I would bet that I quote Mark Twain more than any other writer. Since beginning this BLOG, I have quoted Twain sixty-five times.
In 1907, Mark Twain wrote: "The truth is that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected children and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me." That's classic Twain!
How dare the current censoring or Bowdlerizing of Twain's masterpiece Huckleberry Finn be allowed! As a child, reading Huckleberry Finn, I did not know that it was banned when it was first published because Jim was treated as a "human being" and not a slave! The fact that I, as a child, knew that Jim was a human being and deserved to be accorded fair treatment and because Huck gradually rejected the values he had been brought up with, especially the views on slavery, and the fact that I, as a child, comprehended that, is the ultimate triumph of Mark Twain. Twain's ability to communicate to a child in rural Ohio in the 1950s, just as he had communicated when the book was published in 1884, is a testament to his masterpiece. To quote Twain: I don't want to be among those "which people praise and don't read."
I have never used the "N" word in my life. Even as a child, reading Huckleberry Finn, I knew that it wasn't "right" for me to use the word, but I was worldly enough to ask questions such as "WHY?" WHY would Huck use those words? WHY did he act the way he did? Clearly, the answers were that it was an accurate portrayal of life at that time and place. Even as a child, I was able to grasp that the author probably didn't approve of the words and actions of some of the characters.
Did I suddenly begin using the "N" word or the derogatory term or the "I" word for Native Americans? Of course not.
Twain wrote: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter." He knew he had to use the RIGHT word because, as he wrote, it's "the difference between the lightning bug and lightning."
Hemingway was right when he wrote: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn; it's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."--from The Green Hills Of Africa (1934
Read The New York Times regarding Twain's death.