Friday, May 19, 2017

Visiting the Homes and Haunts of Twain's Fictional Characters

Today, I wrap up our series on museums honoring American writers. Esther inspired the topic when she told us of this month's opening of the American Writers Museum here in Chicago. If you didn't read her Monday post describing it, I encourage you to do so, and to watch the video clip it contains. The short video sure inspired me!

I can hardly wait to visit the new American Writers Museum. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying exploring their website, especially the list of affiliate author homes/museums. I was surprised to learn that there are three such museums here in Illinois. The only author home I've visited is in Hannibal, Missouri--the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. We explored it during a family vacation many years ago.

Unfortunately, the photos of that trip were taken back in the era before digital cameras, and they are stashed away in a shoebox. I keep saying "someday" I'll organize all those old photos and either scan them or put them into photo albums. But even without pictures to help jog my memory, three things still stand out in my mind about our visit to Twain's home.

1) Discussing Twain's novels with my husband before, during, and after the visit.

My husband is not a fan of fiction. A software engineer by profession, he has a very analytical mind and prefers to read nonfiction. So I was surprised to learn while on our trip that one of his favorite books growing up was Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was one of the few books my husband was assigned to read in school that he actually enjoyed. I, on the other hand, had read both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on my own for fun. The only Twain novel I'd been required to read was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which I read in high school.

2) Walking in the footsteps of fictional characters.

I still recall seeing the sign that read "Becky Thatcher's Home" and laughing out loud. Becky Thatcher is a character in a novel. How could her home exist in the real world? The home was actually that of Mark Twain's childhood friend and sweetheart, Laura Hawkins, who is said to have inspired the character of Becky. You can also find Huck Finn's house in Hannibal, and explore the nearby cave where "Tom and Becky got lost." I loved how the tour guides spoke of all these fictional characters as though they were real people. To me, it exemplified the power of fiction to inspire the imagination.  

3) Buying a souvenir t-shirt for my husband.    

I found it marvelous to be able to discuss novels my husband and I had both read and loved--a rare experience for us--and to visit Twain's home together. My husband must have enjoyed it, too, because he wanted a souvenir t-shirt, which he still wears:

He agreed to pose, as long as I didn't include his face in the picture.
The only other writer's museum I think my husband would enjoy visiting with me is the Truman Capote and Harper Lee Old Courthouse Museum, since we're both great fans of Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. But since I don't expect to be traveling to Alabama anytime soon, I think I'll plan a visit to the American Writers Museum first.

I can't write about Mark Twain without sharing one of my favorite Twain quotes:
The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
For more writing quotes from Twain, see this site. And to read about Mark Twain's life and publications, see this detailed article on the Poetry Foundation Website.

And don't forget that today is Poetry Friday. This week's roundup is hosted by Kiesha Shepard at Whispers from the Ridge.

Remember to Write with JOY!

1 comment:

Bobbi Miller said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Mark Twain House! I've visited it often in these last years. What a great discussion!