Wolfgang Clemens

It does not take long to consider and review this criticism. What is meant by imagery? Settings, characters’ expressions, characters’ psychology, story, etc. Imagery means an analysis of all the plays and the capabilities and capacities that the playwright inserted by use of the words. 

The next question is what would Bill Shakespeare think? Shakespeare would read and wonder:

“I did that? Huh?”  “The analysis on this point sounds pretty good, but I don’t remember writing it that way.” “I like what he says about Hamlet. I must be the smartest guy in the world.” “Too bad about Love Labor’s Lost. It sounds so prosaic, although I inserted many good one-liners about love. That chapter says more about the author than it does about the play or my abilities.” 


Gioconda Belli

In a store the cover says this book costs $16.00. Imagine my delight when I found a copy in new condition at a library sale for a quarter. Having read a bit, I want my two-bits back. I’ll explain.

The book’s cover states, “A Memoir of Love and War.” It is a memoir, not an autobiography, a more serious effort to convey one’s life and put it into context. A memoir might include overly described incidences. Either autobiography or memoir, there is a beginning, a middle and an end, all advanced chronologically so the reader can easily understand the progress of the tale and the life. 

There are no memoirs with flashbacks or advances in time of twenty years. That sort of book comes from from science fantasy, or are by alcoholics and other drug users.

Chapter One announces, Cuba, 1979 – arriving at a shooting range, although the author is 30 years old and the describes the trip like a elementary school outing to see animals at the zoo. 


“I see you liked the .50, didn’t you?” Fidel mused with a malicious grin when I saw him a few days later. He had come to visit the Sandinista delegation and we had been summoned to the Presidential Suite. I said nothing. I smiled at him. He turned back and continued talking to Tito and the other companros who had been invited to Havana for the Cuban Revolution’s twentieth-anniversary.

I sat back and watched them. It was inevitable that the sight of Fidel would stir a collage of memories in my mind. Fidel was the first revolutionary I had ever heard of….

Reader to author: You are writing a memoir. You are not telling of the memories of your mind. Tell what happened. The author is to put those thoughts and related actions into a cogent form, not as a distracting interruption to the text.

And what about extra words, which undoubtedly clutter the author’s mind and her text? It is, “ I watched,” not “I sat back and watched them,” like you are a princess where her view of the open room allows her to spy on everyone – Revolutionary Number Uno meets Revolutionary Number Quinto. Plus if an author is sitting back, watching, she is describing the scene and the people, not recalling Fidel from her earlier memories. Finally, does the author have an impression of Fidel in the room other than her prosaic memories? Is Fidel there truly because he likes the clapping of the 50?” “Does he ask anyone for a match to light his cigar?” “Is he there trolling for babes?”

Not once does the author mention Fidel is Fidel Castro. She should do a little name dropping, after all she married someone named Castro but afterward dumped that hubby for another. 

The description of Fidel reminds me of Fidel Gonzales from Paraguay. I always suspected that Fidel had Leftist tendencies, so being in Cuba in 1979 would not be out-of-sorts. Fidel Gonzales is a good guy. The blackmarket is his business – electronics, leather goods (South American are the best; don’t buy Chinese) and garments. Fidel is thinking about opening his own fashion house. I don’t believe all the trademarks and labels are legit, but if a gown survives a season, then falls apart and the price is right, who cares? Fidel makes a lot of money on fake clothes.

About 1000 words later at the beginning of Chapter Two the author flips to Santa Monica, California, 1998. So much for chronology; so much for Fidel; so much for love and war. There is much to be said about muddleness. The subtitle of Chapter Two is, Where I tell of certain bizarre connections between California, interoceanic canals, and my life. 

Can anyone tell me how I can get my twenty-five cents returned?


Harold G. Schonberg

This is a thoroughly enjoyable volume which is well-worth reading.

What does it lack? Interesting text that would make it longer.

The author describes keyboard playing by most of the great pianists. The text changes in the last half of the twentieth century, losing some description and comment: A vocabulary arises in the eighteenth century which extends into the Twentieth. But this text becomes more concert criticism than analytical when the author has heard the pianists.

