A Barkeeper Entering the Kingdom of Heaven
December 17, 2013 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Mark Twain famously derided Jane Austen (who would have had her 238th birthday yesterday), saying (among other things) that he could not read her prose even if paid a salary to do so. But what did Twain really think about Austen's work?
posted by Jonathan Livengood (63 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, how I heart the snark of Mark Twain.

If he loved to hate Jane Austen so much, imagine what wonderful vitriol would vent from his literary spleen if he were read 50 Shades of Grey.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:03 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


He would have loved it if it was written by John Austen
posted by Renoroc at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ha! I go through the same thing when I recommend books or movies to my mother!

Me: "Did you read/watch A?"

Mom: I tried, but I just couldn't stand that Character B. What an asshole! Why would anyone want to read/watch a book/movie with him in it?

Me: You're not supposed to like him; that's the point.

Mom: Well, I just couldn't stand him.

Absolutely loved this quote:
I could not sit seriously down to write . . .under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.
I've gone through the same thing every time I've tried to write anything serious. I just don't have it in me. So nice to hear the same thing from a legend!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:23 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mark Twain expressed unparalleled hatred of Jane Austen,

That's true. Most people forced to read her "stories" just wonder about all the walking around the drawing room and hate the fact nothing happens.


Mark Twain sounds like a guy I could embroil myself in strange Star Trek adventures with before we end up on Riverworld.
posted by Mezentian at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obviously Twain, master crafter of such eminently and instantly likeable characters as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, just doesn't "get" unlikeable characters...
posted by muddgirl at 7:28 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most people forced to read her "stories" just wonder about all the walking around the drawing room

Nonsense! They walk around outside much more often!! Pay attention!
posted by JanetLand at 7:30 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm worried that wasn't sarcastic enough.
posted by muddgirl at 7:30 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


imagine what wonderful vitriol would vent from his literary spleen if he were read 50 Shades of Grey.

This has replaced "eat a trilobite" as the #1 item on my "things to do when I invent a time machine" list.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:34 AM on December 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


I really thought the end of that essay was going to swerve into some Twain/Austen fan fic, and I think I could go there with it.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I misread this:
Rather than pitying Twain when he was sick, Howells threatened to come and read Pride and Prejudice to him.
As this:
Rather than pitying Twain when he was sick, Howells came and read Pride and Prejudice to him.
And thought that these two were made for each other.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:48 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


What a fun essay! Of course it's hard to know what was actually going on inside Twain's head, but the writer made a pretty decent argument. One that, of course, several commenters skipped in favor of mindless snark about Austen.
posted by kavasa at 8:12 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Austen is one of very few whose wit and satire are more devastating and relentless than Twain's.

If he could have put aside his feelings of inferiority long enough to learn from her, he would have been a greater writer.
posted by jamjam at 8:30 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Obviously Twain, master crafter of such eminently and instantly likeable characters as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, just doesn't "get" unlikeable characters...

Not at all. I often "get" the dislikable characters -- that's why I dislike them. Even some so-called "likeable" characters are just dislikable ones that have a fan base that doesn't actually "get" it -- or else they would really get offended when they realize the author is putting them down in the worst way imaginable. Ambiguity can be an author's best friend...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:36 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nonsense! They walk around outside much more often!! Pay attention!

They have to, because you can't acquire a fatal cold from taking a turn about the room.
posted by gerstle at 8:40 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, like I said, I think I didn't lay on the sarcasm heavy enough. My point was that I find Tom Sawyer to be rather unlikeable, and I assume that was intentional on Twain's part, so I find this idea that Mark Twain didn't like Austen's work just because her characters were unlikeable to be rather superficial.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is something wonderfully exciting and entertaining about writers having a go at other writers. Who could decide to dislike either Austen or Twain based on reading this? Writer feuds don't often make us think less or more of anyone involved, they are more usually pure entertainment. Evident self-deprecation and inventive loathing all wrapped up in well-crafted barbs. There is nothing more fun than someone attempting to skewer a great writer, and nothing less damaging to that great writer's work or reputation. Twain obviously understood that very well. I only wish it could have been two-directional.
posted by distorte at 8:50 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ugh. Lock away that Austen shit with that Dickens shit.

