Category Archives: B – READING

READINGAUGUST 2015

26168. (Cather­ine Free­man & Deb­o­rah Mail­man) Going Bush — Adven­tures Across
. . . . . Indige­nous Aus­tralia
26169. (Aditya Adhikari & Bhaskar Gau­tam) Impunity and Polit­i­cal Account­abil­ity in Nepal
26170. (Mario Alinei) The Celtic Ori­gin of Lat. rota and Its Impli­ca­tions for the Pre­his­tory of
. . . . . Europe [arti­cle]
26171. (Mar­tin Gilens) Test­ing The­o­ries of Amer­i­can Pol­i­tics: Elites, Inter­est Groups, and
. . . . . Aver­age Cit­i­zens [arti­cle]
26173. (Joseph Csic­sila) John S. Tuckey’s Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan [arti­cle]
26174. (John Sut­ton Tuckey) Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan: The Writ­ing of The Mys­te­ri­ous
. . . . . Stranger
26175. (Li Liu) The Chi­nese Neolithic — Tra­jec­to­ries to Early States
26176. (Sheri­dan Le Fanu) The Mur­dered Cousin [story]
26177. (Bar­bara Yorke) Kings and King­doms of Early Anglo-Saxon Eng­land Read more »

Twain’s Mysterious Stranger

15-08-08 READING Mysterious Stranger coverSome famous books are obvi­ous mas­ter­pieces, most have a mix­ture of mer­its and flaws, but a few are just plain weird. In the last cat­e­gory, few would hes­i­tate to place Mark Twain’s Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger. Even attempt­ing to find and read a copy can be a con­fus­ing task. Twain’s last novel existed in a num­ber of frag­men­tary, unfin­ished ver­sions, writ­ten in between 1897 and 1908. None were pub­lished in his life­time. His lit­er­ary execu­tor, Albert Bigelow Paine, and Fred­er­ick Duneka, an edi­tor at Harper & Broth­ers, cob­bled together a ver­sion and pub­lished it in 1916. This is the ver­sion that became known to the pub­lic. I have just reread this 1916 ver­sion in its orig­i­nal edi­tion, The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger — A Romance by Mark Twain with Illus­tra­tions by N.C.Wyeth [shown at left]. Wyeth’s illus­tra­tions add greatly to the plea­sure. He was one of the great­est of book illus­tra­tors in a period that boasted Kay Niel­son, Howard Pyle, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rack­ham. How­ever, this edi­tion took extra­or­di­nary lib­er­ties with Twain’s work, a fact which was not made plain until 1963, when John S. Tucker pub­lished Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan: The Writ­ing of The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger. Twain had first attempted the story in 1897, leav­ing an unti­tled frag­ment [now called the St. Peters­burg Frag­ment]. Between 1897 and 1900, Twain pro­duced a more sub­stan­tial man­u­script which he called The Chron­i­cle of Young Satan. In 1898, he pro­duced a short and much very dif­fer­ent text which he called School­house Hill, incor­po­rat­ing ele­ments from the first two. Finally, between 1902 and 1908, Twain pro­duced an almost com­plete ver­sion which he titled No. 44, the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger: Being an Ancient Tale Found in a Jug and Freely Trans­lated from the Jug. Tucker’s schol­ar­ship revealed that Paine and Duneka had relied pri­mar­ily on the ear­lier Chron­i­cle of Young Satan, had removed sub­stan­tial por­tions, changed names, char­ac­ters, added bits writ­ten by them­selves, and pasted the last chap­ter of Twain’s final ver­sion onto the pas­tiche. None of these extreme alter­ations was acknowl­edged, an act of lit­er­ary van­dal­ism and fraud that went uncor­rected until the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Press pub­lished three of the orig­i­nal man­u­scripts in 1969. No.44, the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger, Twain’s final ver­sion, did not see pop­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion until 1982, and I have finally read this author­i­ta­tive text. 15-08-08 READING Wyeth illo 1

