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October 12, 2005



No offense Nate, but I don't think you've taken the time to read Twain. Google "The War Prayer" and take a look at that. Or "Fenimoore Cooper's Literary Offences."
Funniest in history? Maybe not. But arguably one of the most important literary figures in American history. Naturalism pretty much starts with Twain and the effects from his prosaic sensibility were felt for decades after him. Many, many writers have striven to emulate his prose and have failed miserably. Twain was also very politically active, and wrote many satirical letters and pamphlets about the government of his time.

I would imagine that like most people who don't get degrees in literature, you haven't read much of Twain besides Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, which is a shame. Give'em a try. You'd be shocked at how socially relevant Twain remains. Especially in our country which is torn into factions about this damn war. Twain talks a lot about unjust wars…he saw first had the atrocities committed during the civil war and the Spanish-American War. He was a big proponent of science and empiricism, and was extremely leery of religion and its relationship to government, so much so that many of his anti-religious writings were suppressed by his family well after his death.

So funniest? Nah. Most important American author? Probably.

And you're right about King. His fiction has grown exponentially worse with time. I think he gets paid by the word, which would explain why all of his books are so ridiculously long.


You're talking to the guy who rushed through Hamlet because it was boring so he could read Paradise Lost... twice.

I don't really like novels or fiction, so I tend to have very specific tastes when it comes to the ones I do read. I'm not an anti-establishment snob or anything, I just can't stand what most people seem to regard as important works. Twain is a good example.

Oddly enough though, I do enjoy Poe's short stories, especially the mystery stories. I also love Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series. But that's about it in the mystery department.

I also love Moby Dick and anything written by C.S. Lewis. I've never read Tolkien, so I can't really tell you about that.

Everything else is non-fiction biographies of the founding fathers or a historical treatise on philosphy in 12th Century Asia. Stuff like that.

Maybe I'm wrong and Twain is a very important American writer, but I'm not going to waste my time reading something I know is just going to bore me to tears when I could be reading Jan Brunvand's work on contemporary American folklore.


For the record, I have the same problem with Dickens. We had to read A Tale of Two Cities in high school, and I skipped 10 chapters because I knew I wasn't being tested over them. So I read the last chapter, was pissed off by the ending and wrote a book report calling him an idiot. I got a B+.

The least of the problems was that I didn't give a wit about the French Revolution.

Even with the chapter skipping it took me more than a month to read it. By comparison, I read Moby Dick in 4 days in 5th Grade.


Once I was able to read Shakespeare with the same proficiency as modern prose I liked it a lot more, and I find Hamlet almost as compelling as Milton. Where Milton claims to relay to his reader the ways of God to man, I think Shakespeare pre-dates Freud by attempting to relay the psychology of man to his readers. Religion also takes a neat twist in Hamlet that it didn’t in PL. The whole notion of spirituality in Hamlet is forever in a state of contestation where it isn't in PL. Milton knows what he thinks about God, hell he wrote pages and pages on what was wrong with Christianity, without all the bothersome poetical devices he employed PL. Shakespeare was torn between Catholicism and the emerging Protestantism. If he's Catholic then his father's spirit has come from purgatory to save him. If he's Protestant then it's a demon from hell...and those are never good.

To each his own, I suppose. I'm with you on everything but the Melville, by the way. I can't imagine why you would voluntarily read 'Ole Horrible Herman. I can't make it past "they call me Ishmael" without falling into a coma.

Don't Mess w/ Pink

Hey, Nate. Dropped over from ITPT to see what you have going on. I find this discussion interesting, because it mirrors something I've noticed, or think I've noticed, in the book group I belong to. (OK, OK ... "to which I belong.") And that is that the type of literature one loves/hates depends on personality and is fairly predictable.

I've noticed, for example, that (outside of lit majors) the types like me who love Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Hemmingway tend to be relatively conservative (I don't mean politically -- I mean basically conventional lifestyles, jobs, etc., with fairly ordered lives -- you know, tailored-clothes types, even when they're jeans. Maybe smart, but alas not very creative.) I can't stand Melville or Milton (hated Paradise Lost) have little use for Poe or Lewis. My opposites who love the stuff I hate and vice versa -- like you -- tend to be free spirits, unconventional, creative types with not-so-orderly lives. I bet your home is messy.

Does this fit, you guys? Or am I totally wrong.


Never argue with a man named Kim.


Actually I think that does kind of describe me. I'm the guy who doesn't obey the dress code. I wear flip-flops and jeans to meetings with the publisher.

I found that I really enjoy reading about Hemingway, so I bet I would enjoy his novels. I just haven't had the time to pick up his books, which is a shame.

Don't Mess w/ Pink

Now, see, I love that about you. You haven't had time to pick up his books? Try "For Whom the Bell Tolls." And if you can tolerate Saul Bellow (one of my favorite authors of all time),I'll eat my hat. And buy you many drinks at the establishment of your choice. I'm re-reading "Humboldt's Gift" as we speak/blog.

Don't Mess w/ Pink

Oh, and btw, Jason's right.


Kim's a great guy. He's actually letting me off work next Saturday.

I am a busy person. Working six nights a week and the constant blogging I really don't have as much leisure time as I would like.

But I'm going to make an effort to read Hemmingway... and I'll try Saul Bellow out.

Don't Mess w/ Pink

And here I thought I was the only one up at this time of the morning. Go to bed!

Evil Clerk

Jesus Christ Nate, Twain is good readin'. Don't let the literary snobs tell you he's good because everyone else thinks so, though — discover it on your own.

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