Haley’s Comet was visible in the sky on the night that Mark Twain was both born and died, which right out of the box makes him someone to whom attention must be paid! Aside from being one of the most quotable authors who ever put pen to paper (OK, Shakespeare probably has him, but not by much and the Bible has multiple authors), he was a fascinating person, even without the books. Ken Burns’ film on his life is well worth watching (it’s out on DVD) and if you’ve only read “Tom Sawyer” or “Huckleberry Finn” you’re really missing the steamboat. I admit I’m awfully prejudiced on this subject since I wrote a lot of papers about Sam Clemens in college, including my senior thesis, and came to admire the man as much as the literature.
What’s making me opine about this today is the fine piece in the current Time Magainze about Twain and his relevance today:
News in the form of edgy drollery may seem a brave new thing, but it can all be traced back to one source, the man Ernest Hemingway said all of modern American literature could be traced back to: Mark Twain. Oh, that old cracker-barrel guy, you may say. White suit, cigar, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated–but he died back in 1910, no? White, male, and didn’t he write in dialect? What does he have to do with the issues of our day?
Read the article, read a Twain book. You’ll be smarter and happier for it! Especially since, as Twain said, “Education is that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.”
Now let’s just hope that Roger isn’t a relative…