“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” – Mark Twain

turkey hen


This is from a 1906 issue of Harpers magagine.  Twain’s dry wit and lame brained (fake) susceptibility to always be out witted by any animal that ever tread the earth (so sweet, amusing) is in full flower here. Mama Turkey I can vouch for; yes, she is cunning, sly and usually makes fools out of her hunters (these ladies are all over my pasture every day, prancing, preening and eluding would be assassins!)

Yes, you guessed it, The Complete Works of Mark Twain from the Library of America arrived! All seven volumes. What a happy antidote to the universal unease and malaise in today’s fiction.

Twain’s youthful flummoxing at Mama Turkey’s wingtips is hilarious.  He so obviously respects her and doesn’t really want to shoot her!  And he’ll never eat a sardine again.



Hunting the Deceitful Turkey

By Mark Twain

Harper’s Monthly (Dec. 1906): 57-58.

When I was a boy my uncle and his big boys hunted with the rifle, the youngest boy Fred and I with a shotgun — a small single-barrelled shotgun which was properly suited to our size and strength; it was not much heavier than a broom. We carried it turn about, half an hour at a time. I was not able to hit anything with it, but I liked to try. Fred and I hunted feathered small game, the others hunted deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, and such things. My uncle and the big boys were good shots. They killed hawks and wild geese and such like on the wing; and they didn’t wound or kill squirrels, they stunned them. When the dogs treed a squirrel, the squirrel would scamper aloft and run out on a limb and flatten himself along it, hoping to make himself invisible in that way — and not quite succeeding. You could see his wee little ears sticking up. You couldn’t see his nose, but you knew where it was. Then the hunter, despising a “rest” for his rifle, stood up and took offhand aim at the limb and sent a bullet into it immediately under the squirrel’s nose, and down tumbled the animal, unwounded but unconscious; the dogs gave him a shake and he was dead. Sometimes when the distance was great and the wind not accurately allowed for, the bullet would hit the squirrel’s head; the dogs could do as they pleased with that one — the hunter’s pride was hurt, and he wouldn’t allow it to go into the game-bag.

In the first faint gray of the dawn the stately wild turkeys would be stalking around in great flocks, and ready to be sociable and answer invitations to come and converse with other excursionists of their kind. The hunter concealed himself and imitated the turkey-call by sucking the air through the leg-bone of a turkey which had previously answered a call like that and lived only just long enough to regret it. There is nothing that furnishes a perfect turkey-call except that bone. Another of Nature’s treacheries, you see. She is full of them; half the time she doesn’t know which she likes best — to betray her child or protect it. In the case of the turkey she is badly mixed: she gives it a bone to be used in getting it into trouble, and she also furnishes it with a trick for getting itself out of the trouble again. When a mamma-turkey answers an invitation and finds she has made a mistake in accepting it, she does as the mamma-partridge does — remembers a previous engagement and goes limping and scrambling away, pretending to be very lame; and at the same time she is saying to her not-visible children, “Lie low, keep still, don’t expose yourselves; I shall be back as soon as I have beguiled this shabby swindler out of the country.”

When a person is ignorant and confiding, this immoral device can have tiresome results. I followed an ostensibly lame turkey over a considerable part of the United States one morning, because I believed in her and could not think she would deceive a mere boy, and one who was trusting her and considering her honest. I had the single-barrelled shotgun, but my idea was to catch her alive. I often got within rushing distance of her, and then made my rush; but always, just as I made my final plunge and put my hand down where her back had been, it wasn’t there; it was only two or three inches from there and I brushed the tail-feathers as I landed on my stomach — a very close call, but still not quite close enough; that is, not close enough for success, but just close enough to convince me that I could do it next time. She always waited for me, a little piece away, and let on to be resting and greatly fatigued; which was a lie, but I believed it, for I still thought her honest long after I ought to have begun to doubt her, suspecting that this was no way for a high-minded bird to be acting. I followed, and followed, and followed, making my periodical rushes, and getting up and brushing the dust off, and resuming the voyage with patient confidence; indeed, with a confidence which grew, for I could see by the change of climate and vegetation that we were getting up into the high latitudes, and as she always looked a little tireder and a little more discouraged after each rush, I judged that I was safe to win, in the end, the competition being purely a matter of staying power and the advantage lying with me from the start because she was lame.