There is no accurate representation of the first-class composers set forth – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and sometimes, Liszt and Schumann, and others less capable, original composers for the piano like Mendelssohn. How did composition change their playing. The author treats these persons as pianists, yet some of Mendelssohn’s music isn’t fit to be played at a dog fight: The rhythms are uninteresting; they are straightforward rhythmic (if any) and thematic development, and the general presentation of imagination is incomplete. Indeed, many of he pianists whom the author describe played their own, insufficient compositions. That music is lost today, or might be taken from cold basement rooms of libraries and castles. None is as good as the piece discovered in Czechoslovakia in 1960, a second Haydn Cello Concerto.  

The audience is not fully explained. Did they only want acrobatics, displays at the keyboard of music that should not be played. Although opera was popular in the nineteenth century, the rush to arrange portions of operas for piano concerts was everywhere and a waste of time. Those arrangements are not played today. Yet these pieces, technically difficult and harmonically improved, took as much as half of each concert. Pianists into the Twentieth Century performed them  and other favorites – waltzes by Johann Strauss and others. Why these arrangements fell out of favor or have been ignored by pianists since 1970 remains open.   

The relationship of pianists to one another is not fully set forth. Individual meetings are noted, followings are chronicled and schools and methods are mentioned. But what of the true effect of Liszt who would sight read and play anything up to speed, or faster with control. Saint Saens had the same sight reading ability. Where were the force and effect of their compositions, definitive works? After 1855 the reader has no idea of the effect of Liszt’s E-Flat Concerto, a remarkable work that develops one theme. And the Saint-Saens Second Concerto in C minor was popular into the cartoon age, but Pianists were graded on their performance of it. Obviously Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto, D Minor (l909) (the most difficult piano concerto) set a high bar for technical performance, endurance and interpretation. Schonberg does not describe much of this.

Indeed, Saint-Saens and other composers were not composing for piano alone. Why? Change of audience, or something else? Music for the piano played in 1900 was mostly composed before 1850, unless a gross adaptation of an operatic piece. The author does not explain or mention why music composed for the piano fell off. Not everyone was willing or capable of composing for orchestra. Much orchestral music of the Nineteenth Century, as well as the Eighteenth did not survive their centuries.   

What The Great Pianists also lacks is one pianist looking and hearing another and saying, “I never have to perform that piece of music again,” Sergei Rachmaninoff’s reaction after hearing Josef Hoffman playing Chopin’s Funeral March Sonata in recital. Indeed, Hoffman plays it well and distinctly.

There is little sense that pianists listened to one another much. Beginning in the first half of the Twentieth Century when recordings were made, pianists had more opportunity to listen and be informed.  More recording has made it an issue. It becomes a different issue because about 1950 the world lost two young pianists who were masters. Schonberg devotes a paragraph to each of them, and acknowledges had each lived he would have had a great career (and influence?). Indeed, Dinu Lipatti (died 1950) and William Kapell (died 1952) may have lifted pianistic performances during the last half of the Twentieth Century. The sense that any pianist during his or her life time actually influenced or lifted piano playing is not described well.


John Whitehead, Editor

This collection of Somerset Maugham’s writings presents a mixed bag, in quality of writing and acuteness of observations. Short stories are included, the best being The Buried Talent: A woman with a promising career in the arts choses a quiet life of family and security in a tucked away backwater. Twenty years later she remeets the narrator who knew of her talents. Those urges return in a rush. The retired artist regrets.

That engaging story accompanies observations, not developed in a serious way: The lack of art – literature, painting and music – in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union. It is true for any totalitarian system, in the past and today which represses and prohibits artistic freedom, preferring authentic replications rather than new expressions. Also mentioned but left mostly undeveloped is the issue of style for an author. Maugham is correct that each story and every set of characters in a new novel should have their own style. No use writing about New England in the same style or manner as one might an Arizona story. Likewise, writing history and in other disciplines require the writer to create a style suitable to the research and story.

 Where Traveller falls down are pieces where Maugham is delivering criticism, is writing praise about a contemporary (Neal Coward) or is discussing people he has met or known. This tedious flabbiness is longer than half the volume. 

