Mark Twain Connects with China
Mark Twain connects with readers in China in a way he doesn't usually connect with readers in the USA. Running for Governor, one of three stories in Twain Illustrated, stands out as the best example of why this is so: The Chinese adore Twain as a satirist, while Americans have largely ignored this aspect of his wit.
More than a century after his death American readers still hold Twain the author in the highest esteem. He is widely viewed as the preeminent American humorist and most critics credit him as the founder of the American voice in literature. He is iconic, and has been all along.
Twain Illustrated that he was Running for Governor
Twain Illustrated contains three funny stories by Mark Twain. All three stories are funny, but one, Running for Governor, is also scary, since it strikes so closely to what is currently happening in the USA and elsewhere. Democracy is in danger because so many people don’t know what to believe in this information/disinformation age of ours. Of course, as the story shows, this phenomenon is not exactly brand new. For most of the nineteenth century, politicians funded major newspapers throughout the US. In 1870, only 11% of urban daily newspapers were independent of corrupt influence by politicians. Twain surely had this in mind while writing Running for Governor for his monthly column in The Galaxy, a literary magazine, in which he portrayed his fictional candidacy for Governor to be just as hopelessly futile as it would have been in fact.
Twain Illustrated: Twain Presumes Too Much
Twain illustrated contains one reborn story—Emerson, Holmes, and Longfellow—largely requiring rebirth because even the great Mark Twain could presume too much. The story is my adaptation of a speech he delivered in 1877 at a Boston banquet honoring esteemed American poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Twain presumed his audience was in a playful spirit that night as he prepared to deliver a speech that poked fun at literary giants Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Either the audience was not feeling playful, or maybe everyone was reluctant to laugh because all three poets were seated right there at the head table with Whittier. For neither the poets nor anyone else in the audience laughed, not even once, during the entire story. Master humorist Mark Twain had come to totally expect laughter, and lots of it, when he told a funny story. He claims he never fully recovered from the humiliation he felt that night at the banquet.
Twain’s Carnival of Exaggerations
Edgar Allan Poe was not sarcastic
So that makes me dead wrong for saying Poe use sarcastic humor in the example I chose to demonstrate his humor. Either Poe wasn’t being sarcastic, or the excerpt I used wasn’t humorous. Intent to hurt cannot be funny, even when someone’s ego deserves to be chopped down to size. I don’t think I can have it both ways. The dictionaries have corrected me. A little deeper Still,...
Edgar Allan Poe was not ...
Poe’s humor was almost entirely sarcastic. Sarcasm falls within the form of humor called wit, which is defined as mental trickery. I addressed the subject of wit in a previous blog about Mark Twain’s humor.
But why try to thoroughly describe Poe’s...
Mark Twain Made Mischievous Fun
In essence, pranks embody tricks that produce surprise. But physical pranks also play out to the detriment of a victim. A victim hardly ever immediately sees...