Mark Twain’s Autobiography

Mark Twain’s complete autobiography is going to be published finally. He had written it in the last years of his life with instructions that it not be published until 100 years after his death. It will now be published in three volumes, running to about a half-million words. The manuscript was in a vault at the University of California at Berkeley.

Why did Twain want to wait so long? It seems he spoke quite frankly about all aspects of his life.

One thing’s for sure: by delaying publication, the author, who was fond of his celebrity status, has ensured that he’ll be gossiped about during the 21st century. A section of the memoir will detail his little-known but scandalous relationship with Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who became his secretary after the death of his wife Olivia in 1904. Twain was so close to Lyon that she once bought him an electric vibrating sex toy. But she was abruptly sacked in 1909, after the author claimed she had “hypnotised” him into giving her power of attorney over his estate.

All I can say is…wow.

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Mayor Daley of Chicago Wants to Shove a Gun Up Your Ass

From the city that gave us an indicted governor who goes on The Apprentice, the Mayor once again says something so stupid as to be nearly incomprehensible. No, really, watch the video here.

And if you’re so inclined, you can vote on Mayor Daley’s dumbest remark (yes, this being Chicago, you can vote as often as you like). Choose from such classics as:

“The state of Illinois funds those centers. We did not cut. They have cut state mental health facilities all over the state. That is state money. Underline that. S-A-T-E money. It’s called state money …”

“I supported him. I raised money for him. What else do you want me to do? Take my pants off?”

“I’m pro death! I’m a death-penalty opponent!”

That’s what politicians from my hometown are usually made of.

The Great Gatsby and POV

There is really good essay by Rob Roberge at The Rumpus about the particular kind of first person point-of-view that F. Scott Fitzgerald used in The Great Gatsby. Roberge calls it “Flexible First Person.”

It’s really just a technique a writer can use within the confines of traditional first-person. It’s not a POV of its own, but more of a subset technique within a POV choice. It’s the technique of a writer who realizes there are a multitude of ways that we (who live in First-Person Singular—most of us, at any rate) get information about other people and events.

Think about it—there are plenty of things we know about in life that we weren’t present for. People tell us things, we listen to the radio, we read, we watch TV and check the Internet (though the last two weren’t available to Fitzgerald) and, perhaps most importantly, we imagine what other people are thinking.

Still one of my favorite novels. Makes me want to read it again. There are so many wonderful things about that novel, most especially the crystalline grace of Fitzgerald’s prose.

One Book, One Twitter Kicks Off Today

If I didn’t already have so many books in my TBR pile, I would jump into this experiment with reading (via Wired).

Today is the official premiere of One Book, One Twitter (#1b1t). For anyone just arriving, huffing and puffing, to the shindig, we’re reading American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.

So now that we know what we’re reading, we still have to answer the question: How do you get thousands of people to read one book together without ruining the suspense and twists for anyone?

Currently, I’m reading Naomi Klein’s No Logo and enjoying it. Yeah, it’s ten years old, but I can rarely ever get to a book when it first comes out.

Why a U.S. Politician Would Never Claim Beckett as Their Favorite Writer

I have so agree with Andrew Sullivan on this,”Somehow I cannot imagine a presidential candidate in the US unloading this five days before voting.”

This is Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the U.K. on his favorite author, Samuel Beckett,

Since then I must have read Waiting for Godot – of course – a hundred times. Every time I go back to Beckett he seems more subversive, not less; his works make me feel more uncomfortable than they did before. The unsettling idea, most explicit in Godot, that life is habit – that it is all just a series of motions devoid of meaning – never gets any easier.

It’s that willingness to question the things the rest of us take for granted that I admire most about Beckett; the courage to ask questions that are dangerous because, if the traditions and meanings we hold so dear turn out to be false, what do we do then?

Somehow I cannot imagine a US politician ever unloading anything like this in print or in speech. You can imagine the uproar on this side of the pond: “‘Life Is Meaningless, Declares Party Leader!” or “Party Leader Says We Might As Well Kill Ourselves!”

Remember the manufactured outrage over Obama supposedly not putting his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem or recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? Because in the U.S. MSM any gesture that is short of rabid patriotism is considered tantamount to treason when it comes to judging the suitability of a candidate for higher office.

It just goes to show how empty these gestures of patriotism have become thanks to force of habit; a series of required motions, rendered almost meaningless. (“Why do you hate America?!”) I think it’s this unarticulated feeling that really upsets the small-minded among us. The fear that all their ardor is for an imperfect country. They feel that to admit to our country’s imperfections is to call into question its fundamental existence. Which is not true. But that doesn’t stop the small-minded from making strange contortions of logic by arguing that torture is a U.S. value consistent with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or that we can deliver democracy to another country through Shock and Awe.

Related to this, for once, I’d like to see a major political campaign logo not use red, white, & blue, or even evoke the flag…Fat chance of that ever happening. That would be deemed unpatriotic and subversive. The willingness to question things we take for granted is neither valued nor rewarded.

I don’t mean to make Clegg out to be some true subversive, or say that UK voters are any more adept at seeing through campaign bullshit. He’s a politician and all that goes with it. (He’s the result of a private school education and a member of the Oxbridge Ruling Class.) It’s just fascinating to see a major politician write a short article about how their favorite author is someone as discomforting and humorous as Beckett. By contrast President George W. Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ. And how did that work out for us?