If I had Cervantes’ genius, just as he purged Spain of the imitation of knights errant, I too would write a book purging Italy–indeed, the entire civilized world–of […] the habit of reading or reciting one’s own compositions to others. This very ancient custom was in past centuries a tolerable misery, since it was rare. But today, when everybody can write and when the hardest thing to find is someone who is not an author, this practice has become a scourge, a public calamity, one of life’s newest hardships. I’m not joking when I say that because of this custom acquaintances have become suspect and friendships dangerous. For no matter where an innocent person goes, or when, he must fear being pounced upon and subjected on the spot (or dragged somewhere else) to the agony of hearing interminable prose or verses by the thousand. No longer under the pretext of soliciting the listener’s opinion, which used to be the motive behind such readings, but rather solely and expressly to make the author happy by having someone listen to him, not to speak of the required praises at the end. In all good conscience, I believe there are very few things that reveal the puerility of human nature and the extreme blindness, indeed stupidity, to which self-love leads a man—and which also reveal the illusions we have about ourselves—as does this business of reciting ones own writings.
And yet if the phone were to ring tomorrow with an offer to read my poems to some more or less unsuspecting victims, with or without a fee, I would instantly say yes.