FROM MARK TWAIN TO ETERNITY
Grant's editor: Congratulations on a terrific and interesting piece ["Literary St. Louis," Aimee Levitt]. No doubt you will hear from readers who will quibble as to who was in, and who was not in, the excellent tour. I would not quibble a bit, but would add a connection to two writers who had substantial link to St. Louis.
Though not remembered as a literary giant, Ulysses S. Grant, who had a real St. Louis connection, wrote Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant that are a classic of the genre; they were edited and published by Mark Twain. In a lecture at Washington University on "Missouri Law, Politics and the Dred Scott Case," recently published as part of The Dred Scott Case: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Law, I recounted this connection, which fills in how Twain came to head west to join his brother during the Civil War:
Near Hannibal, Missouri, at the outbreak of the Civil War, a young man named Samuel Clemens joined a local Confederate militia unit. After about two weeks of field service, during which he nearly was captured by Union forces led by Colonel Ulysses S. Grant, Clemens resigned, explaining that he was "'incapacitated by fatigue' through persistent retreating." Clemens left the state and spent the duration of the war in Nevada and California. For American literature, it was a fortunate choice, for otherwise we might not have Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to explain us to ourselves, nor would Grant have had Mark Twain's help in editing and publishing his great Memoirs shortly before Grant's death in 1885.
Mike Wolff, via the Internet
Desperately seeking boosterism: This article (or its tone) isn't complimentary of St Louis. I wonder why the title leads one (intentionally perhaps?) to believe the story is one thing, while the article itself (with a few exceptions) talks about only negative memories from these authors. It's disappointing, but more so that the RFT felt the need to glorify the negative by printing this piece.
db, via the Internet
All you need to know: You forgot Stanley Elkin somehow; he's only the best writer the city has produced in decades. Like Wilco? Guess who Jeff Tweedy was singing about in "Poor Places" with, "He takes all his words from the books that you don't read anyway?" God, that guy lifted "Impossible Germany/Unlikely Japan" right out of the pages of The Magic Kingdom. While I'm on the point, why the hell isn't one of the branches of the city library dedicated to Elkin? His depiction of St. Louis in George Mills alone is worthy of this honor. You could have even bundled him with William Gass who was also totally left out in this. It's not like there are so many writers springing from the fertile soils of the Mississippi that it would be impossible to name all of them. All right, too much commenting, I know. The takeaway is that Stanley Elkin is great. That's honestly all you need to know.
Brian, via the Internet
Plus one more: Perhaps I missed it, but I saw no mention of Eugene Field, the poet and journalist, born and raised in St. Louis, who later ventured to Kansas City, Denver and finally Chicago. He was a friend of Mark Twain's. Mark Twain was there to commemorate his boyhood home on Broadway in St. Louis.
Martin Field, via the Internet
CAFÉ, AUGUST 19, 2010
ALL YOU CAN CATCH
Just say no: I just finished the article in the New Yorker about the overfishing of the world's oceans, and then I saw your thoughtful reminder of what our appetites are doing to our world ["Roll On (And On)," Ian Froeb]. I don't know what the answers are, but saying "no thank you" may be the best we can come up with for now.
Pam P., via the Internet
CAFÉ, AUGUST 5, 2010
Don't knock north county: I have been reading about both Cork and Hill Brewing Company in the Post-Dispatch and our north-county Suburban Journals ["Fermenting Ferguson," Ian Froeb]. I decided to give Hill a try today for lunch. I found the interior amazing. What a labor of love this must have been for those involved! My food was very good. I had a pulled-pork sandwich, and the housemade chips were crisp and fresh. My waiter, along with the rest of the wait staff, was attentive and cheerful. My questions about the brewing area in the back were answered in a friendly manner, with my waiter even offering me a mini tour. And just a reminder to Mr. Froeb, about the brewery not being built in one of the "more well-heeled" areas in town: Did you ask all of us in north county to show you our bank accounts? Just because we don't live in McMansions doesn't mean we may not be "well heeled." My advice to anyone wanting a fun place to have a cold beer (or wine or ice tea, or just plain water) and some good food is to head to Hill.
M.E. Rufkahr, via the Internet
In Keegan Hamilton's profile of MasterMind Award winner Stan Chisholm in last week's issue, we erroneously stated that Chisholm graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. In fact, he graduated in 2009.