Mark Twain: Mississippi Books, Historical Novels, Travel Writing, etc.

Bick

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I had a little search and was surprised perhaps that there was no Mark Twain thread, and we really ought to have a thread dedicated to perhaps the pre-eminent humorist in American letters. I also had a little comment on one Twain book, so I needed to create it. To kick off, this is a bibliography of his works, All are collected in the Library of America Mark Twain collection (all of which I have recently bought):

Travel Books
Innocents Abroad & Roughing It (collected in LOA volume)
A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator, Other Travels (collected in LOA volume)

Mississippi Books (all in one LOA volume)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Life on the Mississippi
Puddn’head Wilson


Historical Romances (all in one LOA volume)
The Prince and the Pauper
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc


Tales and Sketches
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays Vol. 1 1852-1890 (LOA volume)
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays Vol. 2 1891-1910 (LOA volume)

Other Novels (all in one LOA volume)
The Gilded Age,
The American Claimant
Tom Sawyer Abroad
Tom Sawyer, Detective
No. 44 Mysterious Stranger
 

Bick

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Anyway, the reason I thought I'd post on a Twain book was I that I was tickled by an image I didn't expect in Chapter 73 of Roughing It, which I'm currently reading. Twain is at this point in Hawaii (in the early 1860's), and in this chapter he describes trying out the local custom of, wait for it... surf-boarding! He refers to it as surf bathing. He found it difficult! I'm trying to imagine a whiskered Twain surfing. I guess he wasn't in his trademark white suit at this point of his life.

On the whole, Roughing It is a wonderful book, and I'd recommend it highly. If you like Bill Bryson, try it - this is where sardonic, wry and laugh out loud travel writing starts!
 

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The sequence about the captive tarantulas getting loose in the mining camp barracks is priceless.
 

Bick

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The sequence about the captive tarantulas getting loose in the mining camp barracks is priceless.
Yes, indeed! I also enjoyed his polemic against jury trials, and how only 2 murderers had ever been convicted in Nevada Territory, though there were 204 murder victims in the local graveyard, on account of jury duty being reserved for the stupid and uneducated, as anyone who could read about it, or engage in conversation about it, would be ruled out!
 

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I didn't know there were further Tom Sawyer books (after Tom Sawyer and Huck). What are they like? I see they're voiced by Huck. Do they compare to the first two?
 

Randy M.

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Tangentially, I have never received more laughs than when reading "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses" to a group. This is reminding me I've been too long away from Twain and should remedy that.
 

Bick

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I didn't know there were further Tom Sawyer books (after Tom Sawyer and Huck). What are they like? I see they're voiced by Huck. Do they compare to the first two?
Others may be able to comment, I’ve not read them. I know they were less well received at the time. They sound a little more daft. I reread Tom Sawyer a couple of weeks back though, and it of course is entirely excellent. If these are a little below that, they’re probably still worth a read.
 

Alex The G and T

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It 's been a good 50 years since I read those other Tom Sawyer books.
I remember them as being kinda fun; but disappointing, as lacking the Sparkle of the original.

Tom Sawyer Abroad: Tom and Huck ascend in a Balloon, at a fair. I don't recall whether it was accident or theft; but they are cast adrift and blown on the winds across the Atlantic Ocean; where they have assorted adventures ballooning across Africa. I can't recall much detail... something about being pusued by fierce lions and assorted angry tribesmen.

Tom Sawyer, Detective, I really don't recall any details. It was sort of a sequel- follow-up, in the same vein as the Injun Joe episodes in the original story. Sneaking around discovering the secrets surrounding a murder mystery of some sort.

Not a waste of time; but not to expect the same magical spell.

Now I want to read them again. One of these days I will be able to convince my father to relinquish the family collection of the Harper, 27 Volume Complete Works (ca 1920)
 

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I've only read three books by Mark Twain. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huck Finn, and The Private Life of Adam and Eve. All were excellent and well worth reading. I wonder if Twain will be relegated to the bin of history given the language of his writing.
 

BAYLOR

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Ive read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , The Prince and Pauper , A History of Campaign that Failed and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

I think he'll always be read. :)
 

Alex The G and T

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As I mentioned earlier, I cut my reading teeth on the Complete Works.I read every one of those 27 volumes.

The true genius of Twain's humor reflects his profound love of the idiosyncrasies of the English Language.

He had a brilliant talent for choosing exactly the wrong word, in the wrong place, to exaggerate comic effect.

The most hilarious pieces were the Tall Tales, hoaxes and lampoonery which he published when he was working for newspapers.

