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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twain and Eastern Philosophy

A rare book belonging to Mark Twain is currently part of an exhibit running through March 31 at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tracing the ongoing influence of Eastern thought on Western culture, the exhibit features a myriad of books in the personal collection of Kent Bicknell, a scholar who has long been fascinated by the subject.

The exhibit, entitled "Imprint: From Walden to Graceland, 200 Years of Asian Spiritual Traditions in Western Thought", contains Asian volumes from the likes of Henry David Thoreau, Elvis Presley and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Twain's contribution is the 1889 book Aryan Sun-Myths: The Origins of Religions.

Best of all, the book actually contains some of Twain's own hand-written notes in the margins, such as this gem on the nature of "saviors" throughout history: "I feel an honest reverence [for saviors] … I was only meaning to slur those liars their followers."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Unpublished Essay Collection to Hit in April

Author and blogger Russ Kick of the literary blog Books Are People, Too was kind enough to drop me a line yesterday about the much-anticipated collection of unpublished Twain essays to be released in April, Who Is Mark Twain? Apparently, the publisher has made an entire uncorrected galley of the book available on its website.

If you proceed to his blog, you can check out the table of contents of the book, as well as Kick's own eloquent review. Of particular interest to me was ol' Sam's skewering of one of the canon's most overrated writers, Ms. Jane Austen.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Reports of the Twain House's Death Greatly Exaggerated

Thanks to a rousing show of support, it looks like the historic Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut will not be closing its doors anytime soon.

After reports surfaced last year that the former home of the Clemens family was woefully in debt due to an overambitious renovation project, word got out in the news and several high-profile fund-raising efforts got underway.

And now, because of those efforts, the House actually made a profit when the book was finally closed on the fiscal year last weekend. Its operating deficit of $400,000 has been paid off, and that's without even tapping into a $500,000 Annenberg Foundation grant. That grant will be used to kickstart a new $1.5 million Stabilization and Planning Fund, intended to support operations and future fund-raising initiatives.

So it looks like the Mark Twain House has sidestepped financial calamity. If only Twain himself could've done so when he lived there!