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Dear Friends and readers,

Still struggling to turn 24 tapes into 48 MPS of Tom Jones by Henry Fielding read aloud by David Case.  In a way my heartache has turned more pragmatically into a headache as I try to retrieve the beautiful performances on my tapes and make them into MP3s and then CDs.   On this more in the comments.  But I did experience the loss as a real grief to me for life is so short and time spent in a car so a-c-h-i-n-g-l-y lost.  And these readings cheer me the way some costume dramas movies do. They help keep depression at bay.   Yesterday I spent four hours in my car so yes:

I had a personal tragedy three days ago now.  My tape deck in my car died.  The rewinder went. Don't laugh.  When it happened I remembered Johnson's lines from his "Vanity of Human Wishes::

Year chases Year, Decay pursues Decay,
Still drops some Joy from with'ring Life away...
                ---Samuel Johnson

Friends, body parts, things we treasure, cherished objects, memories gone sour or which just hurt because they were of joy (remember Dante on the nadir of memory -- picked up by Byron and then echoed by Ausetn in her Persuasion) from recent corrosion.

This is or was my third car tape deck.  It's the second in my present car: when the first gave out, a man then running a store dedicated to car audio systems (out of business now) replaced my tape deck with a then snazzy combination deal which included radio and CD player.

It has given such pleasure for years; added books upon books to my experience. Made driving daughters to middle class type activities and clubs for years on end endurable, waiting outside for them endurable.  I was not driven wild by long hours in traffic jams. 

Over the past couple of years I listened to all of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet. This fall I listened to Philip Madoc read aloud Dr Zhivago.  This spring I've been regaling myself with Henry Fielding's Tom Jones as read by David Case.  I was half-way through my box of Tom Jones tapes; on Tape 12 of 24.  I admit that I could have bought it in CDS with a superb reader from the cover-to-cover company. But that was $160!!  the tapes cost $16 with postage partly because these tape sets are almost being given away now.  Alas, as I reported to ECW (where I've been posting about this) I shall have to go yet much slower on Tom Jones or not proceed at a visibly there experience at all. 

About ten years ago I owned no books on tape (much less CDs) at all. Then the rental companies stopped making good books to read and turned to trash, today's pop hits.  I suppose the small amount of people who rented the better books didn't make enough profit for the new efficiency experts or the bigger corporation that bought them out. They sold off all their stocks of superbly read great books. I bought only a couple for the price was high.  Those who bought were playing into the hands of the very people destroying the company's stock of good things.

But over ten years I have collected and keep a small bookcase of books-on-tape -- with a very few books on CD.  What began to happen was Amazon began to sell books read aloud: they sold the used books-on-tape that the companies had not managed to sell, and they sold new readings on CD. Some of these are digitalized versions of the older readings on tape -- witha very few new ones on tape (! -- Flo Gibson) threaded in. 

Nevertheless, no one makes tape decks any more. So Jim (realizing how I felt yesterday about the whole thing) has bought a machine (from Amazon) which claims to turn tapes into MP3s and then one "burns" them into CDs.  A lot of trouble.  We'll try it.  I'm not sure we have to do it in real time the way I once (when young) turned my daughters' long-playing records of sesame street songs into tapes, and my younger daughter (Isabel) turned these tapes into MP3s and a few CDs. She has offered to turn my Tom Jones tapes (the second part) into MP3s and CDs if nothing else works. She has some set up where she has a tape deck plugged into her computer which has software which does this.  (She knows something of how to cope with computers that her mother does not at all.)

The alternative is spend $200 to $400 for someone to send the inset audio stuff in the car away to Syracuse where there are people who will try to fix it.  Now I know from experience tape decks are delicate -- as our CD players and had the experience more than once of thinking my local car audio man had fixed the tape deck or radio when he had not so had to return the next day.  He didn't overcharge me by the way; and sometimes he'd fiddle with the thing and it'd work and there'd be no charge.