It reveals a work even more pecu­liar than the 1916 ver­sion. The story is set in the year 1490, in a fic­tional Aus­trian vil­lage. The nar­ra­tor is a sixteen-year-old vil­lage boy named August Feld­ner, an appren­tice in a print-shop. Twain, who was him­self a printer’s appren­tice in Han­ni­bal, Mis­souri when he was a boy, fills the nar­ra­tive with the arcana of the print­ing trade. The print shop’s mas­ter is a sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, but there are sev­eral vil­lains: the master’s shrewish and schem­ing wife, a fraud­u­lent magician-alchemist, and a per­se­cut­ing priest. The appren­tices, among whom August counts for lit­tle, are a mixed bag of char­ac­ters, but all are obsessed with the perquisites and peck­ing order of the trade. Twain takes every occa­sion to demon­strate the super­sti­tious and cred­u­lous men­tal­ity of the time, using his well-honed satir­i­cal style. But he also evokes the inno­cence of child­hood and the hum­ble plea­sures or vil­lage life. Twain began writ­ing this ver­sion while he was stay­ing in a small Swiss vil­lage, which he likened to Han­ni­bal in his diary. Into this fic­tional com­mu­nity there sud­denly arrives a mys­te­ri­ous stranger, a boy appar­ently of August’s age, bedrag­gled, seek­ing food and shel­ter, for which he offers to work. When asked his name, he gives it as “Num­ber 44, New Series 864,962.” Twain dwells on the boy’s bewitch­ing beauty. Befriend­ing August, and tak­ing him into his con­fi­dence, he reveals him­self as an “angel”, in fact a rel­a­tive of Satan him­self (Satan, of course, being the rebel angel), and exist­ing out­side of space and time. He com­mu­ni­cates tele­phath­i­cally with August, teaches him how to make him­self invis­i­ble, brings him arti­cles from the future, and whisks him to moun­tain tops and China in an instant. They travel to the past. He also shows August humanity’s hor­rors, includ­ing the burn­ing alive of a “witch”, the tragic lives of the poor, and the grim results of alter­nate time-lines of his­tory. He seems utterly obliv­i­ous to August’s notions of pro­pri­ety, piety, and ethics. When No.44’s dili­gence earns him a posi­tion as appren­tice, the other appren­tices go on strike in resent­ment, sab­o­tag­ing an urgent print­ing job. No.44 con­jures up an army of dopple­gangers who do the work, and there is a comic bat­tle in which each char­ac­ter fights his own dupli­cate. Finally, No.44 is burnt as a witch, only to reap­pear to August and explain to him that:

Noth­ing exists; all is a dream. God — man — the world, — the sun, the moon, the wilder­ness of stars: a dream, all a dream, they have no exis­tence. Noth­ing exists save empty space — and you!”… “And you are not you — you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought. I myself have no exis­tence, I am but a dream — your dream, crea­ture of your imag­i­na­tion. In a moment you will have real­ized this, then you will ban­ish me from your visions and I shall dis­solve into the noth­ing­ness out of which you made me….

15-08-08 READING Wyeth illo 3
He explains that human ideas are self-evidently absurd, such as a belief in “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 pain­less lives, yet cursed his other chil­dren with bit­ing mis­eries and mal­adies of mind and body; who mouths jus­tice, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other peo­ple, and has none him­self; who frowns upon crimes, yet com­mits them all; who cre­ates 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 this poor abused slave to wor­ship him!…

15-08-08 READING Wyeth illo 2It’s no won­der that Twain con­sid­ered the book unpub­lish­able. And it’s not sur­pris­ing that it was writ­ten in the shadow of tragedy. Of the three daugh­ters that Twain doted on, one died of menin­gi­tis in 1896, at the age of twenty-four, another drowned in a bath­tub in 1909. Ear­lier, his only son had died of dipthe­ria when but a tod­dler. Olivia, his wife of thirty-four years, to whom he was utterly devoted, died after a pro­tracted ill­ness while they were in Italy. Twain had plenty of rea­son to be bit­ter. This strange novel embod­ies, in one way or another, all of his life-long obses­sions, from his fas­ci­na­tion with child­hood, and with the Mid­dle Ages, to his par­ing of dual char­ac­ters, one “nor­mal” and the other a kind of pagan spirit — Tom and Huck mutated into August and #44. His hatred of injus­tice and reli­gious hypocrisy are in there in spades. But most of all, the novel dwells on the puz­zle of suf­fer­ing and the multi-faceted nature of con­scious­ness. All Twain’s doubts and tor­ments are resolved in a bizarre kind of meta­phys­i­cal solip­sism. I don’t think, how­ever, that this should be taken as a dec­la­ra­tion of Twain’s actual belief. Twain was a Menip­pean writer, given to play­ing out con­tra­dic­tory schemata of the world in the form of satires, melo­dra­mas and bur­lesques. But there is no doubt about his using this instru­ment to deal with per­sonal anguish.

