"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rare Twain Short Story Dramatized on Florida Stage

Mark Twain's short story "A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage"--written in 1876--did not see the light of day until an obscure publication in 1945. It was not widely published and distributed until 2001--which is part of the reason why it was such a novel choice to be adapted into a musical play.

That's what playwright Aaron Posner and composer James Sugg have done. The production opens tomorrow to kick off the season for the Florida Studio Theatre.

The story of a betrothal between two young lovers in a small Missouri town interrupted when the suitor comes under suspicion of murder, it has been adapted with a few alterations to make it better suited to the stage, but that apparently hasn't taken anything away from the appeal.

"There's something dear and sweet in a very good way," director Pamela Hunt told Florida's Herald-Tribune. "It's very endearing, and there's an innocent sense of humor to it."

The show premiered two years ago at the Delaware Theatre Company. Posner himself staged a production at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey last May.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Newspaper Profiles Author of New Twain Book

Brooklyn resident Pam McAllister's book The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Mark Twain came out last March, but the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has just published a piece on the author that's worth a read.

McAllister talks about her love of Mr. Clemens, and what it's like being an author in Brooklyn's gentrified Park Slope community.

"Of my 10 published books, this was the most fun to research and write," she says. "I have been a 'Twainiac' since my teen years. My book is a tribute to the world’s first global celebrity, 'the People’s Author.'"

I see I'm not the only one to adopt the "Twainiac" moniker!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hannibal Invites Candidates to Debate, Colbert to Moderate

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri is trying out quite a bold move to raise awareness for the suffering historic site, according to the AP. They're inviting Barack Obama and John McCain down for a presidential debate, to be moderated by a public figure who no doubt would be adored by Twain himself, satirical pundit Stephen Colbert.

No date for the hoped-for debate has been announced, but Colbert has already accepted, providing the dates on which he would be available. Unfortunately, despite the brilliant premise, this blogger believes there is a better chance of Twain showing up to the debate than either Obama or McCain.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

100th Anniversary of Stormfield Burglary

Tomorrow marks 100 years since the infamous break-in at Stormfield, Mark Twain's Redding, CT residence, during which burglars made off with Twain's silverware and were caught mere hours later attempting an escape by train.

The story made big headlines, and the local report from the Danbury Evening News, can be found here at the excellent blog, The Mark Twain Stormfield Project. Particularly hilarious is Twain's typically droll note to future burglars, left on the front door the next morning:

There is nothing but plated ware in the house now and henceforth. You will find it in that brass thing in the dining room over in the corner by the basket of kittens. If you want the basket, put the kittens in the brass thing. Do not make any noise, it disturbs the family. You will find rubbers in the front hall by that thing that has the umbrellas in it. Chiffonier I think they call it, a pegola, or something like that. Please close the door. -Yours truly, S.L. Clemens.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Unpublished Twain Essays to See the Light of Day

Very exciting news today. Bob Miller of HarperCollins' brand new imprint HarperStudio has announced on his blog that the very first book they will publish is going to be a collection of 22 never-before-seen Mark Twain short humor pieces entitled Who Is Mark Twain?

"The pieces are simply wonderful, witty and incisive and a fascinating look at Twain’s developing craft," writes Miller.

Fittingly, during his lifetime Twain was published by HarperCollins (then known as Harper Brothers) beginning in 1895. Also fittingly, Who Is Mark Twain? will arrive in bookstores on April 21, the 99th anniversary of Twain's death.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Advertisers Benefit from Twain's Wisdom

Adland, a website devoted entirely to the commercial advertising industry, has a highly amusing bit up today. It's called "9 Things Mark Twain Taught Me About Advertising."

Here are the tried-and-true Twain tenets cited in the article:

  • "Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."
  • "When in doubt, tell the truth."
  • "Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable."
  • "Whenever you find you're on the side of the majority, it is time to reform."
  • "The difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
  • "Great people make us feel we can become great."
  • "The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession."
  • "A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs."
  • "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

The author provides specific examples and anecdotes for each quote. It's a great read--check it out here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Documentary Films in Redding

One of the shadiest and littlest-known stories of Twain's life involves the conspiracy against him that occurred near the end of his life when his secretary Isabel Lyon and his personal assistant Ralph Ashcroft tried to defraud him of his fortune. Now that story will be the subject of a PBS documentary, which recently filmed some "recreation" footage in the town of Redding, Connecticut, where Twain lived when the original events unfolded.

Lyon, who secretly was involved with Ashcroft, lulled the recently widowed Twain into a flirtatious friendship, even hoping to marry the ailing, elderly author. Meanwhile, Ashcroft had treacherously acquired power of attorney over his employer's finances. With the help of his daughter Clara, Twain was finally able to identify the threat and dismiss both of them. After her father's death, Clara saw to it that any mention of the conspirators was removed from Twain's public papers, which is why the details of the story were a mystery for so long.

But using collections of the author's private works and journals, Karen Lystra was able to finally piece it all together in her 2006 book Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years. And it's that book which has inspired the documentary currently being produced by History Film Inc., according to the Redding Pilot.

Producer Richard Altomonte made the trip to Redding, former site of Twain's famous Stormfield mansion, to film some key sequences, using several Twain aficionados from the town to play the parts of people like Clara and Jean Clemens, as well as Lyon herself. The film is expected to air on PBS later in the fall. For more info, visit historyfilm.com.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Joe Paterno Invokes Twain

A cool little tidbit today from the Associated Press. Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno draws a parallel between his line of work and that of Mr. Clemens, and how that is a source of guidance for him:

"I always call on Mark Twain. You know, he was a riverboat captain. He was talking about you've got to do things by the seat of your pants.

"He says every day a captain has to learn more than anybody should ever have to learn. Then the next day he's got to learn it again a different way. All right?

"That's what coaching is."

Maybe ol' Sam would've made a formidable football coach himself. Who'd have guessed?