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Issue 55 - In the footsteps of Twain

Whisky Magazine Issue 55
April 2006


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In the footsteps of Twain

An invite to speak at a prestigious club sends Michael Jackson in search of a literary giant

Did the letter really say: “Our club's past speakers have included Mark Twain.” Yes it did. Would I now accept their invitation to speak? I can imagine no request less resistible.

Before I had reached the end of the sentence, I was saying yes. I was talking to myself. My assent fell from my lips and whisked itself into the opened envelope on my desk. I took it out again. It was a real letter, typed on paper. I read it again.

I must remain cool, keep my fingers away from the keyboard. Twain did not have to deal with email, a means of communication so instant that it invites hasty judgment. Except that the judgment was already made. Why hesitate?

Why worry about seeming too eager? Because, as a Yorkshireman, I have an innate sense of pessimism. I am afraid, even as an atheist, to tempt the gods. If I do, something will go wrong.

The gracefully written letter came from the Lotos Club of New York. Would I care to visit them next time I was in the city. Of course I would. The club occupies a brownstone formerly owned by the Vanderbilts, on East 66th and 5th, alongside Central Park.

It is, self-evidently, long established, and has a literary flavour. Its invitation would have been given serious consideration without Twain. No doubt the writer of the letter felt that, having Twain as an endorsement, the club might as well benefit.

I could, at least for a moment of self-indulgence, pretend otherwise. I could collude with my own vanity, look in the bathroom mirror (to rehear...

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