Monday, June 17, 2013

The Autobiography of Methuselah (1909)

The Autobiography of Methuselah. John Kendrick Bangs. 1909. 104 pages.

...Let us hope that my story will not prove as heavy as my manuscript...

If you enjoyed Mark Twain's Diaries of Adam and Eve, then John Kendrick Bangs Autobiography of Methuselah is a true must read! It's slightly irreverent, I suppose. But it's quite funny at times. There are nine chapters to this 'autobiography':  "I am born and named," "Early influences," "Some reminiscences of Adam," "Grandmother Eve," "Some notes on Cain and Abel," "He confesses to be a poet," "The International Marine and Zoo Flotation Company," "On the extinction of the mastodon," and "As to women." The last chapter is slightly different than the rest consisting of "fragments" only--the "found" autobiography of Methuselah not being in the best condition, I suppose.

 I definitely enjoyed this one! Readers 'learn' more about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah! It also serves as a commentary of the times in which Bangs was writing perhaps.

Favorite quotes:
Thought is everything. Pain is something. Hence where there is no thought there can be no pain. Wherefore if you have a pain it is evident that you have a thought. To be rid of the pain stop thinking.
Taking the alphabet first and learning one letter a year for twenty-six years he will be able to read and write as early in life as he ought to. If we were more careful not to teach our children to read in their childhood we should not be so anxious about the effects of pernicious literature upon their adolescent morals.
If I had my way no one should be taught to read until after he had passed his hundredth year. In that way, and in that way only can we protect our youth from the dreadful influence of such novels as 'Three Cycles, Not To Mention The Rug,' which dreadful book I have found within the past month in the hands of at least twenty children in the neighborhood, not one of whom was past sixty."
His view of me and my ways were expressed with some degree of force to our family physician who, when at the age of a hundred and fifty-three I came down with the mumps, having summoned the whole family and said that I would burst before morning, was met by a reassuring observation from Adam that he wouldn't believe I was dead even if I had been buried a year. "It is the good who die young, Doctor," he said. "On that principle this young malefactor will live to be the oldest man in the world."
"If there is any animal in the whole category of four-legged creatures that more thoroughly deserves to be called a pig than the pig, I don't know what it is. He looks like a pig, he behaves like a pig, and he eats like a pig—in fact he is a pig, and Adam never did anything better than when he invented that name and applied it."
The outer garments of to-day will become the under-clothes of some destined to-morrow, and centuries hence a man found walking on the public highways dressed as you are will be arrested by the police for shocking the sense of propriety of the community, and so on. It will go on and on until you will find human beings everywhere decked out in layer after layer of clothes until he or she has lost all semblance to that beautiful thing that an all-wise Providence has designed us to be.
as I [Eve] was the only cook in all Christendom at the time, the idea of not coming home to dinner never occurred to Adam... It is true that at times he criticised my cooking, but in view of certain ancestral limitations from which he suffered, I never had to sit quietly and listen to an exasperating disquisition on the Pies That Mother Used To Make...
It was Abel on the other hand who asked his father why he had not named the male ants uncles, a question that to this day has not been satisfactorily answered. Indeed I have frequently found myself regretting that there was nobody at hand to ask Adam these very pertinent questions earlier in his life, and before it was too late to instill in his mind the idea that a little more consistency would be desirable in his selection of names for the creatures he was called upon to christen.
August 3rd, 5569. Cain spanked and put to bed without his supper for asking his father why he had not called the male Kangaroo a Kangarooster.
I have never yet been quite able to make up my mind with any degree of definiteness in regard to the sanity of my son Noah. In many respects he is a fine fellow...but the complete obsession of his mind by this International Marine and Zoo Flotation Company of his is entirely beyond my comprehension, and his attempts to explain it to me are futile, because its utter impracticability, and the reasons advanced for its use seem so absurd that I lose my temper before he gets half way through the first page of his prospectus.

Read online at Project Gutenberg; there are even illustrations!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Helene said...

I have never even heard of this book but it looks hilarious! I can't wait to see what else is there. Thanks!