Good on you Mr. Clemens, for not reading that.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:52 AM on December 17, 2013


I think it would be difficult to feud with Austen for very long - she would simply agree with every fault you accused her of. In this letter to her niece Fanny, she responds to some criticism of her writing:
I am very much obliged to you, my dearest Fanny, for sending me Mr. W.'s conversation; I had great amusement in reading it, and I hope I am not affronted, and do not think the worse of him for having a brain so very different from mine...

... he deserves better treatment than to be obliged to read any more of my works.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Twain read and enjoyed Dickens.
posted by gladly at 9:17 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


-Nonsense! They walk around outside much more often!! Pay attention!

--They have to, because you can't acquire a fatal cold from taking a turn about the room.


You can if there's a drauaughaught. Goodness, Aunt, but it's drauaughaughty in this room. Don't you find this room exceeding drauaugaughaughty, Cousin? Do fetch my merino shawl, Nancy, or I shall perish of the agueue before it is quite tea-time.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd compare resistance to Austen to a phobia or even an allergic reaction. It is like having the gene that makes coriander leaf taste soapy. I have it, and I recognise the symptoms in what Twain is describing here. I cannot get past a few chapters of Pride and Prejudice, and I have tried. I forced myself to read Emma one summer and it was physically painful. By comparison, genuinely bad books are easy reading.

'You don't get it,' say her admirers. This is true. It would be much much easier to get it, given that Austen-lovers are invariably condescending towards those who don't.
posted by holgate at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obviously Twain, master crafter of such eminently and instantly likeable characters as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, just doesn't "get" unlikeable characters...

I agree with you about Tom Sawyer being a jerk, but certainly not Huckleberry Finn, one of the more instantly likeable characters in all of literature.

And of course Twain liked Dickens. The man wrote The Pickwick Papers, for Chrissake!
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just quote that letter I posted above to any Austen fans who try to force you to read any of her other works.

But really, considering her works are dismissed in this very thread as "walking around the drawing room," I think a bit of knee-jerk response from fans is understandable.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 AM on December 17, 2013


Recall what Hemingway said:
All modern American literature begins with Mark Twain. His way, style, of writing differs a lot from what she did with character, plot, style
posted by Postroad at 9:43 AM on December 17, 2013


As a former Jane Austen lover (apparently there's a limit to how many times you can read Pride and Prejudice), what I find really interesting is the detailed, controlling, suffocating social world it describes. Every comment or act has a prescribed response. Every dinner ends with awkward socializing before the men go smoke and drink separately. Every opinion is pronounced from on high. Then within that, you have a character trying to navigate her way and avoid being strangled by the weight of propriety.

The wordiness is mostly an artifact of the era, but it also matches the evasions and etiquette circumlocutions the characters go through.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And also brilliant editorial comments skewering the situations and people described.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2013


Everytime I read "Pride and Prejudice" I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

I didn't think that I could love Mr. Clemens more than I already did, but alas! I was wrong....
posted by brand-gnu at 9:57 AM on December 17, 2013


I turned for comic relief to two institutions of American humor—Andy Rooney and Dave Barry
There are two ways in which these men are comic relief, and I don't think the writer meant the one I'm thinking of
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:11 AM on December 17, 2013


So Mark Twain is the original hatefan?
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:12 AM on December 17, 2013


Every comment or act has a prescribed response. Every dinner ends with awkward socializing before the men go smoke and drink separately. Every opinion is pronounced from on high. Then within that, you have a character trying to navigate her way and avoid being strangled by the weight of propriety.

