Mark Twain Revisited
This clip came from a film called ‘The Adventures of Mark Twain’ and it inspired me to explore Twain’s less known works, especially the short story ‘A Mysterious Stranger’ (which the clip is based on). Twain’s later works were bleak indeed and yet the depth of cynicism is intoxicating.
The claymation clip here seems to use imagery, namely the island floating in darkness, to drive home the heart of the original story’s pathos: “”It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream - a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought - a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!”
This headfirst plunge into existential darkness also reminds me of what has to be one of my top three favorite novels: ‘House of Leaves’. At the core, it’s the story of a man named Navidson who buys a new home and discovers a mysterious closet that leads to a black labyrinth that defies all laws of physics.
But it’s also more than that - and I can justify this annoyingly cryptic qualifier through a story: When my brother was purchasing this book, the checkout guy scanned the book, raised his eyebrows and said: “Are you ready for this?”
Believe me, it lives up to that melodramatic prologue.
So in summary, if you want to read creative and thoughtful literary grapplings with the fear of oblivion, I would suggest The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. By the way, I prefer Danielewski’s conclusion, as it were, much better. Sacrificial love fills the black spaces of his narrative.
Do you have reading suggestions based on this theme?