Along in the afternoon I began to feel fatigued myself. Neither of us had had any rest since we first started on the excursion, which was upwards of ten hours before, though latterly we had paused awhile after rushes, I letting on to be thinking about something else; but neither of us sincere, and both of us waiting for the other to call game but in no real hurry about it, for indeed those little evanescent snatches of rest were very grateful to the feelings of us both; it would naturally be so, skirmishing along like that ever since dawn and not a bite in the mean time; at least for me, though sometimes as she lay on her side fanning herself with a wing and praying for strength to get out of this difficulty a grasshopper happened along whose time had come, and that was well for her, and fortunate, but I had nothing — nothing the whole day.

More than once, after I was very tired, I gave up taking her alive, and was going to shoot her, but I never did it, although it was my right, for I did not believe I could hit her, and besides, she always stopped and posed, when I raised the gTURKEY  FL WILD TURKEY GOBBLERun, and this made me suspicious that she knew about me and my marksmanship, and so I did not care to expose myself to remarks.

I did not get her, at all. When she got tired of the game at last, she rose from almost under my hand and flew aloft with the rush and whir of a shell and lit on the highest limb of a great tree and sat down and crossed her legs and smiled down at me, and seemed gratified to see me so astonished.

I was ashamed, and also lost; and it was while wandering the woods hunting for myself that I found a deserted log cabin and had one of the best meals there that in my life-days I have eaten. The weed-grown garden was full of ripe tomatoes, and I ate them ravenously, though I had never liked them before. Not more than two or three times since have I tasted anything that was so delicious as those tomatoes. I surfeited myself with them, and did not taste another one until I was in middle life. I can eat them now, but I do not like the look of them. I suppose we have all experienced a surfeit at one time or another. Once, in stress of circumstances, I ate part of a barrel of sardines, there being nothing else at hand, but since then I have always been able to get along without sardines.


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All Is Well That Ends Well – Goodreads Catastrophe Reversed!

FINALLY the problem seems to be solved.  I’m holding my breath, though. Shouldn’t have taken so long IMHO in view of the length of my membership, my activity as a reviewer and author.

Anyway, dear friends, WHEW!!!

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Consider this a public service announcement for authors.  I can’t believe it, but it happened. And it happened to me.

Two days ago I simply changed my GR password and email –for security reasons –and my whole account, five years of activity, blogging, book reviewing, book listing and GR Author’s Program member activities (I had over 1000 followers, many fans) was ….


Poof, everything disappeared, all gone,  all the good reviews and endorsements of my books, others’ books etc. vaporized.

They don’t know how to fix it–or the rep assigned to the problem doesn’t.  She suggested I change my email back to my old email and reset my password.  Problem is, I closed that email account.  She can’t seem to comprehend why her suggestion is nonsensical.  I tried it anyway and it bombed. No go.

Irony and odd twist, one of my books, Marlin, Darlin, was one of the top ten Goodreads mysteries when it was published in July, 2010.

Trying to fix an online disaster is like talking to a single AAA battery robot.  A cat or bird could do a better job.

Life cannot be automated, Goodreads. Nor can writing, book reviews or books.

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How Extravagant! My Christmas Present to Myself! Everything My Hero Ever Wrote!

[an “aside” in a stage whisper:]

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”–Erasmus, 1469-1536

Mark Twain is the funniest, most original, wholly American literary genius this country has ever produced.

