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Books / June 17, 2010

390px-Mark_Twain-Shirtless-ca1883

You might have heard that Mark Twain’s autobiography is going to be published this fall—the real one, not the abridged, expurgated, censored, compromised, cleaned-up, Sunday school superintendent version that’s circulated over the years. 5,000 pages of sheer bile, cussedness, and truth-telling is what’s promised, and I’m ready to pre-order Volume One.

Twain famously stipulated that it not be published till one hundred years after his death in 1910, and here we are. How time flies when you’re destroying America! It seems like only yesterday when we were an embiggened nation and had some great people among us. They weren’t the majority, of course, but the ones we had were prime. Especially that fierce Civil War era crop. Besides Twain there was, lessee, off the top of my head, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass, and Ulysses S. Grant, and William Tecumseh Sherman, and John Brown, and Harriet Tubman, and Ambrose Bierce and…

That’s not so many, you say. Oh yeah? Try naming eight great Americans living right now. G’head. Try it. Okay, try naming three. I remind you that Johnny Cash already kicked the bucket and Hunter S. Thompson shot himself. But Muhammad Ali’s still alive, so that’s one. Oh, and Cesar Milan became an American citizen, didn’t he? So that’s two. In the unlikely event that you can think of a third candidate, please forward your bright idea to sic@exiledonline.com.

muhammad_ali

When the publication of the Twain autobiography was announced, the press tended to focus on certain eye-popping details the tome reveals about the author’s old age. The electric sex toy bought for him by his secretary/mistress, Isabel Van Kleek Lyon, for starters, and the colorfully insulting language he used to describe her after the affair ended. Apparently it isn’t generally known that Mark Twain was an old rip.

Which means people aren’t reading Twain anymore, or anyway, they aren’t reading him with any real attention to detail. Even the milder stuff assigned in high school English classes is ripe, blasphemous, hilarious, and heartening. Sure, they don’t assign you Twain’s “Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism”. But The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is plenty lively, with exhilarating stuff on every page. Here, for instance, is Huck’s first-person description of his father, the malevolent town drunk:

He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he was behind vines. It was all black, no grey; so was his long mixed-up whiskers. There warn’t no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man’s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body’s flesh crawl—a tree-toad white, a fishbelly white. As for his clothes—just rags, that was all.

This is why kids should study literature. It does a child good to read a frank, straightforward assessment of a parental figure like that. It means you don’t have to lie to yourself, see; you can acknowledge, in your own mind, what you’re experiencing, even if you have to disavow it aloud in order to get along in society.

pap

Huck’s all for the necessary lie, even the merely convenient lie, which provides cover while you’re making plans to escape whatever rotten situation you’re stuck in through no fault of your own. He conveys the genuine danger of being honest with others:

I says to myself, I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks, though I ain’t had no experience, and can’t say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here’s a case where I’m blest if it don’t look to me like the truth is better and actuly safer than a lie. I must lay it by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it’s so kind of strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it. Well, I says to myself at last I’m a-going to chance it; I’ll up and tell the truth this time, though it does seem most like setting down on a keg of powder and touching it off just to see where you’ll go to.

You know who’d understand Twain, and could get him across to these addled new generations? The Coen brothers. They’re the filmmakers who could actually get away with putting Huckleberry Finn—notoriously un-adaptable—on screen. They’re working on True Grit right now (adapting the Charles Portis novel, not remaking the wacky John Wayne movie version), which would be good practice, getting them into the properly tough-minded period mood to do Twain. They’re not afraid of episodic structures, strong dialects, regional specificity, humor and horror inextricably mixed, honest representations of weird American ways. And they were already inspired by Twain in their creation of the cowboy Stranger played by Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski; by their own account, they were trying to evoke the “earthiness” of Twain. Always on the right track, those guys!

SamElliott

(Hey, I almost forgot the Coen brothers! That’s two more great not-dead Americans, so we’ve got four. Woo-hoo! Do I hear five? Anybody?)

