Time and Twain

I confess I missed Time magazine’s recent big to-do over Mark Twain, partly because it spurs some guilt. Mr. Clemens isn’t exactly a blind spot in my reading—I’ve read the essential novels, and more than a handful of short stories and essays—but I’ve also missed plenty, and I wasn’t much in the mood for a reminder when Time‘s cover package came out. David Kipen‘s approving blog post on Time’s efforts notes that I have plenty of cheats when it comes to catching up on Twain—particularly twainquotes.com, which has an entire page dedicated to quotes on Teddy Roosevelt alone. Kipen’s post also notes that, news to me, Jane Smiley prefers Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Huckleberry Finn. Smiley clarified this point in a 1998 interview:

People seem to remember my saying that Huck Finn is a lesser novel than Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and that Uncle Tom’s Cabin should be taken as the greatest American novel. I didn’t say that. I just said that I didn’t think Huck Finn was the greatest novel ever written and that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was better than its reputation.

3 thoughts on “Time and Twain

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not at all better than its reputation. In fact, the only competition it has for heavy-handed melodrama is Go Ask Alice. Aside from its historical importance, how it even merits a comparison to Huck Finn is beyond me.

  2. I’ve never understood Smiley’s affection for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And I thought that her novelistic response to Huckleberry Finn–the Lidie Newton book–was just awful.

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