If it was good enough for Samuel Clemens…
…it’s good enough for me. He’s been my favorite author since my teens and my respect for him has only grown through the years. I’ve always felt him to be the quintessential American: I love his stand against corporate greed and rapacious imperialism, and his humor can put me on the floor. I’ve never read anyone funnier.
My daughter gave me his 2010 autobiography (Part I) in which he describes how as he began to write his story he felt confined by the normal chronological format. He made numerous false starts, but kept random notes, filing them as “Scraps from my Autobiography”. After a number of traditional attempts that simply petered out, he finally realized what worked for him after dictating to a secretary for several hours each day: he would start describing a “major” chapter of his life but soon find himself reminded of some other event, oftentimes forgotten until that moment. He realized that often these “minor” chapters were in fact the important ones: “But that is what human life consists of – little incidents and big incidents, and they are all of the same size if we let them alone. An autobiography that leaves out the little things and enumerates only the big ones is no proper picture of the man’s life at all; his life consists of his feelings and his interests, with here and there an incident apparently big or little to hang the feelings on.”
It occurred to me as I read this, “Isn’t this a 19th century definition of a blog?”
Ray Stannard Baker, one of McClure’s “big four” muckraking writers, kept a daily journal, of which he said, “Experience soon fades, thought degenerates into musing, even love may presently wither, but the honestly written expression, hot from the penpoint, of the contents of one’s mind, its observations, desires, doubts, faith, ambition, and the like, becomes at length a kind of immortality.”
So here are my scraps, which may (or may not) end up saying more about me than any autobiography could. In fact, don’t tell anybody, but they ARE my autobiography. They will be random, periodic, opinionated, and as short or long as I want them to be. This is for my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and others on down the line who might never know me except for this (and a few pictures they’ll laugh over and maybe wonder about).
Bob Graham is a retired U.S. History teacher. He’s seen a lot since 1949. He likes to write.