Friday, September 19, 2008

Mark Twain might laugh, bitterly ..

at the news that his house, long an icon in Hartford, is in dire financial trouble and in danger of shutting its doors. Or maybe he wouldn't. It's hard to say, because Twain was such a complicated fellow. He loved the his Victorian Gingerbread Tiffany-filled house with its trick doors and solarium and children's wing where his daughters played. But he also was the keenest American observer of our own human follies and hubris. He nearly bankrupted himself in that house, and he'd appreciate the parallel irony that the house has almost bankrupted other people who love it. The Twain House management apparently overreached a bit in a grand plan to modernize the grounds, adding a lovely gallery and cafeteria and shop, among other things like administrative offices. Read it about it in this article from the New York Times.

Still, Hartford needs the house, and American literary culture needs the house, and if the administrators overreached they did so for the right reasons. That's why authors from throughout the region are gathering this coming week for a reading in support of the house. Please, if you are nearby, go. If you are not and can afford to send a little money, do that, too. Twain was, according to Hemingway, the first true American writer. He was the first writer to put the American vernacular to artistic use in the novel. Let's not wait around for the Federal Reserve to bail out the house and preserve Twain's legacy. Because it won't. It's up to us.