Monday, April 19, 2010

1 Copyright, Fiction, Facts, and Two Fantastic Writers

Two of my favorite authors of all time--and who knew one was a huge fan of the other? Great stuff on copyright, novels, fiction and more.... Thanks to Story of the Week from The Library of America for An Interview with Mark Twain. 

Here's how it begins:

You are a contemptible lot, over yonder. Some of you are Commissioners, and some Lieutenant-Governors, and some have the V. C., and a few are privileged to walk about the Mall arm in arm with the Viceroy; but I have seen Mark Twain this golden morning, have shaken his hand, and smoked a cigar—no, two cigars—with him, and talked with him for more than two hours! Understand clearly that I do not despise you; indeed, I don’t. I am only very sorry for you, from the Viceroy downward. To soothe your envy and to prove that I still regard you as my equals, I will tell you all about it.

They said in Buffalo that he was in Hartford, Conn.; and again they said “perchance he is gone upon a journey to Portland”; and a big, fat drummer vowed that he knew the great man intimately, and that Mark was spending the summer in Europe—which information so upset me that I embarked upon the wrong train, and was incontinently turned out by the conductor three-quarters of a mile from the station, amid the wilderness of railway tracks. Have you ever, encumbered with great-coat and valise, tried to dodge diversely-minded locomotives when the sun was shining in your eyes? But I forgot that you have not seen Mark Twain, you people of no account! . . .
My favorite quotes?
“I never read novels myself,” said he, “except when the popular persecution forces me to— when people plague me to know what I think of the last book that every one is reading.”

“And how did the latest persecution affect you?”

“Robert?” said he, interrogatively.

I nodded.

“I read it, of course, for the workmanship. That made me think I had neglected novels too long— that there might be a good many books as graceful in style somewhere on the shelves; so I began a course of novel reading. I have dropped it now; it did not amuse me. But as regards Robert, the effect on me was exactly as though a singer of street ballads were to hear excellent music from a church organ. I didn’t stop to ask whether the music was legitimate or necessary. I listened, and I liked what I heard. I am speaking of the grace and beauty of the style.
“Personally I never care for fiction or story-books. What I like to read about are facts and statistics of any kind. If they are only facts about the raising of radishes, they interest me. Just now, for instance, before you came in”— he pointed to an encyclop√¶dia on the shelves— “I was reading an article about ‘Mathematics.’ Perfectly pure mathematics.

“My own knowledge of mathematics stops at ‘twelve times twelve,’ but I enjoyed that article immensely. I didn’t understand a word of it; but facts, or what a man believes to be facts, are always delightful. That mathematical fellow believed in his facts. So do I. Get your facts first, and”— the voice dies away to an almost inaudible drone— “then you can distort ’em as much as you please.”

Read the full article here:
Happy reading and  have a great Monday,

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