In the same year that the recov­ered text reached gen­eral pub­li­ca­tion, a small film pro­duc­tion com­pany made a rea­son­ably faith­ful cin­e­matic ver­sion of the story. This is one of the odd­est “fam­ily films” (for it was mar­keted as such) ever made. No.44’s final speech, blas­phe­mous by any Chris­t­ian stan­dards, is in the film, which would nowa­days make it non grata in the U.S., even though it prob­a­bly voices the dis­en­chant­ment of many mod­ern Amer­i­cans. It was filmed in Aus­tria. Pro­duc­tion val­ues were low-end, but ade­quate. August was played by Chris Make­peace, a Cana­dian child actor who had briefly been suc­cess­ful in the com­edy Meat­balls. No.44 was played by Lance Ker­win, a hard-working juve­nile tele­vi­sion actor. The cast­ing was per­fect. Makepeace’s naïve per­sona and Kerwin’s mis­chie­vous one fit the story well. Iron­i­cally, Ker­win later became a drug addict, then found reli­gion.

26166. [2] (Mark Twain) The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger [ill. N.C. Wyeth] [1916 Harper Edi­tion]
[not same as Esel­dorf ver­sion [Diary of Young Satan] at 22281 or No.44 ver­sion]
26167. (Mark Twain) No.44, the Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger [Mark Twain Project text]
26173. (Joseph Csic­sila) John S. Tuckey’s Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan [arti­cle]
26174. (John Sut­ton Tuckey) Mark Twain and Lit­tle Satan: The Writ­ing of The Mys­te­ri­ous Stranger

READINGJULY 2015

26118. (James Wood­ford) The Wollemi Pine
26119. (Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine) De l’esclavage en Canada
26120. (Bev­er­ley Bois­sery) A Deep Sense of Wrong — The Trea­son, Tri­als, and Trans­porta­tion
. . . . to New South Wales of Lower Cana­dian Rebels after the 1838 Rebel­lion
26121. (Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine) Deux giri­ou­ettes, ou l’hypocrisie démasquée
26122. (R. J. Van der Spek) Berossus as a Baby­lon­ian Chron­i­cler and Greek His­to­rian [arti­cle]
26123. (Patti Miller) The Mind of a Thief
26124. (David Stu­art Davies) The Rid­dle of the Vis­it­ing Angel [story]
26125. (Cas­san­dra Pybus) Epic Jour­neys of Free­dom — Run­away Slaves of the Amer­i­can
. . . . Rev­o­lu­tion and Their Global Quest for Lib­erty
26126. (Steve Hewitt) Mor­pho­log­i­cal and Syn­tac­tic Dialect Vari­a­tion in Bre­ton [arti­cle]
26127. (Siân Rees) The Float­ing Brothel — The Extra­or­di­nary True Sto­ryof an Eigh­teenth–
. . . . cen­tury Ship and Its Cargo of Female Con­victs
26128. (Steve Hewitt) Back­ground Infor­ma­tion on Bre­ton [arti­cle]
26129. (Rickie Lette) The His­tory of a Nine­teenth Cen­tury Sofa: Leisure, Com­fort, Colo­nial­ism
. . . . and Trade [arti­cle]
26130. (Stephen Lea­cock) Bald­win, LaFontaine, Hincks: Respon­si­ble Gov­ern­ment
Read more »

