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I am made uneasy by any form of writing which cannot readily be spoken aloud", says Laurie

Lee in "True Adventures of a Boy Reader", the first of the stories that make up

I Can't Stay Long (Isis, 2hrs 30mins, pounds 8.99). He was, he explains, the inheritor of an oral tradition of language - "a vocabulary small though naturally virile, the words ancient, round and warm to the tongue." How he discovered the "power and glory, persuasive magic and ready gift of hallucination" of books, and moved from Defoe, Bunyan and Swift to the moderns, explains the genesis of his sturdily romantic style. Appropriately, his own voice redoubles its charm.

The lilting alliteration of JRR Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (HarperCollins, 2hrs 30mins, pounds 8.99) makes no easy task for the reader, but Terry Jones, a medievalist as well as an actor, tackles it gamely.

Christina Hardyment