Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self

Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self

Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self

Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self

Synopsis

Critical perspective on the writings of Mark Twain as a body of literature, as a public personality and as a myth. The author shows that many of Twain's most ambitious and memorable works, from the very beginning to the end of his career, express a drive for absolute liberation from every social, psychological, and artistic limit.

Excerpt

In the three years between the American debut of The Innocents Abroad and the first authorized British edition in 1872, there was considerable action in the Europe that Mark Twain had written about, changes that might lure any other travel author back to the desk for revisions, to keep the facts reasonably factual and prevent a forthcoming edition from looking obsolete and foolish. Months before Mark Twain's "Author's English Edition" of The Innocents Abroad went to the London presses, his France, the leading state on the Continent, and a nation preeminent in fashion, culture, and might, had collapsed in an eight- week war. Its emperor, disgraced, had fled the country; and in the lovely streets of its capital city, the supposed jewel of Western civilization, there had been holocaust. The "Fortifications of Paris" joke was published in the Express on 17 September 1870, two days before Bismarck's armies began their siege. With no organized French force left to resist, a quick, comic, and bloodless ending to Gallic militarism was a reasonable forecast from Buffalo. No one there could have foreseen that Gambetta would keep the hard Prussians at bay with a pick-up force of farmers and townsfolk, or retake Amiens and Orleans, or cover Paris until an armistice was argued into shape the following January. No American dreamed that when spring came a Commune would burst into life in those carts, silk shops and "gay and enlivening" boulevards of Mark Twain's "magnificent Paris," a Commune threatening a more radical overthrow of French politics, culture, and identity than the Revolution of 1789: an end to private property, the class system, religion, fashion, the national memory, and those ponderous . . .

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