Tag Archives: mark twain

Dashboard: Who will be their Mark Twain?

Each time I log in to NewAlbanyBooks, I’m offered a “dashboard” of options. Respecting my promise to post new content here each and every day (and sometimes that means late in the day), I thought I would “dash” off something we’ve been talking about in the store. That is, 100 years from now, who will our progeny consider to be their Mark Twain?

The way I would define it is thus: A writer whose mere mention evokes memories of a large body of work that was generally excellent; whose work stands the test of time; who had worldwide fame and literary success; and whose work was controversial and widely discussed during his lifetime and over the next century.

My nominee (and you’ll have a hard time budging me off of this one) is Mr. Stephen King. Now, one could argue that Twain was known as a humorist as much as he was a novelist, but it is the impact the writer has/will have 100 years down the road that, in my view, qualifies “Uncle Stevie.”

The Stand is likely to weather the vicissitudes of time. It is arguably King’s finest work and one whose themes (and sometimes its characters) are woven throughout King’s ouvre. If you, as I do, consider that the pinnacle of King’s work, then the other pillar might be 2009’s Under the Dome. In the first, a remnant travel vast distances to join together and take sides in a great battle of good and evil. In the latter, a community is arbitrarily sealed off from the physical and moral constraints of the rest of the world. One is expansive. The other is claustrophobic. Yet both grapple with the choices people will make when faced with crises.

Let’s consider The Stand and Under the Dome to be modern fables that will be studied, dissected, praised, and reviled 100 years from now in much the same way that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are treated today.

Both writers also wrote short stories and King may, in fact, already be the superior of Twain in that field. It certainly can’t be argued that King hasn’t had as much impact on popular culture, especially with their adaptations into film. Who doesn’t remember the movies made from “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” or “The Body?” “The Shawshank Redemption” (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, directed by Frank Darabont) and “Stand by Me (River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Keifer Sutherland, directed by Rob Reiner) are treasured memories for a generation of moviegoers.

And I’ll make one more observation. Samuel Langhorne Clemons wrote under the pen name Mark Twain. King, when told by his publisher to slow his output, found another publisher to put out more work under the name Richard Bachman. Fortunately, we discovered this during the man’s lifetime and we have been enriched by those works, too. Do you remember when King released 2 giant novels at the same time – one as King and one as Bachman? The Regulators and Desperation released on the same day and, amazingly, put pretty much the same characters into two plots in two distinct settings.

I remember buying both and tossing a coin to determine which one I would read first. I believe I finished them both before the weekend was ended.

My final tribute in this “dash” to Stephen King involves not his fecundity but his meticulousness. I read a lot, and that includes advance copies from which, purportedly, all the errors will be removed pre-publication. In my experience, by the time it is in advance bound copies, I’m looking at the same book you will be reading. Anyway, I may see more errors than you do and as an old editor, I’m orders of magnitude more peevish about anachronisms, word choices, spelling, punctuation, etc.

Let me attest that I have never found an error in a Stephen King book. I have a theory as to why that is so. BECAUSE STEPHEN KING TURNS THE MANUSCRIPT IN WITHOUT ANY FLAWS! If the author nails it, there is no occasion for the editors to miss a mistake. Tom Clancy’s latest book was almost ruined for me (I wrote about that in early January) by errors that clearly were the authors’ and not the editors’.

One last “dash.” While reading Under the Dome, I remarked to Ann that at last I had found an error in a Stephen King book. Rather than disappointment, my reaction was shock. This was a special edition of a final bound copy, too, and the thought that King had finally lost his grammar/spelling mojo was too hard to believe. So I investigated. As it turns out, for Mainers, there is an alternate spelling of the relevant word that is unique to that place and that dialect. King had not made a mistake, after all, and the earth returned to spin on its axis and revolve gracefully around its star.

Please join the conversation and tell us who you think will be studied in schools 100 years from now and whose works will still be known by practically all English speakers.

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Friday Fun Links: Hunger Games, Twain, and the “Competition”

OK. Let’s be honest. These were fun for me to read. But there ought to be something here for anybody looking for a quick books snack.

