Thank goodness Mark Twain failed as a newspaper reporter…

If you are a fan of Mark Twain ( 11.20.1835- 4.21.1910)— 2010 being the centennial of Mark Twain’s death—you will find yourself in your heyday.  The centennial of his death brings more events than one can keep track of.

Living in San Francisco makes me proud to know that the city played a significant role in Mark Twain’s life as a writer.  It was here that he hit rock bottom as a newspaper reporter to finally find his true calling as a writer of literature. After his humiliating departure from the world of newspaper reporting, he headed off to Jackass Hill, near the Gold Rush hill of Angels Camp. After hearing a tall tale about a jumping frog, he returned to San Francisco and wrote  “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog”, later  retitled, “ The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” which became an instant success. The success of Jumping Frog convinced Twain of his true gift as a writer. Near the end of his stay in San Francisco, he wrote to his brother Oion: “I have had a ‘call” to literature, of a low order—i.e. humorous.’ It is nothing to be proud of, but it is my strongest suit…”

Most people have their favorite piece of Twain writing and hands down, mine is, The Diaries of Adam and Eve ,(circa 1905)  The Diaries has all the fundamentals we expect from Twain—humor, wisdom, and irreverence and also delivers a love story of a most unusual ilk—honest, poignant, and heartfelt.

Thank goodness Twain failed as a newspaperman. As an aside: failure, what I like to refer to as mistakes, is an interesting subject for parents to talk about with their children. For conversation starters on mistakes, refer to  “Musings”, October 8, Boys & Reading.


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