Most film and TV adaptations of Twain’s work are mushy and coy and filled with cheap Americana that makes you feel tired, with everyone saying “Shucks!” all the time. So far the only decent Twain adaptation I know of was a brilliant six-minute mash-up on The Simpsons with Bart as Tom Sawyer and Nelson as Huck Finn. (I wish I could remember more precisely the dialogue about the harsh-sounding food of the 19th century South. Something along the lines of, “You want some cornpone? Flapjacks? Hardtack? Fatback?”)

Simpsons_Tall_Tales

You have to admire Twain for having the savvy to suggest that his uncensored autobiography is such hot stuff, such pure Tabasco, it must be withheld from the public for a century, when presumably everyone savaged in its pages would be long gone. Twain knew the drama of the deathbed memoir; he’d arranged to publish the memoirs of his friend and personal hero, Ulysses S. Grant.

ulyssessgrantposing2

Grant achieved the most epic deathbed-memoir ever, famously writing it while dying in agony from cancer of the throat. Bad investments and fraudulent business partners had bankrupted Grant, and he wanted the money for his family. He finished the weighty tome just days before expiring, and he saved his family from penury, and he got a lot of posthumous raves from admiring critics and military experts, who said, essentially, “Hot damn, he sure was a clear thinker and a good describer of strategy and tactics and battles for a guy dying in agony from cancer of the throat.”

grant-old-man_small1

People did stuff like that then, sometimes; heroic stuff.

This is not to say that reading 5,000 pages by elderly Mark Twain will be any picnic, even for his biggest admirer (me). Late-life Twain is pretty rough. By then he was, as they always say, “bitter.” Like his pal Grant, he got swept up in the get-rich-quick fever of the Gilded Age and lost his shirt, as well as his house, and had to go on endless speaking tours to try to recoup. His beloved wife Olivia died; his children kept dying too; only one of four outlived him. As his notoriously high “animal spirits” faded, his affection for reprehensible humanity dissipated as well, and he began to roast them unsparingly in prose. He’d come to hate the Christian God too, and went after him “with a pen warmed up in Hell.”

All perfectly understandable, but you still have to brace yourself a bit when a great writer attacks. Here’s what old Mark Twain thought of humanity: “Oh, we are a nasty little lot—and to think there are people who would like to save us and continue us. It won’t happen if I have any influence.”

MarkTwainBed

There’ll be lot more like that in the autobiography, reviling us for what liars we are, what cowards, what fools, what hypocrites, what sycophants, what conformists, what cruel bastards, what greedy sloppy pigs, with apologies to pigs for insulting them. But it’ll be good for us to read. Twain is exactly what we need right now, a necessary corrective. We’ve revived all the rotten vices of the Gilded Age, but with none of the ferocious virtues that made it interesting. We’re more damnable now than when Twain was alive, which he would’ve hardly thought possible, but there it is.

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54 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. se  |  June 17th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    excellent article as usual. But as far as your request to name some great Americans alive today goes, I’d definitely vote for the Ames/Taibbi/Zaitchik/Levine/Dolan gang. Pure unfiltered awesomeness IMO.

  • 2. Aaron  |  June 18th, 2010 at 2:00 am

    “The Coen brothers.”

    What the Christ? Drop fucking dead.

  • 3. Wyse Guy  |  June 18th, 2010 at 4:37 am

    revived all the rotten vices of the Gilded Age, but with none of the ferocious virtues that made it interesting.

    Eileen, you bitter bitch, if you ever wrote a literary sentence, that thar last one, is it.

  • 4. Toni M.  |  June 18th, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Thank you for the increased volume of your articles.

  • 5. you  |  June 18th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    zomg, eileen jones wrote a genuinely good article. you should switch to literature from film, because your faux-review of that novel about leftists in sweden or whatever was also pretty good. i am certainly unsure about whether the coens are definitely great, considering intolerable cruelty and the ladykillers, which make it seem that even the greatest american artists of modern times have sold out at least once.

  • 6. Aleks Kensei  |  June 18th, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Fedor Emelianenko!

    Well, at least he’s IN America at the moment–

  • 7. GollyGee  |  June 18th, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Nice post. What the hell! Why don’t we produce more great people? Is it the soil?

