Subtitles for A Biography Of The Boy Who Became Mark Twain: Early Childhood, Education (1999)

  Pause sub
Samuel Clemens grew up in hannibal
missouri to become the author and
performer Mark Twain Ron powers looks at
mr. Clements life and the contribution
that Mark Twain made in his biography
dangerous waters mr. powers also shares
his own experiences growing up in
Hannibal he spoke at the Mark Twain
House and hartford connecticut for about
45 minutes late law librarian at the
public library and I'm delighted to
welcome you see
the heart public library is proud to
partner with more clean house on the
writing life program and to bring to you
ballistic prize-winning Ron powers a man
from Hannibal Missouri who is written
about Hannibal Hannibal he remembers in
white town
browsing and written back
Samuel Clemens in his new book dangerous
experience is an author's most valuable
asset experience in the thing that puts
the muscle
breath and warm blood into the bulky
and so it is appropriate
that from gifted essayist and master of
the narrative Ron powers comes dangerous
water story of Samuel Clemens toilet
compatible and how Mark Twain through on
those modulus experience to produce his
famous novels
this is the first significant blow on
the early life of Mark Twain
and one that allows the reader to better
know Wayne's World and his work
please welcome Ron powers journalist
novelist nonfiction writer and learn
about the influences
is that bring waters to the bright light
and inspire tales they tell us
thank you very much
I've had a wonderful time in hartford
today and thank all of you for coming
out on a hot evening
it's a pilgrimage for me in more ways
than one for me it's a chance to revisit
the shrine of my fellow townsmen and
remind myself how well he did compared
to the rest of us but hartford also has
a place in my father's history because
Hartford is the home of the Fuller Brush
Company and for 50 years my dad sold
fuller brushes in hannibal missouri and
probably was his famous locally in his
way as Sammy was by the time he left
town and I grew up into town that had my
father's imprint on every doorstep and I
also grew up in a town that made it
almost impossible not to know Mark Twain
I can't remember a time when I didn't
know that man or feel his presence in
the town was born in 1941 war years and
it was also a time when Hannibal like
all-american small towns was isolated we
were separate from the rest of the
country and I think that sense of
isolation and being great physical
distance away from where the big events
were happening was very true of his time
and there are so many features of
Hannibal that i feel i have in common
with him even though we lived a hundred
years apart i think that the sense of
being isolated but also having that big
event which was the mississippi river
right there at our doorstep that
interruption in the planes that brought
all of that river traffic down from the
north and up from the south we had never
been anywhere is kids in Hannibal
but we were visited constantly by these
exotic people and boats of barge men
riverboat men of all kinds they stop
they got off they went through our town
and they brought a sense of the
continent to us and another thing that
made me realize that I wanted to have a
chance to celebrate Mark Twain some time
in my life where my memories of going
down to the waterfront district on
saturday mornings with my friend Delaney
winkler who is the town rich kid and
Dooley's parents sort of owned and and
administrative the mark twain interests
in town his great-grandfather was a
wealthy lawyer from the lumber days of
the 19th century who used his wealth to
really restore Clemens his reputation in
the nineteen thirties because after he
died in 1910 his career had a kind of an
interesting cachet based on the fact of
these recent death and then the
revisionists came in the Freudian
biographers led by a man named van wyck
Brooks who decided that mark was
basically a very tortured unhappy soul
and if only it had a better mother he
could have amounted to something you
that biography which is called the
ordeal of Mark Twain was very
influential and he dropped in public
esteem from several years so along came
the wonderful southern lawyer and lumber
baron George mayhem whose nickname was
the colonel every southern town had a
man named the colonel and George may
have used his fortune to Commission the
first statue that was devoted purely to
fictional characters a statue of Tom and
Huck at the bottom of Cardiff Hill he
bought the boyhood home and retained and
donated it to the city and his father's
Law Office made sure that mark twain
cave was was preserved and lighted and
open to visitors and so by the time I
came along kids and Hannibal could feel
that we hadn't been anywhere but all you
have to do is walk down to the
riverfront on a Sunday morning and look
at the cars that were parked diagonally
in front of the home and look at the
license plates and there was
Pennsylvania and New York and California
Connecticut all these exotic places and
we thought it became very clear to us
that maybe we hadn't been anywhere but
we were someplace holy we were in a kind
of shrine and that took hold with me I
think more than a lot of kids because my
pal had a family connection to this so
Dooley and I I don't think we intended
to act out the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
ritual but we did as kids and we've we
hung out in a lot of the places where
