Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

Today marks the 185th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Longhorn Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain.

Mark Twain has been a favorite author of mine since my first introduction to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in elementary school. I loved the humor. I loved the honesty. I loved the way he wrote like people talked. Decades later, those are still the things I love about his writing. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is another favorite novel of his.

A selection of Mark Twain books

Years ago, I enjoyed how actor Hal Holbrook brought Mark Twain alive on the stage and TV. When vacationing in New York a few years ago, I enjoyed visiting Elmira, where Twain lived. There was a live portrayal of him there, which was excellent. I still have those memories and the plastic souvenir cup from my visit.

Perhaps even more than his novels, I like many of Mark Twain’s quotes. It was through his little snippets or sayings that his humor really came through. Here are a few of my favorites:

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over the person who can’t read.”

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

“When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old.”

Since my last blog post

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened here in the United States. I’m thankful for all the people who work in healthcare facilities and other essential workers who risk exposure to the virus every day so the rest of us can have the services we need. I’m fortunate that I can stay home most of the time.

I finished reading a splendid new historical novel by Vicki Lane. Get your hands on a copy of And the Crows Took Their Eyes. Don’t let the title scare you off, but be aware that the book is not about a pleasant subject. It is, however, masterfully written. It sheds light on a part of North Carolina history that has received too little attention in the history books. It brings to life the horrors of neighbors taking opposite sides in the American Civil War. I read it slowly and savored the writing. Look for more about this book in my blog post on December 7, 2020.

My sister and I had some productive time one day as we continued to proofread my manuscript for Harrisburg, Did You Know? Stay tuned for progress reports.

My root canal went well last Monday, and I was able to enjoy turkey, dressing, and gravy on Thanksgiving Day.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and a challenging one to write, if you’re a writer.

Be creative. Find what you’re passionate about and make time to do it. Find a way to make a living doing it. I wish I had.

Wear a mask.

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books that Make Me Smile

For today’s blog post, I’m going back 20 years to remember a delightful children’s book my sister and I enjoyed reading to one of our great-nieces when she was a little girl. That book is still being published, and I’m thrilled because it is a hilarious children’s book.

The reader and the child being read to get to make all sorts of pirate sounds. The book is How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long. In addition to a very entertaining narrative, the book has wonderful illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator David Shannon.

I was in Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina last week and was thrilled to see this book on the shelf. It immediately brought a smile to my face and then the memories flooded in.

Shiver me timbers! Aargh! The illustrations will entertain a child (and an adult!) for hours. I have been unable to import a photo of the cover of How I Became a Pirate into today’s blog post. Technical difficulties. That’s too bad because seeing the cover would give you an idea of the illustrations within the book.

The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider

The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider

Another book that makes me smile is The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. The copyright date on it is 1961, and that’s probably about when I received it as a gift. I just realized that was 58 years ago! I was eight years old and had apparently just discovered the humor of Mark Twain. I became a lifelong fan. From my lopsided signature on the flylead, I can tell I received it as I was learning to write cursive. Second grade.

Flipping through this collection of Mark Twain writings makes me smile because I was no innocent in 1961 and got to read the book for sheer enjoyment. I read this a mere 90 years or so after Mr. Twain wrote the pieces. That seemed like a million years to an eight-year-old, but not so long to me now.

Something else about the book made me smile today as I looked through it. We had a rule in our house:  you don’t write in a book and you don’t underline in a book. Books were sacred and to be damaged under no circumstances. (The same went for Daddy’s National Geographic magazines. No matter what the school assignment was, I knew not to cut pictures out of National Geographic. I doubt I could take a scissors to a National Geographic to this day. Some things are just beyond the pale.)

So what made me smile today as I went through the book? On page 43, beside the story title, “A Touching Story of George Washington’s Boyhood,” I had printed in very light lead pencil, “Satire?” I found the same marginal note on page 49 next to “Answers to Correspondents.” There it was again, minus the question mark, (I must have been gaining confidence in identifying satire) on pager 59 next to “A Page from a California Almanac.”

I guess I lost interest in satire on page 59 because I can find no more marginal notes in the book. Thank goodness I didn’t use it to practice diagramming sentences! Do student still have to do that?

The following entry in “Answers to Correspondents” made me laugh today because it brought back memories of those dreaded “word problems” we had to do in arithmetic. I believe that’s known as math today. Here’s the entry: “’Arithmeticus.’ Virginia, Nevada. – If it would take a cannon-ball 3 1/3 seconds to travel four miles, and 3 3/8 seconds to travel the next four, and 3 5/8 to travel the next four, and if its rate of progress continued to diminish in the same ratio, how long would it take it to go fifteen hundred million miles?” Twain’s answer:  “I don’t know.”

I can identify with that answer.

This is a 716-page book, plus appendix and index. I’m sure it was the first thick book I owned. I’m glad I still have this treasure from my childhood.

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog, https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.

Happy reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two books that make you smile.

Janet