Superstitions started in the Dark Ages and still most of wouldn't walk under a ladder if we could avoid it. Is there a rational explanation?
June 19, 2012
Yes, Mark Twain, the fellow whose works you were required to read in high school. Unless your school board had already been swayed by arguments about the possible terrible effects of period racial terms Twain used in "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."`
Faulkner nailed it in calling him the "father of American literature" — the first to entirely express a thoroughly American point of view.
Twain (original name Samuel Langhorne Clemens, original pen name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass) also jump-started America's fascination with the emerging Western territories.
He provided a lasting model for the writer-as-adventurer archetype. Invented the self-pasting scrapbook, the only one of his dozens of brainstorms to ever make money.
He shaped American thinking on everything from labor unions (he was for them) to imperialism (stridently and unpopularly against). Forever established the white suit as a mode or sartorial distinction, too.
But for all his vast social and historical significance, let's also acknowledge Twain as probably the most readable of the great 19th century authors for contemporary audiences. Battle your way through any other piece of "required reading" from the period -- "Moby Dick," anyone? --
Even if you haven't really read Twain much, you still know him from these pearls:
Even more impressive: Literary scholars are still digging up treasures like these.
"The Bible According to Mark Twain," a collection of religious essays published in 1996, included a number of previously unpublished pieces deemed too scandalous for print at the time. As always, Twain's analyses are entirely his own. If you have a fondness, as I do, for his darker side, you might want to peruse Adam and Eve's divergent accounts of their domestic troubles.
Twain wrote the way people spoke. In his non-fiction works, his blend of sarcasm, self-deprecation and wise humor make you feel not only that you know the author but wouldn't mind sharing a bourbon with him.