I haven’t actually finished the book yet. So I think I’ll get back to it now. I’m just itching to see what Hazel and Fiver do next!- Dan Winsky, Acquisitions

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2 Comments

  1. Greg Bevis says:

    Enjoy! Adams’ first bestseller and claim to fame was “Shardick”. It’s about a vicious cave bear worshipped and sacrificed to as a god. Unlike “Watership”, I don’t think a colorful, yet muted animated film was made from “Shardick”!
    The cover art for “Watership” shown is from the feature film. Animated it is, for children, itis NOT! Violent and bloody! It is good. Saw it in the theater back in 1978 or so. It’s available from Amazon on DVD. Didn’t check streaming video or on demand.
    It begins with a folktale about animals and the “gods”. Because the rabbit was a trickester, all hands and animals were turned agaist hm. He was given the gift of fertility and quick speed to survive against the world! He was called “The Prince of a Thousand Enemies.” That name has stuck with me over the years. Felt like that at times as an elementary school librarian in the ’80′s and ’90′s. Watch the video after you listen to the audio version.
    By the way, who’s the narrator? Some of these books have distinguished British actors, for British authors and books,as narrators. Peter Ustinov, John Hurt, and Patrick Stewart among others. The film voices are primarily British, but Zero Mostel is listed as one of the voice actors.
    As I started off, enjoy! Take care!

    Greg Bevis

    • Dan says:

      The narrator of this version is Ralph Cosham. And he is AMAZING. Narrators, for me, are just as important as the story itself. I can’t listen to a bad reader no matter how great the story is. Cosham is excellent! Other favorites for me are Simon Vance, John Lee and Frederick Davidson.

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