As I Was Saying…

Chatter, memories and rants. Please, don't stop me if you've heard this one before.

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Confessions from the new New Frontier

Here’s why English teachers are actually judging you

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 - 5:50 pm - It’s holiday party time, which means teachers are thrust into social situations with non-teachers and are reminded of how much the public at large misunderstands what we do and why we do it. Actually, teaching high school English is neither adorable nor terrifying. And you really don’t have to worry that I’m evaluating your grammar [...]

Artemis: a few years (not quite millenia) late

Sunday, July 21, 2013 - 4:38 am - I found this poem tucked in the diary I kept during my sophomore and junior year of college. I’m not sure when exactly I wrote it; in fact, I have no clear memory of writing, only of having written it. But it is definitely from sometime during those years. It owes a lot to Billy [...]

Seeing Red

Monday, July 8, 2013 - 8:42 pm - At the end of every school year, I spend a week or two at my parents’ in Portland as a reboot, and to that end, my mother and I got our nails done yesterday. It’s not the kind of thing I do often, since I never like to give the impression that I fuss over [...]

Accidents Will Happen

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 3:18 am - From: gregory hunter <> To: Elizabeth Sampson <> Sent: Friday, February 2, 2007 1:31 AM Subject: Re: God Only Knows sorry for the jaunty note. i (for some reason) figured the note would be returned to me. you were gone, i surmised, off writing some arresting novel elsewhere. teaching, studying… away. a different address. i [...]

Mark Twain in Stores Today!

November 15, 2010

Volume I of the Autobiography of Mark Twain is in stores today, published 100 years after Twain’s death. He might find it especially hilarious that, while he specifically requested that this material not appear in book form until 100 years after his death, the the book is actually appearing now (more or less in accordance with his wishes) more as the result of coincidence than anything else.

I want to read this book—and the two volumes which will follow it over the next five years—because I have always felt a kinship with Twain. As far as I know, he was the first writer whose authorial voice sounds like people now living. Much of this, I think, arises from Twain’s existential sorrow. I tend to think of him as a temporal castaway, marooned in a world that was as alien to him as it would be to me.

By the time Twain died in 1910, nearly all of the people most dear to him in the world had died before him. As a castaway, however, he did not enjoy the comforts of conventional 19th century religion because he simply didn’t believe it. He was alone in his grief in ways that few of the people around him would have been able to understand.

I got the tiniest inkling of what Twain must have endured when my father died. I was told repeatedly that he had “gone to a better place” and that he was “with the Lord.” I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. In my world, however, unbelief can be spoken aloud. Unlike Twain, I wasn’t obligated to behave as if comforted by banal fictions that did not comfort me at all.

As I understand the Autobiography, it is Twain’s message in a bottle from his time to the future. He finished it just a few months before his own death. I wish he could have known how many people like me are waiting for it expectantly here in 2010.

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