WEEKEND UPDATE: Apparently, some Bronze-Age bible troll reported my Facebook link to this essay as “abusive,” presumably because Twain was an atheist and Huckleberry Finn, one of the most banned books in a nation that stinks to heaven of god-bothering, is the devil’s handiwork. Now, due to Facebook’s guilty-until-proven-innocent logic—a rule of thumb that wins the Idi Amin Dada Award for enlightened online governance—I’m unable to repost. Anything. Whether you like Twain or my work or not, I hope you’ll consider reposting a link to this page on your Facebook page as a way of saying you support free speech. If that sounds like product placement, mea culpa maxima.

((YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Facebook appears to have repealed its ban on my links, at least for the moment, restoring the link to my article. Heartfelt thanks to all who stood with me in free-speech solidarity by reposting a link to this essay on their FB pages. Twain would be proud of you!

But I will be keeping a close eye on FB’s thoughtcrime police, in the future, and will devote a post to the subject if merited. As I note in the TRUESLANT comment thread, it’s a strange philosophy of community governance that accepts on faith the baseless accusations of self-appointed public morals czars, by which I mean: community members who, under cover of anonymity, bang the “ABUSE” button whenever they hear speech they don’t like. Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on them, not the other way ’round? I applaud FB’s prompt repeal of their ill-advised gag order, but worry about a privatized commons where the worst among us, who seem to have all the passionate intensity (if not the facts) these days, are able to muzzle freethinkers with the click of a button.))

Grandpa Goth: the new unexpurgated autobiography reminds us how dark Twain could be. A new essay, at True/Slant; read it HERE.


Mark Twain, found on the Web. All rights reserved.


That Twain the Sage of Pepperidge Farm is a sentimental caricature has been obvious since at least 1917, when Mencken published his thoughts on the subject in the New York Evening Mail. Twain had been in the ground only seven years, but already Mencken felt the need to set the record straight, inspired by the posthumous publication of books Twain had suppressed during his lifetime on the assumption that they would demolish, in one blow, his reputation as a lovable curmudgeon. Twain’s misgivings were well-founded: The Mysterious Stranger and What Is Man? are sardonic meditations, respectively, on the hypocrisies and fatuities of religion and the moral depravity and brutish self-interest of the species. “Mark Twain dead is beginning to show far different and more brilliant colors than those he seemed to wear during life,” writes Mencken, “and the one thing no sane critic would say of him today is that he was the harmless fireside jester, the mellow chautauquan, the amiable old grandpa of letters that he was once so widely thought to be.”

The Twain rising from the grave on the centennial of his death lives up to Mencken’s press—and just in time for our age of Tea Party know-nothings and bible-thumping flatheads, not to mention CEOs like Lloyd Blankenfeld of Goldman Sachs and Tony Hayward of BP, poster boys for unchecked corporate arrogance and greed.

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