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Rosalie Franks <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 15 Aug 2011 21:17:44 -0400
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Thank you for sharing your lovely memories.  I enjoyed experiencing the joy you felt at being in Hannibal.  
Rosalie Franks

-----Original Message-----
From: R. Kent Rasmussen <[log in to unmask]>
To: TWAIN-L <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Mon, Aug 15, 2011 12:52 pm
Subject: Report from Hannibal

Mark Twain once remarked how sad it was our memories must decay as we go =
to pieces. I'm old enough now to know how true that is. Some day, I'm =
sure, all I'll remember about my meager contributions to Mark Twain =
studies is that I once wrote a book called MARK TWAIN A TO G. I shall =
not, however, ever forget the thrill of attending the first scholarly =
Mark Twain conference in Hannibal, Mo., which concluded this past =
weekend. From start to finish, it was an unmitigated joy--most =
especially to those paying their first visit to Sam Clemens's boyhood =
home. In my own case, it was my second visit there. However, as my first =
visit came fully 19 years ago (when my ignorance of Mark Twain covered =
the whole earth like a blanket, with hardly a hole in it anywhere), this =
visit felt like a first-time experience. Being envied is humankind's =
chiefest joy, so let me relish telling those of you not at the =
conference what you missed:

--$15/night dorm rooms with semiprivate bathrooms (i.e., shared by two =
rooms) and air conditioning

--weather so cool that even attendees not from Yuma occasionally wanted =
extra blankets

--guided tours of every major landmark and historic site in Hannibal and =
Florida (which is even more invisible now than it was in Clemens's =
time)--mostly under the expert guidance of Henry Sweets, ranconteur =

--a riverboat (no, not a real steamboat) dinner cruise under a full moon =
on the majestic Mississippi (plus an opportunity to take the helm)

--a selection of conference papers with too many good ones for me to =
risk mentioning only a few

--uniformly delightful company that included lots of promising young =


--the open-air music concert in front of the Boyhood Home on Thursday =

--Grace Coggswell's performance of "A True Story," which was so moving I =
was grateful it was too dark in the auditorium for anyone to see my eyes

--Pat Ober's impromptu lecture on Dr. McDowell's attempt to petrify =
daughter body in a glass case stored deep inside the Mark Twain Cave =
(Pat spoke in the very chamber in which the body had been kept; I =
expressed my appreciation of his performance by recommending that =
another chamber--which our guide said was the cave's creepiest--be named =
in his honor)

--archaeologist Karen Hunt's tour of the site of John Quarles's farm in =
Monroe Co., where she is overseeing the reconstruction of the farm's =
original buildings

--a long and stimulating conversation with Dan Norman (I think I have =
his name right), one of this year's young "Tom Sawyers." Through him, I =
gained both insights into life in modern Hannibal and confidence that =
not all young people are obsessed with cell phones, iPods, and =

--getting to know Shoichi Nasu, a freelance Japanese journalist touring =
the sites of 25 American novelists in order to write a book (Shoichi--if =
 you're reading this, don't forget to go back to the San Francisco Bay =
Area to gather material on Jack London. While you're there, be sure to =
take in the R. Kent Rasmussen Boyhood Home, Donut Shop and Nail Salon in =

--Finally, I must not forget the local Mark Twain impersonator whose =
performance reached a level of perfection that brought back pleasant =
memories of the piano player in chapter 32 of A TRAMP ABROAD.


--visiting the public library with Tim Champlin and finding 30 copies of =
his books and none of my own

--seeing myself quoted at length at the Birthplace Museum's exhibit of =
HUCK FINN illustrations and not having Beverly David with me to share =
the moment

--seeing how badly the old Tom Sawyer movie theater on Broadway has =

--riding with Tim into Hannibal on Sunday to drop off Shoichi at the old =
bordello and not having time to go inside

Seriously ... it was a truly wonderful occasion, and I can't wait to =
come back in 2015. My thanks to Henry Sweets, Cindy Lovell, and their =
staff; the staff and volunteers at the Hannibal-LaGrange campus; and all =
the old and new friends who attended.