A brief word of thanks to all who contributed to a great conference
experience. I remembered once again what it is that I originally found so
appealing about the Twain bunch!
I also invite anyone out there listening to describe whatever highlights
they took home with them from Elmira. This will benefit the folks who could
not make it. But it will also edify folks like me, insofar as it will allow
us to process so much information, and to remember a great time.
By way of example, here are a few things that really struck me:
1. I was inspired by the several awards to people for long and diligent
service. I am always encouraged by that sort of thing--meaning, it gives me
great courage to see people honored. In particular, as a visual image, I
was moved by Tom Tenney's difficult struggle to the stage to receive his
award. That struggle, brought about by some physical difficulties, moved me
quite a lot--it seemed to capture what struggles we all must deal with as we
"climb the stairs." As Langston Hughes once wrote, life ain't been no
crystal stair (or something like that). Congratulations to Tom and the
2. It was a great joy seeing, and talking to, so many internationals. In
particular, there must have been at least 10-15 folks from east Asia, mostly
from Japan but several from Korea and China. Bravo to them for the long
trip, and maybe we should take a moment to think a little more deeply about
how we can disseminate some of their ideas about Twain to the largely
American and British scholarly community. Related to that was the ending
panel, in which several people mentioned this desire for connectedness and
for a better understanding of different cultural responses as a future
direction in Twain studies.
3. If you were not there, you should look forward like I am to the release
next year of the Mark Twain Project's electronic database/website. It is an
unbelievably huge undertaking and will be free for at least the first few
years (they promised this in front of many witnesses!). I am sure we will
hear much more about it in a year or so.
4. Finally, it just seemed more fun and relaxed at the Elmira conference
than anywhere else. Can you imagine John Bird plucking his mandolin and
singing some old song outside a lecture hall at the MLA? No, in thunder!
Maybe one thing everyone has in common is a great sense of humor. I really
appreciate the friendliness and the decidedly unacademic social graces on
display at Elmira.
PS-- insider's joke: I really liked those cigarette and gas air conditioner
Please feel free to keep this thread going with some more favorite memories.
If we have to, we can even mention some of the more "scholarly" moments, if
we have to!
Harold K. Bush, Ph.D
Saint Louis University