Neil Gaiman Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”: One Master of Dramatic Storytelling Reads Another

Which liv­ing writer stands as the heir to Edgar Allan Poe? A sil­ly ques­tion, admit­ted­ly: now, more than 160 years after his death, Poe’s influ­ence has spread so far and wide through­out lit­er­a­ture that no one writer’s work could pos­si­bly count as his defin­i­tive con­tin­u­a­tion. The most pop­u­lar and pow­er­ful mod­ern sto­ry­tellers owe more than a thing or two to Poe — or rather, have built upon Poe’s achieve­ments — with­out even know­ing it, espe­cial­ly if they hail from a dif­fer­ent part of the world and work a dif­fer­ent part of the cul­tur­al map than did 19th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca’s pio­neer of new and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly intense genre lit­er­a­ture.

Take, for instance, Neil Gaiman. “Every year, World­builders holds a giant auc­tion-char­i­ty-dona­tion thing, giv­ing peo­ple cool things and rais­ing an awful lot of mon­ey for a fan­tas­tic cause,” he says in the video above, which came out just this hol­i­day sea­son. “And every year, I seem to be read­ing a poem or book cho­sen by the peo­ple who pay mon­ey to World­builders.

This year, for rea­sons known only to them­selves, they have decid­ed I need to read Edgar Allan Poe’s ghast­ly, grue­some, dark, and famous poem ‘The Raven.’ So I’ve lit a num­ber of can­dles, fired up the fire, found a copy of the Oxford Book of Nar­ra­tive Verse, and I’m going to read it to you in a com­fort­able chair by the fire, as befits a poem told in the days of yore.”

Though many of his fans come to know him through his nov­els like Amer­i­can Gods and Star­dust, Gaiman’s writ­ing career has also includ­ed work in poet­ry, com­ic books, radio dra­ma, and movies, all of it using his sig­na­ture mix of fan­tas­ti­cal inven­tion, res­o­nant emo­tion, and pol­ished, wit­ty word­craft. When poten­tial col­lab­o­ra­tors on projects in these fields and oth­ers want to work with him, they want to tap not just his uncom­mon sto­ry­telling skill, regard­less of the medi­um in which he tells his sto­ries, but his abil­i­ty to sat­is­fy both wide audi­ences and crit­ics with those sto­ries.

Poe, too, knew how to do this, and indeed described “The Raven” in a mag­a­zine essay as a work delib­er­ate­ly com­posed to “suit at once the pop­u­lar and the crit­i­cal taste,” and since its first pub­li­ca­tion in 1845, the poem has only grown bet­ter-known and more beloved. Here, in Neil Gaiman’s ten-minute read­ing, we can see and hear one mas­ter of high-impact sto­ry­telling acknowl­edg­ing anoth­er over all those 171 years.

Gaiman’s read­ing will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Christo­pher Walken’s Won­der­ful Read­ing of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (on the Anniver­sary of Poe’s Death)

The Great Stan Lee Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

James Earl Jones Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Read­ings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

John Astin, From The Addams Fam­i­ly, Recites “The Raven” as Edgar Allan Poe

The Simp­sons Present Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” and Teach­ers Now Use It to Teach Kids the Joys of Lit­er­a­ture

Hear the 14-Hour “Essen­tial Edgar Allan Poe” Playlist: “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” & Much More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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