Alan Gribben

Professor at Auburn University-Montgomery; photo Birmingham News

You may have heard about the college professor who is spearheading a sanitized version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Alan Gribben believes that discussions of race in the 21st Century can’t be rationalized without excising the “N” word from the classic, often required, reading. He and publisher NewSouth Books are also redacting the use of the word injun after Gribben heard complaints from many school teachers that they simply could not use the book in their classrooms, as written. The cleverest response I heard about the censorius move went something like this: “It’s OK with me if they take out the words “n—-r” and “injun,” so long as they also take out “Huckleberry Finn” and “Mark Twain.” Here’s a more measured response.

The Day the Kindle Died: One of our industry bulletins, Shelf Awareness, reports on a little cyber-punking of that Seattle online behemoth that sells anything, but is known for promising to sell you a book. Thomas Hertog wrote an amazon.com-only book called Wealth Hazards, then proceeded to game the sites algorithms for about 45 days to push the book to No. 1 in its category, birthing the book The Day the Kindle Died. Hertog concluded that amazon.com’s bestseller rankings are less than reliable, to say the least. The Guardian told it this way: “Hertog claimed he managed to [reach No. 1] with his own 2009 personal finance book … pushing it above books by established bestselling authors including Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump, despite having actually sold a mere 32 copies to third parties.”

Book 1 of the trilogy
Gary Ross (Pleasantville) to direct

Entertainment Weekly talks with director Gary Ross about how he came to be selected to direct the first installment of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. The conversation with Ross, who discovered the books after listening to his twin 15-year-old son and daughter rave over them, was really just a delightful geek-out session on the true grit of 16-year-old hero Katniss Everdeen, and Collins’ urgent and timely message about the power of the individual.

Santa Barbara, Calif. recently lost both a Barnes & Noble and a Borders from its downtown. The local paper saw that as an great time to highlight the breadth of independent bookselling that remain in that city, population 89,432.

Speaking of losing bookstores, the industry has been all abuzz this week with news about Borders Group, which operates 7 stores in the Louisville metro area, including Waldenbooks (or is it Borders Express now?). It seems Borders is trying a bankruptcy-in-fact, if not in name. This week they asked about a half-dozen major publishers, to whom they owe about $10 million each, to “take a note,” or allow the debt to be paid to an interest-bearing fund. Without that, Borders indicates its bankers won’t renew their loans. Borders operates 675 stores in the U.S.

Death throes?

Is this business model disappearing?

Barnes & Noble got an upgrade on the news. Credit Suisse says they expect B&N to pick up about 14% of Borders’ business. Sounds like a great time to start a local, independent bookstore if 86% of Borders customers are going to be looking for a place to shop.

Flavorwire took a stroll down memory lane to recall their favorite authors from childhood. Beverly Cleary starts off the list. FW is clearly run by youngsters as most of these books were after my time as a child, but it is interesting to note that most teachers today grew up with these books, and the list of authors is very familiar to anyone who takes orders for school books.

Bookpage, which some of you may recall we used to give away at Destinations Booksellers, chose its best book jackets of 2010.

SAVE THE DATES:

On Saturday, January 29 at 4 p.m., Destinations Booksellers will host the writing team of Gary Yeagle and Marlene Mitchell. I think this is their first collaboration for Louisville’s Blackwyrm Publishing. They’ll be signing and discussing their murder mystery, Seasons of Death, and we’ll be partnering with a local eatery for a “Buy a meal, get a discount on the book” and a “Buy the book, get a discount on a meal” cross-promotion with another member of NewAlbanyFirst!

On Wednesday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. we’ll be hosting a second Media Law Resources Center Institute-sponsored discussion, following on our successful discussion last year on the Internet and the First Amendment. That one concentrated on just exactly who is a journalist and whether bloggers entitled to the same legal respect as “old” media reporters, editors, and columnists. This one ought to be interesting to many more of you. Two panelists, a lawyer and a journalist, will discuss the First Amendment and censorship issues, a topic which is always fascinating. More details coming soon, but mark the date.

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