Clemens wrote about being as a boy with
his fictional characters and one of the
reasons that I feel that the past of
Hannibal is so much with us is that
although it has been paved and lighted
video games satellite dish
all of these other things there is still
that wonderfully yeasty terrain that he
saw when he was a boy the two cliffs
that frame the town Cardiff Hill up here
with the lighthouse and over here that
jagged toothed of rock called Lovers
Leap that every town along the river had
one but these kind of embrace the town
and then there was a nice little
floodplain valley where the Mississippi
flowed by there were all kinds of
orchards and woods that spread out into
the Missouri hills and two miles down
the river was this great dark labyrinth
een heed of a cave that gave us another
essential ingredient of sacred place
which was terror terror was an important
part of feeling connected to a place
because it gave you gave you an edge it
gave you a sense of something that you
needed to kind of martial yourself
against and and find ways to to deal
with so i think i couldn't have been
very old before I thought I felt almost
obligated to live my life in a way that
echoed are honored this man's I means
part of it was selfish he got up and out
of Hannibal you got to wear white suits
and eat oysters anytime he wanted to and
i still had to make do with pork
tenderloins but i thought one day if I
do it right I'm going to be up there
with him so almost unconsciously this is
now starting to talk about the writer's
life and how we find ourselves in the
professions that we choose and realize
that the professions have really chosen
I decided that I would become a
journalist so I got a journalism degree
at the State University and headed to
st. Louis to become a sports writer it
didn't really matter what the topic of
my writing was when i was covering the
fact was and this was very important to
his development as a writer that in
for about a hundred years newspaper work
was a kind of wonderful apprenticeship
for the writing life it's not quite so
true anymore because of all the
consolidations of papers and the mergers
and the Gannett style of of kind of
numerical facts and graphs instead of
narrative but for a long time there was
this great tradition of being a young
person and being forced to go out of the
office into the town and encounter
strangers go into new terrain that you
might not visit on your own and ask
questions of people who knew something
that you didn't and it's a very scary
thing to do it's something that can't be
taught in writing programs and college
writing courses
it's the whole secret is the things that
we make ourselves do before the act of
writing so important for the development
of a writer to have the wherewithal to
go into unknown territory where we don't
necessarily belong to pass from the
familiar to the outlandish to the
totally alien and to presume to ask
people to talk to us and give us their
secrets and to listen to the way they
speak which was another great thing that
Clemens Mark Twain brought to world
literature to hear the rhythm the
cadence the vernacular of ordinary
Americans whether it's a cop on state
street in Chicago telling you how many
people came to the parade or a
politician whose yeasty with the dialect
of his precinct you get you get to
understand that there's a poetry there's
a folk poetry in the way that people
speak and I think as I got into this and
began teaching myself to take a notebook
with me wherever I went into the sit-in
Restaurant booths and coffee shops and
jot down snatches of conversation that I
heard again I was unconsciously
imitating Twain who has a little boy in
the 1840s on his grandfather his uncle
John Quarles is farm found himself
wandering off as a little sickly red
haired kid unattended making his way to
the slave quarters where he SAT and
listened to people like uncle Daniel and
aunt Hannah tell their great coded
stories of of folk tales stories of
escape stories of hidden anger and
resentment at their slave masters but
always carefully disguised with biblical
allusions and talking animals and
spirits that rose from the dead this
kind of charming overlay that made the
stories seem wonderful unless you were
deeply plugged into the rhythms and and
the meaning of the code and I think
Sammy got that at a very early age and
he stored it up and he remembered it and
that the fact that he could render this
kind of dialect not only black dialect
but southwestern upper-class Pike County
working class for variations on that the
way fancy women spoke at salons in the
he got that into his stories and nothing
like that has ever been done in American
literature certainly not at the book
level it was quite a shock and it gave
him some fits with his critics in the
early days because fashionable critics
and places like Connecticut didn't think
that that kind of language belong in a
high tone book but the people understood
it and the people cared and the people
eventually made him into the first real
recognizable celebrity that was could be
spotted on the streets of America and
he was so here was this sort of parallel
course that I was following doing
journalism but at the same time trying
to figure out the story the folklore the
myth and the tales that were behind the
people that I was covering and is that
developed and i went from town to town
and and sort of refined my my craft
being a journalist I began to yearn for
a more expansive outlet for what I was
