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Best writer: Mark (Samuel Clemens) Twain or Jane Austen?

 
 
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 10:05 am
According to Spendius, Jane is perfection; Twain a hack. What do youse think?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 25 • Views: 5,527 • Replies: 93

 
Sturgis
 
  2  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 10:21 am
@edgarblythe,
I like Twain, his work has always kept my attention and been memorable. Jane Austen, not so much. I could wade through her works but it always seemed more of a requirement to have balanced reading. Neither strikes me as a hack.

As to true hack writers, I submit, as always, Lawrence Block.
(yeah, I've offered him up before) http://able2know.org/topic/184139-3#post-4887619

http://able2know.org/topic/186657-1#post-4937009


Anyway, I don't pay much mind to what or who spendius thinks has talent. He's got his interests, they just ain't usually the same as mine.
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Moment-in-Time
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 10:29 am
@edgarblythe,
Quote:
...Jane is perfection....


I'm madly in love with the novels of Jane Austen. She won me over with her "Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey", etc. I also like Mark Twain, but not like I adore the novels of Austen.
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ehBeth
 
  4  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 10:30 am
@edgarblythe,
They are so different. I can't imagine trying to compare them.


but ...

If I had to choose one of them as my desert island writer it would be Twain. He had so much more range as a writer. I really enjoy Jane Austen's books but I find her a bit one-tone/one-note.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 10:34 am
I am curious to note if the divide falls between English and American tastes in writing or if more of us are more detached than that.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 10:44 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

According to Spendius, Jane is perfection; Twain a hack. What do youse think?

Twain is better, hands down, no comparison.
Roberta
 
  4  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 11:13 am
I am not an Austin fan. I got bored reading her books.

Twain was spotty. Signs of genius; signs of not such a genius. Until Tom Sawyer showed up in the storyline, I thought that Huckleberry Finn was a great novel. (I don't use the word "great" lightly.)
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 11:18 am
@Roberta,
If I could only have one book, Huckleberry Finn would probably be it.

(and I agree about Tom)

I was not able to make it through enough Austen to offer an opinion...
saab
 
  3  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 11:53 am
I would choose Mark Twain any time. I really like the way he writes, his stories and his humour.
Jane Austin writes very well, I like her language especially when spoken. Which means I prefer films or CDs of her books.
To me it does not make any difference if American or English author.
Both countries have wonderful authors, good sence of humour and are for me on the same litteral level.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 12:39 pm
@Rockhead,
Rockhead wrote:


I was not able to make it through enough Austen to offer an opinion...


Me neither.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 12:47 pm
@edgarblythe,
You've got two non-US/UK votes so far.

I'm going to qualify my Twain selection. I want a collection of his short stories for my desert island pick, not any of the full-length books.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 01:05 pm
@ehBeth,
I'll reiterate what ehBeth said; that is, I appreciate both, but Twain would accompany me to a desert island.

Actually that's a lie. Albuquerque is a sort of desert island, and I don't have a Twain book in my house. His books don't pop up much at Good Will thrifts.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 03:37 pm
I think many of us can admire writing that is technically superior, but prefer a looser narrative to sustain in the long haul. Then again, I have not read either author in question in quite a few years and I am relying on memory alone.
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 05:29 pm
@edgarblythe,
Quote:
According to Spendius, Jane is perfection


I never claimed any such thing.
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Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 07:23 pm
One reads Jane Austen because it is "required reading." One reads Mark Twain because it is delicious. It's the difference between food consumed because it is nutritious and food taken for its wonderful taste.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 07:33 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Nope, not this one - Austen wasn't required for me. I wasn't a lit major except for something like three months.
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 07:37 pm
@ossobuco,
Well, I didn't necessarily mean that literally, Osso. It's required reading here on A2k if one is to maintain an ongoing conversation with Spendius.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 07:42 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
<snickers>
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raprap
 
  2  
Reply Sun 2 Jun, 2013 08:57 pm
I try to forget reading 'Huckleberry Finn' so I can experience reading it for the first time again. I would not say that about 'Pride and Prejudice'.

Rap
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Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 3 Jun, 2013 02:28 am
This is definitely apples to oranges. Additionally, Austen died relatively young (41), and in my never humble opinion, had just hit her stride with Persuasion--so her output never matched Clemens'.

Austen wrote about an aspect of her society which never had an equivalent in North America. There was a marriage market in the U.S. and Canada, but there were opportunities outside the home for young women that didn't exist in England. At the time Austen died 1817, there just wasn't anything else so important to women, no other opportunities, and it was also the means of either modestly securing one's future (men marrying money) or becoming truly wealthy (men marrying an enormous amount of money). No equivalent existed in North America. Historians and biographers have pointed out that the marriage market was so important that in literature of the late 18th and in the 19th century, the wars with France and France under Napoleon hardly get a mention while men and women worte novels in which marriage alliances are the key theme.

So Austen was writing about what was for men and women in society the single most important aspect of that society they inhabited. In her final novel Austen had begun to transcend the merely clever satire at which she had few equals and no betters. She simply didn't live long enough to produce a body of work to match that of Clemens. Short stories were not a profitable nor a popular medium in the time when she lived.

Not only was society significantly different in North America, but so was the world of popular publishing. Reaching back to the time of Austen's death, the short story had become sufficiently popular in the United States that it was popular and profitable genre in which an author could succeed--witness Poe. Clemens was writing about different themes, and he was writing often in a different medium. Having started as a journalist, he knew he could publish short pieces in a way that Austen could never have done, so he wrote extensively in a medium which was not really open to Austen.

The stylistic differences also make it an apples to oranges comparison. If Austen can be (and often is) dismissed as a mere satirist, Clemens can be dismissed (and outside the US often is) as a mere moralist. In A Connecticut Yankee and The Prince and the Pauper, Clemens lays on the righteous indignation with a trowel, under the cover of an entirely different style of satire. One correspondent asked Clemens if he could not have written more in A Connecticut Yankee, and he replied that he could have done, but that it would have taken a library of volumes and ". . .a pen warmed up in Hell." If one wants to look for it, there is much to condemn in either author in terms of theme and style.

So, the comparison is foolish, beyond acknowledging that both were satirists, in their very different ways.
 

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