A California Girl in Mark Twain’s Court

One of the unexpected benefits for volunteering at Bookshare is book  rescue. After a book has been torn from its cover and despined in a machine that would make a French executioner tremble, is getting to keep the amputated stack of pages. The day I witnessed this carnage, I happened to see the newly released Autobiography of Mark Twain in a stack ready for destruction. After hearing me yelp at seeing it, the chief executioner promptly grabbed a sticky note and put my name on it for future rescue.

This tome is 2 1/2 inches thick. (Use your thumb and finger to approximate that right now.) It’s a big book! And it’s all lose pages, put back into its cover and held together with a rubber band. I decided the best way to manage reading it is to staple ten pages at a time and carry them where I want to read.

I haven’t even begun reading Clemens’ actual autobiography yet, that begins on page 201, yet I’m already endeared to the man all over again. I first touched by him years ago while working for a rare book dealer. I happened to come across a pamphlet that Clemens wrote about moving his family to San Francisco for the summer. The first thing he did was to search the neighborhood for kittens. When he found a litter, a paid the family for “use” of them and brought them back to romp and play on his porch. His delight at watching the kittens and the mother cat was sweet. So unlike the crusty iconoclast he was known to be.

But now I see that I actually fall into the Clemens mold. It took him from three to seven years to complete his major books. I don’t know if that was because of having to do multiple revisions or because he was easily distracted. So far, I follow both examples.

He also found writing diaries boring. He started work on his biography dozens of times over at least forty years. Several times he thought to just write a diary and fill in around it to complete his autobiography, but gave it up after a week of writing. I so understand! Writers are supposed to journal for some reason, but I just cannot force myself to do it. I’m not sure I can find all the journals I have started over the years only to discard them or grab them other uses. Best not to try to force creative behavior I guess. If Mark Twain can get away with it, and it seemed to work out well for him, then I feel like I’m in good company. I’m not sure what else I will discover about this new paragon of mine, but I’m can’t wait to see.

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