What W. H. Auden Can Do for You

  • by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Narrated by William Neenan
  • 2 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When facing a moral dilemma, Isabel Dalhousie--Edinburgh philosopher, amateur detective, and title character of a series of novels by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith - often refers to the great twentieth-century poet W. H. Auden. This is no accident: McCall Smith has long been fascinated by Auden. Indeed, the novelist, best known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, calls the poet not only the greatest literary discovery of his life but also the best of guides on how to live.
In this book, McCall Smith has written a charming personal account about what Auden has done for him--and what he just might do for you.Part self-portrait, part literary appreciation, the book tells how McCall Smith first came across the poet's work in the 1970s, while teaching law in Belfast, a violently divided city where Auden's "September 1, 1939," a poem about the outbreak of World War II, strongly resonated.
McCall Smith goes on to reveal how his life has related to and been inspired by other Auden poems ever since. For example, he describes how he has found an invaluable reflection on life's transience in "As I Walked Out One Evening," while "The More Loving One" has provided an instructive meditation on unrequited love.
McCall Smith shows how Auden can speak to us throughout life, suggesting how, despite difficulties and change, we can celebrate understanding, acceptance, and love for others.
An enchanting story about how art can help us live, this book will appeal to McCall Smith's fans and anyone curious about Auden.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

On the Power of Poetry, Mostly Auden's

This audio book makes you feel as if you were spending a snowy evening in Scotland in the home of a popular scholar-author, who is discussing his favorite poet and how poetry changed his life.

Alexander McCall Smith, famous as an author of mystery novels, acknowledges that W.H. Auden (1907-1973) is probably best known to the present generation for "Funeral Blues," the poem recited in the popular film "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

But McCall Smith wants us to come to know Auden as a spiritual poet, who at the outbreak of World War II wrote these lines for a refugee friend:

We fall down in the dance, we make
The old ridiculous mistake,
But always there are such as you
Forgiving, helping what we do.

If McCall Smith's love for Auden resonates with today's readers, the next step is to explore Auden's poems and find their own meanings in the timeless verses.
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- Rich S.

Enlightening personal story of a poet's effect

The narrator was good but for some reason I kept waiting to hear a jolly, uplifting Scottish brogue as with the novels. But this did not detract from the telling. I truly enjoyed getting to know W H Auden through McCall Smith's eyes (ears?)
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- Book Maven

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-18-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios