I wish to leave no doubt unturned like a stone that might have treasure hidden under it. I love the works of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
I have read and studied his writing for a lifetime, starting with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which I read for myself in the seventh grade, after seeing the musical movie Tom Sawyer starring Johnny Whittaker as Tom. I caught a severe passion, more serious than a head-cold, for the wit and wisdom with which Twain crafted a story. It took me a while to acquire and read more… but I most definitely did. I took an American Literature course in college that featured Twain, and I read and analyzed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I also bought a copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson which I would later devour in the same thoroughly literate and pretentious manner as I had Huck Finn. Copies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Mysterious Stranger were purchased at the same time, though I didn’t read them cover to cover until later during my years as a middle school English teacher. I should point out, however, that I read and re-read both of those, Connecticut Yankee winning out by being read three times. As a teacher, I taught Tom Sawyer as an in-class novel assignment in the time when other teachers thought I was more-or-less crazy for trying to teach a 100-year-old book to mostly Hispanic non-readers. While the lunatic-inspired experiment was not a total success, it was not a total failure either. Some kids actually liked having me read parts of it aloud to them, and some borrowed copies of the book to reread it for themselves after we finished as a class.
During my middle-school teaching years I also bought and read copies of The Prince and the Pauper, Roughing It, and Life on the Mississippi. I would later use a selection from Roughing It as part of a thematic unit on Mark Twain where I used Will Vinton’s glorious clay-mation movie, The Adventures of Mark Twain as a way to painlessly introduce my kids to the notion that Mark Twain was funny and complex and wise.
I have also read and used some of Twain’s most famous short fictions. “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” are both masterpieces of Twain’s keen insight into the human psyche and the goofy and comic corruptions he finds there.
And now, retired old me has most recently read Tom Sawyer Abroad. And, though it is not one of his finest works, I still love it and am enthralled. I reviewed it and shared it with you a few days ago. But I will never be through with Mark Twain. Not only is there more of him to read, but he has truly been a lifelong friend.