    Most Americans praise Twain without knowing how tiresome much of his writing can be. It’s his one-liners that make him great.

    Before he was president, Lincoln was a corporate lawyer involved in land rip-offs. He had his own opulent railroad car supplied by his employers. Many of his lovable sayings weren’t really said by him. But okay, I’ll agree he was great nonetheless.

    Grant in some ways was maybe even greater, and he apparently really said the things he’s credited with. On the other hand, he may have caused several hundred thousand people to be maimed or die unnecessarily by his pressing for action when patience might just as well have carried the day. Dunno. Hard to explain away the corruption of his admin.

    How about Dr. Paul Farmer? Nader was heroic against GM and corporate intimidation. I guess Sonny Barger is still alive.

  • 8. hans Sprungfeld  |  June 18th, 2010 at 9:01 am

    A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.

    There are great Americans, albeit nearly all of them write for The Exiled.

  • 9. matt  |  June 18th, 2010 at 9:13 am

    What about Michael Moore? The eXile and Eileen Jones especially seem to love him and that has to count for something.

  • 10. DocAmazing  |  June 18th, 2010 at 9:26 am

    A couple of the greatest living Americans are basically Canadians: Noam Chomsky and Peter Dale Scott. John Stockwell?

  • 11. Jim Buck  |  June 18th, 2010 at 10:11 am

    You can keep Piers Morgan if you give us David Simon.

  • 12. Chas  |  June 18th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    So what’s “great”? We’ve got to have some “greats” or our own image of our “greatness” may may start eroding? Why not recognize GW Bush’s “greatness? Didn’t he elevate imbecility to where it has become admired and emulated the world over? And the pure meanness of the man? Never mind that he just didn’t possess the brilliance to achieve true evil, but, still, who can argue that he has set the bar for what will be regarded as American for a long time to come. He’s got my vote.

  • 13. gc  |  June 18th, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Great Americans: Will Bob Dylan, Matt Groening, and Michael Moore do?

    (A harder question: How many great Americans do we have who aren’t artists?)

  • 14. Tom  |  June 18th, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Great post. Love Mark Twain as well. From a historical perspective I would say three things did America in: the empire, the empire, the empire. The real promise of America was but unfortunately isn´t anymore democracy. That means people in small towns getting together to decide their own affairs. Nowadays it means an ill defined freedom that just amounts to the freedom to poison yourself whith the shit the ad industry is foisting onto you.
    What the country needs is a break down to get back to the basics and start to look as the world as it is. No more plastic-fantastic but reality. The shock will be terrible but if the country survives it there´s a chance.

  • 15. Timmy  |  June 18th, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    I must have read Huckleberry Finn probably nearly 20 years ago as a very young boy. Probably too young to properly understand it.

    I can’t remember anything about the book, but I sure remember reading that passage describing Huck’s dad! Skeered me good!

  • 16. Hosswire  |  June 18th, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    John Waters. Philip Roth. Gore Vidal.

    Maybe if we want more Great Americans, we will have to be them ourselves. Now there’s a depressing thought.

  • 17. MQ  |  June 19th, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Can there be any more doubt that Eileen Jones is John Dolan? The only thing missing from this one was some insults of the British.

  • 18. korman643  |  June 19th, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Just on the top of my head:

    – Bill Watterson
    – Kip Thorne
    – Slayer/Nevermore/Testament and billions of other thrash metal bands and billions of other great rock musicians.
    – Noam Chomsky
    – John Dolan
    – David Glantz
    – Royal Robbins
    and many others. And I’m not even American!

    America may be past its prime, but this does not mean “prime time” for America may not return (look how many comeback China did through its history).

    I believe one has to take a look back at what made America big – and it was stuff like TV shows, music, culture, technology, science. I don’t think any other culture is producing now great stuff in these departments as America did in the 1950-1960, nor anyone seems to have taken the role of “new country” America had before WWII. So maybe the crisis is general, and not only American.

    Just my two c.