However, the portions about writing are fun to read and need to be remembered: 

One day Alfred de Musset went to see his friend George Sand, then a famous 

novelist, and as women will, she kept him waiting. To pass the time he took  

up one of her books and to amuse himself he crossed out all the superfluous 

adjectives he came across. History relates that, when the lady came in and 

saw how he was occupied, she did not receive him with her usual show of

affection. There are few English writers whose prose could not be bettered

by the same drastic process. (p. 209-210)


Also Maugham has a jaundiced view of Henry James:

His influence on English fiction was enormous. Henry James never came to

grips with life. He was afraid of it, and knew it only as you might know what 

is going on in a busy street by looking out of an upstairs window. The problems

that he examined with such scrupulous integrity were little social problems of 

no real significance. But such was his skill, such was his charm and such was 

the power of his personality that he led many of the better writers in England

to turn their eyes away from the needs, passions and immortal longings of

humanity to dwell on the trivial curiosities of sheltered gentlefolk.(p.209)   


Having a neglected pile of books to read, I wondered how to get through them. Each appeared interesting. They came cheaply, purchased one at a time but most all at once. Libraries have shelves of donated books they want to pass on. Likewise there were grocery bags of books costing one dollar at the bag sales at library book sales – the first time in history books were cheaper than the shopping bags they were carried away in.

So how did each book of the pile read? Perhaps I was correct in stacking the books:

John LeCarre, A Small Town in Germany. At the beginning he insists on long descriptions of the town. How does the scenery advance the espionage story?

2. John Dos Passos, Big Money. The author tried to tell how people made their way in careers in an advancing economy while presenting the worst dialogue – non-directional, cumbersome and unrelated to the story. I give it 170 pages.

3. Anson’s Voyage Around the World 1740-1744. The Introduction was of interest, filled with appalling facts: Ships left England with mostly old men who were sick. About 950 mens set off from England and by the South Atlantic 370 men were left. Not all of the 370 were fit for duty aboard the ships. However, the diary is written in an eighteenth century fashion by more than one author, each writing formally and stiltedly.
I’ve read of similar journeys. I don’t have to struggle through Anson’s. I passed on the diary.

4. Thurber and White, Is Sex Necessary? This text was likely enlivening in 1929. Now it is dated.

5. George Kennen, The Decline of Bismarck’s European Order and The Fateful Alliance. Each book appeared unread when purchased. I’ve read about each subject in excellent academic produced histories. How did old George do? He is pompous and verbose. His English is truly bloated. Sentences are unnecessarily long and convoluted.

6. Norman Thrower, Maps and Civilization. This is another academic book written in the vernacular of its subject matter. Small print. It appeared involved and complicated, requiring looking up words in dictionaries. Disclosures about maps and civilization shall remain hidden.

7. H.G. Wells, Journalism and Prophecy, is disappointing. I am not fan of the author’s science fiction work. I do not hold him in awe. Meetings with Hitler, Stalin and Lenin reveal H.G. Wells was completely uninformed and ignorant. In articles that should be written as essays, H.G. writes in the narrative. It is the best illustration about the folly and fallaciousness in the use of the pronoun, I – except for the Tweeting I abilities of Don Trump.

8. Chapelle, The American Sailing Navy, describes sailing ships used in eighteenth century wars and commerce. There is much about ship and sail design and the history of ships. There is little about the functional fighting qualities of each ship. I gave the book about 320 pages. From the number of American ships captured or sunk, i am surprised there was any early Navy at all!
Unless one is intensely interested in sailing ships and their design and builders – minute and large changes – this is not a book for the average reader.

9. Tate, Stonewall Jackson. This appears one of the lovingly biographies written by a Southerner during the 1920s. It is about a revered Southern Civil War general. Every word is a compliment. I recognized it as such and passed.

10. Leonard Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, a small print book telling of the establishment of the Mormon Church in and around Utah. It looked unopened and unread when I picked it up. Perhaps I am lazy, wanting nothing physically challenging to read. The small print covering the pages was daunting. I put it down.


About a month ago I read a blog by a frustrated writer who would read no more. She had purchased a recently highly praised novel by a young American novelist. The blogger quoted the first paragraph of the novel; one sentence seem to run an entire paragraph. Obviously someone was trying to save on confusion and annoyances of periods.

I started the first sentence, an enormity of one disconnected sentence attached to another by commas and eventually the author or her editor, or the publisher who was paying by-the-word stopped printing the subject of each clause and frequently dispersed with the verb, leaving prepositional phrases abandoned, and floating adjectives and wandering adverbs heading off to the new planet in the solar system. Obviously, the adverbs and the adjectives don’t know where they’re going because no one knows where the new planet is. For the reader everything is as clear as mud.