READINGJUNE 2015

26068. (Stephen L. Dyson & Robert J. Row­land Jr.) Archae­ol­ogy and His­tory in Sar­dinia:
. . . . . Shep­herds, Sailors, & Con­querors
(Clif­ford D. Simak) Une Chasse Dan­gereuse:
. . . . 26069. (Clif­ford D. Simak) Une chasse dan­gereuse [= The World That Couldn’t Be]
. . . . 26070. (Clif­ford D. Simak) Pour sauver la guerre [= The Civ­i­liza­tion Game]
. . . . 26071. (Clif­ford D. Simak) Plus besoin d’hommes [= How-2]
. . . . 26072. (Clif­ford D. Simak) La planète aux pièges [= Junk­yard] [read in Eng­lish at 233]
. . . . 26073. (Clif­ford D. Simak) Jar­di­nage [= Green Thumb]
. . . . 26074. (Clif­ford D. Simak) Opéra­tion putois [= Oper­a­tion Stinky]
. . . . 26075. (Clif­ford D. Simak) Pro­jet Mastodonte [= Project Mastodon]
26076. (Francesco d’Errico & Mar­ian Van­haeren) Ear­li­est Per­sonal Orna­ments and their
. . . . . Sig­nif­i­cance for the Ori­gin of Lan­guage Debate [arti­cle]
26077. (Christo­pher Stu­art Hen­shilwood & Benoî Dubreuil) Read­ing the Arti­facts: Glean­ing
. . . . . Lan­guage Skills from the Mid­dle Stone Age in South­ern Africa [arti­cle]
26078. (Ian Watts) Red Ochre, Body Paint­ing, and Lan­guage: Inter­pret­ing the Blom­bos Ochre
. . . . . [arti­cle]
26079. (Kris­ten J. Gremil­lion) Ances­tral Appetites — Food in Pre­his­tory
26080. (Rudolf Botha) The­o­ret­i­cal Unde­pin­nings of Infer­ences about Lan­guage Evo­lu­tion: The
. . . . . Syn­tax Used at Blom­bos Cave [arti­cle]
26081. (Alan H. Sim­mons) Stone Age Sailors — Pale­olithic Sea­far­ing in the Mediter­ranean
26082. (Bar­bara Wilkens) Fish­ing in the Ara­bian Sea: A Short Note on the Pre­his­toric Sites
. . . . . RH6 and Ra’s al-Jinz 1 in Oman [arti­cle]
Read more »

Two Rediscovered Early Books by Conan Doyle

I’ve been read­ing some early works by Arthur Conan Doyle. Some of this mate­r­ial was only redis­cov­ered in recent years.

At the age of twenty, while still in med­ical school in Edin­burgh, he shipped out on a whal­ing ship for six months. The ship went to the remote arc­tic islands of Spitzber­gen [Sval­bard] and Jan Mayen, and Doyle had his twenty-first birth­day on the rim of the polar icepack. This was no tame adven­ture. It was 1880, and Doyle’s ship reached within three degrees of the record point that the British Arc­tic Expe­di­tion had turned back from in 1876. A year later, George DeLong’s Amer­i­can expe­di­tion would per­ish at a sim­i­lar lat­i­tude. The pole would not be reached with cer­tainty until 1926, when Doyle was an old man. Peary and Hen­son, often cred­ited with reach­ing the pole in 1909, are now con­sid­ered doubt­ful. Doyle’s voy­age was on a com­mer­cial whaler and sealer, dri­ven by profit, not glory, but it was cer­tainly a dan­ger­ous and spec­tac­u­lar adven­ture for a book­ish young Scott, and he later wrote that he left as a boy and came back as a man. He kept a diary, quite well writ­ten, but rather terse, and dec­o­rated with his draw­ings. On his return, he became caught up with his exams and his first attempts to build a med­ical prac­tice, and so the diary was for­got­ten. It was not pub­lished until 2012, when it appeared as Dan­ger­ous Work: Diary of an Arc­tic Adven­ture. Read more »

