Strippable Cover: Mark Twain’s own words, World-wide book groups, and John Scalzi has gone officially bugnuts

So here we are, starting a new book feature here at GOA, henceforth to be known as Strippable Cover. For those of you unaware, a strippable book are those mass-markets you buy in the airport bathroom’s newstand that have the ‘If you purchased this book without a cover…’ warnings in the beginning.

That’s enough exposition. Let’s get to the fascinating world of the printed page.

Mark Twain is one of the progenitors of humorous American writing, but what we know about him comes primarily secondhand. Well, that’s about to change. According to The Independent, in November of this year we’ll finally see the first volume of the autobiography that Twain worked on for over 30 years, published by the University of California, Berkeley. The author left explicit instructions that the memoir, which totals over 5000 pages, shouldn’t be published for 100 years after his passing.

There’s a division as to the cause of the long delay. Some believe it’s so that he could speak freely about politics or religion without damaging his children’s legacy. Others, like historian Laura Trombley, take a different view.

There is a perception that Twain spent his final years basking in the adoration of fans. The autobiography will perhaps show that it wasn’t such a happy time. He spent six months of the last year of his life writing a manuscript full of vitriol, saying things that he’d never said about anyone in print before. It really is 400 pages of bile.

That section seems to deal a fair amount with his scandalous relationship with former secretary Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, who was apparently so close to Twain “that she once bought him an electric vibrating sex toy.” However, it is only the first volume we’ll be seeing initially, which will total close to 800 pages. Doctor Robert Hirst, who is editing the text, hopes that “By publishing Twain’s book in full, we hope that people will be able to come to their own complete conclusions about what sort of a man he was.”

Moving through time to a distinctly more modern phenomenon, what do you think it would take to get “zillions” of people to read and discuss one book? Well, how about a platform where you can share your thoughts and debate with someone almost instantaneously? Oh right. Twitter.

My own city does “One book, One Community” every year, but Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing and an editor at Wired, has taken it a little further. Welcome to ‘One Book, One Twitter.’

The goal, according to Howe, is not that different from the programs that your town might organize.  “The aim with One Book, One Twitter is – like the one city, one book programme which inspired it – to get a zillion people all reading and talking about a single book.” It is not like the traditional book club where “a more selective crew of book lovers…read a series of books and meet at established times to discuss.”

Neil Gaiman, a regular user of Twitter, and author of first selection, American Gods, loves the idea, but isn’t sure about the selection of his book. He’s “half-pleased and half-not”, since, according to him it’s “such a divisive book. Some people love it, some sort of like it, and some people hate it.”

Myself, I love American Gods and will be participating. The One Book, One Twitter hub is up, with more than 8000 followers, and you can join in with the tag #1B1T.

Finally, we end the night on a bit of silliness for a good cause. If you’re not familiar with John Scalzi, run out and pick up one of his novels or the excellent collection from his blog Whatever, entitled Your Hate Mail will be Graded. If you are familiar with him, this image probably won’t surprise you at all.

Taken that in? Good.

That is a beautiful illustration done by Jeff Zugale of Wil Wheaton, wearing his infamous sweater, on a Unipegakitten, about to stab a Scalzorc with a spear. Weird, and pretty awesome, but not interesting beyond a brief stare and a muttered “why?”, right?

Well actually, Scalzi has a plan that makes the picture even more awesome than it already is and will hopefully explain “why”. He’s hoping that someone can come up with a good enough fanfic that will both explain why this epic battle is about to occur as well as benefit the Lupus Alliance of America.

He’s asking that people write their version of what’s going on in the form of a 400 to 2000 word short story, and email it to him by 11:59 pm EST on June 30th. The winner will be paid for their story (10 cents a word) and will receive publication of it in an electronic chapbook, the sale of which will benefit the aforementioned Lupus Alliance. So get on your keyboard and type away. There aren’t any restrictions (except the should-be-obvious-no-slash-or-explicit-sex one) and personally, it sounds like a blast.

Posted on June 1, 2010 at 23:19 by Lincoln Eddy · Permalink
In: News · Tagged with: , , , , ,
  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com arkonbey

    What? Samuel Clemens was bitter, opinionated and had problems with pretty much every other human being on the planet while he was alive?

    This is the sound of me not being at all shocked.