I, too, am saddened and shocked by the sudden passing of our friend and
colleague, Michael Kiskis. Michael was certainly one of a kind, and his
passing leaves a void that cannot be filled.
Despite seeming to have a somewhat gruff exterior, that exterior, easily
pierced, revealed a person of great empathy and sensitivity. I recall
Michael saying that he always read "The Death of Jean" to his Mark Twain
classes, and that he always cried when he did so. His work on the
autobiography will undoubtedly be his greatest scholarly legacy, but I have
been most impressed by his willingness to make public his personal
connections to Mark Twain--or to Sam Clemens, as he always preferred to say.
I will treasure in my memory our time together at conferences, especially
our times over dinner or for a drink--or six. Michael was one of the prime
movers behind the launch of The Mark Twain Annual, a scheme hatched one cold
rainy night at ALA in Cambridge. When ALA convenes in a few weeks across the
Charles River in Boston, I hope that many of us can gather to tell Michael
stories and to honor his memory.
I always feared that his passion for racing his BMW at Watkins Glen and
other high performance tracks might claim him too young--but now I am happy
that he fully embraced that passion. Michael lived his life the way one
would have to in order to make those hairpin turns--and he wrote eloquently
about the ways that all-out driving mirrored Mark Twain scholarship in an
issue of The Mark Twain Annual. I am so sorry for his wife Ann, but I am
happy that he found such love relatively late in his life. I have seen him
teach at the NEH Summer Seminars in Hartford, and I know that his loss will
be felt deeply by his students. A lasting legacy of Michael as a teacher is
the difference he made in thousands of students' lives. Goodbye, my friend.
This sad parting will be somewhat tempered by time through the stories we
share about your inimitable life.
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