Neil Gaiman’s Free Short Stories

Neil Gaiman is one of the hand­ful of writ­ers who has made comics respectable over the past sev­er­al decades. He has writ­ten some clas­sic chil­dren’s sto­ries, plus a nov­el that will be adapt­ed by HBO. A great deal of his out­put, though, has been in the form of short sto­ries, and we have pulled togeth­er some free copies for you today. Some sto­ries are avail­able in audio and video, oth­ers in text. (We have them all sep­a­rate­ly list­ed in our col­lec­tions:  1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free and 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.)

Audio & Video

  • “Har­le­quin Valen­tine” — Free Audio at Last.FM
  • “How to Talk to Girls at Par­ties” – Free MP3
  • “Orange” (read live) – Free Video
  • “Oth­er Peo­ple” (read live) – Free Video
  • “The Man Who For­got Ray Brad­bury” — Free Audio
  • The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Moun­tains — Free Audio
  • The Grave­yard Book (a nov­el read live with illus­tra­tions) – Free Video
  • “Troll Bridge” (read live, starts at 4:00 mark) – Free iTunes
  • “A Study in Emer­ald” – Free iTunes

Oth­er Gaiman works can be down­load via’s spe­cial Free Tri­al. More details here.


And, since it’s cer­tain­ly time­ly, we leave you with Gaiman’s New Year’s Eve mes­sage deliv­ered to a crowd in Boston sev­er­al years ago:

May your com­ing year be filled with mag­ic and dreams and good mad­ness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss some­one who thinks you’re won­der­ful, and don’t for­get to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your com­ing year be a won­der­ful thing in which you dream both dan­ger­ous­ly and out­ra­geous­ly.

I hope you will make some­thing that did­n’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have peo­ple to love and to like in return. And most impor­tant­ly, because I think there should be more kind­ness and more wis­dom in the world right now — I hope that you will, when you need to, be wise and that you will always be kind. And I hope that some­where in the next year you sur­prise your­self.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er runs the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life phi­los­o­phy pod­cast and blog. He also per­forms with the Madi­son, WI band New Peo­ple.

John Cage Performs Water Walk on “I’ve Got a Secret” (1960)

In 1952, John Cage com­posed his most con­tro­ver­sial piece, 4′33,″ a four-and-a-half minute reflec­tion on the sound of silence. Now fast for­ward eight years. It’s Feb­ru­ary, 1960, and we find the com­pos­er teach­ing his famous Exper­i­men­tal Com­po­si­tion cours­es at The New School in NYC, and pay­ing a vis­it to the CBS game show “I’ve Got a Secret.” The TV show offered Cage some­thing of a teach­able moment, a chance to intro­duce the broad­er pub­lic to his brand of avant-garde music. Cage’s piece is called Water Walk (1959), and it’s all per­formed with uncon­ven­tion­al instru­ments, save a grand piano. A water pitch­er, iron pipe, goose call, bath­tub, rub­ber duck­ie, and five unplugged radios — they all make the music. And the audi­ence does­n’t quite know how to react, except with ner­vous laugh­ter. It was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly cour­te­ous. But, as one schol­ar has not­ed, it’s equal­ly remark­able that prime time TV gave ten min­utes of unin­ter­rupt­ed air­time to avant-garde music. You take the good with the bad.

via Bib­liok­lept/WFMU

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 4 ) |

John Lennon Sums Up Elvis, Yoko & Howard Cosell in One Word

In 1976 a youth­ful fan named Stu­art sent John Lennon a six-page list of ques­tions. The for­mer Bea­t­le respond­ed with answers, along with a child-like draw­ing of a lamb stand­ing on a cloud, say­ing, “Hi Stu­art.”

