The dusty, quiet riverboat town of Hannibal, settled in the early 1800s on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, had an uncanny resemblance to Twain’s fictitious hometown of St. Petersburg, right down to protagonist Tom Sawyer’s infamous white-washed picket fence;
Who of us doesn’t identify with Tom Sawyer?
“But the greatest distraction came in fine weather, when through the open window drifted the drowsy summer sounds from Holliday’s Hill, inviting a boy to play hooky as Sam often did, swayed by the sight of idle boys like the Blankenships, ‘whose fathers ain’t able to send them to school,’ playing and chasing butterflies on the slopes of ‘that distant boy-Paradise.’”
Mark Twain at Work, Bernard De Voto, “Boy’s Manuscript,” p. 37; Autobiography, II, 179
Alas, it’s a shame hard times (my two sisters and I shared a single bedroom and slept in one double bed; six family members shared a single bathroom; AND I walked 5 miles to school, uphill both ways!) don’t guarantee literary fame.
Holy hand times! A fifth grader!
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. – Mark Twain
But that boy, the one who grew up just a stone’s throw from the mighty Mississippi, never abandoned his dream of becoming a river pilot. Dreams are what keep us all just this side of insanity.
His wit and wisdom are legendary. Maybe it’s his literary style, particularly suited to travel writing as in anecdotal and digressive without much regard to structure of plot (guilty as charged; but I digress), that has always inspired and appealed to me.
That he was a cantankerous icon in his later years, known for his white hair, white suit and folksy demeanor gives me hope.
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