Author Clips on YouTube!

WoukAvid fiction readers aren’t seeing any authors live during the pandemic, but we can watch clips of them on YouTube. Here are some short videos, with the first group featuring some great living writers followed by several clips showing famous novelists who are no longer with us. Most speak as skillfully as they write, though you can’t tell in the silent, pre-1910 footage of Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy that ends this post.

(Above is a screen shot I took from a 2017 interview given by the then-102-year-old Herman Wouk of The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance fame. Video can be seen a few paragraphs down.)

This first video stars the fabulous author Liane Moriarty discussing her 2018 Nine Perfect Strangers book, the mega-success of her 2014 Big Little Lies novel that spawned a hit TV series, etc.

Alice Walker (The Color Purple) eloquently talks about Zora Neale Hurston and Hurston’s writing — the most famous example being the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Isabel Allende on how her debut-novel masterpiece The House of the Spirits happened, the number of hours a day she spends writing, and more.

Zadie Smith, known for vivid/often-hilarious multicultural novels such as White Teeth, speaks about why there aren’t more published authors with working-class backgrounds.

Margaret Atwood (author of the iconic The Handmaid’s Tale and many other works) discusses feminism in this frequently funny 1997 clip.

Lee Child, author of the riveting Jack Reacher series, talks about why it’s good to wait until one is older to start writing novels.

Donna Tartt talks about her writing process, her sweeping Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch, and more.

Stephen King, interviewed by George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame, answers a question about how he’s able to write so much — and also mentions Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

Historical-fiction author Kate Quinn discusses The Huntress, about a woman who marries an American who doesn’t know about her Nazi-war-criminal past. Among Quinn’s other compelling novels is The Alice Network.

Moving to deceased writers, this video shows James Baldwin (Go Tell It On the Mountain, etc.) dissecting the hyper-difficult black experience in America.

The aforementioned 2017 interview Herman Wouk gave at the age of 102!

J.R.R. Tolkien on his iconic The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Lastly, film footage of Mark Twain a year before his death, alone and then with his daughters…

…and footage of Leo Tolstoy near the end of his life.

Author videos you’d recommend?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest piece — about my town’s contested, unequally funded election — is here.

70 thoughts on “Author Clips on YouTube!

  1. I published my first blog entry on Daily Kos yesterday, and since it is mostly a quote from a book, I thought it might have a place here on your site. (The title comes from Ezra Pound.)

    Though Douglas Adams was describing Zaphod Beeblebrox, Galactic President, in his “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, the author anticipated a time beyond his own lifespan— our own:

    “The President in particular is very much a figurehead — he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.”

    Adams’ quote above might be amended as to the president’s powerlessness, in present circumstances. He has no positive power, and can only gnaw away at the foundations of government, but can add nothing at all, the way a termite can eat wood, yet cannot make wood.

    But where best to locate the Beeblebrox Equivalent? The UK or the US? Beeblebrox sported two heads, so the answer ‘both’ is reasonable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations on having that published, jhNY! It’s astute and excellent!

      Trump, while awful and depraved in of himself, serves as sort of a distraction so that citizens don’t think as much about the awful people wielding a huge amount of the power — whether they be Mitch McConnell, various billionaires, various corporate types, etc.


      • The site is a sort of self-publishing venture, with much room under articles for comments. I admit I got nearly no reaction, but as it’s my first, I am not surprised or discouraged.

        If you don’t look in on daily kos much or at all, I recommend you do so. It’s a lively progressive place, with a fairly large and active readership. Might inspire you to publish something there yourself!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hopefully you’ll get more response to a future piece or pieces!

          I’ll take more of a look at Daily Kos, but I feel I might be “posted out” with this weekly blog, my weekly local humor column, and some other writing I do. 🙂


  2. I think I might have mentioned this one on the site on another occasion, but there is a film of Orson Welles and HG Wells discussing “The War of the Worlds” on youtube. My balky computer is in no mood to help with a link at the moment. There is at least on other Wells clip thereon.

    And an Alistair Cooke interview with PG Wodehouse in the topic of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. There are also WH Auden clips, and an abundance, possible an over-, of Norman Mailer appearances.

