Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I got this from a friend of mine, today.

I was reading in my new Autobiography of Mark Twain and came upon something I wanted to share with you.

What I read is a facsimile of a corrected typewritten dictation taken from the beginning section of the book, which is entitled "Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations, 1870 - 1905."  I wish I knew where in the actual autobiography this material occurs, because on the page he goes on at length, beyond what I quote below and obviously is discussing the topic on the preceding page and following page.

Anyway, here is something to pique your interest:

"...has taught me long ago that if I tell a boy's story or anybody else's it is never worth printing; it comes from the head not the heart and always goes into the waste-basket.  To be successful and worth printing, the imagined boy would have to tell his story 
himself and let me act merely as his amanuensis.  I did not tell the "Horse's Tale," the horse told it himself through me.  If he hadn't done that it wouldn't have been told at all.  When a tale tells itself there is no trouble about it; there are no hesitancies, no delays, no cogitations, no attempts at invention; there is nothing to do but hold the pen and let the story talk through it and say, after its own fashion, what it desires to say.

  Mr. Howells began the composite tale.  He held the pen and through it the father delivered his chapter --- therefore it was well done. A lady followed Howells and furnished the old-maid sister's chapter.  This lady is of high literary distinction, she is notable gifted, she has the ear of the nation and her novels and stories are among the best the country has produced, but she did not tell those tales, she merely held the pen and they told themselves--of this I am convinced.  I am..."

Brad is a film artist, working with light to build beauty and reality and grace.  When he speaks, I (usually) listen.  And this little snippet fits my idea of writing so perfectly, I could have written it myself.  I'd asked for Sondheim's new book about his lyrics and plays.  I may shift that to Twain's Autobiography.

Thanks, Brad.  You're the best.

I'm in San Antonio missing all the bad weather up north.  Hope it's gone by the 1st; I'm changing planes in Baltimore.

1 comment:

Brad Rushing said...

Twain's autobiography is and is going to be a formidable collection. The present book is volume 1 of what I understand will eventually be 3. It is 760 pages and includes the "Preliminary Manuscripts and Dictations, 1870 - 1905" section that comprises the first nearly 200 pages.

This version is newly prepared for the 100th anniversary of his death and includes material Twain deliberate asked be withheld until 100 years after his passing.

I used to have a copy of his old autobiography in paperback. It was only one book and though kind of thick, I don't recall that it was anything compared to this.

I am looking forward to reading it. But am daunted by the mass. I may order the audio book to listen to in the car to augment the book.