2010 is the year of Mark Twain. April 21 marks the centennial of the writer’s death and November 30 the 175th anniversary of his birth. To commemorate the occasions, festivities are taking place at several sites in the U.S. related to the novelist, humorist, and travel writer. If you join in the literary revelry, be sure to enjoy yourself. Twain wasn’t fond of commemorative occasions, but he also declared that “a good and wholesome thing is a little harmless fun in this world.”
The Mark Twain House & Museum — an atmospheric Victorian Gothic mansion where the writer put down roots for 16 years — is going all out to celebrate Twain this year. Their line-up of events includes “The Mark Twain Séance” on April 21, with a recreation of a Victorian-era séance and a tour of the house led by a ghost investigator. Running through January 2011 is the exhibit “Legacy,” which traces Twain’s influence on America and the world. It explores how Twain has been perceived by the public over the years and features letters from celebrities expressing their thoughts about the writer—like humorist Roy Blount, Jr., who summed it up in three words: “He’s still funny!” marktwainhouse.org
Twain described Hannibal as “a boy’s paradise,” and he immortalized the Mississippi River town as St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Among the 2010 events at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum is a film festival; on the first Friday of each month a film version of one of Twain’s works is screened. At noon on April 21 is the “Time Capsule Ceremony.” Museum staffers will be joined by the characters Tom and Becky as they bury a time capsule filled with items related to the raconteur. marktwainmuseum.org
ELMIRA, NEW YORK
On display at the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College is Twain’s octagon-shaped writing studio (John Steinbeck was later inspired to create a similar workspace at his Long Island home). Special happenings in Elmira, where Twain spent summers for nearly two decades, include a reading of his correspondence on April 15, a reenactment of his burial at the town’s Woodlawn Cemetery on April 24, and “Dine Like Twain Dinners” featuring his family’s recipes April 21-23. marktwaincountry.com
Other places to tap into Twain’s legacy: The Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site in Florida, Missouri (temporarily closed for repairs), and the Mark Twain Museum at the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, a silver mining town where he began using his famous pseudonym while working as a newspaper reporter.
For a calendar listing of Twain events, visit twain2010.org.
[Photos ©Mark Twain House & Museum, Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, and Center for Mark Twain Studies/Elmira College]