Happy Mark Twain Centennial!

Well, not exactly happy. We’re celebrating 100 years passing since the date of his death, which is not really a happy occasion, per se. But still, it’s good to remember the guy who both overtly and sneakily commented on the world, America, the evils of slavery and oppression, life and love, in ways that were funny, warm-hearted, sly and often scarily accurate in both non-fiction and fiction. He wasn’t a perfect person by any means, (nor do I agree with his views of Jane Austen’s work,) but he was one of our leading persons of American letters, and a best-seller to boot. And we just had Equal Pay Day too. He’d have liked that, I think.  And his house in Connecticut which is now a museum escaped its financial problems and is up and running once again. (Go see it, if you can; it’s a very cool house.) http://www.marktwainhouse.org

Andrew Wheeler did a quote on his blog from a recent collection of Twain’s essays, Who Is Mark Twain?, that he felt summed up the state of media today as well as back in Twain’s time, and I have to agree. Which is kind of eerie. In the quote, Twain is putting words into the mouth of then New York Sun editor Charles A. Dana for the essay “Interviewing the Interviewer”:

“The first great end and aim of journalism is to make a sensation. Never let your paper go to press without a sensation. If you have none, make one. Seize upon the prominent events of the day, and clamor about them with a maniacal fury that shall compel attention. Vilify everything that is unpopular — harry it, hunt it, abuse it, without rhyme or reason, so that you get a sensation out of it. Laud that which is popular — unless you feel sure that you can make it unpopular by attacking it. Hit every man that is down — never fail in this, because it is safe. Libel every man that can be ruined by it. Libel every prominent man who dare not soil his hands with touching you in return. But glorify all moneyed scum and give columns of worship unto the monuments they erect in honor of themselves, for moneyed men will not put up with abuse from small newspapers. If an uncalled-for onslaught upon a neighboring editor who has made you play second fiddle in journalism can take the bread from his mouth and send him in disgrace from his post, let him have it! Do not mind a little lying, a liberal garbling of his telegrams, a mean prying into his private affairs and a pitiful and treacherous exposure of his private letters. It takes a very small nature to get down to this, but I managed it, and you can — and it makes a princely sensation.”

And some other quotes:

“There is no distinctly American criminal class — except Congress.”

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”



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