There’s something really special about hearing a writer read their own work. This is especially so when it doesn’t happen often, or when the writer is no longer with us, and there will be no more words. Today, I spent some time looking around on the internet to find some of my favorite spoken work pieces by the authors who wrote them. Some are pretty common (such as Ginsberg reading his work) and others are more rare (Samuel Beckett, for example, was almost never in front of a camera).
First is Allen Ginsberg, reading his famous poem “Howl.” Ginsberg was a poet I loved greatly when I was growing up, and I’ve never quite gotten over how much I loved him at 17.
Next up is Leonard Cohen reading from his second novel (and my favorite book ever) Beautiful Losers. The scene is written by a character in a mental hospital, dying of syphilis.
Third we have Samuel Beckett, reading from his book Watt. Beckett, as I said, was really notoriously camera shy, so this one is kind of a treat.
Though I hated Ulysses, I thought Finnegan’s Wake was beautiful, if indecipherable (I guess I just like to grab it off the shelf and read a line here or there like poetry). Anyway, James Joyce’s reading is no more decipherable than reading from the book yourself, but it’s still pretty lovely.