Friday, July 30, 2010

Scholarly Pursuits

At Boston University on August 20-22, three staff members of The Mark Twain House & Museum will be giving lectures at the Twain/Tolstoy Symposium. Mallory Howard will speak on Twain's marginalia, Julia Pistell will give a lecture on wit in Twain's nonfiction, and our Chief Curator Patti Phillipon will deliver the keynote address. We're all very excited and a bit nervous to collaborate with so many fantastic scholars.

This is Julia writing today's blog post, and I have been working on my lecture every day for the last week or so. I'm fairly new to the Twain House, and much of my time is spent doing things like researching famous moustaches and organizing the logistics of writing workshops, so I'm trying to catch up on my scholarly work. I'm currently reading the Justin Kaplan biography Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, and I've already written about several other Twain biographies is a previous post. I've worked for the Twain House for a year now, and have picked up what feels like a lot of information about Sam's legacy and work. Yet, I can't help but feel that I will never be a real Twain scholar. There's just so much to know.

It's also a horse of a different color to become a Twain expert as opposed to, say, a J.D. Salinger expert. Twain wrote so much, and an absolutely insane amount of letters, and has captivated the American imagination for about 140 years. There are so many experts that have come before us, what does it take to throw a hat in the ring?

My favorite line in the Kaplan biography is the following: "Recognizing that Orion was bound by the laws of his nature to a lifetime fickleness of purpose and a butterfly vagrancy, Sam once meant to reassure him that there was no reason why a kaleidoscope should not have as good a time as a telescope." I've decided that my current kaleidoscopic view of Twain is lovely in its own way, and an excellent jumping-off point for becoming more telescopic.

So what do you think, loyal readers? At what point does someone become an expert? A scholar? An aficionado? A Twainiac? I'm going to keep thinking about it, but I'd love to hear your thoughts, too.

-- Julia

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Letter from a Fan

We asked one of our most frequent Mark Twain House facebook commenters about her enthusiasm for Twain. She wrote us this lovely letter. Thanks, Marie!

Good afternoon!

Well, I was asked why I am so fascinated by the Mark Twain House, and all it entails. Let me share some of my thoughts on this.

First, it is exciting to know that the Mark Twain house, and museum, is only about 30 minutes from me, here in Ct. It makes me proud, as well, because he gave the world so much.

Next, I am a writer, and when I step into the M.T. house, I step into his world, and relate to many things: he was a deep thinker, and writes of his beliefs, interests, and things he wanted to share so much. He learned to take care of himself growing up, as I did, and he grew up by the river--I grew up by the Atlantic Ocean.

During his time, there were slaves, and although we no longer have slaves, I am a slave to my writing, many times kept captive, because there is so much I would like to share with the world, but held back.

For me, I absolutely love anything from the 1800s: antiques, the styles, the way they lived, the decor, the beauty of the homes, and all. To step into Samuel Clemen's home, and visualize him and his family living there, or the family sitting at the table for meals, or know he reclined in that house creating stories and more, profoundly warms my heart.

It all may sound corny to you, but he was an every day person who achieved a goal in life--writing and sharing his innermost thoughts, and I am the same, just not a well-known.

Honestly, I only know of what I relate to in what I have mentioned. When I worked in a middle school, and we talked about Samuel Clemens, I learned quite a bit, and the wheels started turning in my head because I related to many things about him.

When I realized the Mark Twain House was not that far, I couldn't wait to get there, and to actually step foot into the past. I have visited a few times, and each time I am almost speechless to know that I walked the same stairs he and the family did, be in the rooms that he actually was in, and more.

How I would love to sit down with him today and experience how he thinks, and maybe, realize that we are both alike as writers; the good days, the bad days, the writer's block, how he got his ideas--I bet I have been through the same things he has.

To think that his beautiful house only cost about $40,000 back then. Could you imagine what it would be worth today, with all those rooms and all the land, as well as the servants house (?) etc.

I am a deep thinker, but down to earth. I think Samuel Clemens was a little bit eccentric. However, in my closing thoughts, I want to say that I feel one in the same with someone whom I have never met, but have the chance to visit the Mark Twain House whenever I want, and be "wow'd" because maybe one day someone will be feeling the same about me. I am not sure he wrote poetry, but most of my work is poetry--a therapy for me; I have been writing since I was 8 years old. I am only now working on children's stories, a memoir, other books, and worked for newspapers, writing feature stories--I believe Samuel Clemens also worked for newspaper outfits.

When I visit, I take pictures of as many things as I am allowed at the Mark Twain House, and use my photos as postcards ( as well as hundreds of other "kodak moments"), and love to send them to children I know, elderly, the lonely, the sick, shut-in's, etc. and share with them something special, teaching them, and giving them something special to experience. Most of them will never get there, so I am very lucky that I can!

If anyone is interested receiving, or know of someone who would like to receive my "Mark Twain" postcards, or other postcards because they are shut-in's or lonely, etc, please let me know. I do a postcard/card/letter ministry at no charge--it is my hobby.

Know that the Mark Twain House is getting some free publicity! It makes me happy to do this--if Samuel Clemens only knew!

Thank you for your time.

Marie Serio DellaValle

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

10 Moustaches We Love

Tomorrow's Summer Social and Moustache Party will be just that-- a party. Amongst all of these lectures, musical tributes, family events, writing workshops, and sold-out tours, we wanted to give a nod to Sam's love of a nice evening socializing.

There are so many fantastic elements to this event I can't even bring myself to put them into full sentences:

- Only $10 and $5 for members!
- Ice Cream from the UConn Dairy Bar included in admission (locally made!)
- One Huckleberry Vodka Lemonade ALSO included in admission (courtesy of 44 North!)
- Puppeteer Anne Cubberly will be on hand to help you make your own felt moustache
- Catie Talarski of WNPR will be on hand to judge best Moustaches (real and fake)
- Locally renowned band String Theorie will play on the porch of the house
- Bocce, badminton, Twister, horseshoes and more to play on the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center lawn
- Scrabble, Balderdash, chess, and more to play indoors if it rains!
- A cash bar no matter what! The happiest happy hour of all!
- 5-8 PM on a Wednesday-- I'd call this the best happy hour ever.

But without further ado, I present to you ten moustaches we love.

1. Salvador Dali. If you're going to wear a moustache, might as well accessorize with an ocelot.

2. Charlie Chaplin. Just classic.

3. This guy! Keep watching for the 'stache.

4. The fine folks at Movember. This is actually a LOT of moustaches, but the cause is awesome and you can participate all over the world.

5. My friend Rachel's dog's moustache.

6. Sexy fish moustaches.

7. Fun uncles of the world. I have a fun uncle with a moustache, do you?

8. Wow!

9. This person is serious about his efforts.

10. Of course...

See you tomorrow evening, rain or shine!

- The Mark Twain House & Museum