I stopped reading. There is a literary movement afoot to make American more like Latin, German and Russian, without the excess declensions, specialized prepositions and multiple conjugations along with a fondness for the subjunctive where it’s not needed. In fact any language with declensions and conjugations up the wazoo provides a model for New York publishers and editors. Thereupon, all the authors pretend learnedness to be pretentious. Remember each of them have inked deals with Mephistopheles.

My analysis of the current American language in novels is correct. I did not appreciate it until reading Mein Kampf, this Spring. The translator, Konrad Heiden, observed about the German work,

Most of Hitler’s stylistic peculiarities represent no problem for the translator. The
mixed metaphors are just as mixed in one language as in the other. A lapse of
grammatical logic can occur in any language. An English-language Hitler might be
just as reductant as the German one; a half-educated writer, without clear ideas,
generally feels that to say a thing only once is rather slight.
There are, however, certain traits of Hitler’s style that are peculiarly German and
do present a problem in translation. Chief among these are the length of sentences,
the substantives, and the German particles.
A translation must not necessarily be good English, but it must be English such as
some sort of English author – in this case, let us say, a poor one – might write. On the
other hand, it would be wrong to make Hitler an English-speaking rabble-rouser,
because his very style is necessarily German.
No non-German would write such labyrinthine sentences. The translator’s last – often a feat of tightrope-walking – is to render the ponderousness and even convey a German flavor, without writing German-American sentences. In general I have cut down the sentences only when the length made them unintelligible in English. (The German language with its cases and genders does enable the reader to find his way though tangles which in a non-inflected language would be inextricable.) Contrary to the general opinion, the German text contains only one or two sentences that make no sense at first reading.
The substantives are a different matter. Here it has been necessary to make greater
changes, because in many cases the use of verbal nouns is simply incompatible with the English language. No pedant, no demagogue, no police clerk writes that way. I have used the construction where it seemed conceivable in English, elsewhere reluctantly abandoned it. German stylists may say that Hitler’s piling up of substantives is bad German, but the fact remains the most numerous German writers do that same thing, while this failing is almost non-existent in English.
In approaching Hitler’s use of particles, it must be remembered that he was at home in the Lower Bavarian dialect. Even without the dialect, much German prose, some not of the worst quality, abounds in those useless little words: wohl, ja, dean, schon, noch, eigentlich, etc. The South Germans are especially addicted to them, and half of Hilter’s sentences are positively clogged with particles, not to mention such private favorites as besonders and damals which he stews about quite needlessly. His particles even have a certain political influence, for in the petit bourgeois mind they are, liked carved furniture, an embodiment of the home-grown German virtues, while their avoidance is viewed with suspicion as foreign and modernistic. There are no English equivalents, and an attempt to translate them results in something like the language of the Katzenjammer Kids. Sometimes, however, it is possible to give a similar impression of wordiness by other means.

The translation follows the first edition. The most interesting changes made in the later German editions have been indicated in the notes. Where Hitler’s formulations challenge the reader’s credulity, I have quoted the German original in the notes. Seeing is believing.

Likewise, American novels, published recently, are actually translations drawn from more ancient, clumsy, illogical, word-favoring languages. That is the state of American literature today. Seeing is believing.

MEIN KAMPF -General comments

MEIN KAMPF, Adolph Hitler

There is no way to review this book at once. The author’s strength is speech, specifically oratory. The first thing to know, the purpose of oratory is not to be reasonable and sensical. It is directed to the emotions of human beings, as though humans are being entertainment and are captured by the art of the speech before them. Hence, this author purposefully avoids attempts to explain anything in English or German.
It is not unusual for the modern reader to find any more of interest in the text than I did: 6.5 pages of 686 pages, less than one page of interesting text out of 100 pages. One poignant set of sentences explains why Adolph believes in Catholic priest celibacy. (p. 432) Adolph also likes to talk about syphilis and prostitution. (pages. 251, 254-55)

How hard is it to upset emotional prejudices, moods, sentiments, etc. and to replace them by others, on how many scarcely calculable influence and conditions success depends, the sensitive speaker can just by the fact that even the time of day in which the lecture takes place can have a decisive influence on the effect. The same lecture, the same speaker, the same theme, have an entirely different effect at ten o’clock in the morning, at three o’clock in the afternoon, or at night. (page. 473)
Sunday morning at ten o’clock. The result was depressing, yet at the same time extremely instructive: the hall was full, the impression really overpowering, but the mood ice cold; no one become war, and I myself as a speaker felt profoundly unhappy at being unable….
This should surprise no one. Go to a theatre performance and witness a play at three o’clock in the afternoon and the same play with the same actors at eight at night,
encroachments upon man’s freedom of will…(p. 474)
 In the morning and even during the day people’s will power seems to struggle with the greatest energy against an attempt to force upon them a strange will and strange opinion. At night…they will succumb more easily to the dominating force of a stronger will.
…mysterious twilight in Catholic churches, the burning of lamps, incense,
goal of oratory is “illiterate common people.” (page 475)

Since organization in the text is lacking, I write what Adolph says why organization is not important – in books or in politics. His first point made a few hundred times throughout the book: Adolph does not want anyone suspecting it was written by anyone academic, intellectual or disciplined. It necessarily stands to reason that Adolph prizes the superficial, craves spontaneity and revels in the nonsensical.

I am an enemy of too rapid and too pedantic organizing. It usually produces nothing but a dead mechanism, seldom a living organization. For organization is a thing that owes its existence to organic life, organic development. Ideas which have gripped a certain number of people will always strive for a greater order, and a great value must be attributed to this inner molding. Here, too, we must reckon with the weakness of men, which leads the individual, at first at least, instinctively to resist a superior mind. If an organization is mechanically ordered from above, there exists a great danger that a once appointed leader, not yet accurately evaluated and perhaps none too capable, will from jealousy strive to prevent the rise of abler elements within the movement. That harm that arises in such a case can, especially in a young movement, be of catastrophic significance.
…it is more expedient for a time to disseminate (p. 579)

This poorly constructed paragraph has three topic sentences; none are developed; none are related. For instance while arguing with himself about the value of organizing, he calls it dead but preferably a living development. What is being developed, dead or alive, organic or inorganic is not explained.
He next complains about the weakness of men, “resisting superior men.” Adolph includes himself among the superior minds. He always complains about people who read to gain knowledge, stiff intellectual types. Instead the best knowledge comes through oratory.
It is impossible to use oratory to extend wisdom or intelligence. It should be pointed out that during his life time, no one in Germany believed it necessary or worth while to memorialize any of Adolph’s words in stone. And note, Adolph was an absolute dictator in a totalitarian system.
Adolph’s third topic sentence demonstrates the jeopardy of this non-organizational approach. If the group leader does not know why he is doing, if he’s not on the ball and he’s wet behind the ears, and he is likely not the leader.
This is the ever-present fear existing in a movement: Following one path without realizing a different path needs taking, is catastrophic.But if a leader does not have the mental, social and acuity to advance the movement, it is time to choose anew.
Adolph believes wrongly that organization can be achieved by propaganda – use slogans, express fears, advance wants. Solutions should seem simple, however impracticable Adolph gives pages of propaganda notes, most of it is ridiculous and simplistic, except to a German.
Yet most political organization cannot survive on propaganda – use slogans to support an entire party, express policies of fearsome offer and advance hope based upon hate. Adolph omits the germs of ideas which stick with people into the future. It is the future sale of politics that Adolph finds tedious, boring and completely unpredictable. That was the history of him and his party. The Nazis were never the majority. Circumstances let them take executive offices, and Hindenburg’s death allowed Adolph to take all power.

The text of the MEIN KAMPF and subsequent events should not be considered inevitable, yet the readers and students frequently look at each and consider the book prescient. At best the text shows the sort of crank Hitler was when he became involved in German electoral politics, and it projects how he played to a exceptionally unsophisticated political people.

A note about the text in English. I’ve seen two English translations, 1943, and the most recent published as late at 1999. In each Edition are 686 pages; pretty much the words from page to page and the pages are also the same. Hence the page numbers above and in subsequent comments are from the 1943 edition.


On March 18, 2016, Second D, page 5, Adam Hochschild ventured into an area where he lacks expertise, knowledge and imagination. He described why Mark Twain’s Life On the Mississippi need not be read in its entirety. Being familiar with Twain’s work, I am surprised. I’ve read works from historians competing with Hochschild for readers, and I now wonder if I ought to read his books. The world is more multilayered than Mr. Hochschild appreciates. Regarding Life On the Mississippi he has two grand oversights.