writing i love newspapers and still do
but newspapers at some point couldn't
really contain the great river of pros
that I wanted to discharge was the same
for him so I think like a lot of good
American proletarian self-taught writers
what people like us have done is to just
apprentice ourselves where we can like
on a daily paper or magazine force some
editor to tell us get up off your chair
get out in the city and find me stories
and with that mixture of terror and
ecstasy having all of your senses turned
on because you were afraid and yet
you're excited and you notice things
that you wouldn't ordinarily notice you
gotta hear it and you taste it and you
smell it and you see the way sunlight
plays on a building and you notice as
Mark Twain did what people are wearing
on their heads
what they have in their pockets and how
the speech patterns they use tipped them
off as characters and as that began to
take hold
I started to realize what a wonderful
game writing is I think that's something
else that doesn't really get emphasized
in college writing courses where we're
all about the seriousness of the craft
and the establishing of metaphor and
post-structuralism writing is a game it
is a wonderful game and as he refined it
as he refined and Huckleberry Finn the
game began
the to get the reader to collaborate
with you in achieving a point of view
Huck Finn is naive and uneducated
illiterate and he believes that all of
his impulses his Democratic impulses
toward Jim are going to send him to hell
and he has a terrible struggle with his
conscience on the river about whether to
send that letter back to ms watson so
that he will have done the right thing
and return gym to his rightful owner and
the last minute he says he remembers the
journey downriver the stories they told
the laughter looking at the stars from
the raft and he realizes he can't do it
and he says all right then I'll go to
hell and terrorists the letter up Mark
Twain didn't tell you in that passage
that Jim that Huck was noble he let you
decide he let you discover it on your
own and I think that is really to a
large extent what American literature is
all about
it's what we gave to the world that
sense of heightening our personal
experience and finding shape and design
and metaphor in the ordinary things we
do the ordinary choices we make and
finding the art and finding the moral
turning points in this kind of life
European literature had been about
nobleman and armies Kings philosophers
Twain gave it back to the people he took
it down to the grassroots into the raft
and that is what you learn
I think as a journalist and that's what
you learn if you pay attention to mark
twain so when it came time for me to be
brave enough to decide that I might like
to try my hand at one more book about
this man I felt almost instinctively
where I wanted to go with it
I said a few minutes earlier that
sometimes we think we're choosing our
craft but in reality the craft is
choosing us and when it when i decided
to fulfill this kind of boyhood ambition
to reach out and touch him to connect
with him somehow
I knew that I didn't want to concentrate
on the great span of his adult life it's
been written about very well very
you probably all know the great Justin
kaplan biography called mr. Clements and
Mark Twain that remains the standard 30
years after it was published picks him
up at age 31 and carries him into his
final years and into his death and
kaplan is a wonderful writer said the
boyhood speaks for itself in the
literature and to an extent that's true
and to an extent it's not true enough
that we can't yield up more riches so
when i wrote dangerous water which which
means mark twain by the way it's that's
the the dangerous water happens when the
water is shallower than two fathoms and
it's a great metaphor for his troubled
early life when I began to research it i
decided that i would first of all drawn
the memories that I have of Hannibal and
the places around Hannibal and I
realized to my astonishment that I carry
a mental map of the town with me 40
years after i left i can close my eyes
and I can see those streets began to
unscrolled I can see the hills
I can smell the river I know what night
looks like in the Midwest with no with
not a lot of paper lights to blot out
the Stars and I know the kind of
delicious terror of being out in the
night being where you might not release
the supposed to be and I know something
of what he understood of violence on the
frontier Hannibal in his youth was a
violent place he witnessed many acts of
violence murder accidental death and he
I didn't see that many myself but I knew
that I had that sense of terror that the
child's world is not the world that
counts we're not really in control
call somebody else is bigger and more
powerful people and he certainly had
that as a condition in his life and I
started to realize that so much of his
humor and so much of his sanity and so
much of his great compassion for
ordinary people dependent on his ability
to to convert grief and terror into
laughter that's really what he did that
may be the single greatest gift that he
gave us outside elevating dialects into
literature and I began to understand
because folks in hannibal aren't that
much different from mark they don't have
these genius but still today and
certainly in my childhood you can find
people who tell very deadpan stories
looking you're right in the eye that you
realize after a while are comically and
grossly exaggerated versions of the
