October 20th, 2011 | Magazine

Mark Twain returns to campus

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Photo by Earl Lee.

Mark Twain, or at least his spirit, graced campus Wednesday evening during Mark My Words, a discussion at Woolsey Hall featuring the prolific authors David Baldacci, Jodi Picoult and John Grisham. There was no shortage of words, as the authors continued Twain’s tradition of witty banter – the night was full of quips and bon mots, all while emphasizing the significance of reading and writing in our culture. Read some highlights below:

“What [Twain] did best was to wrap social commentary with commercial appeal.” – Picoult

“I think one thing about Mark Twain is when he writing nonfiction, he was actually telling the truth” – Grisham

“Juggling elephants instead of apples — that’s the difference between a short story and a novel” – Picoult

“I was a lawyer… I wrote fiction during the day.” -Baldacci

“I actually hear the characters, they talk to me. I call it successful schizophrenia” – Picoult

“I’ve spent time on death row.” – Picoult, on researching for her novels

“I couldn’t read until I was 3.” – Grisham

“I continued writing after that because it was so much easier than teaching 8th grade English.” – Picoult

“When you can write something and it’s still funny 150 years later, that’s something.” – Baldacci

With levity the theme of the night, the authors traded humorous anecdotes of life as an author. Baldacci, with dead-pan delivery, detailed fictional rendezvous with the likes of confused fans and Monica Lewinsky. Picoult shared her writing eccentricities, revealing that she is often accused of being psychic. Grisham brought his southern joviality, recounting absurd instances including being asked to sign a woman’s breasts. Twain was succinct and silent.