Friday, September 23, 2011

Sad Bastards: Mark Twain

Hey, remember when I did this feature about classic authors and the Five Things You Should Know About Them so you can sound smart at parties? That is, if you party with people who care about such things. WHICH YOU SHOULD.

Why did I stop doing this? I dunno. Time for a resurrection! The Sad Bastards Feature Returneth! And since I just finished Huck Finn, we're gonna (re)start with Mark Twain. Here are Five Things etc etc...

1. His name ain't Mark Twain. Most people do know this- it's probably a fact stashed away in the dusty corners of your they-made-me-learn-this-in-6th-grade mind. His name was Samuel Clemens. Mark Twain was a pen named he got from his time as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi. "Mark twain" was a leadsman's call that indicated the water was at least 12 feet above the lead (depth sounder). It basically means "safe water" or "steer that big ass boat over here and you won't die much."

2. He was born on the day Halley's comet came 'round, and predicted he would die when it returned. In fact, he died the day after it's return because he was SECRETLY A WIZARD, HARRY. Twain also had a dream detailing the death of his brother in a steamboat explosion, which happened a month later. I mean, look at those whiskers: obviously a warlock of some kind. (edited to correct my stupid-ass misspelling of the comet's name)

Don't make me bust out my wand/walking stick, bitches.

3. He loved the ladies. Twain supported women's suffrage before it was cool. Damn hipster.

4. Twain was bad with money. Like, BAD with MONEY. He lost almost all his profits from his books' publications, along with all of his wife's money, in investments that went south. And not cute, mint-julep-on-the-veranda south, but like icky, icky south.

5. Twain was a member of the American Anti-Imperialist League. This was the opposite opinion he held as a young man, when he avidly supported American Imperialism. Twain is living (except he's not living) proof that the saying "if you're not a Democrat at 16, you have no heart; if you're not a Republican at 30, you have no brain" is, in fact, stupid.

If your party-going friends look suspicious of your factoid knowledge, quickly rattle of something about Twain having a degree from Oxford and about how he was a confused deist who frequently contradicted himself when discussing his religious beliefs. That should shut them up.


  1. Great facts! I knew the first two - I've always thought that the Hailey's Comet thing is fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cool--I love this feature. More, please!

    But FYI, the comet is Halley, not Hailey. Not that it matters.

  3. Love this list. Twain was a bit of a badass.

  4. I love learning about authors! I just finished a biography about Twain. The comet thing is pretty cool.

  5. He got better with the money thing, eventually. In fact, it was thanks to him that U.S.S. Grant's wife didn't have to live a bankrupted widow, after Grant died. Twain pushed the old General to finish his memoirs and backed it 150% in publication (otherwise, no one would have touched it). Turned out to be one of the best-selling Presidential autobiographies of all-time. 'Course... that didn't really help TWAIN'S financial situation at all, I guess.

    Twain's life-story always breaks my heart. The insane love-affair he had with his wife, who died so young ..and then his daughters. Ugh. It's no wonder his writing became so dark and cynical. 'Course, a lot of that was political, too.

  6. You have just inspired me to learn more about this guy.
    Really interesting! I like the comment about his daughters and wife. Should be an interesting biography.

  7. The hipster comment made me laugh so hard. I had no idea he was such a wizard, but honestly, it should surprise me.

  8. "In fact, he died the day after it's return because he was SECRETLY A WIZARD, HARRY." I just laughed so hard. At my desk. At work. While people stared.