A very brief response to the thread so far. I agree with Michael, that we
need not do a character assassination of the author. That was certainly not
my own intent.
As for the word "screed": my understanding of it includes the sense of a
long and windy type of essay, sort of a diatribe. Diatribe would suggest
its abusive nature, though I'm not sure screed is so specific. In any case:
with all due respect, yes, I still think that piece was long, monotonous,
and rather abusive. No doubt the author makes some valid points about MT's
unevenness as a writer, his hurry sometimes to publish, etc. I also think
it is fair to say (and admit) that most of what is in Volume One has already
been published, despite the widespread rumor that it has all been hidden
away in a vault for a century, by MT's orders (Personally, I've been stopped
in the halls several times the past couple of weeks to explain this point).
And Michael is correct to remind us to beware of any sort of Twain
fundamentalism: yes, some of those points are valid, even indisputable. So
what? All great artists make major blunders; We do not remember Melville
for "Clarel," and nobody reads FANSHAWE anymore, or listens to EMPIRE
BURLESQUE (except maybe lonely drivers on long car trips who find a copy
under the seat).
But I think it is just fine for any of us to disagree and give a
counter-argument: that we see, for instance, a much greater and finer
writer, perhaps not all the time, but enough to know that a bitter dismissal
of the full range of MT as overhyped imposter and/or as a deeply flawed
artistry just does not ring true. I certainly hope a few folks on here take
the time to write the New Yorker and say something like that.
I certainly enjoyed the little fragment (with no editorial comment) from Bob
Hirst: Some people, it is true, just do not quite get Yosemite. I was
mesmerized the first time I gaped at those walls of granite--and look
forward to returning in the future. Similarly, I've heard many people say
very nasty and (in my mind) quite stupid things about, say, Florence or
Paris. Having been lucky to spend a semester in Florence, those accounts
based on a bad cafe experience or a long line at a museum sounded ludicrous
to my ears. As MT reminded us in several places, many tourists never quite
"see" the places in which they are traveling.
Harold K. Bush, Ph.D
Professor of English
Saint Louis University
St. Louis, MO 63108
314-977-3616 (w); 314-771-6795 (h)