Music Room at the Breakers_May 31 2016

According to a recent email from the Authors Guild, there is a worldwide campaign to call attention to the impact of writers on the lives of others. Begun as the brainchild of the Writers’ Union of Canada, readers and authors are invited to reflect on this topic and then post their thoughts to #WhyWritersMatter.

Coincidentally, I had already begun an essay about Mark Twain and his observations of the cultural zeitgeist of the late 19th century. The catalyst was my “eureka” moment during a tour of the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. Until then, I did not know that Samuel Langhorne Clemens (his real name) had coined the term “Gilded Age” to decry his view of a “glittery” society that masked income inequality and rampant political corruption. The moniker stuck and brings forth images of a somber time in America, even as historians describe the 1880’s and 1890’s as “years of unprecedented technological innovation,” noting the advent of the photograph, telephone, radio, automobile and electric trains.

Author George Santayana proclaimed “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When stories can no longer be told by those who lived them, younger generations have an opportunity to learn from their musings and observations. The fact that writers, throughout time, give voice to the struggles and triumphs of their peers is one central reason, among many, why writers matter.