Stu­art want­ed to know a few things, like what sort of album Lennon was work­ing on. “Until it’s been on tape,” Lennon replied, “I nev­er know what it will be.” He also won­dered if the famous musi­cian was writ­ing any­thing, like per­haps an auto­bi­og­ra­phy. “Yes, I have been writ­ing, but not an auto­bi­og­ra­phy. I’ve noticed that peo­ple tend to DIE after writ­ing their life sto­ry.”

The young fan includ­ed a list of words and names, along with the ques­tion: How would you char­ac­ter­ize the fol­low­ing fig­ures in one word?

  • John: “Great”
  • Paul: “Extra­or­di­nary”
  • George: “Lost”
  • Ringo: “Friend”
  • Elvis: “Fat”
  • Yoko: “Love”
  • Howard Cosell: “Hum”

Lennon signed off with, “It was a plea­sure, hope ya dig it/John Lennon.”

via Lists of Note

Drinking with William Faulkner: The Writer Had a Taste for The Mint Julep & Hot Toddy

“Civ­i­liza­tion begins with dis­til­la­tion,” William Faulkn­er once said, and like many of the great writ­ers of the 20th cen­tu­ry — Ernest Hem­ing­way, F. Scott Fitzger­ald, James Joyce — the bard of Oxford, Mis­sis­sip­pi cer­tain­ly had a fond­ness for alco­hol.

Unlike many of the oth­ers, though, Faulkn­er liked to drink while he was writ­ing. In 1937 his French trans­la­tor, Mau­rice Edgar Coin­dreau, was try­ing to deci­pher one of Faulkn­er’s idio­syn­crat­i­cal­ly baroque sen­tences. He showed the pas­sage to the writer, who puz­zled over it for a moment and then broke out laugh­ing. “I have absolute­ly no idea of what I meant,” Faulkn­er told Coin­dreau. “You see, I usu­al­ly write at night. I always keep my whiskey with­in reach; so many ideas that I can’t remem­ber in the morn­ing pop into my head.”

Every now and then Faulkn­er would embark on a drunk­en binge. His pub­lish­er, Ben­nett Cerf, recalled:

The mad­den­ing thing about Bill Faulkn­er was that he’d go off on one of those ben­ders, which were some­times delib­er­ate, and when he came out of it, he’d come walk­ing into the office clear-eyed, ready for action, as though he had­n’t had a drink in six months. But dur­ing those bouts he did­n’t know what he was doing. He was help­less. His capac­i­ty was­n’t very great; it did­n’t take too much to send him off. Occa­sion­al­ly, at a good din­ner, with the fine wines and brandy he loved, he would mis­cal­cu­late. Oth­er times I think he pre­tend­ed to be drunk to avoid doing some­thing he did­n’t want to do.

Wine and brandy were not Faulkn­er’s favorite spir­its. He loved whiskey. His favorite cock­tail was the mint julep. Faulkn­er would make one by mix­ing whiskey–preferably bourbon–with one tea­spoon of sug­ar, a sprig or two of crushed mint, and ice. He liked to drink his mint julep in a frosty met­al cup. (See image above.) The word “julep” first appeared in the late 14th cen­tu­ry to describe a syrupy drink used to wash down med­i­cine. Faulkn­er believed in the med­i­c­i­nal effi­ca­cy of alco­hol. Lil­lian Ross once vis­it­ed the author when he was ail­ing, and quot­ed him as say­ing, “Isn’t any­thin’ Ah got whiskey won’t cure.”

On a cold win­ter night, Faulkn­er’s med­i­cine of choice was the hot tod­dy. His niece, Dean Faulkn­er Wells, described the recipe and rit­u­al for hot tod­dies favored by her uncle (whom she called “Pap­py”) in The Great Amer­i­can Writ­ers’ Cook­book, quot­ed last week by Maud New­ton:

Pap­py alone decid­ed when a Hot Tod­dy was need­ed, and he admin­is­tered it to his patient with the best bed­side man­ner of a coun­try doc­tor.