    Being an old fellow, I have probably spent more time hearing poets read on lp’s than seeing them. TS Eliot sounds sepulchral, and Ezra Pound sounds fed up to the teeth and tired.

    Liked by 1 person

      • And thanks for the mention of various other clips! They all sound well worth watching.

        I’m actually planning to do a sequel to this post this coming Sunday with more author videos. Already mostly written, and I had found an H.G. Wells video — perhaps the one you’re referring to.


      • I too love seeing these folks moving about, however jerkily– I never expected they’d been filmed. Likewise, I remember being utterly fascinated to hear Florence Nightingale speak at the dawn of sound recording, and a bugler blowing what he once blew during the charge of Light Brigade. For that matter, I never expected to see photographs of John Quincy Adams, or Andrew Jackson till I opened a book and up they popped.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hear you, jhNY. Wonderful to see or listen to footage, photos, or sound recordings of people one might have thought predated those technologies or predated when those technologies were widely available. I remember also being fascinated by that 1840s John Quincy Adams photo.


  3. What a nice way to get to know authors a bit more! It’s especially nice to have the videos of authors who are no longer with us, that Tolstoy one and Tolkien one especially! I don’t typically read a lot of fantasy, but I have always really loved Lord of the Rings. My husband and I just watched the entire trilogy recently to pass some of our time in quarantine – such an incredible world and story Tolkien built, and I have to say Peter Jackson did an excellent job bringing it to the screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I just binged the entire post of videos, including your interview. I started with Alice Walker, whose work I studied in college. (“1955” is one of my favorite short stories.) What an insightful, intelligent, and articulate woman. I would love to have had her as a teacher. The other standout interview was James Baldwin. And Herman Wouk. (My dad and I read all three of his WWII books.) Thanks for a very enjoyable post!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What an ambitious and successful theme this week, Dave! I look forward to watching each one of them. Hmmmm…where to begin? I think I’ll begin with Lee Child, Tolstoy and Tolkien. So much morning coffee pleasure here 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I, like Susan, am hesitant about watching interviews of authors, as well as any public figures I respect and admire. I suppose it’s for fear of being bored, embarrassed, or even worse — though after all, we’re all just humans. However, just by chance I was watching the last DVD of my Hercule Poirot TV series collection last night, which stars the great, classically-trained actor David Suchet. At the very end there was an interview of Suchet, not so much about him, but about his portrayal of Poirot. It was fascinating to listen to him and how he’d read, written down, and studied every single reference Agatha Christie made to Poirot’s physical appearance, demeanor and his moral character. Suchet was by far the best portrayer of the detective (in my opinion), just as Jeremy Brett will always be Sherlock Holmes!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lit!

      I hear what you’re saying. Listening to/seeing an author can occasionally disappoint; some write better than they speak. (I know that’s the case with me. 🙂 ) But others are fascinating to listen to. As you interestingly described, it can be very educational to listen to a well-known person — whether actor, author…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Somewhat off topic, but I’m constantly amazed at all the great things you can find on YouTube and I watch clips often. Just this morning I came across a channel of Linor Oren, an opera singer and vocal teacher from Amsterdam, who reacts to vocal recordings and live performances of various musicians. some of course classical. However, she has quite a few that react to the amazing Freddie Mercury, IMO the greatest rock vocalist of all time. The first one (I think) is a reaction to his performance at Live Aid that she’d never seen before. Although she thought he’d had a relatively bad day for him vocally, she listened to most of it with eyes closed, because his physical performance was so great that it distracted somewhat from the vocals. She was unaware at the time she first watched it that he had laryngitis and had been advised by the doctor not to even perform that day — good thing he went ahead and had (and what’s still called by most) the greatest live rock performance ever. Anyway, there are other fascinating videos as well, e.g., whether he’s a baritone or tenor. Loved it and it was so very fascinating! She also loves Queen’s drummer, Brian May, who is, thankfully, still recovering from a heart attack.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Kat Lit! You’re absolutely right that YouTube has an incredible variety of videos, and some are fabulous. I also enjoy sometimes watching “reaction videos,” where people, as you gave an excellent example of, react to songs and musical performances. I agree that Queen’s 20-minute-or-so Live Aid performance was amazing, especially given that Freddie Mercury had laryngitis.


