INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It finally happened last weekend in Angels Camp, Calif. The first volume of the balance of Mark Twain’s autobiography, several hundred pages that he asked be withheld until 100 years after his death, went on sale to an anxious public.We offer this tantalizing sneak preview…“…there are two separate and distinct kinds of Christian morals, so separate, so distinct, so unrelated that they are no more kin to each other than are archangels and politicians. The one kind is Christian private morals, the other is Christian public morals.The loyal observance of Christian private morals has made this Nation what it is -a clean and upright people in its private domestic life, an honest and honorable people in its private commercial life; no alien nation can claim superiority over it in these regards, no critic, foreign or domestic, can challenge the validity of this truth. During 363 days in the year the American citizen is true to his Christian private morals, and keeps undefiled the nation’s character at its best and highest; then in the other two days of the year he leaves his Christian private morals at home, and carries his Christian public morals to the tax office and the polls, and does the best he can to damage and undue his whole year’s faithful and righteous worth.”Mark Twain’s 2010 Motherlode Festival featured a symposium of Twain scholars speaking to the freshly minted autobiography. “Humor is the wheel on the opera glass that Twain uses to focus our attention on the serious subjects at hand.” offered one scholar. Insightful observations and assessments flowed forth like Eagle Falls flows forth in the month of May.The symposium was followed by a presentation of Ron Powers’ powerful play, “Sam andamp; Laura,” presented by the University of Missouri Drama Department, an artistic triumph that will play alongside “Is He Dead” for many seasons to come…Over the years I’ve had the distinct pleasure of interacting on stage with notables from Thomas Jefferson to Frederick Douglass and Gertrude Stein, but not until last Saturday night in Angels Camp had I shared the stage with another Mark Twain. Sonoma’s Pat Kaunert, and I pulled a couple chairs together, so close together that we could cue each other with our shoulders, and waxed philosophical on human nature through Mark Twain’s eyes as we saw it. This was the first time to our knowledge that two Twain’s had appeared on the same stage, and I should say it was the most fun I’ve had in the white suit since presenting “The Diary of Adam andamp; Eve” with my adorable wife.I managed to get out of Calaveras with some hardware, a plaque presented to Mark Twain by the California Press Association for journalistic excellence in California. In part the plaque reads, “The Calaveras Prospect report of his death in 1910 pointed with special pride to the fact that ‘California’s appreciation of his genius gave him his first start in the literary world.’ The Prospect’s eulogy also noted that ‘through all his writings there is seen the effect of his early association in the west, and his humor is particularly western in its character.’”The good news for Nevada is, Volume One of Mark Twain’s 2010 Autobiography is now on sale at Sundance Bookstore in Reno, while they last.— McAvoy Layne is an Incline Village resident who visits area schools as the ghost of Mark Twain. Learn more at ghostoftwain.com.
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