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Forward into the past

Yesterday at a used bookstore in New York, I got a Sixties paperback of Letters from the Earth, a collection of Mark Twain pieces that he was certain could never be published in his lifetime because they were too radical, scandalous, defamatory. That remains to be seen by me, but I opened it just now at utter random and got this:

"'Oh, of course!' he scoffed. 'You are a Patriot—you and your sort. And what is a Patriot, pray? It's one who grovels to the Family, and shouts for the Emperor and the Government, be they in the right or in the wrong,—and especially when they are in the wrong; that they call 'standing by the Country.' Patriotism—oh, Laura! That sham, that perversion, that silver-gilt nursery bauble wherewith this combination of Land-grabbers, Constitution-tinkers, imbeciles and hypocrites called the Imperial Government beguiles and captures those confiding children the People. Oh, it's a sweet thing, is Patriotism.'"

When you can open an author at random and feel he is speaking to you not in his but in the moment of your own existence . . . that is not a bad thing to say about the author, even if it is a dire and despicable thing to say about your respective moments. Goodbye, 2018, and good riddance.

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