truth things that have happened to them
and that goes back to the origins of the
tall tale which is the kind of stories
people told one another in the 1840s to
relieve themselves of the terrors and
and the barbarity of life on the
frontier the eye-gouging matches that
were kind of the tennis of the 1840s
that people had and the predatory
violence of the the the brigands that
went up and down the Mississippi the
Native Americans one another the way
people really kind of savage to each
other and got to be so awful that's
finally we started talking about men who
were half alligator and half grizzly
bear and who drank the Mississippi River
for breakfast
that gave us a kind of comic distance
nobody got that better than Mark Twain
and nobody understood its potential for
literature so I wanted to put i guess.i
guess what I really wanted to do with
the book and maybe nothing more than
that was to put flesh and blood back on
the bones of a writer who has become so
familiar to us that we have almost
forgotten him he's almost become
because of all of the theorizing the
wonderful critical theories that have
been applied to him on the one hand and
on the other hand this kind of
animatronic theme parking of him as the
colonel sanders of the 19th century man
in the white suit has stories about kids
playing hooky and smoking pipes those
are two extremes that have lost the
great protein man-in-the-middle so the
design that I that I hit upon was
nothing more than to to bring him back
to life based on the physical place and
what I could learn of the parallels
between his life and his work the things
that happened to him as young man and
the way he worked them into his
literature and I i guess i would just
like to read the entire book to you now
not really going to read going to read
you the a little bit of the seventh
chapter in which i have him through his
young boyhood I haven't being exposed to
the spirituals in the storytelling and
we get the family to Hannibal and now
Sammy is venturing into the Hannibal
night and I think these are some of the
experiences that really turned his
imagination on to a white laser light
i'm just going to read you a couple of
pages from for this chapter night the
dark wood form one of Mark Twain's most
enduring metaphors he and his young
comrades new its absolute necessity new
the primitive profundity of it the
purity of its Majesty's and terrors its
capacity to engulf and transformed to
render themselves in their village as
small as microbes under its great
indifferent Bell night would become in
his life and his art a source of
unappeasable dread but also a sort of
sanctuary to which he would return again
and again it would become a dreamscape
of memory and invention where grief and
fright and risk and Oblivion took on
finally and almost an opening patent
that once magnified and redeemed his
losses and his horror cat called he
would crawl from his window along the
roof of the L then dropped to the top of
the woodshed and then to the ground
joined perhaps by will Bowen and John
Briggs and the Wraith like me Ali
Blankenship that was Tom Blankenship who
became the model for huck finn this
small framed boy would slip into a
nighttime demi-monde nearly impossible
to evoke from the perspective of a later
illuminated and amplified century by day
the village offered its diversions by
it offered the pleasures of risk a
phantom town inhabited largely by
ghostly presences as the critic Cynthia
Griffin wolf characterized it a place
where restless children would shine
their inner beacons on a vast dark slate
the boys would make their way through a
stark black village innocent of vapor
lights of auto headlights of me on a
village in which only the occasional dim
candle are banked hearthfire broke the
gloom and ominous labyrinth of incipient
violence the houses were adult Hannibal
slept would be stupefied shapes under
the moon or the glow of the Milky Way if
the sky were covered by clouds the
Mississippi itself might be invisible
heavy scented alive with the low
laughing's of its current but without
form river as dream barking dogs roused
by the boys passage would often be the
only other sources of sound of
commentary save for the clock booming
the hour or an hour far-off beyond the
town borders whoo-hooing al was mourning
the dead a barking dog meant that
someone was about to die they felt their
way over earthen streets toward the
levee toward the tanyard where the town
drunk Jimmy Finn slept with the Hogs
toward the slaughter pins toward the
woods toward the old-fashioned Western
graveyard on the northern hills
toward a night filled with intimations
of hoodoo and magic spells of witches
and devils and walking bones all the
layers of American guilt and terror and
sorrow gathered and palpable in the dark
air perhaps they were on their way to
add to the ambient superstition toward a
certain dead hillside tree or down to
the cave by boat to enact rituals of
gang initiation imitating what they knew
of real gangs that Menace the region
candles and sulfur matches in their
pockets knives for pricking the
fingertips with school hating bookworms
Sammy supplying all the literary
that's the Hannibal that still lives in
my memory
that's the Hannibal that joins me to
Mark Twain and that is the Hannibal that
compelled me perhaps almost against my
will to be a writer and that's the
Hannibal that I hope will live again in
in dangerous water so thank you for
listening and if you have any questions
I'd be very happy to answer them
