Letters . . .

Jun02

Speaking tour

This month I will be doing a series of Mark Twain storytelling events at the 6 Regional Libraries in Wake County.  I am looking forward to these speeches as a way of practicing some stories I have not tried in public before.  Mr.Twain’s favorite humorous story was the story his heard when he was in the Nevada Territory.  The story was told by an elderly gentleman named Jim Blain, who would tell the story after drinking whiskey.  It seems his grandfather had purchased a ram and  went out to the pasture to look at it.  He accidentally dropped a ten-cent piece in the grass and was fumbling around trying to pick it up.  As he bends over the ram is taking note and sees the old man bending over as an invitation.  But that’s as close as you will ever come to hearing the story because Blain’s grandfather gets sidetracked with other stories and never finishes the one he started with.  When Mark Twain told this story he was able to show his mastery of the pause in storytelling perhaps better than in any other.  As he explained it, the length of the pause was absolutely crucial.  If the pause was too short or too long, then the humor was lost.  His wife would attend his lectures mostly to see if he was able to time the pauses properly, especially during the story about the grandfather’s old ram. If his timing was perfect, the audience would erupt with laughter, if not then the response would be far less enthusiastic.  Every audience was different and Mr. Twain would change the length of the pause based on how he thought they would respond.  The pause was the most important tool at his disposal and nobody ever used it with greater effect.