[PW] Quote: "If there is a God, he is a malign thug" attributed to Mark Twain (probably incorrectly)

d-lien University of Minnesota d-lien at umn.edu
Fri Jun 10 14:42:29 PDT 2016


I have the July 1977 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE
FICTION in front of me, and can verify the Ellison reference there.
Unfortunately I don't think I can get a scan or a photocopy of it
without doing notable damage to my copy. . .I can verify the quote is
word for word and puncuation mark for mark as you have it above
(though your quote above drops a couple of short sentences at the end
of the paragraph, which add a nice twist of the knife to the whole).

It's on page 49, bottom or first column and top of second column;
first page of essay "You Don't Know Me, I Don't Know You" and reads as
follows (the column break is between the words "you" and "really" and
the "that" in the next to last sentence is italicized):

*************************************

When I retwrote the Book of Genesis from the viewpoint of the Snake,
in "The Deathbird," in 1973, and suggested (as had dear sweet old Mark
Twain) that if you really the thought the universe was ruled by God,
and you looked around at the state of the universe, you would be
forced to the conclusion that God is a malign thug, all those good and
tolerant Children of God and assorted other weirdos cancelled their
subscriptions by the drove.  Singular.  I wasn't that big a deal.
Only one small drove.

********************************

While I should have the first version of THE GLASS TEAT somewhere, I'm
pretty sure it's in one of a several dozen boxes in the attic, as I've
not seen my copy since moving into this house back in 1988.  I believe
however that most or all of the essays in THE GLASS TEAT appeared
earlier in  the LOS ANGELES FREE PRESS), so ideally you'd want to find
copy text from that appearance if possible -- presumably that's what
the 4 October 1969 date refers to.


Dennis Lien /  d-lien at umn.edu








On Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 1:32 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> I have been asked to investigate a statement attributed to Mark Twain.
> Here is one version: "If there is a God, he is a malign thug".
> Information on this topic would be welcome.
>
> The prominent SF writer Harlan Ellison popularized the linkage of Mark
> Twain to the "malign thug" deity formulation. The Wombats list has
> some very knowledgeable science fiction enthusiasts, and this message
> contains two requests about statements written by Ellison in "Paingod
> and Other Delusions" (1975 revised edition) and the July 1977 issue of
> "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction". If you have access to
> these publications then your help is being requested.
>
> The phrase "malign thug" does not appear on the important
> TwainQuotes.com website edited by list member Barbara Schmidt. Also,
> it is not listed in the compilation "Mark Twain at Your Fingertips".
> In addition, it is not listed in the Wikiquote webpages
> (public-facing/discussion) for Mark Twain.
>
> The earliest pertinent evidence I was able to locate appeared in a
> 1966 biography of Twain. The author, Justin Kaplan, was presenting his
> summary analysis of an episode in Twain's life (with his wife Olivia
> Langdon Clemens (Livy)). Kaplan was not presenting a quotation from
> Twain when he used the expression "some sort of malign thug".
>
> [ref] 1966, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography by Justin Kaplan,
> Chapter 16: "Never quite sane in the night", Quote Page 338, Simon and
> Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper)[/ref]
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> He had long ago undermined Livy's religious faith, another thing he
> could claim guilt for. Now, when she looked for comfort in orthodox
> notions of a just or purposeful deity, he told her that the universe
> was governed by some sort of malign thug. He raged on and on, but when
> his storm subsided he stroked her hair and said softly, "Don't mind
> anything I say, Livy. Whatever happens, you know I love you." And then
> he took his daughters for a walk by the Thames and told them how vile
> the human race was.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Currently, I hypothesize that the modern direct quotation was derived
> from this passage. The conversion of a paraphrase or summary into a
> direct statement is a known mechanism for the creation of
> misquotations.
>
> "The Glass Teat" by Ellison contained a pertinent passage that was
> dated October 4, 1968. The text below is from a 2014 edition. It would
> be nice to have scans from an earlier edition:
>
> Year: 2014
> Title: The Glass Teat
> Author: Harlan Ellison
> Series: The Harlan Ellison Collection
> Date on Section: October 4, 1968
> Unnumbered Page
> Publisher: Open Road Media, New York
> Database: Google Books Preview
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Mark Twain it was, when once asked why such awful things went on in
> the world, who confided with sincerity to the woman who had inquired,
> that it was because the Universe is run by god and god (so saith
> Clemens) "Is a malign thug."
> ]End excerpt]
>
> The 1972 collection "Again, Dangerous Visions" included an
> introduction written by Ellison that attributed "malign thug" to
> Twain:
>
> Year: 1972
> Title: Again, Dangerous Visions: 46 Original Stories,
> Editor: Harlan Ellison
> Section: Introduction by Harlan Ellison to Bernard Wolfe's Monitored
> Dreams and Strategic Cremations,
> Start Page 308, Quote Page 308,
> Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York
> (Verified on paper in 1972 edition)
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> I wanted Wolfe in Dangerous Visions and it just didn't work out. But
> when I knew there would be a second volume, I assaulted his privacy
> and badgered and cajoled, and stole these two remarkable stories—"The
> Bisquit Position" and "The Girl With Rapid Eye-Movements"—away from
> Playboy and other flush periodicals that pay Wolfe three grand per
> story, and they are here because they were so ordained for publication
> by a Gracious God who takes time off from being (as Mark Twain called
> him) "a malign thug" every once in a million years.
> [End excerpt]
>
> The collection "Paingod and Other Delusions" by Ellison was revised in
> 1975, and a new introduction was added at that time, I believe. I
> would like to get scans of the revised introduction in the 1975
> edition. The text below is from a 2014 edition. Sometimes
> modifications are made in later editions, so I would like to get
> information directly from the 1975 edition if possible. Ellison used
> quotation marks for this version:
>
> Year: 2014 (1965; revised in 1975)
> Title: Paingod and other delusions.
> Author: Harlan Ellison
> Publisher: Open Road Media, New York
> Unnumbered Page
> (Introduction to short story Paingod)
> Database: Google Books Preview
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Mark Twain said, "If one truly believes there is an all-powerful
> Deity, and one looks around at the condition of the universe, one is
> led inescapably to the conclusion that God is a malign thug." That's
> the quote that caused me to write "The Deathbird.” It's a puzzle I
> cannot reason out.
> [End excerpt]
>
> The words below are from a 2014 edition of a collection of Ellison's
> writings. Apparently, the text originally appeared in the July 1977
> issue "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction". If you have that
> issue it would be great to have scans of the quotation and the table
> of contents showing the date and publisher.
>
> [ref] 2014, Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed by Harlan Ellison,
> Section: You Don't Know Me, I Don't Know You, (This essay appeared as
> the Introduction to the "Harlan Ellison Issue" dated July 1977 of "The
> Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction"), Unnumbered Page, Open Road
> Media, New York. (Google Books Preview)[/ref]
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> When I rewrote the Book of Genesis from the viewpoint of the Snake, in
> "The Deathbird," in 1973, and suggested (as had dear sweet old Mark
> Twain) that if you really thought the universe was ruled by God, and
> you looked around at the state of the universe, you would be forced to
> the conclusion that God is a malign thug, all those good and tolerant
> Children of God and assorted other weirdos cancelled their
> subscriptions by the drove.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson


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