"The Conversation: A Man for All Seasons"

"Mark Twain is known principally as a comic writer but now he gets the spotlight as a descriptive writer, reporter, and even nature writer, on a par with Henry David Thoreau, in a profile for The Sacramento Bee, by Francesca Lyman. 'The unexpected commercial success of the best-selling, authoritative Autobiography of Mark Twain – or, at least, the first of three volumes of it – published last year by the University of California Press, is just one more sign of his enduring hold on readers.... It's also an occasion to remember, and even retrace, Twain's footsteps through the American West, where his writing career first took off, not far from Sacramento. The West, after all, was where the author went from being Samuel Clemens, itinerant newspaper reporter, to Mark Twain, comic writer and town-hall personality.'

Like Thoreau, Twain was a potent social critic. 'As much as Henry David Thoreau, Twain ranks as a major environmental writer,' he says. 'Of course, the river that Twain 'read' and wrote about plays a much bigger role in American life than does Walden Pond,' says James D. Bloom, professor of English and American studies at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. 'A maverick in his own time, even a hundred years later, the writer still seems new and fresh,' writes Lyman."


"In honor of the immortal 'Huck Finn,' my father and a Navy buddy just out of the service wanted to finally do some navigating on their own and decided to 'light out for the territory' in the postwar late 1940s. So they ventured down the mighty Mississippi River from Illinois, in little more than a canoe, passing not 'wedding-cake' style paddle steamers of yore but industrial barges, through locks and dams, along braided channels, levees and backwaters. They brought tents, provisions and plenty of pluck, and arrived in New Orleans several months – and 1,400 miles – later, having sprouted big bushy beards.

To us kids, this family legend made my dad's readings of 'Huckleberry Finn' all the more lustrous and full of life – and ensured my lifelong fascination with this classic writer."

Francesca Lyman writes for the Sacramento Bee April 14, 2011.


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"Truth in the Rough" (SEJournal)

Source: Sacramento Bee, 04/14/2011