I was very sad yesterday:  other stuff too caused this intensity of feeling but this is not the place I can write about this other level of private experience.

So what solutions have I uncovered?  I do have a fancy stereo-tape-deck and record player set (very lovely kind of long playing record stereo hardly ever used) in the front room, bought in the later 1980s just before the digital revolution. I did listen a little to Tom Jones around 11 at night last night when normally I give over reading or turn to a movie or come onto the Net and blog sometimes.

I can play the tapes there at least, but the idea was to have something in my car. That was and is still the point.

I have a few unabridged books on CDs to start with.  Four I've listened to and loved and could re-listen, especially one by David Case and Donada Peters doing The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. His burr-accented voice for Gilbert Markheim is soft and so beautiful; a different voice from him than I've ever heard before.  Case is a kind of presence in my life reading so many books to me.  This past fall I listened to an eloquently moving reading of Pasternak's Dr Zhivago by Philip Madoc.  I could hear it again.

Paradoxically or funnily enough the first CD set I'll try is one I've not yet listened to because it skips a bit (CDs are no panacea to listen to; in some ways tapes are better) is a new Cover-to-Cover of Sarah Badel (she played Lizzie Eustace in the 1970s Pallisers films) reading Austen's Sense and Sensibility!

One of my favorite books, one I can't say I don't know.  But it fills the air as I drive and keeps my mind absorbed very well.  So this is indeed a reverie under the sign of Austen and her beloved Johnson too: Listening to intelligent imaginatively great books read aloud beautifully has been an important solace for my existence since about 1987 when I first started to rent tapes. Like Johnson -- who I quoted -- I have this hunger of the imagination, a need to absorb my mind, to fill it, to keep much at bay.

Yes I realize people are dying by the thousands in Africa, and my tax money is going to pay to keep yet more people continually and permanently miserable elsewhere in the globe, but my perch of meaningless has been assuaged while in my car (where I meet another wasteland before me) by listening to books. Chacun a son gout. I can of course now buy CDs, but they cost much more than the old tapes to buy and tapes or CDs to rent, and as I value those I have I am seeing what I can do to retrieve them.


Journalizing on 4/6/10, see last comment



May. 7th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
Just heartbreaking
We have now located the quirk of what goes wrong -- Jim by dint of experimenting and me by going online to discover chat about this specific machine. What happens is there is a disconnect between the iTunes software and the EZ converter software (attached to said machine). When recording you may hear the tape's sounds, it appears on the face of the computer as recording, but when you finish and attempt to play back, depending on how your computer is set up, you either find nothing, not one sign on the computer of anything recorded, or you find the new MP3 listed but nothing underneath it, no sound when you click.

Jim says that the truth is it's technically difficult to make such a transfer, and one needs to understand how to do complicated things with software, complicated things this EZ converter is said to bypass.

It doesn't. Or we have not found someone to explain how to get beyond whatever glitch happens between itunes Software and EZ converter software.

I can't program anything we have. Jim does it all. The machine which was said to turn audiotapes into MP3s has defeated him though -- I found a site where people who bought it had exactly the same troubles happen. Jim says what we need to do is something very sophisticated and hard for me to do alone. What he likes to do you see is learn himself and then give me a set of rote instructions but aspparently here rote instructions are not good enough.

We do have a modest modern TV -- flat screen. We have a beautiful expensive audio system bought just before the digital revolution: a turn table for long playing records, a tape deck which plays beautifully and had room for the then new CDs, a stereo radio, to which Jim added a DVD player which he has not been able to figure out how to play on the TV :) Two VHS Casette players in the house, one for European ones which is incompatible with our new computers and one which is attacked to an older small TV and works still. It's in my room, Isabel has the same set up in her room only her Casette player no longer works right.

I am very sad this morning and my reaction to this is to dream of selling or putting into storage half our books, sell the house and move to NYC. We then sell on ebay the half in storage and begin life again in NYC. Maybe we'll do it when Izzy finished her MA in music.


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