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Letters from the Earth

REVIEW ¾ Letters from the Earth Nd the many curious natures of man This collection was so controversial that his daughter prohibited its publication until 52 years after his deat In the last year I ve taken great care in crafting my reading goals towards something that will satisfy my need to be a thoroughly educated guy I ve been an avid reader since my early teens and as a byproduct I ve gained a relatively good grasp of many key books However lately the gaps in my education have really become a bother It is with that said that I put forward Mark Twain as exhibit A Letters from the Earth is my first substantial introduction to him I think I read Tom Sawyer when I was really young but I mention it mostly as a limp attempt to save face And wouldn t yo know it instead of obviously starting there I begin with a collection of unfinished stories sketchy essays and other miscellaneous material that was published posthumously But maybe starting this way is a good thing This work represents Twain at his most mature and also maybe his most honest I couldn t help but think while I was reading it that this may be the best way to get to know him as a thinker before I get to know him as author In the primary set of letters that share the book s title Twain meticulously eviscerates the logical underpinnings of Christianity While reading it I found it difficult to ascertain how far Twain s anger goes He saves most of his wrath for humanity but the ultimate nature of God doesn t get away unscathed either Near the beginning his portrait of God during creation as witnessed by the three angels is kind of funny but not without a hint of reverence for divinity However his distinction between Biblical law and the law of God offers little hope for a universally just creator Man s nature if it can be traced to a divine origin ultimately does a disservice to both parties if the two are mirrors of each other Then again maybe Twain is simply illustrating that when it comes to this subject humanity simply has to give up trying to codify the unknowable This to me is somewhat confirmed by the tone of Satan s curiosity It s like he s saying get a load of these dumbasses when he describes biblical theology as a backwards set of moral rules that uniformly contradict human nature Man is wired to enjoy sex yet the Bible says we are to deny its gravitational pull on us Heaven is a Christian s ultimate goal yet it seems devoid of any intellectual value whatsoever Heaven in Twain s estimation is a world where people sing and play harps in what amounts to some celestial blast of idiotic white noise I don t think the letters should be seen as a tract against humanity s natural inclination towards the spiritual nor do I sense that it s ultimately saying the most reasonable path is all out rejection of God No this is a renunciation of an institution for the most part Perhaps the most scandalous part of it all is the particular angel Twain chooses to take the potshots Strangely the Satan here doesn t refer to the fact that he is basically Earth s cosmic villain This is a Satan that is simply reporting back to his buddies he is stripped from his dark side in the same way Twain is stripping God from the Christian framework The God that remains after this split is still problematic but also honest The rest of this collection is mostly taken from the last 20 or so years of Twain s life The Papers of the Adam Family offer excerpts from the diaries of the first family on earth the most interesting of which are Eve s entries Her portrait of Adam as the humble first scientist and her notes on a crumbling civilization in the years before the flood were some of my favorite moments in the entire book I also enjoyed Letters To the Earth where heaven issues an itemized receipt of answered prayers to a miserly coal baron Cooper s Prose Style is a hilarious but maybe mean spirited attack on James Feni Cooper s literary crimes The Damned Human Race takes on the notion that we are the pinnacle of evolutionary development and demolishes the idea that our sense of morality makes us better than animals Finally the unfinished novella The Great Dark is something altogether different from everything that comes before and it s a real shame that it s basically a rough draft that was ultimately abandoned When it s really working at first you definitely gather an HG Wells vibe in this story about the veiled nature of ultimate realitySo who is this Twain I ve finally taken the time to meet I hesitate to make a broad assessment because I have not read one sentence from any of his biographies nor do I plan to sit down with the newly published Autobiography until I ve read of his material Let s just say that he ultimately comes across as bitter in this instance You sense he is very frustrated with how inconsiderate hypocritical and vile people are to one another and how our primary religious structures seem to only amplify these traits This is not a book for someone that is offended easily because his critiues are venomous in certain passages and I must admit I was mildly surprised at how far he was willing to take his arguments Maybe this says about my preconceptions of Mark Twain going in and perhaps as I read I will decipher a better understanding of his overall outlook uotesIt is most difficult to to understand the disposition of the Bible God it is such a confusion of contradictions of watery instabilities and iron firmnesses of goody goody abstract morals made out of words and concreted hell born ones made out of acts of fleeting kindnesses repented of in permanent malignities Letters From the Earth Letter VIThe Biblical law says Thou shalt not KillThe law of God planted in the heart of man at his birth says Though shalt Kill Letters From the Earth Letter XSusy Papa I should think you would take pupils No I have no desire for riches Honest poverty and a conscience torpid through virtuous inaction are to me than corner lots and praise A Cat TaleNo work of art can be intelligently and enjoyably contemplated unless you know about tone and feeling unless you know all about tone and feeling and can tell at a glance which is the tone and which is the feeling From an English Notebook Old Saint Paul s


