Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

So Google tells me (through a wonderful drawing that you should really check out) that the official teller of tales for these great United States (if you believe Neil Gaiman, anyway, and why shouldn't you?) is 176 years old today. I'd bake him a cake, but he went out with the comet a while back, so it'd be kind of pointless. (Also, I can't bake a cake.)

Ernest Hemingway said once that Huckleberry Finn is the greatest American novel, and he may still be right. It's certainly one of my favorites; the scene where Huck decides he'd rather go to Hell than see Jim sent back to a life of slavery had a profound effect on me. Since then, I've gone through many of Twain's other works (but not all; I need to pick up The Innocents Abroad one of these days), and he's never failed to delight. Like all great authors, he had a keen awareness of human nature, and like all great humorists, he had an even keener awareness of human failings. Minds like his come along only once in a century (the 20th century's was Kurt Vonnegut), and America is richer for having had him.

One of my favorite quotes of his, incidentally, is "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who does not read them." With that in mind, I exhort my readers to give themselves an advantage and read one of his books at the nearest opportunity. It will be an experience well worth the having.

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