Hochschild stumbled upon the fact that Life On is a companion book to Huckleberry Finn. That novel is firmly set in the 1830s. Life On presents contemporary observations which were added to Twain’s previous publication of Old Times on the Mississippi (@1875).

In 1882 books and basic knowledge of the Mississippi River Valley were scare. Twain had written about 25 chapters of the novel but needed a refresher course about locations and the sense and feel of the South, and the river. In 1882 he traveled up the river, noting events and occurrences, present time to 45 years before. Not much had changed.

Life On came from Clemen’s notebooks and scrapbooks. Prior to William Faulkner’s observation about the past in the South, Clemens realized in the South that nothing was ever the past. In 1884 he told the world that in Life On.

The second point is what the South did with its history, this time and subject is described by a prominent American historian who quotes Life On the Mississippi from a late passage. SPOILER ALERT! Hochschild’s fans should stop reading NOW!

…Colonel Marshall graphically described the scene demonstrating Lee’s
posture and his forward wave of the hand as Jackson rode away.The
movement became the subject of a painting completed in 1869…Mark
Twain studied the original in New Orleans and reflected on the importance
of explicitly telling people the retrospectively defined meaning of what they
they see when one offers them a historical representation…Unless the
painting were properly labeled Twain said, it might readily be taken to
portray “Last Interview between Lee and Jackson” or “First Interview
between Lee and Jackson” or “Jackson Reporting a Great Victory” or
“Jackson Apologizing for a Heavy Defeat” or “Jackson Asking Lee for a
Match.” “It tells one story and a sufficient one; for it says quite plainly and
satisfactorily, ‘Here are Lee and Jackson together.’ The artist would have
made it tell that this is Lee and Jackson’s last interview if he could have
done it. But he couldn’t, for there wasn’t any way to do it. A good legible
label is usually worth, for information, a ton of significant attitude and
expression in a historical picture.”
Royster, Charles, The Destructive War, Knopf, NY, 1991, p. 203-204.



This unfinished novel has three subjects and two styles. The first chapter (the longest, “Unspoiled Monsters”) is mostly chronological and has brilliant, captivating passages and remarks about writing as a career, the mind set of a writer and marketing forces. For a magazine editor/publisher the writer spreads his cheeks, a casting couch into publishing.

The second chapter (39 pages, “Kate McCloud”) happens in Europe and is chronological. Without much money the character tags along with rich people. Comments about writing disappear, but those overseas New Yorkers and East Coast Establishment mucks are superficial and empty.

The Third Chapter (41 pages, “La Cote Basque) presents a change of style – stream of consciousness, Virginia Woolf foibles come to mind through paragraphs of endurance, nothing to follow, little to comprehend but phrases interspersed here and there and a story of meandering words which come to nothing. It is a form of writing exercise, an experiment. Chapter 3 was published in the mid-1970s and was not well received. There was little effort to conceal or camouflage who the many characters were – although in East Coast fashion they said little of consequence and nothing significant. After its publication in Esquire magazine, Capote’s rich friends ended contact with him.

The changes of style and substance produce varied work in this three chapters. The first chapter is well-written, although it fails to present a story. It is a series of colorful antidotes, adjectives and description adding character to sentences (and not necessarily to human beings written about). There are not many thoughts and ideas transmitted, instantly but not throughout the 90 pages. Hence, any conveyance of theme is absent.

The second chapter also becomes antidotal with adjectives, and overlong sentences. It is fun and funny to read but takes the reader no where. It is like watching TV. The third chapter is the worst from the standpoint of writing, in contribution to the craft and in explaining itself. It seems there are inside jokes and inside knowledge. It was written and published first. The targeted readers apparently discovered themselves. Capote may have chosen the stream of consciousness, or overlong sentences in paragraphs covering a least a page to conceal his intentions. He was mislead by style and substance. He did not define the characters and give them much action. He labeled characters within sentences by describing them – this lumpen mass sits on her couch all days and eats bon-bons. A writer must be much more discrete.

Reference points can be made to another novel, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald refused to include party conversations, or intelligible dialogue which is Capote’s forte. Every party scene in Gatsby could be supplemented by dialogue from Answered Prayers. If it were the purpose to define New York Citiers and the wealthy as they phonies they are, Capote only had to set out their conversations: empty, unconnected and coarse. On page 74-75 the character Aces Nelson is a doubleganger for Nick the Narrator in Gatsby.

