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John Bird <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 8 Jun 1998 13:12:42 -0400
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I meant last week to send a report about the American Literature
Association in San Diego, May 28-31, but I went out of town again as soon
as I got back from there.  So here's a brief report.

The two sessions organized by the Mark Twain Circle were well attended and
interesting.  Michael Kiskis chaired a session in which Jeffrey Steinbrink
presented "Mark Twain and the Technologies of Production," Beverly David
presented more of her work on illustrations in "An Interesting Twosome:
Mark Twain and True Williams" (with many acknowledgements of Barb Schmidt's
help in tracking down obscurities), and Kerry Driscoll presented "Eating
Indians for Breakfast:  Racial Ambivalence and Identity in _The Innocents
Abroad_."  A very full session.

The other session was "Performing Dialect in _Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn_", chaired by Laura Skandera-Trombley (the infamous!).  Dennis Eddings
and I (our third participant, Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua, wasn't able to
attend) did readings in dialect from various characters.  We also discussed
why we read those the way we did, how we did, and the effect on
interpretation and teaching.  The audience was active throughout with
questions and interpretations.  At one point, David Sloane jumped up and
did Pap's speech on "govment" right after Dennis did his version--should
have had David on the program!  I was pleased with how this turned out, and
I think it opened up an interesting topic.

Both sessions were held on the Evans Riverboat, an operating sternwheeler
that is docked right outside the hotel.  Pretty good setting for a Mark
Twain session.  There was also a cruise on the Evans sponsored by the MT
Circle, with a two drink minimum (appropriate given the possible alternate
derivation of the pseudonym) and a few of us smoking cigars on the upper
deck in homage.  And given all the talk last week about stuffy, unhumorous
Mark Twain scholars, you should have been there for the whole conference.
The Mark Twain scholars I know are the funniest, least stuffy people I've
met!  (And I'm including the time we all spent in the hot tub.)

ALA is easily among the best conferences I attend, with its focus on
American authors.  During each session, I had a tough time choosing the
papers to hear, since there were so many that interested me.  That's not
often the case.  Plus it's fun in San Diego--I set a record for consumption
of fish tacos, among other things.  I highly recommend it.  It's in
Baltimore next year, and Michael K. and Laura are chairing the conference.
Ah, crab cakes!

John Bird