Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

"Mark Twain: Eve's Diary" (Originally Posted to the Queerchoice Mailing List on This Date)

I was reading a book today, an anthology of Mark Twain stories called The Bible According to Mark Twain. I'm not at all sure why I bought it, since generally speaking I've found Mark Twain to be a bit too American, and too 19th century, for my taste. (Tell me, has anyone in other countries even heard of him? He seems like such a blatant American propagandist.) I guess I just bought it from the sheer shock of finding it on the shelf of my local queer bookstore and wondering what Mark Twain (one of not all that many writers whose heterosexuality I have never been tempted to doubt) would think of having his book sold in a place like that. The book is surprisingly interesting though, and I'm even making queer connections with it. For example: in 1907, a copy of Mark Twain's book Eve's Diary was published with illustrations of Eve naked on every other page, and a librarian in Massachusetts was offended by the pictures and refused to allow the book in her library. Here's what Mark Twain had to say about that:
It appears that the pictures in Eve's Diary were first discovered by a lady librarian. When she made the dreadful find, being very careful, she jumped at no hasty conclusions—not she—she examined the horrid things in detail. It took her some time to examine them all, but she did her hateful duty! I don't blame her for this careful examination; the time she spent was, I am sure, enjoyable, for I found considerable fascination in them myself.
Then she took the book to another librarian, a male this time, and he, also, took a long time to examine the unclothed ladies. He must have found something of the same sort of fascination in them that I found.
Is it just me, or does this quote strike other people as making some rather unusual assumptions? Just because he "found considerable fascination in them" himself, he concludes that the lady librarian found similar fascination in the pictures. He doesn't seem to me to be accusing her of being different from other women—he just seems to accept it as an obvious fact that women normally do like looking at naked pictures of other women. I'm not sure if this is a typical belief of his generation or just a peculiarity of Mark Twain. However, there's another passage which actually occurs in the book itself, in Eve's Diary—Eve is contemplating why she loves Adam, and she says:
Then why is it that I love him? Merely because he is masculine, I think.
At bottom he is good, and I love him for that, but I could love him without it. If he should beat me and abuse me, I should go on loving him. I know it. It is a matter of sex, I think.
(Emphasis is Twain's, not mine.)
This passage just seems so pathetic to me. All those romantic notions, the lack of belief in free will—the absolute wish to have no free will. As far as I'm concerned, it makes heterosexuality sound like a disease. Which—hey! is at least a small reversal of sorts.
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