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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fascinating Look at Sam Clemens' Formative Years

The Sierra Mountain Times has a very interesting piece up today on the early years Twain spent in California, particularly in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, writing in relative anonymity before his career took off with the publication of The Innocents Abroad.

Apparently, the piece ties into an event being put on by the Tuolumne County Historical Society at the Sonora Library this Friday night. Actor Pat Kaunert will portray Twain, and the book Mark Twain's Sojourn in Tuolumne County will be available for purchase. I encourage all to check out the article here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Washington Teacher Calls for Ban on Huck Finn

"The time has arrived to update the literature we use in high school classrooms," Ridgefield, Washington high school teacher John Foley wrote in a guest column this month for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States, and novels that use the 'N-word' repeatedly need to go."

It's very sad that the so-called controversy still rages on after so many years, but apparently, it still does. Foley claims that he is tired of having to rationalize the book to offended students and parents, yet still claims to be "passionate" about it. Oh yeah, and he also wants To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men dropped from the curriculum as well, because of their repeated use of the word "nigger", and their supposed demeaning depiction of African Americans as "ignorant".

How unfortunate that these sentiments would be coming from an educator, and that that educator would be using the historic election of Barack Obama--which Twain himself would more than likely have welcomed joyously--as a justification for the abandonment of Twain's greatest work. That a man who claims to be "passionate" about the novel is unable to comprehend its true message and the means to bestow that message upon his students. All he sees is that word, regardless of context and meaning. Now that's ignorant.

Want to find a demeaning use of the word "nigger"? Try listening to some of the music that those very high school students he's trying to "protect" are listening to on their iPods.

Foley's editorial was met with a largely negative response by readers of the Post-Intelligencer, as well as fellow educators. That, at least, I can take solace in. For the entire report, go here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hal Holbrook's Amazing Legacy

A profile of acclaimed actor and Twain impersonator Hal Holbrook today in the Knoxville News makes the very amusing observation that Holbrook has actually portrayed Mark Twain for a longer period of time than Samuel Clemens himself used the pen name of Mark Twain.

Specifically, Holbrook has played Twain for 55 years, since his first 1954 performance at Pennsylvania's Lock Haven State Teachers College. Clemens only used the Twain pen name for the last 47 years of his life.

Friday, January 16, 2009

University Library Dedicates Room to Twain

The University of South Alabama's campus newspaper, The Vanguard, reports that Mobile, Alabama entrepreneur Ross Sloan has donated $50,000 to the school's library to set up a special study room in honor of Mark Twain.

Sloan's endowment will allow the University library to purchase literature by and about Twain. The businessman, who previously created a room in the library in honor of Albert Schweitzer, said that Twain, "is a prime example of literary genius in American history." Make that the prime example, Mr. Sloan!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Fond Remembrance of a Visit to Hannibal

Joseph Wettengal of the Lawrence, Kansas newspaper the Journal-World has published a very enjoyable reminiscence of a childhood visit to Twain's hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. I encourage all to check it out here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Here's to 2009...

"New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them, as usual. "

"Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever."

"New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody, save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions."