October 26, 2011
Derek Raymond’s final reading
by Paul Oliver
This is the final post in our week-long celebration of the Return of Derek Raymond. It is also the most powerful. The audio recording below is taken from the final public reading given by Raymond, who despite his failing health delivered one of his finest performances shortly before his death.
The great writer is reading from perhaps his most powerful passage in He Died With His Eyes Open. In this nearly mystic stretch of text the novel’s victim, Charles Stanisland, is envisioning his journey from life into death and thus freedom from all the worldly troubles he has endured. His troublesome girlfriend Barbara becomes a powerless devil whose ability to shake his confidence is lost on the newly powerful Stanisland. It is a metaphysical declaration that Raymond is reading, and it does much to demonstrate the lofty comparison with John Donne.
There is a sad yet moving back-story to the reason Raymond chose this passage to read from. As outlined yesterday, he was living his final days with friend and fellow writer John Williams when he was invited to give the reading you are about to hear. Raymond was planning on reading from the final installment of the Factory Series, Dead Man Upright, which was then just-published. Williams, having seen his friend’s health deteriorating quickly over the last month suggested that perhaps he (Raymond) should read from his favorite piece.
Raymond chose to read the following selection. The reading becomes particularly powerful if you keep in mind that the author knew his own end was near. Once again, the piece is introduced by Cathi Unsworth.
The Final Reading of Derek Raymond (He Died With His Eyes Open) by MelvilleHouse
Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.