Mark Twain, American Truth Teller, Mainly

first published 3.5.14

I wonder what Huckleberry Finn author Mark Twain (b. Nov. 30, 1835 in Florida Missouri, and died April 21, 1910 in Redding Connecticut) would have to say about his beloved USA in 2014?

But perhaps the Lord doesn't want to get us exercised about more politics just now.

Twain is on my mind because I happened upon a recent 2010 CD Project "Mark Twain Words And Music" commemorating the 175th anniversary of his birth. This was ably produced by Carl Jackson and features the we've-heard-those-voices-before of Garrison Keillor as narrator and Clint Eastwood as Twain. This project benefits the Mark Twain Boyhood Home And Museum in Hannibal Missouri, aka The Mark Twain Home Foundation and was produced by the same.

This work, as is Twain himself, is a bright example of a redeemable slice of our good old USA, an example of honesty and openess, and humor, and intelligence that recognizes rascals and puffery here and abroad, wherever.

This work contains two CDs and comes with a handy fold out guide and features alternating spoken and sung words. The singing comes from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Joe Diffee, Ricky Skaggs, and other notables, with some of the songs original to the project.

But, to my mind, the genius of this project is producer Carl Jackson's tailoring of Twain's vast literary material to a measure that captures his life and essence.

Could anyone do this in twenty-seven short spoken and sung tracks?

Yes, with star power to boot.

Four excerpts, three in Twain own words, and one in Thomas Edison's shine the brightest:

1. As to the preachy nature of Twain's work:

"I have always preached. That is the reason I have lasted thirty years. If the humor came of its own accord and uninvited I have allowed it a place in my sermon , but I was not writing the sermon for the sake of the humor. I should have written the sermon just the same, whether any humor applied for admission or not."  (Track 9 CD n. 2, spoken word, from Twain Autobiography)

2. As to the second hand nature of much of our "experience:"

"Strange- it is just like religion and politics! In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are almost in every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from the other non-examiners, whose opinions about them are not worth a brass farthing." (Ibid)

3.  On marriage:

"... it makes of two fractional lives a whole; it gives to two purposeless lives a work, & doubles the strength of each whereby to perform it; it gives two questioning natures a reason for living, & something to live for; it will give a new gladness to the sunshine, a new fragrance to the flowers, a new beauty to the earth, a new mystery to the life, & Livy, it will a new revelation to love, a new depth to sorrow, a new impulse to worship . (letter to Livy, 9.8.1869, Track 11 CD n. 1).

4. Thomas Edison sums up Twain:

"An average American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person, he generally selects Mark Twain." (Track 1 CD n. 2)

We'll let  he let Huck Finn have the last word:

"YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things he stretched, but mainly he told the truth." (Track 1 CD n. 1)

Sounds like a guy from the promised land, who always told the truth, and set us free by doing so.

Br. Tobin

first 3.5.14





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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.