Audiobook Review: Drum-Taps and Memoranda During the War

I received this book for free from Audies in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Drum-Taps and Memoranda During the WarDrum-Taps and Memoranda During the War by Walt Whitman
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Length: 6 hrs, 50 mins
Published by AudioGO on March 1, 2011
Genres: History
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audies

Walt Whitman experienced first-hand the ravages of the Civil War as a volunteer nurse in the hospitals of Washington D.C. During that time, he filled notebooks with “impromptu jottings” that became the basis of two works: Drum-Taps, a collection of 71 poems including When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d and O’ Captain My Captain, and Memoranda During the War, an intimate diary of his experience tending to the sick and dying during the war.

Okay, I know that neither of these are exactly possessed of a story, but I couldn’t devise a better term and I like consistency. So. Memoranda During the War consists of Walt Whitman’s experiences in the hospitals of the Union during the Civil War. Drum-Taps (which I humorously initially mistyped as Dum-Taps) is a collection of his war poems. Despite the title, Memoranda During the War comes first on the audiobook, which I think is stupid.

Memoranda During the War is interesting, assuming you are curious about the conditions of the Civil War. My one history course that spent a time focusing on that conflict would have benefited from these reminiscences perhaps more than from some of the books we did read (or were supposed to read). However, given its construction, which is just a series of short vignettes, it’s a bit awkward to listen to. In audiobook form, it was hard to pick up on what exactly was going on. Instead, a sense of the blood, the guts, the pain and the terrible things that constantly happened just sort of washed over me. Maybe that’s good, but I’m not sure. Certainly, I got an idea of the mood and the conditions, if not specific instances.

Drum-Taps I did not like at all. I suppose I should inform you that I am not a fan of poetry. Obviously, some poetry I do like, Shakespeare’s sonnets (some of them) for example, but, mostly, I find prose to be much more beautiful. Anyway, I especially do not care for Whitman, or at least not when read by this guy. And, in audio format, poems are worse it seems. Poetry needs to be chewed on a little more, and listening to someone plow through poem after poem does not give time for appreciation. One definite failing of Whitman in this format is that he is one of those poets who almost always titles his poem whatever happens to be the first line, meaning that you have to hear that line twice. Many times. Ugh.

Even worse, there was a message saying this portion was over, but it was just a tease, because there were many more poems. fml.

I have already intimated that I did not care for this narrator. My problem with Pinchot is primarily his accent. I don’t care for the sound of his voice either, but that could just be me, so I won’t harp on that. However, his accent is really distracting. He has a bit of a Jersey or New York sound to him (I don’t know which). This means that ‘er’ tends to be come ‘ah,’ as in the case of mothah. I just can’t take that seriously. Any time he dropped some serious dialect, I would start laughing, even though the content is sad.

Also, I looked at the two books herein contained just a little bit, trying to figure out what the format was, because, as I mentioned, it was a bit confusing to listen to without preparation. In the short time I spent doing so, I found two words he swapped for different ones (i. e. ‘these’ instead of ‘those’). They didn’t really make a change in content, but I do know you’re not supposed to do that as a narrator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge