Happy New Year 2017!

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“New Year’s Day — Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.”
– Mark Twain, Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863

Mark Twain on Christmas.

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“The xmas holidays have this high value: that they remind Forgetters of the Forgotten, & repair damaged relationships.” – letter to Carlotte Welles, 30 December 1907

Someone at this Bible store didn’t read this Mark Twain quote closely.

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Anyone who has read Twain’s writings and orations, especially in the latter years of his life, would know he was no friend of Christianity.

“A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell — mouths mercy, and invented hell — mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!” — Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain

“Jesus died to save men — a small thing for an immortal to do, & didn’t save many, anyway; but if he had been damned for the race that would have been an act of a size proper to a god, & would have saved the whole race. However, why should anybody want to save the human race, or damn it either? Does God want its society? Does Satan?” — Mark Twain

That’s OK, though. No true believer would let themselves be swayed by a heathen like Mark Twain anyway. Still, might want to avoid using him to promote your religion in the future.

After 100 years, Mark Twain’s autobiography will finally be published.

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Mark Twain and I already own a number of biographies and collections of his writings. One of the things he wrote that I’ve been looking forward to reading for, literally, decades is his own autobiography. The reason I haven’t read it already is because Mark Twain left instructions that it wasn’t to be published until 100 years after his death:

The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.

That milestone has now been reached, and in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography. The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.

Scholars are divided as to why Twain wanted the first-hand account of his life kept under wraps for so long. Some believe it was because he wanted to talk freely about issues such as religion and politics. Others argue that the time lag prevented him from having to worry about offending friends.

Bist of his autobiography have appeared in other books, including some that billed themselves as being autobiographies, but more than half of the original material has never been published in book form. People who have seen the writings already, which was possible if you were willing to make the trip to the Berkeley Bancroft research library, say that Twain had a lot to say that is surprisingly vitriolic:

“He had doubts about God, and in the autobiography, he questions the imperial mission of the US in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He’s also critical of [Theodore] Roosevelt, and takes the view that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. Twain also disliked sending Christian missionaries to Africa. He said they had enough business to be getting on with at home: with lynching going on in the South, he thought they should try to convert the heathens down there.”

In other sections of the autobiography, Twain makes cruel observations about his supposed friends, acquaintances and one of his landladies.

Oh yes, I’m looking forward to that. No word yet on when to expect it to hit store shelves, but I’ll definitely be picking it up once it does.

Mark Twain on God.

“A God who could make good children as easily a bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell—mouths mercy, and invented hell—mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!”

—Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger