Mark Twain’s Eden
When I was little, one of my favorite movies was The Adventures of Mark Twain, a claymation video that wove together bits and pieces from some favorite Twain stories. I was reminded of this the other day when, browsing in Denver’s magnificent Tattered Cover bookstore, I came across a delightful 1995 collection called The Bible According to Mark Twain, which collects his writings on religion. (It does not include, so far as I could tell, any of his writings on Christian Science, which my father recently told me are quite wonderful. Now Christian Scientist Val Kilmer—that’s right, the Val Kilmer you’ve heard of—has an upcoming movie which celebrates Twain and Eddy. Here’s a letter in the NYRB that clarifies Twain’s ambivalence about Christian Science.)
Anyway, one passage almost drew a tear out of my eye in the bookstore. It’s from the very end of Twain’s “Eve’s Diary,” a collection of journal entries penned by the mother of us all. I remembered this bit well from the claymation flick. Sure it’s sappy, but keep in mind that it comes after pages and pages of irreverent humor directed at religious absurdities:
FORTY YEARS LATER
It is my prayer, it is my longing, that we may pass from this life together—a longing which shall never perish from the earth, but shall have place in the heart of every wife that loves, until the end of time; and it shall be called by name.
But if one of us must go first, it is my prayer that it shall be I; for he is strong, I am weak, I am not so necessary to him as he is to me—life without him would not be life; how could I endure it? This prayer is also immortal, and will not cease from being offered up while my race continues. I am the first wife; and in the last wife I shall be repeated.
AT EVE’S GRAVE
Adam: Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.
I’ve been thinking of doing an essay comparing this collection of Twain on the Bible to more recent biblical humor, including A.J. Jacobs’s Year of Living Biblically and David Plotz’s Good Book. Any interest in that?
Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.