He pre­pared it in the kitchen in the fol­low­ing way: Take one heavy glass tum­bler. Fill approx­i­mate­ly half full with Heav­en Hill bour­bon (the Jack Daniel’s was reserved for Pap­py’s ail­ments). Add one table­spoon of sug­ar. Squeeze 1/2 lemon and drop into glass. Stir until sug­ar dis­solves. Fill glass with boil­ing water. Serve with pothold­er to pro­tect patien­t’s hands from the hot glass.

Pap­py always made a small cer­e­mo­ny out of serv­ing his Hot Tod­dy, bring­ing it upstairs on a sil­ver tray and admon­ish­ing his patient to drink it quick­ly, before it cooled off. It nev­er failed.

h/t The Migrant Book Club

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Artists Under the Influ­ence

William Faulkn­er Audio Archive Goes Online

William Faulkn­er Reads from As I Lay Dying

Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography

In this video cre­at­ed by the Guardian, writer and award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er Errol Mor­ris talks about the nature of truth, art, and pro­pa­gan­da in pho­tog­ra­phy. He draws exam­ples from the pho­tographs of Abu Ghraib and the Crimean War, both cit­ed in his book Believ­ing is See­ing, and he asks the view­er to con­sid­er a most fun­da­men­tal ques­tion: how does a pho­to­graph relate to the phys­i­cal world? Unlike a ver­bal or writ­ten state­ment, a pho­to­graph can­not be true or false. It sim­ply is.

Then comes anoth­er argu­ment worth con­sid­er­ing — the idea that all pho­tographs are posed. By way of exam­ple, Mor­ris cites an instance where a pho­tog­ra­ph­er (in this case Roger Fen­ton) omits an ele­phant stand­ing out­side the frame. And it leads Mor­ris to sug­gest  that we should­n’t take pho­tos at face val­ue. Rather we should do our due dili­gence to find out whether there isn’t always a metaphor­i­cal ele­phant loom­ing beyond the frame. As Mor­ris states, a pho­to­graph decon­tex­tu­al­izes every­thing. It reveals to us a two dimen­sion­al real­i­ty that’s “been torn out of the fab­ric of the world.”

This video is part of the Guardian’s “Com­ment is Free” series, in which the world’s top thinkers, news­mak­ers, and peo­ple with sto­ries to tell are inter­viewed. For more med­i­ta­tions on pho­tog­ra­phy, give some time to Errol Mor­ris’ speech at the Har­vard Book­store. Find the tran­script here.

Eugene Buchko is a blog­ger and pho­tog­ra­ph­er liv­ing in Atlanta, GA. He main­tains a pho­to­blog, Eru­dite Expres­sions, and writes about what he reads on his read­ing blog.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wern­er Her­zog Los­es a Bet to Errol Mor­ris, and Eats His Shoe (Lit­er­al­ly)

“They Were There” — Errol Mor­ris Final­ly Directs a Film for IBM

The Blade Runner Sketchbook Features The Original Art of Syd Mead & Ridley Scott (1982)

Coin­cid­ing with the release of Blade Run­ner in 1982, David Scrog­gy pub­lished the Blade Run­ner Sketch­book, a book with 100+ pro­duc­tion draw­ings and art­work for Rid­ley Scot­t’s clas­sic sci-fi film. The sketch­book fea­tures visu­al work by Scott him­self, artist Men­tor Hueb­n­er, and cos­tume design­er Charles Knode, but most notably a slew of draw­ings by artist, futur­ist, and illus­tra­tor Syd Mead.

As Comics Alliance notes, this sketch­book has been out of print for years and scant few paper copies remain avail­able for pur­chase. So dig­i­tal ver­sions have filled the void online, and now comes this: a ver­sion that lets you rev­el in the Blade Run­ner art­work in full-screen mode. Enter the sketch­book by click­ing the image above or below. (The book itself is host­ed at Once you get there, click the images and they’ll fill your screen.

