Saturday, January 06, 2007

Morality is for sissies

Mark Twain's Book For Bad Boys and Girls
Edited by R. Kent Rasmussen

I found this in an otherwise innocuous personal library while house- and dog-sitting for a friend's family. They went to Puerto Rico, I ate all their leftovers. All I would need to do to earn Samuel Langhorne Clemens' approval is cause irreparable damage to their home and get them to pay me for the favor.

Rasmussen (hereafter Razzie) has collected a short stack of writings culled fom Twain's extensive career. Some are full and unedited short essays and speeches, some are excepts from longer works, including his unpublished half-million-word autobiography. It seems that of all the subjects upon which he wrote, his favorite was himself. There's no telling how much of it is true, but many of the stories of his own life found their way into his fiction as well. Even some of the selections in this book are repeats of others, one telling the autobiographical side, the next how Tom Sawyer did it.

Remember--this is the work of Mark Twain, trimmed down and distilled to the finest of his advice to America's youth, and riddled with tidbits like "It is better to take what doesn't belong to you than to let it lie around neglected," and "you should never do anything wicked and then lay it on your brother, when it is just as convenient to lay it on some other boy."

It's not a morality guide so much as advice on how to enjoy misbehavior as much as possible, tongue-in-cheek mockery of real morality guides such as those to which he was subjected in Sunday school, and reminiscences of what he got away with doing--laced with recounts of what happened when he was fingered. Good stuff, full of his dry wit. And it kept me busy for a couple hours while it rained.

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posted by reyn at 2:05 PM


Blogger Elizabeth said...

This is going on my "To Read" list. I adore Mark Twain.

Any chance of you taking his advice, swiping the book, and shipping it to me? I mean, if it's lying around neglected...

"Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

1/07/2007 10:22 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Wow, this sounds like an excellent book. It's going to have to go on my "To Read" list too.

1/08/2007 8:16 AM  

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