twenty-four dollars USA
yes hello you that you work on research
and can you almost want some of your
sources were other than you remember
that's a good question and I i probably
spent about two years it was a very
compressed time to do research on a
figure of this magnitude
I was lucky in that most of his papers
most of his writings have been collected
and stored largely in the berkeley
archives and there's been a lot of
really wonderful scholarship about his
boyhood that hasn't reached the popular
stage but is very diligently researched
and and in the files so it was a
pleasure for me to be able to read about
for instance the discovery of the
Negroes corpse on an island across the
Mississippi and realize how closely that
paralleled Hawks discovery of Jim the
live Jim the the shooting down of a man
named smart on the streets of Hannibal
the first homicide victim in the town
that Sammy witness this took him an hour
to die somebody put a Bible on his chest
and he was heaving that became Boggs and
Huckleberry Finn and all kinds of the
the widow who aimed a musket a man who
is causing her problems and gave him the
count of ten to go away and he didn't
take her seriously that again showed up
in Huckleberry Finn so they were all of
these they're all of these incidents
that were very dark that he managed to
shed light into our heighten or render
with a comic touch that made them
palatable and at the same time very
profound so the research it was mostly a
matter of largely a matter of comparing
the life to the art yeah
the relationship of sammy to his mother
well I suppose we might call them a
dysfunctional family these days but well
with with John the father
it was aight i think i think Sammy
always had a tragic wish that John could
be greater than he was and more
he was a Virginian with lineage back to
nobility and Britain named for the first
Chief Justice of the United States john
marshall and a man read in the law
planner of railroads and libraries and a
great civic leader who never had two
nickels to rub together and when he did
have two nickels early in his life he
bought 60,000 acres of land in tennessee
for about four hundred dollars and that
became the kind of family curse because
that land was always going to make the
Clemens is rich it never happened with
the father
it never happened with Orion the oldest
son it never happened but that tension
of always being about to be rich became
a kind of obsession and it really
colored his attitudes toward aristocracy
and toward wealth and toward power gave
him that duality that he showed in so
many other aspects of his life he wanted
to live in this house over here and
throw great parties and at the same time
he wanted the truth stink bombs through
the window he want to be the bad boy and
he managed to be both so that sense of
of ambiguity toward money probably
really enrich the passion that made him
write you know he somebody told him
lamented to him once that Henry
Huddleston's Rogers his fortune was
tainted and Sam said that's right it
ain't yours take mine
so he was almost compelled to humor by
the failures of his attempts to make
money but it was prospecting for gold
out west or the page typesetting machine
or the other schemes the games he
invented he always crash down but thank
goodness for us he always turned to
writing and lecturing to bring himself
back the mother Jane Lambton red-haired
brilliant illiterate Kentucky woman
probably gave him his a lot of his
capacities as a wisecracker and that's
one of the traits that i love so much
about him the SAS that kind of
compulsive why that's what makes him so
contemporary to me kind of his
great-grandfather lily allen and a lot
of ways and Jane was turned a good
phrase herself he nearly drowned in bear
creek several times since the kid and
when somebody asked her if she was
afraid he would drown she said no boy
made for hanging safe in water but at
the same time she had she had an
hysterical streak and she was you know
he lost several siblings as a young boy
he lost two before he was out of his
childhood and this affected Jane
terribly she would lead little Sammy
into the room and put his hand on the
cheek of his dead brother and then Sammy
would hallucinate sleepwalk and feel
guilty for the rest of his life about
what in his head was his responsibility
for the death so she gave him a way of
laughing but she also deepened the
terrorist he thought throughout his life
which of course increased his desire to
convert the terror to laughter so the
parents were not easy parents but they
probably support supplied a lot of the
ingredients for his art if he was alive
today he'd be on Oprah you know what
memoirs he wrote his terrible mother but
yes he was born Florence separate floor
sorry and how far how was he with the
handle wall and how far apart
Florida's is about 25 miles away from
Hannibal it's a little town on some
water called the salt river and that's
where of the Clemens has relatives
fetched up and they wrote back and said
come on here's a lot of land and John
headed out there he stayed there until
he was four and that's really where he
he wandered into that little universe of
slaves and and became suffuse with their
stories and their singing and then when
he moved to Hannibal he would come back
every summer and spend summers on the
farm and with those of us who think of
Mark Twain as a humorist need to be
reminded of his great lyric capacities
hero beautifully and with great