Enjoy, and while you’re at it, don’t miss some relat­ed items:

The Mak­ing of Blade Run­ner

Blade Run­ner is a Waste of Time: Siskel & Ebert in 1982

More Free eBooks

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 2 ) |

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978): It’s Oh So Kitsch

Let’s do the time warp today and revis­it the Not-S0-Gold­en Age of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion. The year was 1978. Star Wars fever still gripped Amer­i­ca, and the Vari­ety Show TV for­mat would­n’t say die. So, pro­duc­ing The Star Wars Hol­i­day Spe­cial was a no-brain­er. The two-hour show takes you inside the domes­tic world of Chew­bac­ca and his fam­i­ly — his father Itchy, his wife Mal­la, and his son Lumpy — and fea­tures guest appear­ances by Jef­fer­son Star­ship, Har­vey Kor­man and Bea Arthur, plus a lit­tle stock footage of Alec Guin­ness. As for the pro­duc­tion qual­i­ty and spe­cial effects? They’re all text­book kitsch.

You’ve heard enough to know that this was­n’t the finest hour for the Star Wars fran­chise. One crit­ic called it the “the worst two hours of tele­vi­sion ever.” And, when he’s will­ing to acknowl­edge the exis­tence of the TV spe­cial, George Lucas read­i­ly admits that turn­ing Star Wars into a vari­ety show “was­n’t the smartest thing to do.” But because the show only aired once in its entire­ty, the hol­i­day spe­cial has gained some­thing of a cult sta­tus and cir­cu­lates “under­ground” on the web. Van­i­ty Fair has more on this mis­ad­ven­ture in tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming here. H/T goes to Dan­ger­ous Minds.

Relat­ed Star Wars Good­ies:

Star Wars as Silent Film

Star Wars the Musi­cal: The Force is Strong in this One

Darth Vader’s Theme in the Style of Beethoven

Kurt Rus­sell Audi­tions for Star Wars

The Mind & Art of Maurice Sendak: A Video Sketch

Like the chil­dren in his books, Mau­rice Sendak, at age 83, is doing the best he can to nav­i­gate a fright­en­ing and bewil­der­ing world. “We all have to find our way,” Sendak says in this reveal­ing lit­tle film from the Tate muse­ums. “If I could find my way through pic­ture-mak­ing and book illus­tra­tion, or what­ev­er you want to call it, I’d be okay.”

In books like In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are and Out­side, Over There, Sendak has explored the wonders–and terrors–of child­hood. “No one,” wrote Dave Eggers recent­ly in Van­i­ty Fair, “has been more uncom­pro­mis­ing, more idio­syn­crat­ic, and more in touch with the unhinged and chiaroscuro sub­con­scious of a child.”

Sendak’s own child­hood in Brook­lyn, New York, was a time of emo­tion­al trau­ma. His par­ents were Pol­ish immi­grants who had trou­ble adjust­ing to life in Amer­i­ca. On the day of Sendak’s bar­mitz­vah, his father learned that his entire fam­i­ly had been killed in the Holo­caust. He remem­bered the sad­ness of look­ing through fam­i­ly scrap­books. “The shock of think­ing I would nev­er know them was ter­ri­ble,” Sendak told the Guardian ear­li­er this year. “Who were they?”

This ear­ly sense of the pre­car­i­ous­ness of life car­ried over into his work. As the play­wright Tony Kush­n­er wrote of Sendak in 2003:

Mau­rice, among the best of the best, shocks deeply, touch­ing on the mor­tal, the insup­port­ably sad or unjust, even on the car­nal, on the pri­mal rather than the mere­ly prim­i­tive. He pitch­es chil­dren, includ­ing aged chil­dren, out of the famil­iar and into mys­tery, and then into under­stand­ing, wis­dom even. He pitch­es chil­dren through fan­ta­sy into human adult­hood, that rare, hard-won and, let’s face it, trag­ic con­di­tion.

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.