Although many of the specifics have changed, the general principle isn't so awfully different from life in the same social class today.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:12 AM on December 17, 2013


apparently there's a limit to how many times you can read Pride and Prejudice

I have not reached it yet, and I've been reading it for more than 30 years.
posted by JanetLand at 10:32 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Today I learned that some people don't like Jane Austen. I may have to step away from the computer and reevaluate some things.
posted by brundlefly at 10:38 AM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


So Mark Twain is the original hatefan?

I think the linked piece misinterprets Twain's motivation, because Twain clearly recognises that her work has value. His barkeeper will 'brace up and attack the proposition again'; perhaps a missed something will click, or perhaps the reader's tastes or perception or experience has changed in some significant way since the last attempt.

Emily Auerbach wants to think of Twain as a secret admirer, but the plainer reading is that he was a generous reader who couldn't get over a deep aversion. That's what's frustrating about being allergic to Austen: you sincerely want to go back and test whether it's gone away, and still end up wanting to throw the book at the wall every damn time.
posted by holgate at 11:48 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course people died from things we think trivial today. They couldn't go and get amoxicillin for the sniffles for the simple reason that about ninety-nine percent of the treatments we use today didn't exist.

Sneering at her work for reflecting that reality is ridiculous.

Also, Austen's work is marvelous for the elegant economy of the language in context to other authors of the period. It was a time of involved and stately prose which was beautiful in its own right.
posted by winna at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, reading this thread, someone has accused Austen fans of condescension?

???

I mean there's other writers from the period that I prefer, but spare me the smarmy horseshit on display here.
posted by kavasa at 12:40 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although the thread on Naipaul's criticism of Austen ultimately yielded a better discussion, I think Twain and Naipaul dislike Austen for similar reasons.
posted by gladly at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2013


From that thread: Jane Austen would eat you all for breakfast and indelicately spit out the bones.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:59 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


He would have loved it if it was written by John Austen

People always focus on this, as if it were obvious that Twain was just being sexist where Austen was concerned, but I think that's the wrong reading of why Twain liked to lampoon her work.

The real reasons, I suspect, have to do with the near universal critical and popular acclaim for Austen's work that characterized the literary culture of Twain's day. She was already well-respected as a master of the craft. Twain was always about taking the blush off people's favorite roses and attacking both conventional wisdom and the elitism that it tends to ape. I think he knew full well that many of the people who held Austen's work in such high esteem--people who no doubt ostentatiously imitated the manners of her characters missing the point completely--did so only because she was an established literary authority and concerned herself with what at least superficially (the way her work was likely popularly understood) seemed to be simple novels of manners.

Hell, Twain even wrote vigorous defenses of Satan! He liked to set himself against cherished cultural institutions and polite convention.

I think his beef with Austen was a product of both the sort of "anxiety of influence" others have written about, and Twain's own taste for attacking the conventional wisdom and pillorying those who liked to romanticize the lives of European nobility and the old world noble system more generally (many of whom would rightly or wrongly probably have counted themselves among Austen's greatest fans in Twain's day).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:11 PM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


winna, I must be allowed to defend myself against the charges laid at my door. I would never, ever, EVER sneer at Jane Austen. I've been to the Jane Austen museum in Bath! I've given my sisters her "History of England" for a Christmas present! I am currently cross-stitching a quote from Persuasion on a sampler!

The getting-sick-in-the-rain thing is funny to modern audiences, but I also think it's a little bit intentionally funny in the books themselves. I mean certainly Marianne, who is written as a lovable but somewhat ridiculous romantic heroine, and who can't take a walk in the rain without nearly dying and then falling in love. I think that is funny and was always funny.

(But I should say that my literary comprehension is at roughly a seventh grade level, so I could certainly be wrong about that.)
posted by gerstle at 1:12 PM on December 17, 2013


I mean, it seems pretty clear in the OP that he's also, in large part, poking direct fun at a friend who is an Austen admirer, the same way that I sometimes play up the fact that I haaaate Dave Grohl because one time I found out that my friend is a huge Dave Grohl fan.

