The Venice of the West
 About the Author/Artist
 Alternative History Timeline  
 Double Fiction Issue

Part I: Alta California
 I Meet Mark Twain
 I Meet John Sargent
 A Humorist, Not a Politician
 The Venice of the West
 The Fair Marina
A Candide Character
 A Swan Among Geese

 So Much?
 Gibralter the Egg Mule
 An American Vandal Abroad
 Daisy and Oscar
 A Chance Encounter
 Goya’s Studio
 Holy Relics

Part II: Sakrametska in Rossland
 Boundary Values
 The Unholy Family
 Boom Town
 New Dog, Old Tricks
 Commission of a Lifetime
 Minor Moon of a Minor Planet

  NOVEL EXCERPTS by Patrick Fanning


A Candide Character

William Dean Howells
Atlantic Weekly
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

May 22, 1879

Dear William:

I write you from Petalumo, at my hotel room window, overlooking a canal that could easily be in Venice, if’n it warn’t for the smell of cow flop. Tomorrow night is my first lecture here, but during the day I aim to scout out this town and get to work on the first of my travel letters for you.

My lecture agent this time is called Hilario Amado, and I suspicion he is not “a gent” at all. He met me briefly when we docked, introduced me to my translator, then skedaddled back to San Francisco with a cheery hasta luego, leaving me to storm the provinces on my own.

On the other hand, the translator is a comely wench, much more simpatica than Señor Amado, despite his amorous patronomic. I’ve never had a woman translator before. I reckon it’s a specimen of Alta California’s vaunted freedoms. Tonight she piloted me through the shoals and sandbars of a testimonial dinner in my honor. We put on the feedbag with a quorum of Petalumo’s finest society: the conniving politicos, debauched clergy, crooked lawyers, guilty philanthropists, and drunken newspapermen without whom no thriving Republic can be run on a paying basis. I think I’m going to like this place.

Also in the party was a young artist named John Sargent, an expatriate Yankee painter, educated in Europe, whom I first met on the steamer from Honolulu to San Francisco. He has followed me to Petalumo and I gave him a complementary ticket to tomorrow night’s lecture. He seems inclined to tag along, and I aim to encourage that, so I can observe his untutored reactions to California—I reckon he could function as a Candide, a naïve observer that will underline the humor and irony—like the Brown character in some of the Innocents Abroad pieces.

Your erstwhile correspondent,
Mark Twain

  © Patrick Fanning, 2012


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