My apologies if my response seemed vitriolic at all; that was not my intention.
It simply seems to me that Gropnick had expectations for the book that didn't
seem to come from the book itself or the claims of its editors. Even the puff
piece in the NYT ranking its bestsellers mentions that most of the previously
unpublished material will be in the next two volumes, so it is not as though
this is hidden from the consumers whose purchases are keeping it on the list,
and the "Royal Nonesuch" comment therefore seems a little extreme.
In retrospect, though, my own comment about whether Gropnick might dislike
Faulkner is both unfounded and unnecessary. My only excuse is that his language
about Twain's autobiography being a "disjointed and largely baffling bore" was
almost word for word what a student had recently said about _Absalom, Absalom!_
as he was trying to convince me that I should never "inflict" the novel on
students again. Obviously, I failed on that one--though most of the other
students loved or at least appreciated the novel's artistry in the end--but I
had no grounds for projecting that response on Gropnick.
N.B.--the student who had this response is actually one of my favorites, one who
enjoys taking extreme and provocative positions for the sheer joy of it. He
keeps class lively, always, and keeps me from being complacent or assuming that
my views are shared by all.
----- Original Message ----
From: Michael Kiskis <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Mon, November 29, 2010 2:07:17 PM
Subject: Re: Twain in New Yorker
I am a little surprised at the level of vitriol aimed at Gropnick. We might
disagree with his assessment of the autobiography volume, but we need not
try to diminish him as a writer or a person (he has in fact quite an
extensive record as a writer and New Yorker contributor). I think this
happens too often when our image of Mark Twain is challenged or if someone
turns away from a conventional response to Twain. It makes us seem a bit
like radical fundamentalists in the tone of our response.
On Sat, Nov 27, 2010 at 4:51 PM, Brent M. Colley <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
> Forget about Adam Gopnik. Men like him enjoy stirring the pot and
> don't deserve a minute more in the spotlight.
> "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the
> strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them
> better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
> whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives
> valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is
> no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive
> to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who
> spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the
> triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at
> least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be
> with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
> -Theodore Roosevelt
> I am enjoying the Autobiography a great deal. Seeing that I'm learning
> about Mark Twain in reverse order (No surprise, I was a breech baby)
> what this Volume has done for me is- it's made me aware of Twain's
> storytelling skills. I have read the Hornet story starting on page 127
> at least 15 times. It's brilliantly written.
> Great job MTP!
> "It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries,
> and congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden."
> - Mark Twain
Michael J. Kiskis
Leonard Tydings Grant Professor of American Literature
One Park Place
Elmira, NY 14901