precision about those nights in the farm
with wind blowing the chestnuts onto the
roof and the fire making shadows on the
wall and uncle Daniel spinning the
stories and the great title cadences
that became Jim's voice and there he was
a wonderfully Larry greater and that
that came out of his love of place
it's interesting that Florida Missouri
no longer exists it's at the bottom of a
man-made lake that is called mark twain
lake theme park American strikes again
yeah research life too
from the body at night mother
we were of the same
the story is common and he was there
anything that you
the job 11 or 12
if I knew the answer that I wouldn't
tell you I'd be off in some fancy
country-house writing great literature
paper 400 it scandalizing it's
tantalizing to wonder about that you
know to think on the one hand how
ordinary he was someone in the 19th
century called him the classic American
ordinary mail plus genius kind of guys
who a guy who would go to ball games
William Dean Howells and had a short
temper and was really rough on people
who crossed him you know he would
whitelaw read the editor of The
herald-tribune of God on his bad side
and Mark Twain called an outlaw read for
the rest of his life he was very a very
nasty temper at the same time something
was unlocked something was unlocked at
the risk of i'll try to make this fast i
don't wanna bore you guys I know it's
hot in here i did some writing about Jim
Henson a few years ago creator of the
Muppets and I began to understand the
power of the puppet in releasing
creativity when you speak as an actor to
an audience you might not say as much as
the puppet will say since your concealed
I think there's something about the name
Mark Twain when he founded at age 27 or
28 when he hit on that pen name that had
the function of a puppet it became a
refracted way for him to talk and it
wasn't long after that it was ten years
after that that he stumbled upon or hit
upon the vernacular voice of hawk and I
think there are critics who I think
Wendell Berry has one has said that
huckleberry finn was a great genius who
inhabited inhabited a slightly lesser
genius named Mark Twain who inhabited a
businessman named Samuel Clemens so
every writer every artist yearns for
that magical event that creates the
voice that unlocks the gift inside
so I I can't tell you how it happened
but i think it was a combination of
unfortunately this seems to be the case
of trauma and terror and then finding
the redeeming conversion you know what I
mean that that it was happening at the
same time America is discovering the
power of the tall tale he was just
paying more attention than anybody else
it will always be a mystery but the
ingredients were there
no I never got something
yes experiences now looking back what
you do you think is most successful
huckleberry and words right which is
your paper well it will be either
huckleberry finn or life on the
Mississippi and the 1i you know I've
complained a lot in talking about this
book that american critics have bled the
life out of him by overanalyze him and
by applying you know political and
ideological overlays making him kind of
an unconscious representative man who
had all the race and gender biases of
his age and that gets a little extreme
on the other hand in the last 10 years
some of the most interesting criticism
about him has come out and that
criticism has kind of solved the mystery
of the last fifth of Huckleberry Finn
the so-called evasion chapters what
happens to gym on the Phelps farm after
he's Tom and Huck habit in their power
to liberate him and in fact he already
has been released by Miss Watson's will
but they put Tom puts him through all
kinds of paces and humiliations and
tortures and he never seems to quite get
free and a lot of people for years and
TS Eliot was one Hemingway was another
thought he just didn't know how to end
the book you get them on the river and
on the raft but how do you get them off
the river and what's the end it's now
becoming clear to many people that Mark
Twain was writing a very sophisticated
allegory of reconstruction blacks have
been emancipated on paper but the white
aristocracy embodied in tom sawyer kept
finding more and more ingenious ways of
keeping them down poll taxes literacy
tests redlined housing whatever whatever
form it took so I think that huckleberry
finn is interesting because it continues
to resonate and people continue to hate
it for different reasons with each
generation that tells you something of
its power to disturb so I like it
through that we are like life on the
Mississippi for the lyricism for the
accuracy of the recall and for these
great strange stories that he tells in
the second half
the book and these bursts of personal
memory that come out that i have found
parallels to in his literature the
shootings that i mentioned in the dead
corpse in his father's Law Office those
are the books that I think it's really
truly outlive their you know live beyond
their time
comes from good right
well they saying all the time I mean
that he he was the little boy Sammy was
in on the end of a two-hundred-year-old
culture of black humans in bondage and
the line and they were smart enough to
know that you cannot say what is in your
heart directly or you will be punished
or maybe you'll be killed for it if you
talk about missing your loved one who's
been sold down the river if you talk
about the Underground Railroad overtly
the sanctions were enormous and sudden
and Swift so all of these metaphors