Naipaul, on the other hand, just seems like an extremely insecure, unpleasant misogynist.
posted by muddgirl at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite quote about Jane Austen is often attributed to Disraeli, but I think it was actually someone else; when asked if he ever read novels he replied, "Of course, all six of them."
posted by villanelles at dawn at 1:36 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd compare resistance to Austen to a phobia or even an allergic reaction.

I have this allergy to Whit Stillman's movies. I can't get through ten minutes of Metropolitan without quitting in disgust that the Kool-Aid Man hasn't plowed through the wall and proclaimed the Revolution.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:45 PM on December 17, 2013


Mark Twain expressed unparalleled hatred of Jane Austen, defining an ideal library as one with none of her books on its shelves. "Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it."

Not so much a burn as a cremation.
posted by codswallop at 4:34 PM on December 17, 2013


Recall what Hemingway said: All modern American literature begins with Mark Twain

Well, it's not like Hemingway is the epitome of literary criticism, but let's at least be precise: the quote is "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn.'" People love to quote that part, but never seem to recall that Hemingway goes on to criticize Twain's book:

If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating.

There's debate about what he's referring to specifically there, but for me it's at least partly an acknowledgement of that atrocious last section of Huckleberry Finn where Twain, after years of leaving the manuscript only 2/3 finished, decided that the best way to close the story was to bring Tom Sawyer back into it, leading to ridiculously ham-handed and unbelievable plot twists that clearly betray the arc of Huck Finn's character, let alone Jim's, by treating Huck as if the events of the first 2/3 of the book hadn't changed him at all, and by putting Jim in a dress and shoving him to the side of the narrative after his central importance to Huck's evolution. It's a huge problem with the novel (as decades of arguing critics have shown) and clear evidence that Twain sometimes made awful creative decisions.

I love reading Mark Twain, and really appreciate the linked article's attempt to bridge the stupid and artificial Twain/Austen divide, but it seems pretty clear to me that Twain's very public dislike of Jane Austen is another one of his awful creative decisions.

(I did enjoy the part where the VQR author points out that Twain quotes the last third of Sense and Sensibility after implying that he tried multiple times but couldn't get past the first third.)
posted by mediareport at 6:39 PM on December 17, 2013


There's a great post on SciAm about this complaint, mediareport. While I certainly understand this view, given Twain's avowed preference for social realism over sentimentality and romanticism in fiction, I think the ending of Huckleberry Finn has a lot more honest social criticism in it than your view credits.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:46 PM on December 17, 2013


I'll check it out, saulgoodman, but it's gonna take a lot to convince me. I hated the last third of the book before I read a word of other folks' criticisms. Here, I'll trade you links: Try this thoughtful take on Twain's moral failure in the book's last dozen or so chapters from Jane Smiley: Say it Ain’t So, Huck: Second thoughts on Mark Twain’s 'Masterpiece.' It's calm, provocative, often scathing and worth quoting at length as it wanders through Huckleberry Finn, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and writing in late 19th-century society, but I'll just pull out this part near the end, which I think is particularly relevant to the Jane Austen discussion above:

In "Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American Fiction Exclude Women Authors," the scholar Nina Baym has already detailed how the canonization of a very narrow range of white, Protestant, middle-class male authors (Twain, Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, etc.) has misrepresented our literary life–first by defining the only worthy American literary subject as "the struggle of the individual against society [in which] the essential quality of America comes to reside in its unsettled wilderness and the opportunities that such a wilderness offers to the individual as the medium on which he may inscribe, unhindered, his own destiny and his own nature," and then by casting women, and especially women writers (specialists in the "flagrantly bad best-seller," according to Leslie Fiedler), as the enemy. In such critical readings, all other themes and modes of literary expression fall out of consideration as "un-American." [*] There goes Uncle Tom’s Cabin, there goes Edith Wharton, there goes domestic life as a subject, there go almost all the best-selling novelists of the nineteenth century and their readers, who were mostly women. The real loss, though, is not to our literature but to our culture and ourselves

*[cf. the Hemingway quote about "All modern American literature."]
posted by mediareport at 6:52 PM on December 17, 2013


given that Austen-lovers are invariably condescending towards those who don't.

