Archives: Mark Twain

A description of Artemus Ward for the caricaturist

January 6, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism, writers, writing.

If ever there was a description that demanded a caricature, it is this one of Charles Farrar Brown, aka Artemus Ward. His fellow editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, George Hoyt, wrote: His desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of • Read More »

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Bret Harte: object of Mark Twain’s praise and derision

December 3, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism, writers, writing.

Bret Harte probably deserves a higher station than the one he occupies in the pantheon of American letters. A big part of the reason he doesn’t have it lies with his one-time friend, Mark Twain. Twain had known Harte from their days in the West when Harte achieved national fame in writing about the tall • Read More »

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The father of modern caricature, bitterness among literary lights, and a view of personal technology: newsletter, Nov. 30, 2018

December 3, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,984) on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.     The theme of writing — good writing, I hope — permeates all of my newsletters, but this week you may notice another: caricature. I have tried this art form from time to time with varying degrees • Read More »

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The purpose of great literature: to make people comfortable

February 14, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, journalism.

That’s what school officials in Duluth, Minnesota (and a few other places, unfortunately) would have you believe. The school system in Duluth is the latest to remove To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the required reading list for ninth graders. The reason they give: the language used in these books • Read More »

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Literary journalism, explained

May 9, 2017 | By Jim Stovall | Comments Off on Literary journalism, explained | Filed in: journalism, writing.

If it is to be literary journalism, the writer must be a journalist, not a fiction writer. That is, the writer cannot make anything up. The facts, descriptions and quotations must be true. They must be things that happened. Sometimes, for the sake of the story, writes create “composite” scenes or characters. If they do so, the writer is obligated to tell the reader that this has happened. Ultimately, however, such fictionalizing is unsatisfactory to the true journalist who is dedicated to the factual presentation of information.

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Mark Twain takes aim

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

In a famous 1895 essay, Mark Twain delivered a stinging critique of one of America’s 19th century literary icons, James Fennimore Cooper. Twain was very much a modern writer, advocating active, descriptive verbs and short rather than long words. His essay is worth reading, not necessarily for what it says about Cooper, but for what it says about writing itself.

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