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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
"Kevin. Mac Donnell" <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 13:00:54 -0500
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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> Wild Nights!
> By Joyce Carol Oats
> I thought this was interesting as the session for SAMLA is
> partly on the Angelfish club.
> Jules

I found Oates' treatment to be an unpleasant misreading of the actual
events, reflecting a harsh imposition of modern sensibilities about old-age,
children, authors, fans, etc., and if that was not bad enough, full of
historical error. Despite the obvious artistic license allowed any work of
fiction (changes of names, places, some events), she obviously tries to get
historical facts correct, but gets many of them wrong: she gets Susy's death
date wrong, says angelfish pins were enamel and gold (they were enamel and
sterling silver; I have four including Clara's,  as well as Twain's large
one with a wreath around the fish), she says Twain's autograph was an
illegible scrawl,  that Livy died in 1903, that Twain had trouble recalling
when Susy died,  she spells Susy "Suzy", she says that every girl Twain
loved when young was now dead, she places Clara at Twain's side during a
modern day book-signing held at the Lotos Club with lines of fans waiting to
have their books signed, says that Twain signed title-pages of books for
strangers (he routinely avoided doing such a thing to avoid having his
autograph clipped from a book and sold), says that John Clemens died in 1857
and that Twain was eleven years old that year, etc.  But even if she'd
gotten the facts right, it still struck me as an unpleasant "imagining."

This is not a book review, just a personal reaction to her treatment of
Twain. I have nothing against Oates; just this story. The other stories in
the book may be indeed be ingenious treatments that truly capture their
subjects, but discouraged by the Twain piece I did not read the others.

Kevin Mac Donnell
Austin TX