Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Comments on a Favorite Author

The presentation of Mark Twain's little story is concluded.  Grace wondered if I would have any remarks on it.

I am not a Twain scholar, but I have been reading and rereading in many cases most of his works since I was a lad.  I greatly admire and envy the man's facility with the English language.  I am taken with his humor and his ability to see and relate the funny side of life.  I recognize that he was shrewd and insightful and he often used his humor and his writing to skewer the foibles of humankind.  One of the best items I have ever read on people's understanding of wage/price economics is contained in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court,

I have not read any part of the recently published (two of three parts) autobiography which Twain demanded not be published for 100 years after his death.  Each of the first two volumes runs to over 700 pages, and I understand the third volume to be released later this year runs to almost 800 pages.

I started my Mark Twain collection when I was fourteen years of age.  I bought a thirty volume "Authorized Uniform Edition" in a used bookstore and hauled it home in a cardboard box, riding on a city bus.  I still have the set, except for ACYIKAC which I loaned to someone and never got it back. But my sister, Vee, went searching on-line and a couple years ago she presented me with the volume which matches my set.  What a sister!

To "The Five Boons of Life."  The first four boons, fame, love, riches, pleasure are temporal and fleeting.  The writer tasted of each of them and knew well that they did not bring lasting satisfaction. That the fifth, death, would bring fulfillment was a projection the writer was ill-equipped to make for he seems to have rejected any concept of a loving God, hence "emptiness," or "nothingness," i.e., non-existence must be the boon he cherished.  How sad.  A man of such power, such intellect, one who brought much (temporal) pleasure to so many could find no lasting satisfaction in life.

Twain did suffer mightily, did lose much that was important to him.  Yet he seemed to have no bulwark against cynicism and bitterness.

The tale was written in 1902.  His beloved wife died in 1906 after a protracted illness, his darling daughter in 1910, and he himself that same year.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  --Jesus of Nazareth, in The Sermon on the Mount(Mt.6 KJV)

Word of the day: skewer


Vee said...

You surely remember the lecture you received from your dad when you toted the books home. Though he approved of reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he was concerned that Twain's ideas would have undue influence on your young mind. Not very many fathers of fourteen-year-olds need be concerned about their children dragging home boxes of Twain's writings. I suspect every book you owned was borrowed and read by that same Dad who also enjoyed the wit and humor of great authors. And while he prayed that you would not absorb too much Twain, he prayed that I would get off of ice skates and the ball field and read a book - any book.

vanilla said...

Vee, when you did turn to reading you did it with a vengeance! And Dad was proud of you.

Secondary Roads said...

It was probably 30 years ago that we toured the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut. Very interesting. The docent told us many tales of his life and his beliefs, giving reasons it was so in that Victorian age.

vanilla said...

Chuck, a tour I should like to take. I have visited his birthplace in Florida, MO.