He took ordinary common speech, our quintessential low-brow grammatically mangled vernacular blather and blab, and transformed it into literary masterpieces, one after another.  A journalist, travel writer, public speaker, newspaper man, a gold miner in the Gold Rush of ’49, Twain participated fully in every major event or phenomenon of his day. Loved by all, laughter and grins followed him everywhere he went. He skewered and critiqued our pretences, pomposities and folderall with such stiletto precision and skill, that he angered no one as he did it but made us instead laugh at ourselves without feeling diminished by it, but rather lifted up and proud to be an American, decent, hardworking, optimistic, however uncouth!


It was a great time to be alive.  The country was coming into its own, our western frontier and natural resources seemed infinite. We gloried in the breath-taking, unspoiled beauty of the land and what appeared to be the brightest future any nation on earth had yet embraced.

twain mark-twain-mark-twain-9192207-1109-1377

The Complete Mark Twain Library
(7 volumes, plus a FREE book!)

from the Library of America, the final, definitive, flawless texts

edited by the best Twain scholars on the planet!

16 full-length works • over 270 tales, sketches, speeches, and essays • more than 7,300 pages
List price: $270.00
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This Library of America edition includes all of Mark Twain’s major works in seven clothbound volumes:

Mississippi Writings | 1,126 pages
Tom Sawyer • Life on the Mississippi • Huckleberry Finn • Pudd’nhead Wilson

Historical Romances | 1,031 pages
The Prince and the Pauper • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

The Innocents Abroad & Roughing It | 1,027 pages

A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator, Other Travels | 1,145 pages

The Gilded Age & Later Novels | 1,053 pages
The Gilded Age • The American Claimant • Tom Sawyer Abroad • Tom Sawyer, Detective • No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger

Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1852–1890 | 1,076 pages

Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, & Essays 1891–1910 | 1,050 pages

Also, FREE with your set ($35 in bookstores!):
The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works | 492 pages

A century and a half of the best writing about America’s quintessential writer.

“Both familiar classics and forgotten treasures”

—Christian Science Monitor

Posted in American Literature, Humor, Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Irony is Almost Too Much! “Amazon Killed the Bookstore. So It’s Opening a Bookstore.”

Not kidding, folks.


[This just in from Digital Book World.  Click through and read the rest of the sordid, sorry story.  I confess that I myself many years ago owned an independent bookstore–before I went to NY and publishing.]

“Bookstore owners already loathe Amazon for gutting the cost of books online and driving so many brick and mortar shops out of business. Now, the online retailer is both beating them and joining them, with the opening of its first physical bookstore in Seattle.

Amazon Books, as the new store is called, will be like any other Main Street bookstore (remember those?), except that Amazon will use the troves of data it collects from its online customers to stock the shelves. That means its book displays will feature real Amazon book reviews, and the store will showcase books that have amassed the most pre-orders online. The books will also come with Amazon’s trademark low price tags.

“It can afford those cut-rate prices, of course, because Amazon Books is as much a bookstore as it is a billboard. Amazon’s not suddenly betting big on the bookstore business, and it certainly doesn’t need the store to be a success in order for Amazon to succeed. It’s better to think of Amazon Books as a giant advertisement. If it makes a little extra money for a $294.7 billion company, all the better. . . . ”

Much more.

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Book Review: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Margaret Jean Langstaff:

Excellent, thorough review.

Originally posted on A View From My Summerhouse:

The Art of Memoir By Mary KarrMary Karr’s newly released The Art of Memoir couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me.

As bestselling author of The Liar’s Club, Cherry and Lit, and teacher of the form for thirty years, I couldn’t wait to devour her latest creation.

Written for both the “wannabe memoirist” and “general reader”, Karr’s passion for the reading, writing and teaching of her craft bursts through the door of every chapter.

As she tells her students:

“Listen up. I’m a passionate, messy teacher. I give a rat’s ass, and my sole job is to help students fall in love with what I already worship, which means, I show you stuff I’ve read that I can’t live without.”

(An extensive list of all the memoirs she has both read and taught stretches over five pages at the back of the book and had me gawping in awe.)

