Today is Twain's birthday
and Google has done a clever thing. It is also Churchill's birthday. They both smoked cigars, by the way. I always hesitate to say much about Twain, have the same problem with Shakespeare. They are too big, too important, too capacious. The human condition demands a Shakespeare. The new human condition, the American condition, demands a Twain. Everyone in the world has always loved Tom and Huck and Jim and the big river and the possibilities. Regardless of the problem, laughter was everywhere, and this is now known to be the American way. (Lincoln of course was--essentially--a professional comic.) Even Nietzsche recognized some of this virtue. He wrote this after he read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:
"The American way of laughing does me good, especially this sort of sturdy seaman like Marc Twain. I have been unable to laugh anymore at anything German." Tom Sawyer
appeared in 1876, as did Untimely Meditations. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
was published in 1885, the same year as the final version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Twain (1890): "We are called a nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear the loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty."
This is one of my favorites as it applies so well to so many people in politics and, i think, is a great statement on the principle of consent of the governed: "As near as I can make out, geniuses think they know it all, and so they won't take people's advice, but always go their own way, which makes everybody despise them, and that is perfectly natural. If they was humbler, and listened and tried to learn, it would be better for them."--Huck Finn in "Tom Sawyer Abroad"