Thursday, January 5, 2017

Late Hate - I Challenge You To Read A Whole Book Of His Short Stuff Without Skimming While Pretending It's Hillarious

I took the time to see if I could find what Jorge Luis Borges said about the ending of Huckleberry Finn.  This isn't what I recalled reading in a different interview (I recall reading it in the Boston Globe) but it is interesting and true.

BORGES
Look here, I’m talking to an American: There’s a book I must speak about—nothing unexpected about it—that book is Huckleberry Finn. I thoroughly dislike Tom Sawyer. I think that Tom Sawyer spoils the last chapters of Huckleberry Finn. All those silly jokes. They are all pointless jokes; but I suppose Mark Twain thought it was his duty to be funny even when he wasn’t in the mood. The jokes had to be worked in somehow. According to what George Moore said, the English always thought: “Better a bad joke than no joke.”

[I'll break in to say that would seem to be Simp's philosophy of writing, except his jokes are used bad jokes.  A Xerox machine is as original and has a better chance of repeating better jokes. But only if it's not Simps choosing what to feed into it.]

I think that Mark Twain was one of the really great writers, but I think he was rather unaware of the fact. But perhaps in order to write a really great book, you must be rather unaware of the fact.

Much, if not most of Huckleberry Finn is great, the ending falls through.   The parts with Tom Sawyer are probably the worst parts of it, though the plot twists at the end are really bad.  I think he got to the end of the river and he knew he had to do something and he couldn't figure out what to do.  I'd have them hire onto a boat to South America.  He could have done a sequel to it.  Maybe he should have asked himself what Melville would have done.

I do agree that Mark Twain could be a great writer, but his published work is uneven.  Try reading through his complete works and I'll bet you will be skimming not far into it and you'll resort to skimming until you're relieved to reach the end of it.  A lot of it is just not very good, he wrote a lot of forgettable stuff, especially short pieces he certainly wrote for the money. He definitely could have used some editing advice in just about every book.

If the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County hadn't already been written by the famous Mark Twain, if it were submitted to any publisher or magazine, today, as written, it wouldn't get published.  If it were submitted for criticism by any competent writing teacher, they would tear it to shreds in editing it. And it's far from his worst piece.  Lots of the worst ones are a lot longer and no one really reads them.  I challenge Simps and the Eschatots to read through "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg And Other Stories And Essays" without resorting to skimming.  They can't even get through one of poor Duncan's little attempts at writing, he having given up when they wouldn't read his longer pieces - some of which were, actually, pretty good.   If any of them claims they read every word, with attention, I'll sentence them to reading "My First Lie And How I Got Out Of It" aloud while pretending they really think it's funny or amusing or in any way droll.  I'm sure it can be done, the French did it with Jerry Lewis for decades.

I still think "Life on the Mississippi" is his deepest, greatest and best book.  I can say that every time I've read it, it holds my attention like most of his other books don't.  I'd put Huckleberry Finn second. The fall off starts after those two, though many of them have some really funny passages and some very good writing, just not a whole books worth.   I do think the short piece "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" is good and funny and and spot on as criticism, if sometimes quite unfair, though there is a lot in it that becomes quite ironic when considering a huge part of Twain's own output. Take #9.

They [the rules of good writing] require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the Deerslayer tale.

Measure the ending of Huck Finn to that rule.  And not just Huck Finn but most of his other novels, especially The Prince and the Pauper.   And measure practically the entire Hadleyburg volume and a lot of his other humor pieces, especially those employing his tall-tale style against #14,

Eschew surplusage.

If you really want to cringe, go to the Hadleyburg volume and read "The Esquimaux Maiden's Romance".    And, if you don't have the heart to go on, believe me, there is as bad if not worse.

14 comments:

  1. Wow -- can anybody imagine wasting enough time to write something this long just because I got under Sparky's skin for no other reason than to annoy him?

    Earth to Sparky: You won't understand this, but according to Boswell Samuel Johnson said it best -- ""No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." "

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    1. Oh, no, Simps, I was just showing off that I've actually read Mark Twain and you haven't.

      Samuel Johnson was, in so many ways, an ass. No wonder you're quoting him.

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  2. Ah, Samuel Johnson -- yet another genuine talent you feel superior too.

    I have no doubt that a few hundred years from now, your name will be as much a household word.

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    1. You are such a predictable ass. Maybe it's because you only have a very limited repertoire.

      Let me guess, that quote is either 100% of maybe 50% of everything you ever read of him.

      Johnson was a misogyinist, a bigot and xenophobe, a guy who pretended to know things he didn't... You've got a lot in common with him. You know who else likes him, Boris Johnson.

      Actually, he did nail you in the second half of this quote:

      "Almost every man has some real or imagined connection to a celebrated character."

      Of course, the secret isn't who you've met, it's who remembers you. I mean as something other than the asshole you are.

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    2. "It is always a serious mistake to judge the brave men and women of an earlier era by the standards of our own." -- Greil Marcus (who by the way will still be read ages after you're worm fodder)

      Keep digging, Sparky.
      :-)

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    3. Oh, you mean I can't judge the antisemitism, the racism, the misoginy, the gay bashing, the anti-democratic activities,.... of people in the past? All those guys who invented and spread the blood libel? The ones who banned Jews and forced them to leave so they could steal their property?

      Just what are the criteria for deciding who can be and who can't be judged on that count? How do you decide that or does that, as well, just depend on who you like and who you don't?

      How about the Nazis? You know, that great hero of pseudo-liberals and the superficial William O. Douglas and the Republican Senator Robert Taft didn't believe the Nuremberg trials were legitimate because, under Nazi laws, the crimes of the Nazis were legal. In another book you never read, Profiles in Courage, Jack Kennedy stupidly praised Taft for that stand. So, I guess, by that standard you'd have been all OK with letting the Nazis off. You'd have to be opposed to the trial of Eichmann, or is your stand a sometimes thing.

      Jack Kennedy also praised Daniel Webster for his accommodation of some of the worst pro-slavery laws in the lead up to the Civil War. I can guarantee you that the majority opinion wasn't with abolition at the time. So, I guess by that standard that means no one has a right to judge him. Me, I'm with those who think he was a piece of scum.

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  3. Oh please -- this from an idiot who thinks people are being oppressed by Bacharach/David songs.

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    1. You are so stupid the distinction between heads and tails is too subtle for you to get.

      You are a typical straight, white male of your generation. Virginia Graham had a more sophisticated mind than yours.

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  4. Straight? Wow. No bigotry there.

    Keep digging....

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    1. Whiny assed straight, white, old men, you and Donald Trump. That and lying as easily as most people breathe.

      You always say "keep digging" as if you have the power to do something to me that I'd be afraid of. You are such a talent-less nonentity that your delusions aren't of grandeur, they're of mediocrity.

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  5. Whiny assed straight, white, old men, you and Donald Trump.

    "Straight." As an insult.

    Fuck you, Sparky. As you well know, in all the years I've been insulting you I've never made one disparaging remark about your sexuality.

    You're a fucking bigoted pig. Bite me.

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    1. Oh, you liar.

      Straight, white, men as a class are clueless about their own privilege and their own ignorance. Some have the ability to learn and the moral discipline and character to overcome that, you ain't one of them.

      I wouldn't bite you with Martha Rae's false teeth.

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  6. BTW, I'm not white -- I'm Jewish.
    :-)

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    1. You're as white as an Irishman's ass in New England in January. And I mean an albino Irishman.

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