Welcome. You, my dear college senior have waded into a group of real
heavyweights here. As a newbie you will be delighted to meet so many
wonderful Twain enthusiasts. And they, I assure you, will be delighted to
meet you. Remember, we were all newbies once and we just got caught up in
Twain. None of us meant to do this, it was just an accident.
Here you will rub shoulders with the likes of R. Kent Rasmussen, Kevin
MacDonnell, Ben Wise and a whole lotta others who carry within them a wealth
of information and insight.
Regarding influential writers in Clemens' life begin with one of the best
sources out there: Justin Kaplan's 1966 Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain. It is
rich and subtle while being vastly sustaining as Kaplan unfolds the
complexities of Mr. Clemens' human character while developing the stage
persona of Mark Twain. I'm sure Kevin Mac Donnell has even better
suggestions in this vein. If you want to know everything about every thing
about Mark Twain dip into Kent Rasmussen's Mark Twain A to Z. But a warning
here: reading one entry will lead to another and another and another...
Final recommendation: You want to read a story that will make you cry? Read
Twain's 1877 A True Story. You can Google it. It's online. (I can't believe
that I just used Google as a verb.) It first appeared in The Atlantic
Monthly. It was the first story to appear in that dignified literary journal
that epitomized the eastern literary establishment. Twain says it was a true
story and he lets it be told by his narrator, a former slave herself, Aunt
Rachel, and Allie, when you hear Rachel speak in her authentic black dialect
you will hear a story with "a quiet power no white narration could have
imparted." (A doff of the hat goes out to Kevin in Texas.)
And here's a final, final recommendation: Clemens said that the truest, most
honest form of writing is the one in which the writer is assured that what
he says will never be read by anyone other than the one intended reader--his
beloved. Wanna know what a guy really feels? Pry into his love letters. If
you want to get inside Clemens' head and heart in a way he never intended
that you should, read The Love Letters of Mark Twain, New York: Harper, 1949
edited by Dixon Wecter.
Bon appetit, Allie.
The Place Where Nothing Is Allowed