          • Dave, I’m also quite impressed that Maggie shared a NYT byline with the great Peter Baker. I see him often on MSNBC, the only news channel I watch, especially on “Deadline: White House,” hosted by Nicolle Wallace. I used to not care for Nicolle when she would appear on Morning Joe — she was a Republican who used to work in the Bush WH, but she’s my favorite anchor (next to Rachel Maddow), now that she’s a Democrat and extremely strong and tough anti-Trumper! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you, Kat Lit! Sharing a byline with the renowned Peter Baker was definitely quite a moment for Maggie, who’s still only 30 years old. And I agree that Nicholle Wallace has become much more watchable lately. (I see clips of her sometimes on the aforementioned YouTube.)


              • I’ve been pretty much taking a break from FB recently, but I scrolled through my newsfeed rather quickly today and did see your post about Maggie and her husband. Oh dear, but I’m so glad her case was mild, though I’m sure it was horrible enough as it was, and quite concerning for your whole family! A very well-written and helpful article for everyone.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Thanks so much, Kat Lit, for the kind words and concern. Yes, the “mild” coronavirus cases of my daughter and her husband were pretty nasty. But of course they were fortunate in that their lives were never in danger and they recovered. Maggie literally got her sense of smell back just today, after about two months!


                  • Jesus, Dave! SO sorry to hear this, except the part where everybody is recovered and feeling better.

                    An aside, hopefully humorous:
                    Since she works her in NYC, with summer coming on, the return of her sense of smell is liable not to be an unalloyed blessing. I recall putting off putting an end to my cigarette habit a couple of times in the warmest moths, for fear of what odoriferous rewards I might endure once my sense of smell was back up to snuff.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks so much, jhNY! It was a tough time for them for a few weeks, but it really helped that they were young and otherwise healthy. Manhattan was definitely a scary place to be for a while; glad it’s getting somewhat better there after all the “sheltering in place.”

                      And, yes, there’s something to be said for not being able to smell during the warmer months in NYC… 🙂


        • Brian May plays guitar, and perhaps even now, and certainly during Queen’s heyday, played a guitar his father, with his help, fashioned for him out of wood from a Victorian era fireplace. He is also recovering just now from a muscle tear in his hindquarters, and might have died from that heart attack you mentioned, had he not been generally checked over during his muscle tearing ordeal. Several blocked arteries, it turned out.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m undecided about how much I want to ‘peek behind the curtains’ of an author’s life. But this does remind me that Clanmother has done some very interesting interviews with the always entertaining Dave Astor that I MUST get around to checking out!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Susan, for the comment and for the mention of the great podcaster Clanmother (Rebecca Budd)! She is a terrific, knowledgeable interviewer — as well as the writer of various excellent blogs.

      I hear you about being undecided about “peek(ing) behind the curtains” of an author’s life. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. But, on balance, I like knowing more about a writer. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nearly on topic:

      I worked for a singer/songwriter, famous world-wide for decades, who was asked if he would participate in a television wherein famous albums were played back a few tracks at a time, etc., and the recording process was dissected and discussed. He refused outright, telling the producers that the album he released for sale to the public was all he intended to show, and that backstage business would be kept backstage.

      Being curious about how things are done, I like to know what went on behind the scenes. In the series mentioned above, for example, Lindsay Buckingham describing the process of layering guitar tracks on ” Rumours” was fascinating, even a bit revelatory.

      But I also respect the artist who would show his work finished only, the way I like magicians who do not let the public know how tricks are performed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting, jhNY! I totally respect the artist’s right to decide whether or not to have her or his work dissected. But, like you, I’m personally fond of seeing that dissection. I’ve watched YouTube videos of some of my favorite songs being hyper-analyzed, and loved it. It didn’t hurt my enjoyment of later listening again to the songs in videos without the dissection. If anything, it increased my appreciation.


  8. Reading a book has more meaning when we know the background and bio of the author – their likes, dislikes, their views of the world and their angst and reasons for writing. Thank you for another great post, Dave.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Clammother! Well said, and a terrific point. While a great novel is a great novel even if we know little or nothing about its author, knowing something about the author can definitely add to the appreciation!

      Liked by 3 people

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