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Hilton Obenzinger <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2003 15:02:47 -0700
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Twain is like the Bible: there are quotes for everyone, quotes to justify a
wide variety of opinions.  And it's fascinating to see what kind of
exegesis is developed in various different situations, such as how Norman
Solomon employs him.  That's a legitimate part of a list as this one, no
matter what we may think about Solomon's use.

As for other lists, I can speak for the Melville list that there have been
heated discussions about Melville and the Middle East.  Ahab has been
invoked in the popular press to describe Osama bin Laden and George
Bush.  Just read the first chapter of Moby-Dick, and you will see the
placards Ishmael displays of his invented play: "Grand Contested Election
for the Presidency of the United States.  WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE
ISHMAEL.  BLOODY BATTLE IN AFGHANISTAN."  You don't think this didn't give
Melville readers the fantods?  Plus, Melville wrote a huge poem, Clarel,
that takes place in the Holy Land and engages dialogues on all the
religions, American attitudes towards the Middle East, and even has as a
pivotal character an American convert to Judaism who established a
proto-typical Zionist settlement (in imitation of the Puritans).  It's been
rough, and sometimes wayward, but the Melville list has more or less stayed
on Melville, despite all kinds of differences.

By the way, Twain has done much to create American attitudes towards the
Middle East.  His descriptions of Palestine in Innocents Abroad have been
regularly invoked.  I'm afraid it's not possible to escape implications of
current events on writers.  And as long as we keep to a focus on Twain --
who happens to embrace the entire world -- it's all worthy of
discussion.  The problem with the Twain list is that it's dead half the
time.  I don't need "delete," since people seem to delete themselves.

Hilton Obenzinger