READINGMAY 2015

26025. [2](Mary Shel­ley) Franken­stein, or the Mod­ern Prometheus
26026. (Mrs. Leighton) The Sweet and Touch­ing Tale of Fleur & Blanchefleur, A Medi­ae­val
.… … Leg­end Trans­lated from French [ill. Eleanor Fortes­cue Brick­dale]
26027. (Jean Cabaret d’Orville) La chronique du bon duc Loys de Bour­bon [ed. A.-M.
.… … Chaz­aud, Librairie Renouard 1876]
26028. (Jean Cabaret d’Orville) His­toire de la vie de Louis, duc troisième de Bour­bon [ed. J.-
.… … A.-C. Buchon; in Choix de chroniques et mémoires sur l’histoire de France. Bureau
.… … du Pan­théon Lit­téraire 1861]
26029. (George P. Nicholas) Eco­log­i­cal Lev­el­ing — The Archae­ol­ogy and Envi­ron­men­tal
.… … Dynam­ics of Early Post­glacial Land Use [arti­cle] Read more »

READINGAPRIL 2015

26001. [2] (Eugene O’Neill) Long Day’s Jour­ney Into Night [play]
26002. (Win­fred van de Put & Roald Doc­ter) A Lekythos found in House 1 at Thorikos
. . . . . . [arti­cle]
26003. (David Keys) How Rome Pol­luted the World [arti­cle]
26004. (Orsolya Láng) Urban Prob­lems in the Civil Town of Aquin­cum: The So-called
. . . . . . “North­ern Band” [arti­cle]
26005. (Miriam T. Stark, Jef­fery J. Clark & Mark D. Elson) Causes and Con­se­quences of
. . . . . . Migra­tion in the 13th Cen­tury Tonto Basin [arti­cle]
26006. (Cecilia Lut­trell & Sitna Quiroz) Link­ages between Human Rights-based Approaches
. . . . . . and Empow­er­ment [arti­cle] Read more »

READINGMARCH 2015

25964. (Dwayne Brown) Curios­ity Rover Finds Active, Ancient Organic Chem­istry on Mars
. . . . . . [arti­cle]
25965. (Ben Krause-Kyora, et al) Use of Domes­tic Pigs by Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherers in
. . . . . . North­west­ern Europe [arti­cle]
25966. (Patrick Cock­burn) The Destruc­tion of Idols: Syria’s Pat­ri­mony at Risk from
. . . . . . Extrem­ists [arti­cle]
25967. (James Steven­son, Jonathan Lunine & Paulette Clancy) Mem­brane Alter­na­tives in
. . . . . . Worlds with­out Oxy­gen: Cre­ation of an Azo­to­some [arti­cle]
25968. (Reg Lit­tle) Oxford Uni­ver­sity and the Redis­cov­ery of the Lost Egypt­ian City of
. . . . . . Her­a­cleion [arti­cle] Read more »

READINGFEBRUARY 2015

25940. (Jacques Futrelle) The Prob­lem of Cell 13 [story]
25941. (Andrew Armitage) Com­par­ing the Pol­icy of Abo­rig­i­nal Assim­i­la­tion: Aus­tralia,
. . . . . Canada, and New Zealand
25942. (Jean-Paul Gagnon) Democ­racy and The­o­ret­i­cal Physics [arti­cle]
25943. (Natalia Loukacheva) The Arc­tic Promise — Legal and Polit­i­cal Auton­omy of
. . . . . Green­land and Nunavut
25944. (Mark James Dwyer & Kir­rill Vladimirovich Istomin) Mobil­ity and Tech­nol­ogy:
. . . . . Under­stand­ing the Vul­ner­a­bil­ity of Two Groups of Nomadic Pas­toral­ists to Rein­deer
. . . . . Losses [arti­cle] Read more »

READINGJANUARY 2015

25913. [3] (H. G. Wells) The Time Machine
25914. (H. G. Wells) The Chronic Arg­onauts [story]
25915. (Mark McCor­mack) The Declin­ing Sig­nif­i­cance of Homo­pho­bia — How Teenage
. . . . . Boys are Redefin­ing Mas­culin­ity and Het­ero­sex­u­al­ity
25916. (W. W. Jacobs) The Well [story]
25917. (Mehmet Özdoğan) Recon­sid­er­ing the Late Neolithic Period in South­east­ern Turkey:
. . . . . A Regional Per­spec­tive [arti­cle]
25918. (Vong Sot­heara) The Role of Khmer Monks dur­ing 16th-19th Cen­turies [arti­cle] Read more »