  • 19. Ed  |  June 19th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    First off, I love your writing, Eileen Jones.

    My favorite quote from Mark Twain is this: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” I think we might be able to address “what’s really wrong” when we learn to make the distinction between schooling and education. In Twain’s day, there was plenty of education, with very little schooling. Wikipedia says Twain was a printer’s apprentice at 12; a typesetter and Hannibal Journal contributor at 16; a printer at 18; a steamboat pilot at 24; a miner at 26; then back into the newspaper business in Nevada where he first uses the name “Mark Twain” at 27.

    Twain was born just 5 days after Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie emigrated at 13 and worked in a cotton mill; he was a telegraph messenger at 15; at 18, Carnegie became the personal assistant to the president of the largest corporation in the world at the time—the Pennsylvania Railroad Company—and was launched on his way to Robber Baronhood. Of course, Carnegie gave away most of his fortune to Education and gave us all a template for living: spend a third of life getting educated, a third of life making money, and a third giving it away. Easy-peasy, Andy!

    I guess a third of life now is 26, given that it’s the age until kids can go back on their parent’s insurance, and pretty close to the point where most people have ended their formal schooling. It’s the time they can unlearn what they have learned and start doing things the way their chosen profession demands and then change careers in three years.

    The juxtaposition of a 19th century life and a life from today is sickening in terms of the diversity of opportunity for real education and skill mastery. I mean, it’s really tragic that most of the kids those days only had a fifth grade education. Except when you consider that a fifth grade Twain would kick a modern college-kids’ ass in classical law, Shakespeare, the Bible, philosophy, and the political thought of the founding fathers. Don’t believe me? Look up “McGuffey Readers.”

    We are inured to our institutionalized lives through schooling. It did not just spring through some natural process. It was forged through the work of career-minded educators and experimental psychologists with the use of Robber Baron wealth. Carnegie and Rockefeller are as responsible as they are for pulling the triggers at the Battle of Blair Mountain or the Lowell Massacre—it was their henchmen and functionaries and they were all very enlightened and they all had all of our best interests at heart.

    Their reach extends into the present day. ETS, the granddaddy of testing companies, began life through a Carnegie endowment. The NEA is beholden to the largesse of Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations. There are always strings attached, you know. I think it best to part with the words of Frederick T. Gates, one of Rockefeller’s right-hand men, and the General Education Board—overseeing the southern schools effort, in 1906:

    “We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…we will organize children…and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”

  • 20. zhubajie  |  June 19th, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    “America may be past its prime, but this does not mean “prime time” for America may not return.”

    Hard times are often stimulating to the arts, esp. literature and music. It’s time for rap to be replaced.

  • 21. zhubajie  |  June 20th, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I’m struck how flat-stomached both Twain and Grant are in those photos.

  • 22. zhubajie  |  June 20th, 2010 at 2:27 am

    “Pap” Finn — proto-teatard. Read his rant about “mulatters” and how he was never going to vote again because a colored man could vote in Ohio!

  • 23. zhubajie  |  June 20th, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Timmy, read it again. All US politicians are either the King or the Duke.

  • 24. Kat  |  June 20th, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Coen brothers? What the hell?

  • 25. ingeborg  |  June 20th, 2010 at 6:18 am

    I know a few good americans who are alive!
    Noam Chom-naw, he’s a wash up
    Morgan Free-meh, he’s just an actor
    Alan Grays-no, he supports the extermination of Palestine
    Eh, never mind, I’ll try again later

  • 26. korman643  |  June 20th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    @zhubajie
    I think that the only truly worrying symptom of the current crisis is that it hasn’t yet produced any vibrant, new, exciting and truly controversial culture trend – something that normally happens during crises.

  • 27. Strahlungsamt  |  June 20th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I’ll tell you how to make America great again.

    Let’s start a fund to give Ames plastic surgery and a fake id and get him back into Russia as soon as possible.

    I MISS THE WHORES-R STORIES.

    Best sexist entertainment since Sean Connery slapped the chick’s butt in “From Russia with Love”.

  • 28. Victoria  |  June 20th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I want to be Eileen Jones’ dog.

