Runboard.com
You're welcome.

runboard.com       Sign up (learn about it) | Secure Login (lost password?)


 
David Meadows Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info

Squire
Top of the page


Registered: 09-2003
Posts: 693
Reply  Quote
Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper


I've just come across an essay by Mark Tawin, and it's hilarious. He basically savages the work of Fenimore Cooper, and along the way gives some (actually very good) hints on how to write a story.

He describes how Cooper has Indians attack a river boat. First, the river:

quote:

In the Deerslayer tale Cooper has a stream which is fifty feet wide where it flows out of a lake; it presently narrows to twenty as it meanders along for no given reason; and yet when a stream acts like that it ought to be required to explain itself. [...] Cooper made the exit of that stream fifty feet wide, in the first place, for no particular reason; in the second place, he narrowed it to less than twenty to accommodate some Indians.



Then the boat:

quote:

Cooper describes the ark, but pretty obscurely. In the matter of dimensions "it was little more than a modern canal-boat." Let us guess, then, that it was about one hundred and forty feet long. It was of "greater breadth than common." Let us guess, then, that it was about sixteen feet wide. This leviathan had been prowling down bends which were but a third as long as itself, and scraping between banks where it had only two feet of space to spare on each side. We cannot too much admire this miracle. A low-roofed log dwelling occupies "two-thirds of the ark's length"--a dwelling ninety feet long and sixteen feet wide, let us say a kind of vestibule train. The dwelling has two rooms--each forty-five feet long and sixteen feet wide, let us guess. One of them is the bedroom of the Hutter girls, Judith and Hetty; the other is the parlor in the daytime, at night it is papa's bedchamber. The ark is arriving at the stream's exit now, whose width has been reduced to less than twenty feet to accommodate the Indians--say to eighteen. There is a foot to spare on each side of the boat. Did the Indians notice that there was going to be a tight squeeze there? Did they notice that they could make money by climbing down out of that arched sapling and just stepping aboard when the ark scraped by? No, other Indians would have noticed these things, but Cooper's Indians never notice anything. Cooper thinks they are marvelous creatures for noticing, but he was almost always in error about his Indians. There was seldom a sane one among them.



The Indians have bent a sapling down into an arch across the river so they can drop down on the boat (even though they could have stepped from the bank emoticon ). But their plans go wrong:

quote:


It will take the ark a minute and a half to pass under. It will take the ninety foot dwelling a minute to pass under. Now, then, what did the six Indians do? It would take you thirty years to guess, and even then you would have to give it up, I believe. Therefore, I will tell you what the Indians did. Their chief, a person of quite extraordinary intellect for a Cooper Indian, warily watched the canal-boat as it squeezed along under him, and when he had got his calculations fined down to exactly the right shade, as he judged, he let go and dropped. And missed the house! That is actually what he did. He missed the house, and landed in the stern of the scow. It was not much of a fall, yet it knocked him silly. He lay there unconscious. If the house had been ninety-seven feet long he would have made the trip. The fault was Cooper's, not his. The error lay in the construction of the house. Cooper was no architect.

There still remained in the roost five Indians.

The boat has passed under and is now out of their reach. Let me explain what the five did--you would not be able to reason it out for yourself. No. 1 jumped for the boat, but fell in the water astern of it. Then No. 2 jumped for the boat, but fell in the water still farther astern of it. Then No. 3 jumped for the boat, and fell a good way astern of it. Then No, 4. jumped for the boat, and fell in the water away astern. Then even No. 5 made a jump for the boat--for he was a Cooper Indian. In the matter of intellect, the difference between a Cooper Indian and the Indian that stands in front of the cigar shop is not spacious. The scow episode is really a sublime burst of invention; but it does not thrill, because the inaccuracy of the details throws a sort of air of fictitiousness and general improbability over it. This comes of Cooper's inadequacy as an observer.



Cooper is also rubbish at dialogue, thinks Mark Twain:

quote:

He even failed to notice that the man who talks corrupt English six days in the week must and will talk it on the seventh, and can't help himself. In the Deerslayer story he lets Deerslayer talk the showiest kind of book-talk sometimes, and at other times the basest of base dialects. For instance, when some one asks him if he has a sweetheart, and if so, where she abides, this is his majestic answer:

"'She's in the forest-hanging from the boughs of the trees, in a soft rain--in the dew on the open grass--the clouds that float about in the blue heavens--the birds that sing in the woods--the sweet springs where I slake my thirst--and in all the other glorious gifts that come from God's Providence!'"

And he preceded that, a little before, with this: "'It consarns me as all things that touches a fri'nd consarns a fri'nd.'"

And this is another of his remarks:

"'If I was Injin born, now, I might tell of this, or carry in the scalp and boast of the expl'ite afore the whole tribe; or if my inimy had only been a bear'"--and so on.







---
At a lewse end...
11/4/2011, 2:37 pm Link to this post Email David Meadows   PM David Meadows
 
David Meadows Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info

Squire
Top of the page


Registered: 09-2003
Posts: 693
Reply  Quote
Re: Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper


Mark Twain on Jane Austen:

quote:

Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.



quote:

I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.



Can you imagine Mark Twain today? He would be the greatest troll the Internet has ever seen emoticon



---
At a lewse end...
11/4/2011, 3:31 pm Link to this post Email David Meadows   PM David Meadows
 
Firlefanz Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info

Lady of the Land
Top of the page
 (premium)


Registered: 05-2003
Location: Germany
Posts: 5921
Reply  Quote
Re: Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper


He absolutely would. It is said that his wife hid many of the letters he wrote when enraged, rather than sending them off.

  emoticon

---
- Firlefanz

Mystical Adventures
Hannah Steenbock
Hannah Steenbock's Forum
11/4/2011, 3:42 pm Link to this post Email Firlefanz   PM Firlefanz Blog
 
Reythia Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info

Knight of Honor
Top of the page


Registered: 11-2005
Posts: 1883
Reply  Quote
Re: Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper


I've always loved Mark Twain. I love him even MORE now that you've told me about the Jane Austen quotes. emoticon

---
  -- YAR!
11/4/2011, 3:59 pm Link to this post Email Reythia   PM Reythia AIM MSN
 
QS2 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info

Shepherd
Top of the page


Registered: 03-2006
Posts: 2138
Reply  Quote
Re: Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper


He was pretty insightful in his time and humans being human, much of what he said then still applies.
11/5/2011, 9:42 pm Link to this post Email QS2   PM QS2
 
David Meadows Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info

Squire
Top of the page


Registered: 09-2003
Posts: 693
Reply  Quote
Re: Mark Twain on Fenimore Cooper


quote:

Firlefanz wrote:

He absolutely would. It is said that his wife hid many of the letters he wrote when enraged, rather than sending them off.

  emoticon



I didn't know that emoticon

Last edited by David Meadows, 11/7/2011, 11:09 am


---
At a lewse end...
11/7/2011, 11:09 am Link to this post Email David Meadows   PM David Meadows
 


Add a reply





You are not logged in (login)