Thursday, December 9, 2010

What Twain's Autobiography Has to Say to us.

The fact that Mark Twain's autobiography is so popular I cannot get a copy through I have trudged through the snow to three bookstores only to be met by the stoical, we can order it for you but we cant guarantee when it will come in, is a very good thing. Also it is damn interesting that this raconteur from over a hundred years ago speaks to us from the grave and we want to listen. One would think with our twittering flittering Facebooking surfing brains we would have no interest  in the musings of a man from the nineteenth century, but apparently we do.

Which shows that for all our cyber fascination we still crave what is behind the curtain. Twain's keen sense of irony and play is what makes Huckleberry Finn  and the Adventures of Tom Sawyer beat along like a modern novel. If he had lived in our present day he might have been a vagabond or a street person, a rock star, a poet, or a famous author. Or he might have been the man in the coffee house who just wont shut up. He was into just about everything and failed many times in his life as a printer, inventor and real estate speculator. He was broke at the end and scrounging for money like many authors.

But of course you cannot take him out of his time. He lived when a man could travel west and start a fire and burn down thousands of acres around Lake Tahoe which is exactly what he did with a friend. They just wanted to see a big fire. But you could do that in a country of a million people with a great unsettled frontier. He puttered up and down the Mississippi as a river boat pilot and ran his ship aground not a few times. He was admittedly wanting, but of course his days along the Mississippi gave him his greatest material. His wife was sickly and spend much of her time secluded in Victorian gloom and he lost his daughter and that broke his heart.

But through it all Twain wrote and wrote and wrote and left behind his autobiography. I have only read is biography which unfortunately was sorely lacking on Twain's writing besides his novels. This man who smoked cigars like a fiend, drank whiskey, loved billiards, taveled the world, and said exactly what he thought to the point he had to leave several towns for offences he had given, can instruct the modern reader from afar on how the life not planned is a great tonic to our twenty first century obsession with getting it all done.
Rocket Man will be out in January

Books by William Hazelgrove