Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mark Twain, autobiography, and blogging

Anyone who has known me for any length of time has probably heard me enthuse about one of my all-time-favourite blogs - the Language Log. It's a must for anyone with any interest in the ways language is used. Occasionally its more serious posts on linguistics or statistical methods or the way the brain works are a bit beyond me, but it often makes me laugh out loud and on most days it informs and entertains me. I love its anti-prescriptivist nerdiness.

Today's post by one of Language Log's founders and regular contributors, Mark Liberman, reproduced a quote from the recently published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol 1:
Finally, in Florence in 1904, I hit upon the right way to do an Autobiography: start it at no particular time in your life; talk only about the thing that interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale, and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime.

Also, make the narrative a combined Diary and Autobiography. In this way you have the vivid things of the present to make a contrast with memories of like things in the past, and these contrasts have a charm which is all their own. No talent is required to make a combined Diary and Autobiography interesting

And so, I have found the right plan. It makes my labor amusement - mere amusement, play, pastime, and wholly effortless.
As I reached the second paragraph I found myself thinking 'what wonderful advice for blogging' - only to read Mark Liberman's comment on the quote, 'This is also the right plan for successful blogging, in my experience'.

I imagine that if Mark Twain were alive today he would be a most entertaining and innovative blogger. But given he was a popular, entertaining, innovative and great writer, he'd hardly have a need to blog.


Anonymous said...

mark twain would have been a blogger for sure! i take heart that we are in such good literary company! thanks for sharing this lyn.

Bells said...

i reckon he would have been too. he was such an innovator. I think some great authors have great blogs - I think it gives them a way to keep up that sense of immediate contact with readers in the long periods between books!

Apparently there's a new Twain biography that's well worth reading.

Yoga Knitdra said...

That's just so Mark Twain, it makes so much sense to write that way when you think about it. Timeless. I do love your posts Lyn, I always learn something new.

NessaKnits said...

Aren't we all Mark Twains in blog land!