Jules says, "there has been considerable amount of e-mail about this in
There sure has, and a depressing amount of it has been fairly precious and,
to my ear at least, pompous as hell.
"Desecrate" Mark Twain's name?? Give me a break; the man himself leased out
his name to sell shaving soap and stove polish, for god's sake!
Anyway, the Mark Twain Prize honorees are not trying to be Mark Twain, or to
be "like" Mark Twain, and why should they be?
What they ARE is brilliant humorists (except Lorne Michaels, the producer)
and this at a time when humor is often the only way to reach the public mind
and conscience . . . . and the daily headlines are almost beyond any joker's
Come to that, some of the prizewinners have to be reckoned as gutsier than
Twain, who self-censored like mad and never dared publish a lot of his best
stuff. George Carlin, for one, and Lily Tomlin, and Richard Pryor, the
first winner. It's easy to picture Carlin and Twain together, isn't it? -
puffing cigars and swapping comments on the damned human race.
Finally, I'd say that if naming the prize for Twain helps keep his name
before the public, that can only be for the good. He's the best we have,
the gold standard of American humor, and people should be reminded of that
from time to time. Also, he occupies so much of the landscape for us
Twainiacs that we're apt to forget one important thing: to the great mass of
our fellow-citizens, Mark Twain is just another dead white writer.