Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Finished the Book (In Case You Were Wondering)

That book that's been on my sidebar for months? You know, the one I got for Christmas?

I finished it.

I finished it some time ago, actually, I just have been too lazy to go out and change the picture to what I'm reading now.

After having read Volume I of Mark Twain's autobiography, I have to say that I am not sure I will buy Volume II when it is published. I will have to re-read Volume I, because it probably took me about half the book to figure out how to read the book.

Good old Mark told me, he told me how to read it in the 70-page introduction of which I read the first 5 pages. I read in the introduction and in several reviews that Mark didn't like the standard format of autobiographies, how they "begin in the cradle and drive you straight into the grave." No sir, he wanted to write exactly what was on his mind at that moment, regardless of relevance or timeliness.

And that's exactly what he did.

It was about halfway through the book that I realized what I was reading was a series of prose, of short stories about random things. And once I began letting go of the fact that he would reference events that hadn't yet been described to the reader, and trust that I would learn about it later on, or that I was supposed to just enjoy each little story for what it was, I began to like the book.

His writing reminds me so much of my dad's -- it is ALL about the tale you tell, not the facts. He also grasps the most unusual things to wonder upon, like his daughter's love of theatre. His description of an evening of entertainment that his daughter provided to a dinner party he and his wife hosted was both touching and sentimental, like my dad's writing.

He wrote brutally about the ignorance or untrustworthiness of certain business associates of his -- no wonder he wanted his book to be published 100 years after his death. He also wrote with fascination about General and President Ulysses S. Grant, a dear friend of his.

But the best story of all had to be the one he told of being a 12-year-old boy, working the printing press of the local newspaper.

He and the other press boys had just set all the type for a booklet that a minister in town wanted published on the newspaper's press. They called the minister down to proof the book, and the minister realized he had left out the words "Jesus Christ" in one critical reference to the Savior. In order to fit those two words in, young Samuel Clemens and friends would have to re-set the last four pages of the book, because all of the words slid onto the next pages all the way to the end of the booklet.

Instead of taking on that painstaking work, Sam's friend decided to shorten it to "J.C." to try to save their afternoon so they could go swimming instead of re-setting type. But alas, when the minister came back to proof it he found the abbreviation of the Lord's name, chastised the boys for taking the name in vain and admonished them to set in Jesus' FULL name when he came back to proof it once again. And so they took on the task of setting in the full name of the Lord and re-setting the remaining pages as well.

When the minister came back a third time to proof the book, there, just as he insisted, was the Lord's full name:

Jesus H. Christ

Sam and friends ended up working the entire afternoon again anyways, but as Sam says in his autobiography, "That was the best reason of all to miss an afternoon of swimming."

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