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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 3 Mar 1996 13:42:21 -0500
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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In the Sunday, March 3, Fort Worth Star Telegram the editorial board of
the newspaper used Mark Twain as an example in their attempt to send a
message to today's entertainment industry leaders.  Forum members may
be interested in this front page editorial from the Opinion section:

"Memo to entertainers:  Less is more

"There is a world to be said for leaving something to the imagination.

"Consider this passage from Mark Twain's _Life on the Mississippi_.  It is
the point at which Mr. Bixby, a steamboat pilot, becomes enraged when
his protege, the young Samuel Clemens, demonstrates that he has not been
paying close attention.

" 'This was like a red flag to a bull.  He raged and stormed so (he was
crossing the river at the time) that I judged it made him blind, because he
ran over the steering-oar of a trading-scow.  Of course the traders sent up a
volley of red-hot profanity.  Never was a man so grateful as Mr. Bixby
was; because he was brimful, and here were subjects who could talk back.
He threw open a window, thrust his head out, and such an irruption
followed as I never had heard before.  The fainter and farther away the
scowmen's curses drifted, the higher Mr. Bixby lifted his voice and the
weightier his adjectives grew.  When he closed the window he was empty.
You could have drawn a seine through his system and not caught curses
enough to disturb your mother with.'

"What leaps out from this passage is that the full weight of the passion of
the episode is conveyed without resort to a single syllable of actual

"The movers and makers of America's entertainment media would do well
to reflect on such masterful examples of the creative use of language to
captivate their audiences.  If they did so, they might avoid the kind of
criticism to which they have been subjected by Senate Majority Leader Bob
Dole and the jawboning of President Clinton.

"There would be no need for a rating system if the entertainment purveyors
would stop taking the easy route of substituting obscene language, graphic
sexuality and mind-numbing, irrelevant violence for creative
characterization and plot, sparkling and thoughtful dialogue and lyrics, and
imaginative visual representation.

"To avoid more public and political castigation, the entertainment industry
should relearn the fine art of leaving something to the imagination."