Tag Archives: Mark Twain

Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone

Not me.  Mark Twain.  He wasn’t in to Jane Austen, it would seem.  And he was plenty pithy about it, as opposed to the 19 Rules of Literary Art his disgust with James Fenimore Cooper forced him to manufacture.  I’m with him on ole Fenimore Cooper, though I myself am an Austen fan.  Seems to me that if you are going to be anti-Jane, you best be able to do it as snarkily as Mr. Clemens did.

Doesn't that skull just beg for a shin-bone smacking?

Want more?  Alright:

Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946):
Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.

God yes.  I’ve never understood Wilde-worship that goes beyond his unbearably clever one-liners.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost, according to Samuel Johnson:
‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.

I’ve been defeated by Paradise Lost a couple of times.  One of these days.

John Steinbeck, according to James Gould Cozzens (1957):
I can’t read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up. I couldn’t read the proletariat crap that came out in the ’30s.

A lot of Steinbeck is, unfortunately, proletariat crap.

J.D.Salinger, according to Mary McCarthy (1962):
I don’t like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn’t a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don’t like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it’s so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can’t stand it.

Zing!

William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway:
Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

Take that, Bill!

Gustave Flaubert, according to George Moore (1888):
Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked about him!

Pow!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, according to Gore Vidal (1980):
He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US.

Smack!

Robert Frost, according to James Dickey (1981):
If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes….a more sententious, holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal little twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word I never saw.

Damn …

Henry James, according to Arnold Bennett:
It took me years to ascertain that Henry James’s work was giving me little pleasure….In each case I asked myself: ‘What the dickens is this novel about, and where does it think it’s going to?’ Question unanswerable! I gave up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.

Yup.

And finally, Mr. Clemens gets his comeuppance:

Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922):
A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

Thanks to the “Book Examiner” Michelle Kerns for getting these together. There are 50 all told.

Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone

Not me.  Mark Twain.  He wasn’t in to Jane Austen, it would seem.  And he was plenty pithy about it, as opposed to the 19 Rules of Literary Art his disgust with James Fenimore Cooper forced him to manufacture.  I’m with him on ole Fenimore Cooper, though I myself am an Austen fan.  Seems to me that if you are going to be anti-Jane, you best be able to do it as snarkily as Mr. Clemens did.

Doesn't that skull just beg for a shin-bone smacking?

Want more?  Alright:

Oscar Wilde, according to Noel Coward (1946):
Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.

God yes.  I’ve never understood Wilde-worship that goes beyond his unbearably clever one-liners.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost, according to Samuel Johnson:
‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is.

I’ve been defeated by Paradise Lost a couple of times.  One of these days.

John Steinbeck, according to James Gould Cozzens (1957):
I can’t read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up. I couldn’t read the proletariat crap that came out in the ’30s.

A lot of Steinbeck is, unfortunately, proletariat crap.

J.D.Salinger, according to Mary McCarthy (1962):
I don’t like Salinger, not at all. That last thing isn’t a novel anyway, whatever it is. I don’t like it. Not at all. It suffers from this terrible sort of metropolitan sentimentality and it’s so narcissistic. And to me, also, it seemed so false, so calculated. Combining the plain man with an absolutely megalomaniac egotism. I simply can’t stand it.

Zing!

William Faulkner, according to Ernest Hemingway:
Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes — and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.

Take that, Bill!

Gustave Flaubert, according to George Moore (1888):
Flaubert bores me. What nonsense has been talked about him!

Pow!

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, according to Gore Vidal (1980):
He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US.

Smack!

Robert Frost, according to James Dickey (1981):
If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes….a more sententious, holding-forth old bore, who expected every hero-worshipping adenoidal little twerp of a student-poet to hang on his every word I never saw.

Damn …

Henry James, according to Arnold Bennett:
It took me years to ascertain that Henry James’s work was giving me little pleasure….In each case I asked myself: ‘What the dickens is this novel about, and where does it think it’s going to?’ Question unanswerable! I gave up. Today I have no recollection whatever of any characters or any events in either novel.

Yup.

And finally, Mr. Clemens gets his comeuppance:

Mark Twain, according to William Faulkner (1922):
A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.

Thanks to the “Book Examiner” Michelle Kerns for getting these together. There are 50 all told.

Who is Mark Twain?, available as (copyrighted) hardcover and ebook

There has been a decided uptick in interest in Mark Twain recently. All to the good: the great satirist deserves as large an audience as he get in this and any other time. Now HarperStudio is getting in the game with its release of Who is Mark Twain?, a collection of 24 previously unpublished essays by him.

Who is Mark Twain book cover

And if you buy the hardcover, you also receive the DRM-free e-book.

While I can’t see why anyone would buy both a hardcover edition and an e-book, if HarperStudio is giving it away and it’s DRM-free in the bargain, I don’t see how you can lose. And not just any old e-book. This one features possibly America’s greatest satirist wondering if “Jane Austen’s goal is to ‘make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters?’” And:

Twain plasters the city with ads to promote his talk at the Cooper Union (he is terrified no one will attend). Later that day, Twain encounters two men gazing at one of his ads. One man says to the other: “Who is Mark Twain?” The other responds: “God Knows—I Don’t.”

Be sure not to miss John Lithgow reading a selection wherein it is revealed how Twain determined which manuscripts to publish, and which to burn.

image I’ve read pretty much everything Twain has written up to this point, and as a writer, I’ve taken his 19 Rules of Literary Art much to heart. I don’t usually buy hard covers, but this one comes in at a reasonable $19.99 and with the e-book to boot, I think I’ll make an exception. Maybe I can give the hardcover away …

One thing I’m very curious about: All Twain’s writings have long since passed into the public domain. So can Harper Studio hold a copyright to these 24 essays? They’re handpicked by Robert Hirst, General Editor of The Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley, so possibly they’ve been edited. If so, does that mean they can be copyrighted?

Update:   Looks like the copyright question is answered: The Daily Beast has run an excerpt from Who is Mark Twain? with this addendum at the bottom:

Extracted from Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain. © 2009 With permission from the Publisher, HarperStudio.

What I want to know is, how can this be? I’ll be asking the folks at HarperStudio. We’ll see if they get back to me.

Note: This post originally appeared at TeleRead.