  • 29. Xox Ma  |  June 20th, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Great Americans That I’d like to get rammed by today: Sergey Brin/Larry Page, Steve Jobs, T. Boone Pickens (who basically started a new life at 60), Michael Milken – and these are just a few names you might recognize.

    Just accept that one can’t judge this century by the standards that are 100-200 years old.

  • 30. esmerelds  |  June 20th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    …if Twain’s auto bio is anything like his late-life dump Mary Baker Eddy, it will be alternately painful, funny, insightful, and boring.

    But if it’s anything like this, I can’t wait…

    http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/1562/

  • 31. korman643  |  June 20th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    If you want to see why Mark twain was great, check this claymation version of “Mysterious Stranger”, Twain last short story. This is a sequence of “Adventures of Mark Twain”, a 1985 beautiful film that of course got very little attention back then.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hhb45_5FkQ

  • 32. zhubajie  |  June 20th, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Great Americans: Is Long Dong Silver still alive?

  • 33. Erik Bramsen  |  June 21st, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Arnold Schwartzenegger.

  • 34. Tam  |  June 21st, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I’d second Bill Watterson, (creator of ‘Calvin & Hobbes’, one of the most popular bits of mind expanding art ever) as a great living American and in a similar vein add the cartoonist Robert Crumb to the list, (even though he’s living in France these days). And maybe even Roseanne Barr, on account of the brilliant first few series of Roseanne.

    What all of these have in common, (along with the exile, come to think of it) is a refreshing honesty to share the truth as they see it and a willingness to face difficult questions and see the humour in them.

    Oh, and you can add anyone still alive who was involved in the creation of Sesame Street to the list too…

  • 35. Tam  |  June 21st, 2010 at 12:55 am

    Strahlungsamt : here’s some more good sexist entertainment…

    http://www.liverpoolway.co.uk/forum/gf-general-forum/46435-sexist-book-records.html

  • 36. franc black  |  June 21st, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Thank you for the article, Ms. Jones

    +Great Americans+
    I agree with Noam Chomsky and Bob Dylan, and add would Jared Diamond to the list of candidates. And to encourage a gender balance, how about Helen Thomas ?

  • 37. thomzas  |  June 22nd, 2010 at 1:37 am

    I second a call for Phillip Roth. Probably because I’m reading Operation Shylock at the moment.

  • 38. Dick Johnson  |  June 22nd, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Ian MacKaye.

  • 39. John Galt  |  June 22nd, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Who is Eileen Jones?

  • 40. Anonymous  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Not a lot of science fans here I see. No one can name any of our great American scientists and inventors who are still alive? Hell, one of them’s in the current cabinet. The problem is that we’ve done all the easy stuff, so most of what’s left isn’t very romantic. Inventing the light bulb is pretty accessible, even the recently deceased Borlaug’s dwarf wheat is pretty easy to grok. These days it’s all very complex, but I’m sure most Americans could agree that Dean Kamen (ignore the Segway) is a great American – if he appeared on Dancing With The Stars and they found out who he was. Unfortunately he’s mostly in the laser magazines what you can only find at the book borryin’ place. We’ve cracked the human genome (both teams are still around), given birth to the internet (most of those guys and the progenitors of the theories behind it are around) and done countless other things that are pretty great!

    Unfortunately the people we celebrate as being great and elevate to positions that would have previously required greatness to achieve or positions that are publicly accessible are fucking twats at worst and generally pretty lackluster showmen at best.

  • 41. RecoverylessRecovery  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    According to the American gay revisionist movement’s recent propoganda, ol’ Mark Twain liked to dip his teabag into other men’s kettles. Hell, he’d even let ’em soak in there for HOURS.

    Then again, according to that same source, apparently so did Humphrey Bogart, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Sometimes I think gay people are trying to work their way back in time so they can even implicate Jesus Christ himself as a homosexual.

    That’s why more advanced cultures DON’T give these people more RIGHTS, ..they give them PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT.