In another writing I criticized Fitzgerald for using rioters for roisters at the Yale Club in New York City (Gatsby, page 57) However Fitzgerald may have property used rioters [shorthand for gay, circa. 1925(?)], as Capote describes a gay encounter in the Yale Club. (Answered Prayers, 94)


University of California Press, Berkeley, 2015.

Read this volume not for the spectacularly funny, poignant passages found in volumes one and two. Instead, the author knows this manuscript will be the last major work. There are outrageously funny, humorous passages in this volume, but there’s a lot of day-to-day stuff.

The text presents some cleaning up, making words and life straight, suggesting half-cocked philosophies, responding to misimpressions and asserting what this author perceives of life. Throughout those efforts the reader can gleem the foibles and imperfections in the profession which should be an artist’s life.

There are personal touches. Fans send him small checks, $1.50 so he will endorse them and he will give out his autograph. His house was burgled so Clemens wrote a note for the next burglars saying there wasn’t much of value in the house, but directing attention to items of interest. One of the burglars, not convicted, wrote a letter. Clemens read it – familiar words and sentences. He finally realized he wrote the first draft himself in Life on the Mississippi. Twain set out the whole thing not accepting the flattery, but the whole episode is impertinent and rude!

Twain was a celebrated banquet speaker, but as years passed he could no longer start at the beginning: cocktails, dinner (multiple courses), speeches. For the last six years of life, he arrived after dinner for his slot to speak. Twain gave an example of the errors of scheduling, a banquet for Carnegie, 9:00 p.m. speeches began. Twain arrived at 9:15 p.m. Dinner did not finish until 10:45. Twain did not speak until 11:15. At least ten speakers followed him.

Summer 1907 Twain traveled to Britain to accept a Doctor of Letters award from Oxford University. The entries are repetitive and lengthy. He mentions the persons, the halls and houses, the grand food; speeches by himself and others. It is six weeks of tiresomely meeting Lord That, Lady This, Professor So-and-So, Rector etc. The British are exceeding polite and receptive, yet Twain is caged and on review. The moral of the story seems, if a writer accepts awards, placards or that-a-boys, have an escape route.

A sense of sadness and mortality comes into the Autobiography. Not much of life intrigues him. He writes of President Theodore Roosevelt, not a fan. Note though that his fast friend, benefactor and financial savior is Henry Rogers, second in command at Standard Oil, a Roosevelt target. Criticisms of Roosevelt don’t last; without the notes of this critical edition, no one would know what the issues were. Most of the diary was dictated. In earlier volumes, Twain edited the typewritten drafts, more vigorously it seems. The sentences in this volume are longer, exceedingly long. The text seems less cared for.

The end of the Autobiography ends in tragedy. Clemens’ third daughter, Jean, is a epileptic; she drowns in her bath on Christmas Eve. She had planned a whole wonderful Christmas – presents, visitors, festivities. Twain saw all the preparation, and now he is alone. He handwrites, not dictating. He admits, I am writing to keep my heart from breaking. Twain simply puts powerful sentiments, one about a man looking back on friends and family, who have predeceased him. He wants to see them again. It won’t happen. Like the woman in the coffin, downstairs, his daughter, there no more life. There is a sense that Mark Twain died that day. In four months Samuel Clemens was dead.

This volume also presents about 50,000 words about two assistants in the Clemens’ household. The woman (Lyons) was Twain’s private secretary and became the housekeeper. She was foremost a drinker. “She had hysterics, not just occasionally but frequently, not merely frequently, but very frequently. Hysterics – that was Ashcroft’s name for it. But the truth is, she was drunk. Drunk daily…”(337-338) The man (Ashcroft) was Clemens’ business manager and employee in the Mark Twain Company. Ashcroft and Lyon stole money, booze and tried getting everything else from Twain. Everyone in the Clemens’ household and outsiders (visitors) knew this pair was no good. This manuscript tells of Clemens’ realizations and actions, learning what had happened, firing, lawsuits, settlement.

Lyons and Ashcroft got married. Twain was invited. It was before their thievery was discovered by him. The writing is afterward revelation: “The church was cold and & clammy, which was quite proper. Miss Lyon’s mother was there, some Ashcrofts were there, the two Freemans were there, I was there. Also Mrs. Martin W. Littleton, and God. If God, He, was there, Reverend Percy Grant intimated that He was, even said He was. Nine in all.” (p.354)