“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”
Through the words of some of history’s wisest characters we find insight into our own world. Connecting to the past helps us see how, in so many ways, the human condition remains the same. It is the foundation upon which we can face the modern world and move forward.
If Mark Twain were alive today, he would have so much to blog about. Fortunately for us, he already has.
Tom Schueneman is a writer and web publisher based in San Francisco, California. Tom currently publishes two other blogs in the History Blog Project, ThomasPaineBlog.org and AlbertEinsteinBlog.org.
Through the words and wisdom of the past, we can better understand today’s world, and consider how the human experience evolves, but at the same time remains the same.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jennifer Kovach at 800-853-7545
What Is Man?
And Other Irreverent Essays
Edited by S. T. Joshi
Mark Twain is sometimes envisioned as a kind of nineteenth-century American offshoot of Voltaire. Like his French counterpart, he expressed a deeply felt indignation at religious hypocrisy and obscurantism, and peppered his satirical writings, especially in his later years, with stinging wit and iconoclastic fervor.
This unique collection assembles writings in which Twain views the multifarious claims of religion—metaphysical, moral, and political—with a skeptical eye.
As editor S. T. Joshi points out in the introduction, Twain took aim at religion not just out of irreverent glee but because of serious concerns about central religious tenets that weighed on his mind for much of his life. Though he maintained till his death that he believed in God, he expressed deep skepticism regarding such religious beliefs as “special Providence” (God’s interference in the affairs of individual human beings), the concept of hell, the religious basis of morality, and the divine inspiration of the Bible.
The centerpiece of the book is the long philosophical dialogue, What Is Man? (1906), which presents a rigidly deterministic view of human behavior, claiming that every action is the product of “outside influences.” Twain also asserts that altruism does not exist: we help others primarily as a means of making ourselves comfortable. Other writings in the book condemn religious exclusivity, the hypocritical Christian thirst for money, and the disgraceful treatment of animals by a supposedly moral human race.
Containing many writings by Twain not generally available except in expensive academic publications, this excellent and affordable paperback edition has been annotated to elucidate historical, literary, religious, and other references. Also included is a lengthy introduction providing a historical overview of Twain’s shifting attitudes toward religion.
S. T. Joshi (Moravia, NY) is a freelance writer, scholar, and editor whose previous books include Documents of American Prejudice; In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women; God’s Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong; Atheism: A Reader;
H. L. Mencken on Religion; and The Agnostic Reader.
230 pages • ISBN 978-1-59102-685-3 • Paperback: $16.95 (6” x 9”) Publication: August 4, 2009
I just wanted to let you know about my new CD that may be of interest to your readers.
Entitled “Halley’s Comet: Around the Piano with Mark Twain & John Davis,” this new recording was released by Newport Classic on April 21st, 100 years to the day since Twain’s death on April 21st, 1910. In addition to Twain’s death , this CD also honors the 175th anniversary of the author’s birth and the 125th anniversary of the publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, all being celebrated in 2010. Featured on the CD are my performances of pieces with connections to Twain by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Blind Tom, Blind Boone, Felix Kraemer, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert, each preceded by an often hilarious, sometimes appalling, but always fascinating music-related quote from or about Twain read by me.
If this is something you may want to feature on your blog, please let me know. I’d be happy to send you a copy. In the meantime, you can read more about me and the CD at http://www.johndavispianist.com.
We thought you and your readers might be interested in a special Mark Twain ebook Gutenberg edition we’re currently offering at our London-based ebook publishing site http://www.blackbirdebooks.com.
Special because it includes the wonderful original A W Kemble illustrations which, we feel, add so much to the enjoyment of reading this classic novel.
We’ve blogged the Mark Twain/A W Kemble story here at our UKEbookblog:
The free ebook can be downloaded from the blackbirdebooks.com Mark Twain page: http://blackbirdebooks.com/?page_id=647
All best wishes,
Thanks for the resource. Much appreciated!
I couldn’t help but notice how boring Mark Twain’s life was in “The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain.” His scatterbrained stories have no meaning or reason behind them. He simply wrote for the sake of writing. He was a content provider much the same as today’s stenographers write because their editors tell them to. He had no cause behind his writing. He did things in life simply to make a living–not because of any role or purpose, not because of the need or desire to change our world for the better.
Mark Twain will go down in history with Garrison Keillor as one who wrote for the sake of giving people something to read. Neither Twain nor Keillor wrote for the sake of raising a critical conscious, or telling truthful stories that normal people can relate to in their working-class lives. Keillor is the modern-day Mark Twain–he’s neither a useful nor productive member of today’s literary society. Like Twain, Keillor writes and talks for the sake of entertaining, and nothing else.
Mark Twain mixed fiction and non-fiction to the point where it was obvious that the story he was writing about obviously didn’t happen, nor was it even exciting to read about simply because of how fake the scenarios were. For instance, it’s not entertaining at all that he sat calmly in his editor’s office when a figurative shootout occurs between his editor and a disgruntled reader. I don’t even feel like i’m sitting there in the office with them, it’s so fake! This so-called “thread” lacked any smooth literary transition or entertaining value.
His ancient writing style was difficult to understand and relate to with the use of ‘thus’ and other obfuscating language that’s dead for a reason: it originates in the 19th century. Mark Twain was way behind his time and his literary abilities for someone living in the 20th century. He lacked any foresight into what him or his society’s future would behold. Nor did he care.
As a literary buffoon, Twain used nouns and adjectives where they didn’t make any sense–purely for the sake of adding content, or trying to sound smart and articulate.
Mark Twain is the kind of boring writer that my teachers tried to push down my throat in middle school and high school. If there’s any way to learn about the way people lived back then, reading Twain is not it. If there’s a literary icon or role model for the 19th century, Mark Twain is not the one.
Only someone as boring as Mark Twain would think that rafting down the Mississippi in a homemade raft would be something exciting to read or write about.
Mark Twain maybe dead, but so is his writing.
I sincerely hope that future generations will not be subjected to such literary bore as I was by my parents when they gave me books by Mark Twain.