  • 42. RecoverylessRecovery  |  June 24th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    “..trying to evoke the “earthiness” of Twain”

    What an excellent adjective to decribe MT. And what a great article too! Thank you.

    “Who is Eileen Jones?”

    A very interesting and earthy author in her own right!

  • 43. Allen  |  June 24th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I’m not willing to believe there is a female film critic alive, or female person in general, with William Tecumseh Sherman on their short list of great 19th century Americans.

    Just sayin’

  • 44. Tam  |  June 25th, 2010 at 12:30 am

    @40

    The only noteworthy living scientists i can think of are all British. Dawkins, (who’s more interesting for the way he’s stolen all the tricks religions use to build themselves up to build his ‘church of atheism’ than anything he’s achieved scientifically with his work on snails), James Lovelock, Tim Berniers Lee and Stephen Wolfram. Most scientific breakthroughs these days, (particularly in the US) are big team efforts and saying one person is responsible for them is like saying a director is responsible for a film, which is in reality a team effort.

    I guess you could give some kudos to Bill Gates, (unfashionable though it is) insofar as the world would probably be a different place today if he hadn’t been around.

    One person i definitely wouldn’t put on the list is Craig ‘synthetic life’ Venter who’s one of the most shameless self publicists around…

  • 45. A-Lex  |  June 25th, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Eileen, I think this is one of your best reviews ever. A benchmark of a kind.

    It’s made me decide to buy the book as well.
    Nuff said :)

  • 46. korman643  |  June 25th, 2010 at 4:27 am

    @Allen:
    Noooo… I mean, you don’t say? I truly truly truly truly TRULY believed America was full of blonde, sluttish 21 years old WT Sherman cheerleaders! All with a superb knowledge of military history, cinema history, English literature history, (lot of “‘story” here)… and strangely despising 99.9% of current entertainment, but at the same time into Looney Tunes… and Mark Twain…

  • 47. Joz1@me.com  |  July 6th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Lincoln? Died defending his job. Would save the union if it meant blacks had to be slaves.
    Grant? The strategic approach of a hamburger maker.
    Lee? A brilliant strategist who should have realized that his genius meant the pointless deaths of thousand of Americans.
    Heroes? In a war to save a union that is now so big it’s ungovernable? A war that freed slaves for another ghostly civic existence of penury and abuse for the next hundred years?

    You’re a romantic.

  • 48. Tam  |  July 9th, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    ‘Notice to readers: We are scrapping the Great Living Americans nominating process due to your miserable failure, and hereby revoke your suggestion privileges. The eXiled has also initiated a review of our policies regarding the solicitation of reader input to make sure that a similar tragedy will never happen again. You people depress us.’

    Finally! I’m glad to see you’ve finally seen the light and remembered that your contempt for, us, your puerile readers is a large part of what makes the exile so special. I was starting to worry about you. Think I’ll go and reread some old [sic] columns now…

  • 49. Doc  |  July 10th, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Yvon Chouinard!

    Gosh, I hope I spelled his name correctly…

  • 50. EJK  |  August 11th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Yes okay, Ames & Taibbi

    Also,
    Chris Floyd
    Norman Solomon
    Charles Burnett
    Ron Carter
    Jim Douglass
    Joe Bageant
    Mr. Fish

    For a start.

    THE COEN BROTHERS????????????????

  • 51. john w.  |  August 17th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Chumpsky ? Give me a break ! Just a gatekeeper….Sorry.but the only one who is legit…Muhammad Ali. The rest are pretenders.

  • 52. captain america  |  September 2nd, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    @27

    ames can always move to eastern ukraine. i’ve never set foot in russia, but people tell me it’s pretty much the same. ames knows this, so i don’t know why he doesn’t go for it. hell, even i’m planning my escape back there as we speak. america is probably starting to grow on ames.

  • 53. jinxmap  |  November 1st, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Maybe there would be more “great” Americans, if they didn’t insist that they had to be American. But that won’t happen. And that won’t happen, either.

  • 54. martin woulfe  |  November 26th, 2010 at 3:21 am

    from one admirer of Twain to another, your article is well written & insightful.


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