began to accrete biblical imagery West
African patois product good Protestant
hymns and they all became a way of
saying something without appearing to
say it and somehow his children often do
Sammy could cut through it and he
accepted that duality which is always a
part of his temperament the duality the
lightness in the dark bad boy and the
good citizen and I think and he carried
that into the reaches of literature and
that's really i think what helped that's
that's not just black America that's the
American the American style i think you
can find the beginnings of rap in the
kind of verbal duels that people were
having the big men challenging each
other to fights got a lot of antecedents
to the life we live today he wasn't he
didn't live that long ago he died 25
years before Elvis was born
now you're asking his own
thank all of our powers are thinking a
wonderful to have these observations
about Twain's childhood being a young
right in the study of hardhome when it
comes a young and really make his life
father and husband as a writer and a
lecture so it's the perfect except
department of the library partnering
with us
you're always a wonderful partner we
enjoyed that very much and I wanted to
know that shop is open
mr. powers is available and he'll be
happy to find that we have a reception
on the old fortune house
thank you for coming
Ron powers has written eight other books
has also been a columnist for the
Chicago sun-times and GQ magazine this
book dangerous waters is published by
basic books online at basic

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. He was the son of Jane (née Lampton; 1803–1890), a native of Kentucky, and John Marshall Clemens (1798–1847), a Virginian. His parents met when his father moved to Missouri and were married in 1823.[7][8] Twain was the sixth of seven children, but only three of his siblings survived childhood: Orion (1825–1897); Henry (1838–1858); and Pamela (1827–1904). His sister Margaret (1833–1839) died when he was three, and his brother Benjamin (1832–1842) died three years later. Another brother, Pleasant (1828–1829), died at six months.[9] Twain was born two weeks after the closest approach to Earth of Halley's Comet. His ancestors were of Scots-Irish, English, and Cornish extraction.

When he was four, Twain's family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River that inspired the fictional town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Slavery, then legal in Missouri, was a theme Twain would explore in these writings.

In 1847, when Twain was 11, his father, by then an attorney and judge, died of pneumonia.[16] The next year Twain left school after the fifth grade[17] to become a printer's apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper Orion owned. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He joined the newly formed International Typographical Union, the printers union, and educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, finding wider information than at a conventional school.[18]

Twain describes in Life on the Mississippi how, when he was a boy, "there was but one permanent ambition" among his comrades: to be a steamboatman. "Pilot was the grandest position of all. The pilot, even in those days of trivial wages, had a princely salary – from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty dollars a month, and no board to pay." As Twain described it, the pilot's prestige exceeded that of the captain. The pilot had to "get up a warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and one-limbed cottonwood and every obscure wood pile that ornaments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and more than that, must ... actually know where these things are in the dark..." Steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby took on Twain as a "cub" pilot to teach him the river between New Orleans and St. Louis for $500, payable out of Twain's first wages after graduating. Twain studied the Mississippi, learning its landmarks, how to navigate its currents effectively, and how to "read the river" and its constantly shifting channels, reefs, submerged snags and rocks that would "tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever floated".[19] It was more than two years before he received his pilot's license. Piloting gave him his pen name, Mark Twain, from "mark twain", the leadsman's cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms (12 feet), which was safe water for a steamboat.

While training, Samuel convinced his younger brother Henry to work with him. Henry was killed on June 21, 1858, when the steamboat he was working on, the Pennsylvania, exploded. Twain had foreseen this death in a dream a month earlier,[20]:275 which inspired his interest in parapsychology; he was an early member of the Society for Psychical Research.[21] Twain was guilt-stricken and held himself responsible for the rest of his life.

Twain continued to work on the river and was a river pilot until the American Civil War broke out in 1861, and traffic along the Mississippi was curtailed. At the start of hostilities, Twain enlisted briefly in a Confederate local unit. Twain later wrote a sketch, "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed", that told how he and his friends had been Confederate volunteers for two weeks before disbanding. He then left for Nevada to work for Orion, who was Secretary of the Nevada Territory. Twain describes the episode in his book Roughing It.