Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain!

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri (did you know there was a Florida in Missouri? I didn't until just now). He spent most of his formative years in the nearby town of Hannibal, on the Mississippi River, and took his famous nom de plume from the steamboatmen's term for two fathoms of water. Clemens had little formal education, but in my not-always-humble opinion, he has few peers among American writers, and perhaps no equal.

We have several of Twain's novels available in the library in both print and e-book formats, including (again, in my opinion) his greatest work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This novel is a profound indictment of slavery, racial and social injustice and societal hypocrisy, as well as just being a darn good story. (It's also a frequent target of censorship).

Maybe sometime during these next couple of weeks, you might have the urge to make like Tom Sawyer and play hooky. While I don't advocate blowing off your finals (or faking your own death, like Tom did), a few minutes with Twain may prove a great stress relief. I advise going beyond the required-reading Twain novels you've been assigned in English classes over the years, and check out some of his more obscure work (a favorite of mine: The Diaries of Adam and Eve, [PS1301 .A1 1971] on the third floor of the library).

Twain famously predicted his own death, joking that as Halley's Comet had appeared during his birth year, he should die the next time the comet came around. In 1909, he wrote,

"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."

Twain passed away on April 21, 1910 in Redding, Connecticut.

Source for biographical information: NoveList

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