Before Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, and Keith Olbermann — There Was Mark Twain

ROY BLOUNT JR. writes in Time:

Forget earnest punditry. In a world of hollow White House pronouncements, evaporating mainstream media and metastasizing bloggery, it’s the mocking heads who make something like sense.

Let not those heads swell, however. News in the form of edgy drollery may seem a brave new thing, but it can all be traced back to one source, the man Ernest Hemingway said all of modern American literature could be traced back to: Mark Twain. Oh, that old cracker-barrel guy, you may say. White suit, cigar, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated — but he died back in 1910, no? White, male, and didn’t he write in dialect? What does he have to do with the issues of our day?

As it happens, many of these were also the issues of his day, and he addressed them as eloquently as anyone has since. The idea that America is a Christian nation? Andrew Carnegie brought that up to him once. “Why, Carnegie,” Twain answered, “so is Hell.”

Mark Twain gazing out window, 1907. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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