Spoken Word

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The Independent Culture

Losing My Virginity, Read by Richard Branson, HarperCollins, 6hrs, £11.99

Losing My Virginity, Read by Richard Branson, HarperCollins, 6hrs, £11.99

BRANSON HAS evidently thought long and hard about the issue of frankness in his story of his life so far, and rightly protects his present private life. But there are plenty of revealing details of his childhood and his early years running Student and starting up Virgin record shops. Interesting too is his analysis of his business methods and the motives that drive him to take up such extreme challenges as ballooning around the world. There is perhaps too much of Peter Pan crowing over Captain King, sorry, Hook, in his lengthy account of the BA dirty tricks case, and no doubt many of the people mentioned could and would a tale unfold given half a chance. But all in all this is a tape to thrust into the hands of your own children in the hope that they will go and do likewise.

Letter From My Windmill & Idle Thoughts, Read by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie CSA, 6hrs, £8.99

THESE TWO clasics of a more leisured age are very different indeed from Branson's hectic round, and it's a sign of the health of the spoken word world these days that the range on offer is so diverse. Alphonse Daudet's delicately observed anecdotes of the people of Provence don't have the calculated shock value of Maupassant's tales, but they are touching and wise and paint an unforgettable picture of a remote rural world, where tiny human dramas are played out while curlews skim fields of lavender. Stephen Fry reads with elegant understatement. Hugh Laurie gives a more ebullient reading of Jerome K Jerome's little comic masterpiece Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. Tobacco, drink, food and, of course, idleness are all apostrophised enthusiastically.