Maybe if I lived in a House Like That, I too might write some Classic American Literature

OK, first of all, what…what…WHAT is this adorableness?!:

I think it is literally impossible to watch this video without smiling.  And it’s totally real — he really is dancing in all these different places!  You can read more about it at his official website, but it’s also kind of fun to enjoy with no explanation whatsoever.  My favorite things about it:

(1) How consistent Matt’s goofy little dance is, wherever he goes.

(2) that beach full of bright red crabs (!)

(3) all the kids dancing!  Eeeee!  Too hilarious!  (If you do go to his website and watch his Outtakes video, you can see one point where he starts dancing in a village in Rwanda, and the kids around him watch for a minute like "…the heck?" and then suddenly they join in with these awesome gleeful expressions and it is too wicked cute.)

(4) the dog jumping around him in Kuwait.

(5) the whole idea.  What a hilarious adorable thing to do.  I’d love to go from country to country all over the world doing a goofy dance with lots of goofy strangers!

According to this New York Times article, I am the last person on the planet to see this video, but I still thought I should share it with you guys, because it cracks me up every time.  And the more smiley things out there in the world, the better, right?  🙂

SPEAKING of awesome smiley things, have you gone to watch Act I of Dr. Horrible yet?  Mom, even YOU can do this!  It’s not very long, and it is very wonderful.  Supervillains singing!  Neil Patrick Harris!  Nathan Fillion!  I know, I said all that before, but SERIOUSLY, now I have watched Act I and it REALLY IS MARVELOUS.  Go watch!  Even you, Mom!

Side note: hey, did you guys notice that there was a photo of a quetzal in a clue on Jeopardy! last week?  Looking just like Quetzie from Avatars!  Except regular-quetzal-sized, of course.  Did you see it and get super-excited?  No?  Just me, then?  OK.  😉

And!  In other revealing Tui-is-a-dork news, this weekend we finally went to see the Mark Twain House!!!!

MarkTwain Visit1
Holy smokes!  So big!  And fancy!

And look at all that thrilling land for his kids and dogs and ponies to run around on!  I was actually expecting it to be sort of out in the country somewhere (like Edith Wharton’s house), but instead it’s on a relatively busy road in Hartford, a couple of blocks away from a Taco Bell.  Hmmm.  I wonder how Mark Twain would have felt about Taco Bell.  Tacos probably go well with billiards and smoking, which he liked quite a lot, so maybe he would have approved.

We have a long way to go before my house measures up to this… 

You can’t take photos inside the house, sadly, but it is pretty awesome and I highly recommend visiting, especially if you like seeing authors’ conservatories and authors’ dining rooms and the exact places where famous authors sat to write famous books like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  Yes, he wrote those books after building this enormous house…my impression is that it was his rather wealthy wife who funded it.

and of course, authors’ horse-carriage driveways…

The coolest room is the billiards room on the top (third) floor, which was the one thing Mark Twain asked for when he talked to the architect.  He specifically wanted a billiards room where he could write, which sounds a bit like me asking for a TV room where I could write.  Apparently by 8:15 every morning he was at his desk in the billiards room with the door shut, and he would stay in there all day, skipping lunch, until suppertime, when he would come down and spend the rest of the evening with his family. 


The tour guide said many admiring things about how disciplined he was and how focused on his writing he must have been, but if you ask me, with the door shut, he could have been doing anything in there.  My guess is that smoking and playing billiards were the Mark Twain equivalent of surfing the Internet — i.e., what he did when he was supposed to be writing, not that I know anything about that or anything.  😉


On the other hand, when he did write he wrote fantabulous things, so I certainly have no problem with him playing billiards as much as he needed to to accomplish that.  ;-)  He is just lucky he didn’t have to cope with the distraction of Greatest American Dog or So You Think You Can Dance!  I mean, my goodness.  (Did you see those dogs?!  Aren’t they amazing?!  I am extra-madly in love with Preston (pink mohawk!) and Presley (cannonball-into-the-pool boxer) because their owners seem sweet, but frankly all the dogs are MAD wonderful!)

The biggest surprise to me about Mark Twain’s house, though, is that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house is RIGHT NEXT DOOR.  Like, literally.  Practically touching!  And I just read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, too!  (My 7-word review: Surprisingly funny in places, but VERY long.) (And religious.) (OK, nine words.)  But since I didn’t KNOW this ahead of time, we hadn’t scheduled in enough time to go visit it as well (as you can imagine, Adam was terribly terribly disappointed).  ;-)  So all I have is this picture, taken from the car:

A Famous Author Lived Here!  Well, back there.  Way back there.

I know — exciting, eh?  ;-)  But maybe we’ll go back and do both next time.  Right, Adam?  Ooooooooo? 

For those of you who have read Tom Sawyer, do you remember the famous part where Tom is sent out to whitewash his Aunt Polly’s fence?  He doesn’t want to do it, but when his friends come along, he pretends that it’s the most important, fun thing he could be doing, until they’re all begging for a chance to do it, too.  And Tom’s like, I don’t know, it’s a pretty special job, I reckon you have to be really careful…  And it totally works, because the other boys jump all over themselves to whitewash the fence for him. 

That whole idea, of work not being work if you want to do it, was apparently a kind of life philosophy for Mark Twain, at least judging by this fascinating interview from 1905.  Well, OK, it’s fascinating until he gets to the summer homes bit, where I kind of lost him.  But the beginning part is cool, where he talks about how he considers his writing to be "play" instead of work, and also how he writes in bed.  (This is long after they moved away from Hartford and his billiards room.)

(Incidentally, I agree that writing should be a happy experience if you really want to do it; Jane Yolen advocates the same thing in her book Take Joy, which is one of my very favorite writing advice books ever.)

I like this bit of Twain’s interview in particular; he says:  "The people who had to publish my books, the agents who had to arrange my lecture tours, the lawyers who had to draw up the contracts and other legal documents — they were the men who did the real work. My part was merely play."  Isn’t that true?  I think so, myself.  Thank you, editors and agents and lawyers!  Mark Twain and I appreciate you!  :-) 

Man, Mark Twain sounds ever-so-sensible and funny and clever in his interview.  I just got interviewed for my college alumni magazine, and I think I probably sounded like a total nitwit.  Burble burble happiness burble burble dogs burble burble TV…well, actually, I probably sounded a lot like I do in this blog.  Except I was TRYING to sound all DEEP and SMART and stuff.  SHEESH.  Who let real me have a say?

For instance, since I get this question a lot, I’ve realized I need to come up with a better, brilliantly witty capsule explanation for why I write children’s books instead of Terribly Important Timeless Adult Literature, other than "well, grown-up books are dumb and whiny, ain’t they?"  ;-)  Which isn’t exactly fair, considering how many grown-up books I love.  I know!  I know!  I need to make a Favorite Books page, as I’ve said before.  There are SO MANY books and authors I love that I think you all would love, too.  Even some grown-up ones.  😉

But first!  I have to finish a couple of my own books (which I hope you’ll eventually love as well).  Apart from the exciting Twain visit, all I’m doing lately is tearing along on this mad writing sprint trying to meet a couple of deadlines.  So I’d better get back to it…more next week!

Quote of the Day:  "Always obey your parents when they are present." — Mark Twain