Great Short Works of Mark Twain: Thursday, July 12, 2007

Great Short Works: Twain I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

We had a small group this time, but as always, a mix of reactions. A couple of us were delighted with the merciless “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” CD plans to use part of this rant in his writing class. Then we wondered what all the fuss over the “Jumping Frog” was about, and CL pointed out the fun of reading it “Clawed back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil” after a translation into very bad French.

Some marveled at the vividness of “Old Times on the Mississippi,” with its wry description of the dreams of young boys, the lesson of the Pilot’s Association, and a poignant portrait of a young man slowly mastering what seems to be an impossibly large and changing body of knowledge. GC found this section to be tedious and discouraging, with so much detail about the river. We wondered why the most dense and lengthy piece was placed first. MG suggested it was because of its significance as the story of Twain’s name and identity, and as a breakthrough series in the 1875 Atlantic Monthly.

We laughed at Twain’s disfigured little conscience in “The Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut” and groaned in sympathetic agony with “The Story of a Speech.” Not everyone made it through to the end of the “Mysterious Stranger,” but we’re told it has a mind-boggling twist at the end.

As often happens, even those of us who aren’t real fans come away glad to have had a chance to read and reflect on some writing we can really sink our teeth into.

Mark Twain in His Times:Full of images and information
“Written and Directed by Stephen Railton, Department of English, University of Virginia”
Twain reading www.TwainQuotes.com:A Directory of Mark Twain’s maxims, quotations, and various opinions
by Barbara Schmidt
The Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT:A required trip for all Twain fans The Hartford House
Scrapbook PBS - Mark Twain: A Film Directed by Ken Burns

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