Pine Nuts: Brinkmanship and failed statesmanship yield to Twainmanship |

Pine Nuts: Brinkmanship and failed statesmanship yield to Twainmanship

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Sun’s regular Friday columnist, Jim Porter, is taking the week off. In his place is McAvoy Layne’s Pine Nuts column, which publishes each week in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and online at

As reported in the Tehran Times last month, Mark Twain’s “Roughing It” has been translated into Persian for the first time and is now available to Iranians. U.S.-Iranian relations have warmed dramatically according to this reporter.

So let’s try exchanging Tolstoy & Twain with the Russians and see what happens. It worked before to great effect, resulting in a thaw of the cold war.

Let’s find out if Tolstoy and Twain can do more to “reset” relations than have Putin and Obama.

For a reset to be enduring it must come from the bottom up, from the youth, not from the top down, and let’s face it, your average Sergei Smirnoff and Sammy Six-Pac identify more with Tolstoy & Twain than they do with Putin & Obama.

As for the ladies, I have found there are times when it is better to remain silent and appear ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

I read “War and Peace” in college and it pretty well consumed my entire sophomore year. Tolstoy moved me to visit Russia, which I did during the sunny days of Perestroika, and the students at Leningrad University asked well-informed questions about “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Woody Allen, on the other hand, had little time for Tolstoy: “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

Tolstoy tells us, “Every reform by violence is to be deprecated, because it does little to correct the evil while men remain as they are.”

Twain tells us, “The only true patriot, the only rational patriot, is loyal to the nation all of the time, and loyal to the government when it deserves it.”

Tolstoy tells us, “Man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all unhappiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity.”

Twain tells us, “Diligently train your ideals upward toward a summit where you will find your chiefest pleasure in conduct, which while contenting you, will be sure to confer benefits upon your neighbor and the community.”

Tolstoy tells us, “Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of an intelligent woman.”

Twain tells us, “No civilization can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included.”

We could go on and on and probably end up with the equivalent of a Bachelor of Arts degree, which today might land a job at Starbucks.

So the world looks on as we launch Twainmanship and Tolstoymanship in rebooting the tethered relationship between America and Russia.

The working man in Odessa and the working woman in Oberlin will take precious little time in recognizing that Americans and Russians have many more shared common core values than differences.

Besides, a hundred years from now Tolstoy & Twain will still be around in a world that will scarcely mention Putin & Obama. It’s worth a try. I shall inaugurate the book exchange myself.

Meanwhile, noted historian and author of Gold Rush Trail, Frank Tortorich, will hold forth at the Mark Twain Cultural Center & Toccata Guttman Music Hall on Friday the 21st of March. Reservations: 775-833-1835.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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