REVIEW ¾ Letters from the Earth Twain on a somewhat personal level Penniless and having just lost his wife and one of his children Twain turns to writing about God Christianity a Cynics bow down before the idol of your seething ire Mark Twain s critiue of the Earth s entanglement with religion as told by an oft banished bad boy of heaven we all know but not so well as we thought singes eyelashes at times A series of letters written by Satan himself during a term of expulsion from heaven depict the sad hilarity of mankind s relationship with it s creator Satan s outside perspective yields Twain an opportunity to express his deep criticism of god fearing culture It begins This is a strange place an extraordianry place and interesting There is nothing resembling it at home The people are all insane the other animals are all insane the earth is insane Nature itself is insane At the time of his writing this manuscript he purportedly proclaimed in a letter to a friend This book will never be publishedin fact it couln t be because it would be a felony The theme of repression is expressed in Satan s own banishment and Twain s choice of perspective being eventual pure evil along with his belief the manuscript would never see the light of day push him farther in his advance on common decency than we mostly jr high Twain excursioners are used to Moralists will object but if like me you like to see the gloves come off this antiuated step over the line will take you ten rounds at least Also in this volume such things as a dressing down of James Fenni Cooper s prose style and a rousing Unfinished Burlesue of Books on Etiuette which explains how a gentleman should conduct himself when rescuing a maiden in a fire This is the backwater of Twain s writing and its swampy atmosphere can bog you down in places but the strange creations you find in this volume show dimensions of the writer that were never allowed to become apparent in his lifetime

Mark Twain ✓ 1 REVIEW

REVIEW ¾ Letters from the Earth Letters from the Earth is a collection of short stories written during a downtrodden period in Twains life and published posthumously Here we see Do any of us die having said everything we wanted to say Or having said everything that needed to be said Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain certainly did not When he died in 1910 he left behind a substantial cache of notebooks letters and unfinished manuscripts much of which turned out to be a treasure trove of brilliant satirical and existential prose Herein lies the problem How do you publish what amounts to be three pages of notes here eighteen pages of an incomplete essay there twenty six pages of an unfinished story over there in a coherent logical related format You can t What you do is what Bernard DeVoto has done you combine a selection of the best bits annotate it with explanatory footnotes and send it out into the worldIf science exterminates a disease which has been working for God it is God that gets the credit and all the pulpits break into grateful advertising raptures and call attention to how good he is Yes HE has done it Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it That is nothing the pulpit says he was thinking about it the whole time When exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age long tyranny and set a nation free the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God s work and invite people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks to him for itI m impressed with Twain than ever before His satire was as sharp as any written today and it s no big surprise that his publishers fought hard to keep so much of this out of the public eye It wasn t until decades after his passing that Letters from the Earth saw the light of day If God had had a motto it would have read Let no innocent person escape You remember what he did in the time of the flood There were multitudes and multitudes of tiny little children and he knew they had never done him any harm but their relations had and that was enough for him he saw the wild terror in their eyes he saw that agony of appeal in the mothers faces which would have touched any heart but his but he was after the guiltless particularly and he drowned those poor little chapsNot all of Letters is so biblically condescending If blasphemy isn t your thing there s an irreverent slight on Britain s Prince Albert Or how about a short story on the fallacious faculties of felines Whatever your particular taste there is surely something here that you can engage with that will broaden your perspective and just maybe challenge your preconceptions about one of America s most beloved writers PERSONAL NOTE This being my 100th review on GoodReads I looked up some interesting and kinda sad statistics 21 21% of my reviews have 0 views My most popular review is the short blurb I wrote about Antoine de Saint Exup ry s The Little Prince My least popular review according to whatever algorithm GoodReads employs is on The Man of Bronze by Kenneth Robeson

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  • Letters from the Earth
  • Mark Twain
  • English
  • 25 March 2020
  • 9781615459865