I've never seen that condescension, actually. What I *have* seen is a fuckload of condescension from non-Austen fans about Austen's writing and the people who like it. I thought Pride and Prejudice was sharply hilarious in a smart, dry way and I loved it from the first few pages. It doesn't annoy me that other folks don't, but it does annoy me when they use Twain's goofy public pokes at Austen to his Austen-loving friend as some sort of Critical Proof that Jane Austen is effete drawing room nonsense not on par with the Worthy Literature of Great Male Writers like Hemingway (whom I love, especially those fucking brilliant early mid-1920s stories) and Twain (whom I also love, especially the essays he wouldn't let anyone publish until after he died and the first 2/3 of Huck Finn).

Because that's some complete bullshit right there.
posted by mediareport at 7:00 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


So that SciAm piece was fairly silly, saulgoodman. I'm glad it at least had the honesty to repeatedly state it wasn't making any claims about the artistic merits of Twain's tacked-on ending, but its attempt to justify the awfulness with modern psychological notions of peer pressure and Huck falling back to his old habits is very flimsy stuff that completely misses the point. Ok, Huck can be said to feel peer pressure to revert to his juvenile, ignorant self when Tom appears. But what the fuck is Tom Sawyer doing as a surprise deus ex machina at the end of the book in the first place?

That's the point to the criticism, or at least one major one, and your SciAm author waves it away with "I won’t argue for or against the ending’s artistic merits" and "From a literary standpoint, perhaps it is unforgiveable; it is not for me, here, to judge."

Ok then. I'll nod and smile at the idea that Huck is behaving in a way late 20th century psychology can explain away (a mildly interesting point), while wishing he'd bothered to address the arguments about the "artistic merits" actually made by the book's critics. Oh well.

I'm not sure what you're suggesting by, "I think the ending of Huckleberry Finn has a lot more honest social criticism in it than your view credits." Would you explain what you think those final chapters (with Jim in a dress, Tom being a dick, absurdly implausible hijinks and Huck losing everything he'd gained in those amazing scenes with Jim on the river to regress back to a juvenile idiot devoid of even the slightest sympathy for his slave friend) have to offer readers in the way of honest social criticism? Because I'm really not seeing it, and see just a good author struggling to finish a work whose implications he didn't have the heart to follow through with, given that the book was intended for wide circulation to Tom Sawyer fans.
posted by mediareport at 7:40 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that's one of the reasons American readers tend to shy away from social realism. Most want to like or at least respect their protagonists, to understand them from some angle, and view their every action as flowing from agency. Social realism's about showing people responding to their circumstances as realistically as possible and not being afraid to throw the defects in human character into sharp relief. But then again, readers ate it up back in Twain's day, but not immediately.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:54 PM on December 17, 2013


People really do have the kinds of potentially transformative experiences Jim and Huck did and then fall right back into previous habits of thought and behavior without hesitation when given the proper social cues. I know I've seen it happen. Now as for the quality of the humor in those later chapters--let's be honest, he was parading around wornout tropes and stock characters faster than The Three Stooges, but he does it with such panache. For me, anyway. I would never claim it's a flawless book. YMMV.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:59 PM on December 17, 2013


Social realism's about showing people responding to their circumstances as realistically as possible and not being afraid to throw the defects in human character into sharp relief.

You have read the end of the book, right? With Tom Sawyer's crazy out-of-nowhere claptrap schemes he does for no reason? With Huckleberry's weird assent to them? With Jim's? Does that really read like people responding realistically to their circumstances to you?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:00 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sawyer represents the wealthy landowning capitalist class with their constant scheming to get others to do their work for them. Sawyer always influences Huck toward his worst tendencies. But hey, everyone's tastes are their own. We're not talking science or math here, after all.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:04 PM on December 17, 2013


Sawyer represents the wealthy landowning capitalist class with their constant scheming to get others to do their work for them.

