Today, we're honoring two authors. Both Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift were born on November 29th. The more famous of the two, Mark Twain is known for classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. However, my favorite of his works is an essay called The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper. Cooper is famous for The Last of the Mohicans. He should be famous for using far too many words to write total crap. Mark Twain agrees with me and slays him in the aforementioned essay. The result is hilarious. I loved this piece so much I chose it as my piece for a literary analysis class. Which seemed like a rad idea until I realized I'd have to read the source material. After wading through Cooper's bibliography, I wrote my best paper to date, Six Grown Men Can't Hide in a Sapling. Because, in one of Cooper's books, that actually happens. But, I digress. Twain railed Cooper for his inconsistent dialogue, his inattention to detail, and the fact that, frankly, most of the situations in his book defy all laws of physics. But, as a humorist, he does it in a hilarious way. It's only a few pages. Give it a read. I assume everyone has a Norton Anthology of American Literature readily available; you can find it there.
Jonathan Swift penned Gulliver's Travels, which, I must confess, I have not read. We studied a portion of it in a World Lit class, but I have yet to read the entire thing. It's on my list! My insanely long list. As with Twain, my favorite work of Swift's is an essay. A Modest Proposal is satire. If you aren't familiar with satire, I'm sorry. To get A Modest Proposal, you have to understand satire. Otherwise, if you take it literally, it's horrifying. Swift proposes that, to bring an end to the Irish famine, Irish folks should eat their babies. And, whatever isn't edible, can be fashioned into fancy gloves and purses and sold to the rich English folks. A Modest Proposal uses a horrific idea to mock the often heartless attitude toward those less fortunate. Swift went to great lengths, using statistics and economic information available at the time, to argue his point. Again, he's using satire as a tool to bring attention to the plight of the Irish and, even more so, the indifference of the English when it came to helping those in need.
And, if the Boondock Saints taught us anything, it's that there is no evil quite like the indifference of good men.