voracious reader with a certain verbal attitude

Posts tagged mark twain

66 notes &

I’m not much for best-of lists. My memory is not good enough for them and I don’t find them very useful when other people write them, and so am too lazy to bother. I did, for the first time, keep a fairly accurate list of what I read this year. Was 367 books. I liked the vast majority of them, so it would feel wrong to only list ten or so, and to list more than that would defeat the purpose of a best-of list.

At least half of what I read this year came out before 2000. It was almost uniformly good (in contrast to the new stuff, which was more like 60/40). Which is another reason a best-of list would be unhelpful. You have undoubtedly already read many of my favorite reads from this year. I spend a lot of time bemoaning my youth and wishing I was sixty already, but one advantage to being young is that there are still piles of good books I haven’t had time to read yet.

Anyway, I will make one list, in honor of the year I decided not to be scared of long books anymore: My Top Five Books Over 500 Pages of 2010 (Even Though Only Two Came Out in 2010). These would all make the hypothetical best-of list. Do you think it’s that long books are more likely to be satisfying? Or do you think that one is more likely to want long books to be satisfying to justify the time one spent reading them, so they have an unfair advantage? Whatever, I loved all these books and feel unnaturally driven to proselytize them.

  1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. If I couldn’t do this book justice in thirteen blog posts, I’m not going to manage to do so here. Just…read it if you haven’t already, okay?
  2. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Why is this book not getting the attention it deserves? I know it has gotten some attention, but I want it to have, like, WaterForElephantsEatPrayLoveTwilight-levels of attention. I don’t care that the book is so depressing that I couldn’t sleep properly for weeks. Everybody should read this book. Please, please.
  3. The Instructions by Adam Levin. Reviewed here.
  4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This book is crazy. I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody but let’s just say that knowing that this book has sold twenty million copies makes me secretly hopeful both for the future of this country. And also for my personal future, in which Scotsmen will finally get the hint that they are very much desired in this part of the world and emigrate en masse and call me Sassenach. If you have read it please come by the store soon so that we may freak out about the opium scene, which I am still wrapping my head around, months later.
  5. The Autobiography of Mark Twain by himself. I don’t care what Garrison Keillor has to say about it, this is a fun read. Excerpted in several parts starting here.

So there you go. If you’re looking for a great book that you won’t be able to travel or commute with and won’t want to hold for more than half an hour at a time because your arms will start to go numb, please consult this list.

(Oh, and a quick shout-out to Stoner by John Williams, which I, like a jerk, keep giving to people for presents because I am that girl, the one who foists books on you that SHE wants you to read, not that YOU want to read. Except that Stoner is so good that it has been met with a 100% approval rate from those receiving it. So there! Stoner: buy it for yourself today, or risk being unsurprised when I give it to you for your birthday.)

Filed under the instructions infinite jest matterhorn outlander mark twain books books books stoner

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I intend that this autobiography shall become a model for all future autobiographies when it is published, after my death, and I also intend that it shall be read and admired a good many centuries because of its form and method—a form and method whereby the past and the present are constantly brought face to face, resulting in contrasts which newly fire up the interest all along like contact of flint with steel.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 441. As my mom would say, it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.

I’ll stop here, though I could have entered three times as many quotes as I did. There is no point in reviewing Mark Twain, and I’m not sure anyone is qualified to do so; it is necessary only to read little snippets of it to want to read it (or not want to read it, I guess, if you are a crazy person).

Filed under mark twain

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Certainly mental telegraphy is always at work—oftener than otherwise, perhaps, when we are not suspecting that it is affecting our thought. … I imagine that we get most of our thoughts out of somebody else’s head, by mental telegraphy—and not always out of heads of acquaintances but, in the majority of cases, out of the heads of strangers; strangers far removed—Chinamen, Hindoos, and all manner of remote foreigners whose language we should not be able to understand, but whose thoughts we can read without difficulty.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 429. Twain seemed quite taken by this idea of mental telegraphy. He mentions it a lot. It’s fascinating.

Filed under mark twain mental telegraphy

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Persons who think there is no such thing as luck—good or bad—are entitled to their opinion, although I think they ought to be shot for it.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 380.

Filed under mark twain luck tolerance

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Jay Gould had just then reversed the commercial morals of the United States. He had put a blight upon them from which they have never recovered, and from which they will not recover for as much as a century to come. Jay Gould was the mightiest disaster which has ever befallen this country. The people had desired money before his day, but he taught them to fall down and worship it. They had respected men of means before his day, but along with this respect was joined the respect due to the character and industry which had accumulated it. But Jay Gould taught the entire nation to make a god of the money and the man, no matter how the money might have been acquired.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 364.

Filed under mark twain plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose

4 notes &

I am always obliged to say “I don’t, Ashcroft. I wish I could understand it, but I don’t. Send for the cat.”
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 342. Including this just so it is not a surprise to anyone when I start ending all my conversations with “Send for the cat.” On page 345, we learn that he had cats named Stray Kit, Abner, Motley, Fraulein, Lazy, Buffalo Bill, Soapy Sall, Cleveland, Sour Mash, and Pestilence and Famine.

Filed under mark twain secret cat lady!

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I don’t like Tillman. His second cousin killed an editor, three years ago, without giving that editor a chance to defend himself. I recognize that it is almost always wise, and is often in a manner necessary, to kill an editor, but I think that when a man is a United States Senator he ought to require his second cousin to refrain as long as he can, and then do it in a handsome way, running some personal risk to himself.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 292.

Filed under mark twain has standards

3 notes &

If any stray copy of this book shall, by any chance, escape the paper-mill for a century or so, and then be discovered and read, I am betting that that remote reader will find that it is still news, and that it is just as interesting as any news he will find in the newspapers of his day and morning—if newspapers shall still be in existence then—though let us hope they won’t.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 281. Mark Twain was New Media before you were New Media.

Filed under Mark Twain proto-blogger

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I was very young in those days, exceedingly young, marvelously young, younger than I am now, younger than I shall ever be again, by hundreds of years.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 228.

Filed under mark twain

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Yet there are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is; it is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.
The Autobiography of Mark Twain (vol 1), page 211.

Filed under mark twain is a bit of an enabler