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Rediscovering an American treasure

Moseyin’ Along

April 11, 2012
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Thanks to the wonderful Kindle e-reader I received for my birthday, I recently got reacquainted with one of the nation's most beloved authors and humorists, Mark Twain.

When I learned I could transfer such Twain classics as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "A Dog's Tale" to my Kindle at no cost, I couldn't resist adding them to my electronic library.

The treasured books reminded me again how fortunate we all are that the thoughts of gifted authors like Twain continue to be available to readers long after the writer is gone. Thanks to the lasting character of recorded words - whether in print or through the wonder of electronics - the brilliance of such voices as Shakespeare, Plato, O'Henry and Emily Dickenson will live forever. As long as their writings connect with readers, the magic still takes place. Writers never die.

As for Twain, he entered the world as Samuel Langhorne Clemens in November of 1835, in the tiny town of Florida, Mo. In recalling the impact of his birth, he said the village "contained a hundred people and I increased the population by one percent, more than many of the best men in the country could have done for a town."

Later, Twain joined his brothers in running the small local newspaper in Hannibal, Mo. Twain's first works appeared in the Hannibal Journal.

Eventually, he traveled through the country, but decided to seek his fortune in South America. However, while traveling to New Orleans on his way to Brazil, he fell under the spell of the Mississippi River. Twain lost interest in South America, instead becoming one of the Mississippi's outstanding riverboat pilots. Many of his adventures during this period are recorded in his "Life on the Mississippi."

Through the years, Twain's fame as a storyteller and humorous critic of the American scene grew. Fortunately, he left us an impressive collection of quotes reflecting his unbiased, often irreverent view of the world around him.

For instance, Twain, who dropped out of school to help the family when his father died, educated himself in public libraries. He said later, "I never let school interfere with my education."

Always interested in the field of religion, he said, "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me. It's the parts that I do understand."

Of those who freely offer advice to others, he said, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Some of my other favorite Twain quotes are:

"It is better to have old second-hand diamonds than none at all."

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society."

"Familiarity breeds contempt - and children.

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

"Golf is a good walk spoiled."

But, given the current situation in Washington, Twain seemed far ahead of his time when he said, "There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."

Mark Twain is one writer who still has much to say to us today. He's worth rediscovering.



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