Monday, October 10, 2016
"Columns show Twain as budding writer"/ "Castle ambitious about her artistry"
Sept. 10, 2016 "Columns show Twain as budding writer": I cut out this article in the Edmonton Journal on May. 8, 2015:
SAN FRANCISCO —Scholars at the University of California at Berkeley have pieced together a collection of newspaper columns or dispatches written by Mark Twain when he was a young journalist in San Francisco in 1865.
Written in the form of letters, the man who would go on to write The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), makes fun of the city’s police chief and accuses city government of being rascals. Some of the letters carry his flair for embellishment and may not be entirely true.
“This is a very special period in his life, when he’s out here in San Francisco,” said Bob Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project at the Berkeley campus.
“He’s utterly free, he’s not encumbered by a marriage or much of anything else, and he can speak his mind and does speak his mind,” Hirst said. “These things are wonderful to read, the ones that survived.”
Twain — the pen name adopted by the man born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Missouri in 1835 — was likely 29 years old when he started filing near-daily columns for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nev., in 1865. His dispatches would be sent by stagecoach from San Francisco. Hewrotea 2,000-word story, or letter, six days a week for a salary of $100 a month, Hirst said. Adjusted for inflation, that would be the equivalent of almost $1,500 a month today.
Much of what Twain wrote was lost in a series of fires, Hirst said. But over the years, Twain scholars rediscovered his San Francisco stories in back issues of other newspapers from the region, many of which reprinted the Territorial Enterprise letters.
“This is new stuff, even for Mark Twain fans.”
They have found about 110 columns written in 1865-66.
In one, Twain tells of how he fell asleep at an opera.
“I could close one eye in an opera and tell Traviata from Trovatore,” he wrote.
Twain criticizes San Francisco police officers for being incompetent, saying: “Wax figures, besides being far more economical, would be about as useful.” He describes the police chief, Martin Burke, as being like a dog chasing its own tail to “show off before his mistress.” When Burke’s friends complained, Twain wrote an “explanation” in which he says he was referring to the dog, not the police chief.
“Chief Burke don’t keep a mistress,” Twain wrote. “On second thoughts, I only wish he did. Even if he kept a mistress, I would hardly parade it in the public prints. Nor would I object to his performing any gymnastic miracle to afford her wholesome amusement.”
Despite his levity, Twain was also struggling at the time with his career, uncertain if writing humorously was literature, Hirst said.
“He was in the middle of an identity crisis. He was facing debt and had not embraced his talent. He was tormented by it ...”
In an 1865 letter to his brother, Twain wrote of contemplating suicide, partly due to debt.
A few months later, he left San Francisco for Hawaii. And within a few years had written his first major work, The Innocents Abroad (1869), which helped launch his career.
"Castle ambitious about her artistry": I cut out this article by Stephanie McKay in the Edmonton Journal on May. 8, 2015:
Jennifer Castle When: Sunday at 8 p.m. Where: Brixx Bar & Grill, 10030 102nd St. Tickets: $10, through ticketfly.com Jennifer Castle doesn’t court the spotlight. She’s there for the songs.
Yet the spotlight found the Toronto musician. Thirty two minutes of music, in the form of a 2014 album called Pink City, led to lots of critical love and online buzz, and for good reason. The album, Castle’s fourth, has wry warmth and a little something magical about it.
Don’t be surprised if you see the album as a Polaris Music Prize nominee in a few months.
Let’s learn a little bit more about Castle through some key words. Gardening: Up until recently, Castle made a living as a gardener when she wasn’t playing music.
This year, Castle is busy enough with music she won’t be digging in the dirt and watering plants.
Listen closely and you’ll hear tidbits about the job in her lyrics.
On How or Why she sings, “digging holes in December means tulips in May.” Live shows: “(Touring) is nice because I often I think when it’s happening that I’m just there for the songs I’ve written, which is a really intimate feeling for me.
The songwriting is just a thing I’ve done on my own for so long without people listening, that sometimes it’s interesting to think that’s the vehicle for which I get to travel.”
Writing: “I’m kind of new to even accepting that what I’m doing is called writing. I don’t know why.
It’s hard to describe the things that you do normally all the time and then people start telling you what you’re doing. I’m just in that moment; I feel.
Sometimes when people tell me they’re glad I was there or they had been listening to the record I don’t know if I ever really process that. It’s crazy that there’s a connection, but it’s amazing.” Owen Pallett: The composer and violinist did string arrangements for Pink City.
Homebody: “I am a homebody, so it’s good for making music. I’m alone a lot, or I try to carve that out and I’ve pretty naturally done that for a long time. Writing music and playing music are just kind of a part of the day.”
Ambition: Castle doesn’t crave attention, but that doesn’t mean she lacks ambition. She’s deeply ambitious when it comes to songwriting.
“I want the words to be alive if I’m going to use them. I have high expectations of language in general,” she said. “I think it’s possible to write well, so I am ambitious as a person doing it. Like a craftsperson, I would hope to be a g Choosing music: “You don’t make very much money and it creates struggles. I want to ask writers all the time, ‘How do you do it and why?’
Or any advice; I’m always looking for advice. Why would anyone do that? The world’s a machine, why be sensitive?”