Dr. Paul Evangelista, an assistant teaching professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, recently celebrated an anniversary, and received the Autobiography of Mark Twain as a gift from his wife. A huge fan of Mark Twain, Evangelista was thrilled to receive the gift. What’s most interesting about it, he said, is that Twain is talking to his readers from the grave.
The book, though not directly related to his interest of all things social media, has helped him better understand the transition in communication from the past to the present, he said. He is currently working on a series of courses dedicated to helping students truly understand social media.
Why did you choose this book? What is it about?
My wife and I were in a used book store in Austin, Texas, and she knows I have always admired Mark Twain—he is among the three or four role models that I have. When my wife saw a first edition of his book, she got it for me as an anniversary present. It is one of those books that I keep by my bedside and just read it every night before going to sleep.
What is it about this book that you find particularly enjoyable or important?
What’s interesting is that Mark Twain is talking to his readers from the grave. He made sure that the book was not published until after he died. He said that was about as close as he could get to being honest because he wasn’t going to be around for the fallout. What I really enjoy about it is it provides a good view of the inner workings of a great mind. So, you get to see his recollections of things he thought were formative and his unvarnished opinions of other people. And, there are a number of aspects about Mark Twain that people don’t realize—he was an anti-imperialist during the later parts of the 19th century, he was very liberal and a great orator. Just gaining that insight from the book was enjoyable.
Has it lived up to your expectations?
Absolutely, he is funny and incredibly intelligent. He is basically an observer of humanity who then comes and reports what he sees, whether he is writing fiction or non-fiction. And having that 78-year span to look back on as he was writing gave him an opportunity to use a lot of material to talk about the world as he saw it.
Is there a quote or passage that you find particularly enjoyable?
Whatever is on the next page, because every page becomes a memorable page for me, so I just couldn’t pick.