So are you defending the last part of the book as a realistic depiction of people in realistic circumstances or as political allegory?

But hey, everyone's tastes are their own. We're not talking science or math here, after all.

Or are you even defending it at all?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:16 PM on December 17, 2013


Today I learned that some people don't like Jane Austen. I may have to step away from the computer and reevaluate some things.

As long as I've read Jane Austen, I've asserted that I can fully recognize her greatness, without actually liking her writing. I have read Pride and Prejudice, what, seven times, and none of them voluntarily, but always see the greatness within, while never particularly enjoying it. I could say the same of a great many artists.

I have never been forced to read Twain, while not everything is of the first rank, and most of it is, it is always a sheer joy to read.

I admit this may be a simple reflection on me, but I am not convinced of that. Technical skill and artistic flourish are but one part -- connectivity with the reader is another.

YMMV.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


He represents them as a specific, concrete instance of one. It's not allegory, but it is attempting to illustrate one realistic case of a more general pattern. He's also being absurd for a comic effect that his audience would have appreciated. And they did. That's why people still read Huckleberry Finn all these years later, because there was enough of an audience for its (once relatively common) blend of social realism and satire, it found a readership, while I doubt the same will ever be said of our comments here. Though you may disagree with that too, if you'd like.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:59 PM on December 17, 2013


Worth noting: Patrick O'Brian's brilliant Aubrey/Maturin sea adventure books owe a huge debt to Jane Austen, who is described as O'Brian's favorite author in Dean King's biography ("he thought she had no rivals as a novelist"). The occasional characterization of O'Brian's books as "Jane Austen for guys" may be glib and unjust to O'Brian's talent, but it kinda fits if you're into traditional gender role divisions of literary taste. The 2nd book in particular, Post Captain, is a clear homage to Austen.
posted by mediareport at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2013


Huckleberry Finn's original audience might have liked the last part of the book, but the book survived in spite of it. The book survived because its blend of social realism and satire worked so well in the book's first two thirds that people gave a pass to the rest despite its formal and thematic betrayal of the preceding story.

Also, Twain had a large readership at the time of Huckleberry Finn. Lots of people would have read pretty much anything he published. I'm not sure why you imply that the events at the end of the book, the last things new readers would have read, were what ensured a large initial audience for the novel, when the qualities for which you praise the last part, which would have appealed to that first audience and for which, alas! we've lost the taste, are present earlier in the book and are stronger there, to boot.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:20 PM on December 17, 2013


No offense, Rustic Etruscan, but you seem to sort of be playing sophist games with my arguments now, exaggerating and changing the context of minor cherry-picked points to make arguments against them. I certainly never said the success of the book had anything to do with its final chapters, and I've already acknowledged the book (like much of Twain's output) is flawed. Why are you being so persistent and what point exactly are you trying to insist on? I'm stumped, really.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:28 PM on December 17, 2013


You're right. It's a derail and I'm captious because I'm tired. The only point I'm trying to make is that the last part of the book sucks, especially when compared to what came before it. I'll drop it. Sorry, everyone.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:35 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Twain and Austen lived in pretty different worlds, and each wrote about their own world with both humor and realism.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:48 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was hilarious:
Twain trolls like a genius.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:11 AM on December 18, 2013


No worries Rustic--happens to all of us now and then...
posted by saulgoodman at 6:11 AM on December 18, 2013


As an Austen fan, I quite like Charlotte Bronte's takedown of the author (part I, part II), especially as a deconstruction of the common idea that Austen wrote romantic or sentimental novels. I disagree with her assessment that Austen wrote nothing and cared nothing for passions and sentiment, but that is a pretty common impression after only one or two readings of her work.

Now I want to know what Twain thought of Jane Eyre. I imagine he might find more sympathy with that protagonist, more clearly-delineated heroes and villains, and a better adventure. Although along those lines he might have liked the gothic horror and morality tale of Northanger Abbey if anyone had thought to point him that way.
posted by muddgirl at 7:31 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


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