Mark Twain and Kate Chopin are two of my favorite American authors. Twain had great notority in his lifetime with dozens of famous friends like Helen Keller and Booker T. Washington and at his peak was probably the most popular American celebrity of his time. Kate Chopin’s short stories were well received in her own lifetime (1850-1904), published in some of the most prestigious magazines of the time like the Altantic Monthly and Vogue. But, when she published her novel The Awakening, she was practically condemmed from the literary world, and really didn’t become widely recognized until the 1950‘s when scholars noted that her novel was a moving and insigtful work of fiction. She had one of the more remarkable literary revivals in the United States.
Why did I select these two authors when I have so many to choose from you ask? Well, where to start.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) was an American author and humorist. Twain was the United States’ first comic superstar, writing funny stories and performing on stage. One day, he surprised everyone and wrote “Huckleberry Finn,” one of the best books ever written – which would be like Will Ferrell starring in “Blades of Glory” and then writing “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Mark Twain, that’s his pen name that we mostly know him by, was born to the name Samuel Clemens. American author William Faulkner, is credited with writing that Twain was "the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs." I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Twain was truly a keen observer of human nature. I have always loved the witty quotes of his that have made their way into many a political speech. That’s why I have put his story The Bad Little Boy into my American Authors playlist.
If you’re not familiar with this story here is my synopsis of it: The Bad Little Boy - What if you did all sorts of terrible, rotten things… but nothing bad ever happened to you? This is a parody of moralistic fables by one of America’s original – and best – humorists.
Kate Chopin (1850-1904) was an American author of about a hundred short stories and two novels. A mother of six children by the age of 28, she turned to writing after the unexpected death of her husband. A brilliant creator of complex female characters, Chopin was never fully appreciated in her time. But Mrs. P is spreading the word now: the girl had skills. Her work focused on the lives of sensitive, intelligent women. A Pair of Silk Stockings is a marvelous example of her talent.
Here is a short synopsis for you: Did you ever feel like running away from home or school or work for just one day? This is the story of a young housewife who finds herself with a little extra money – and decides to treat herself to a very special day in the big city.
Enjoy my American Author playlist
Thought provoking questions: Why do you think some people become famous when they are alive and others well after their deaths? Can you think of other writers or authors that support both of these instances?