Two renowned authors born on the same day were very different writers yet had a connection of sorts, and some similarities.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) and L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942) each came into the world on a November 30 — so their birthdays were last week.
The connection? Twain was a big fan of Montgomery’s 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, which Twain obviously read late in life. He said Anne Shirley “is the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice” of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland.
Similarities between the American and Canadian authors? Both created what are among literature’s most memorable early-teen/pre-teen characters — Montgomery with Anne, and Twain with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Those protagonists are not only beloved and/or admired by young readers, but by adults as well. And the novels they appear in are highly entertaining, even as they’re also periodically depressing in subtle or overt ways.
While it’s not what they’re most famous for, both authors wrote compellingly about the horrors of war, too.
Twain did this most memorably in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court — his hilarious time-travel novel that’s also scathingly antiwar, something Hollywood pretty much sanitized in the 1949 movie version starring Bing Crosby.
And Montgomery wrote movingly about “The Great War” (now known as World War I) via the characters in Rilla of Ingleside — one of her best Anne of Green Gables sequels.
WWI is on my mind this week as I’ve been reading Pat Barker’s powerful novel Regeneration. Her historical-fiction work grippingly depicts the harrowing mental and physical effects of that brutal, bloody, almost totally senseless war on traumatized men who had been soldiers on the front and are now in a psychiatric hospital. Some of the characters are based on real people.
Regeneration author Pat Barker in 2001. (Photo by Suki Dhanda.)
While reading Regeneration, I saw it expertly reviewed on Robbie Cheadle’s blog:
And, speaking of skilled bloggers, Rebecca Budd mentioned Twain’s birthday and posted a great Twain quote the day I began writing this piece:
Also worth mentioning is that Twain and Montgomery shared the attribute of being VERY funny in their writing when they wanted to be. This is well-known with Twain, but perhaps not as well-known with Montgomery. Her novel The Blue Castle, for instance, expertly mixes hilarity with poignancy.
Here’s the only known film footage of Twain, from 1909. (Complete with typo in the clip’s headline. 😦 ) I couldn’t find any footage of Montgomery.
Anything you’d like to say about Twain and/or Montgomery?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — which laments increasingly higher rents in my town — is here.