Relevant Quote #60

"Too few critics of his own kind have written about Mark Twain. What he suffers from in the midst of this twentieth and American century is a lack of peers. He needs somebody like Walter Bagehot or even H.L. Mencken or James Gibbons Huneker. He was a man of the world. He was a man of the nineteenth-century American world where Presidents chewed tobacco and billionaires couldn't spell and vast audiences flocked to hear Bob Ingersoll (whom Twain in this book calls 'the silver-tongued infidel') and the labor movement was dominated by another silver-tongued cornball named Terence Powderly, who could do nothing but orate, and Thanatopsis was considered the most philosophical utterance in the English language, and a small gang of merciless and ignorant brigands put through America's Five-Year Plans, and finally 'overtook and surpassed' Europe. He was a man of that world that Henry James fled in uncomprehending horror. We have only to look abroad to understand exactly the kind of world it was. It was a world of driving expansion and brutal hard work that brooked no interference or dissent. A world of 'primitive accumulation'."
-- Kenneth Rexroth


Rob said...

Along with Bierce, this man changed my opinion of Historical America as taught in school - they wrote wonderfully and with a jaundiced eye toward conventions, something all my favorite writers seem to have in common, but they did it early, and often. Thank God.


Tom Sutpen said...

Hear hear. There are far too few writers today with either a gift for invective or a healthy cynicism. Somehow the definition of serious writing got terribly narrow, with purely personal expression being prized far above (and segregated from, I might add) the broadly social. Without seeming grandiose, it's what I try to do in my film writing and, believe you me, it is not appreciated by my confreres, such as they are.