And this is what…

View original 559 more words

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THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (author of The Liar’s Club)

[NOTE: Having just finished editing two massive and interesting/ well written memoirs, ‘The Art of Memoir,’ by Mary Karr is of immense interest. Questions are raised that can’t be answered conclusively, yet they must be raised. Very intelligent review, most worth reading and pondering! — MJL.   By GREGORY COWLESOCT. 23, 2015 NYT]


Why not say what happened? All right, then: St. Augustine stole some pears. Kathryn Harrison had sex with her father. Tobias Wolff didn’t do much of anything to disturb his sleep, it would seem, but he still managed to turn his boyhood into beautiful, reflective music.

The vogue for memoir, like all vogues, comes and goes. But the impulse perseveres. Celebrities, addicts, abuse victims, politicians, soldiers, grieving children: Every­one has a story to tell and a conviction that the world wants to hear it — and often enough, if the best-seller lists are any indication, the world does.

Mary Karr has told three stories the world wanted to hear. In “The Liars’ Club” (1995), she wrote about her hardscrabble Texas upbringing, including her rape by a neighborhood boy and molestation by a babysitter; in “Cherry” (2000), about her adolescent coming-of-age; and in “Lit” (2009), about her adult recovery from alcoholism and embrace of Catholicism. (Given the inherently confessional nature of memoir, it may be no coincidence that so many of its most successful practitioners have been Catholic to some degree — Karr, Wolff, Harrison and of course Augustine, but also Mary ­McCarthy, David Carr, Mary Gordon, Patricia Hampl, Frank McCourt — or that even non-Catholic memoirists slip so easily into the churchly narrative of penitence and redemption.)

All three of Karr’s memoirs have been best sellers, and for 25 years she has taught literature and creative writing at Syracuse University. So she would seem as well positioned as anybody in our selfie-­besotted age to explain the art of memoir, which is just what she sets out to do in her new book, plainly titled “The Art of Memoir.” It is not, alas, a very good book. Repetitive, unorganized, unsure of its audience or tone, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a how-to guide or a work of critical analysis. I would have voted for analysis myself, partly because Karr proves to be an excellent reader of other people’s work and partly because the genre doesn’t readily lend itself to the reductive prescriptions of how-to: There’s no one way to write a memoir, any more than there is one way to live a life.

Karr recognizes this — “Every writer worth her salt is sui generis,” she concedes at the outset — and she seems a bit hamstrung by it. On the advice front, she pads the book with chipper lists and pop quizzes and general encouraging bromides. Her most insistent tip is the somewhat tepid suggestion that aspiring memoirists keep their work “carnal,” by which she means not sexual (despite the obvious commercial advantages that might bring) but grounded in details that appeal to the senses. For most writers that’s decent advice, if not especially revelatory, but for memoirists it runs headlong into another of Karr’s sensible, seemingly unobjectionable guidelines: the injunction not to make things up.

“Deceit in memoir irks me so badly,” she complains. “It’s the busted liars who talk most volubly about the fuzzy line between nonfiction and fiction. Their ­anything-goes message has come to dominate the airwaves around memoir” — an outcome that, for Karr, has moral as well as literary implications: “The popular, scoffing presumption that memory’s solely concocted by self-serving fantasy and everyone’s trying to scudge has perhaps helped to bog down our collective moral machinery.”

It’s true that fabricated memoirs have taken a lot of heat in recent years, and rightly so. But all of the shouting about James Frey and Margaret Seltzer and their ilk tends to obscure an essential, elementary point: Everybody is, in fact, trying to scudge. Even nonfraudulent memoirs, by scrupulous writers making good-faith efforts to reconstruct their pasts, are by nature unreliable — as tenuous and conditional and riddled with honest error as memory itself. And done right, that’s exactly what makes them so thrilling.

By Mary Karr

229 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $24.99.

Gregory Cowles is an editor at the Book Review.

READ THE REST OF THIS FASCINATING ANALYSIS AT http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/books/review/the-art-of-memoir-by-mary-karr.html?ref=books

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