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Dustin Zima <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 16 Aug 2011 21:19:16 -0400
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I second Dr. Rasmussen's enthusiasm for the Hannibal conference.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have met such distinguished, as well as up-and-coming, Twain scholars.  Henry, Cindy, and the Boyhood Home & Museum staff have made me proud to be a native Hannibalian.

Quick question, though:  Is it steamboat or riverboat?  (Which is a joke only those in attendance will understand.)  

Dustin Zima
Elmira College




-----Original Message-----
From: R. Kent Rasmussen <[log in to unmask]>
To: TWAIN-L <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Mon, Aug 15, 2011 4:52 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.