Thursday, May 30, 2013

Favorite Western Writer

Virginia City
Mark Twain in Virginia City by Andy Thomas
My favorite Western writer is Mark Twain. Owen Wister is second. These are probably not names that come immediately to mind when thinking about Westerns, but both of these authors actually experienced the American frontier. They were there and they wrote about it so fondly that the Wild West became a cultural icon. The whole world devoured Western stories. The American Western became a staple of fiction, Hollywood, television, and daydreams.

In Roughing It, Twain tells tall tales about his time in Virginia City. It is supposed to be a nonfiction memoir, but is probably about as truthful as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. I suspect the two men would have admired each other's ability to make a point by telling a story.

Philip Pullman said, "Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever." The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a perfect example of this axiom. Below are a few handwritten pages from this great American classic. 

Handwritten manuscripts fascinate me. I used James Madison's convention notes when I wrote Tempest at Dawn. His notes were over 230,000 words; all recorded by dipping a quill into an inkwell. I marvel that in olden days, authors  maintained continuity without the cut and paste capabilities of a modern computer. Before word processors, writers had to keep future sentences in their head as their hand scrambled to keep up with their thoughts. Tough work that required exceptional mental agility. I thank Bill Gates daily for MS Word. 

handwritten manuscript

Note: the original title does not include the word The. Recent editions have generally added The.

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