A piece in the July 14, 2008 edition of Time magazine reminded me of a personal debt I owe to Mark Twain and his poison pen. Huckleberry Finn was the literary character to blame for my sneaking off to fish and romp along the mighty Mississippi in Algiers, Louisiana. In my heart I knew I did not need Mom’s permission to be Huck. (Though I concede, I took her advice and brought the doberman, Sadie. I was 10 or 11.) My gratitude effused into my adult life with the naming of my third child, Samuel.
The Time articles reminded me of another reason to be thankful to the great American writer. Anybody who blogs honors Mark Twain’s raison d’etre. Railing against, poking fun at, and calling out the powers that be is a blogger’s bread and butter. That’s what Mark Twain did. Remember the excoriation of James Fenimore Cooper and his Literary Offenses? How about The Battle Hymn of the Republic (brought down to date)? He also ruthlessly abraded racism in America through the soulful treatment of Jim in Huckleberry Finn and the comedy of errors in Pudd’nhead Wilson. While I love Steven Benen’s, analogy of bloggers to American Revolutionary Pamphleteers, I cannot discount Twain’s influence and example as a standard bearer.
Mark Twain was mocked by hoity-toity poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold who lamented “the addiction to the ‘funny man’ who is the national misfortune there.” Bloggers are criticized as guys named Vinnie, Cheetos-eating, pajama-wearing, and living in their moms’ basements all around America. Flout the status quo, speak truth to power, goose the powers that be, and the insults fly.
Time wraps up their bit on Twain:
But old Mark, unvarnished, might be too hot for cable, even, today.” -Roy Blount, Jr.
And I’ll wrap up mine, “Thank God America had Mark Twain.”
And just because my boys are competitive, here’s my fourth child Tristan, named as I reveled in “How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill…