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  • Susan Stoderl

Mark Twain's “Mental Telegraphy,” and Sophia of the Bright Red Sneakers Series Agree


My characters, Sophia MacGregor, Pedro Gonzalez, Wahoo the Raven, and Zelda Screech Cat, can all speak telepathically in Humanish, CatScreech, and RavenSpeak. They have been doing it since their pink-haired author friend conceived of her middle-grade Sophia of the Bright Red Sneakers series. Another author, Mark Twain, also gave a significant amount of thought to telepathy.


In the December 1891 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Mark Twain published an article entitled “Mental Telegraphy. A Manuscript with a History.” Twain had extensive notes for a book he considered writing in 1878 about the silver rush in Nevada which he referred to as the “Great Bonanza” book. Around 1881, Twain tried to submit the manuscript to “North American Review,” but the publisher declared no rational reader would think “telegraphy” was anything more than “coincidence.” Twain quit trying to publish it anonymously because no good publisher would accept it. If he used his real name to publish, many would not take him seriously since he was a jokester, so he just filed it away.


In 1888, his “Great Bonanza” notes came to mind. Now was the time for a book about the Nevada silver mines. He would share the ideas with a close colleague from Nevada, William H. Wright. After many years with no communication, Twain wrote a letter to Wright mapping out the book. He postponed sending the letter about his ideas, deciding he would secure a publisher first. Several days later, a letter in a thick envelope arrived from Wright. The letter Twain penned to Wright was still on his desk. A relative was present when the mail arrived. Twain recited the content of each of the letters, and when both were opened, confirmed the content was identical. Between Wright and Twain, they determined Wright had been the initiator and telegrapher, and Twain the receiver.


I can believe this. At one point, a colleague and I worked to produce a well-known opera in a more avant guarde way. After the concept was completed, but not produced, New York City Opera announced their new production using the same concept.


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