Pine Nuts: 2020 authors have an awesome responsibility

McAvoy Layne
Pine Nuts
McAvoy Layne

I had the honor of meeting some young authors at Edgewood Resort the other evening, and was heartened to discover that the spirit of Mark Twain is alive and well, as represented by this handful of today’s writers who invoke a Twainian sentiment …

“Ours is a useful trade, a worthy calling, with all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and is constant to it — the deriding of shams, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence; and … who is by instinct engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties, nobilities, privileges and all kindred swindles, and the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”

One young scribe posited an example of Twainian probity that speaks to us today with an immediacy that transcends the ages …

“The devil’s aversion to holy water is a light matter compared with a despot’s dread of a newspaper that laughs.”

And too, these youthful essayists pointed out that humor, helpful as it may be today, does not always succeed. We shared a smile over this excerpt from Twain’s “Following the Equator”:

“Two of these monkeys came into my room in the early morning, through a window whose shutters I had left open, and when I woke one of them was before the glass brushing his hair, and the other one had my note-book, and was reading a page of humorous notes and crying. I did not mind the one with the hair-brush, but the conduct of the other one hurt me; it hurts me yet.”

Finally, these eager scholars agreed that Twainian hyperbole will remain an effective weapon in lampooning frauds and humbugs in 2020 …

“Satan from Surat was a piece of work. I loved him; I couldn’t help it, but the family, why they could hardly speak of him with patience. He was not a liar, but he should become one if he should keep it up. He told me once that he used to crack coconuts with his teeth when he was a boy; and when I asked how he got them into his mouth, he said he was upward of six feet high at that time, and had an unusual mouth. And when I followed him up and asked him what had become of that other foot, he said a house fell on him and he was never able to get his stature back again. Swervings like these from the strict line of fact often beguile a truthful man on and on until eventually he becomes a liar.”

Yes, we have to believe Mr. Twain would have much to say today about our world’s political landscape, and I have faith that these young 2020 illuminators will answer their call to duty in such a way as to make Samuel smile up there somewheres …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.