I love my iPad, for its own sake and as an extension of my iMac, but I’d never dream of buying one of those e-readers. I’ll be damned first. Someone recently said: “Reading an e-book is like having sex with an inflatable doll, you miss the real thing”. Perhaps somewhat exaggerated, I can’t really say, as I never had sex with any kind of doll.
So, it may seem a little inconsistent that I bought T.S. Eliot’s The Wast Land for iPad. But this is completely different, this is not in the first place a book. Buying this application is similar to buying Philip Larkin reading his poems or Sylvia Plath on cd.
If I’d like to read the poems myself, I’d use a bilingual edition like the one translated by my friend Jan Venderickx or the equally excellent edition by Paul Claes. Now, thanks to Faber and Faber and Touch Press, T.S. Eliot himself read The Waste Land to me, and so did Viggo Mortensen and Ted Hughes.
What impressed me most, though, was the filmed performance of the poem by Fiona Shaw. The way she read it, more than any of the other readings, gave me more insight into the nature of the poem.
The application gives, of course, the text with extensive notes — too easily consulted. Moreover there are video interviews with Seamus Heaney, Paul Keegan, Jim McCue, Craig Raine, Fiona Shaw, Frank Turner and Jeanette Winterson. A lot of value for not too much money.
I’m sure to reread The Waste Land… as a book. But without doubt I’ll come back many times to the extraordinary performance by Fiona Shaw.