My family collection compiles them in two volumes: Sketches New and Old and More Sketches New and Old.

(Presumably similar collections to Bick's
"Tales and Sketches
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays Vol. 1 1852-1890 (LOA volume)
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays Vol. 2 1891-1910 (LOA volume)"

My very favorite sketches are Journalism In Tennessee in which a rookie Journalist takes a job as substitute editor for a fiery local Journal. The editor chastises him for writing editorials which are not libelous or inflammatory enough, about the rival editors newspapers. The editor leaves him with instructions on which angry editors are expected to barge in, and need to be bullwhipped, defenestrated, shot or beaten. Things did not go well for the substitute.

My other favorite was difficult to find for a reread, as the Title does not reflect the content. The story is not about "Political Economy" but about the difficulty of writing a boring essay on Political Economy in the face of a persistent Lightning Rod Salesman repeatedly pounding on the door. The results are spectacular.
 

Bick

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As I mentioned earlier, I cut my reading teeth on the Complete Works.I read every one of those 27 volumes.

The true genius of Twain's humor reflects his profound love of the idiosyncrasies of the English Language.

He had a brilliant talent for choosing exactly the wrong word, in the wrong place, to exaggerate comic effect.

The most hilarious pieces were the Tall Tales, hoaxes and lampoonery which he published when he was working for newspapers.

My family collection compiles them in two volumes: Sketches New and Old and More Sketches New and Old.

(Presumably similar collections to Bick's
"Tales and Sketches
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays Vol. 1 1852-1890 (LOA volume)
Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays Vol. 2 1891-1910 (LOA volume)"

My very favorite sketches are Journalism In Tennessee in which a rookie Journalist takes a job as substitute editor for a fiery local Journal. The editor chastises him for writing editorials which are not libelous or inflammatory enough, about the rival editors newspapers. The editor leaves him with instructions on which angry editors are expected to barge in, and need to be bullwhipped, defenestrated, shot or beaten. Things did not go well for the substitute.

My other favorite was difficult to find for a reread, as the Title does not reflect the content. The story is not about "Political Economy" but about the difficulty of writing a boring essay on Political Economy in the face of a persistent Lightning Rod Salesman repeatedly pounding on the door. The results are spectacular.
I'm very impressed you read all 27 volumes Alex! Wow. I'm looking forward to reading more of his sketches once all my other LoA books arrive -I've bought them, but not all are with me yet (shipping being dreadfully slow presently).

I did finish Roughing It, incidentally. What a cracker of a book, it makes me want to read more, for certain.

Here is some film footage of Mark Twain in 1909 - the only film there is of him, apparently. Spooky to see him on film!
 
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Alex The G and T

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Thanks for that video, @Bick A little spooky, indeed; but very cool.

Coincidentally with the emergence of this thread, I've actually been on a bit of a binge of re reading Twain novels which I haven't read in a very long time.

The sketches I revisit frequently. Like Wodehouse and Pratchett, they are the kind of light and amusing fare that I take to bed, when I need a undemanding lift after a rough day.

I read Roughing It a month or two ago. As you say, immensely entertaining. Decades after I last read it, it was almost like reading it for the first time. Despite Twain's penchant for exaggerating facts for comic and dramatic effect; it is probably a fairly accurate depiction of life on the frontier during a Wealth-rush. (Nevada Silver, after the California Gold Rush)
With the underlying theme of young men of little means striving for the Big Score and usually failing to secure the prize.


(More to come when I get some more time to comment: Also recently re-read. Innocents Abroad and A Connecticut Yankee...
 
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Bick

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Thanks for that video, @Bick A little spooky, indeed; but very cool.

Coincidentally with the emergence of this thread, I've actually been on a bit of a binge of re reading Twain novels which I haven't read in a very long time.

The sketches I revisit frequently. Like Wodehouse and Pratchett, they are the kind of light and amusing fare that I take to bed, when I need a undemanding lift after a rough day.

I read Roughing It a month or two ago. As you say, immensely entertaining. Decades after I last read it, it was almost like reading it for the first time. Despite Twain's penchant for exaggerating facts for comic and dramatic effect; it is probably a fairly accurate depiction of life on the frontier during a Wealth-rush. (Nevada Silver, after the California Gold Rush)
With the underlying theme of young men of little means striving for the Big Score and usually failing to secure the prize.


(More to come when I get some more time to comment: Also recently re-read. Innocents Abroad and A Connecticut Yankee...
Great stuff - it's an interesting observation on this forum, that one only has to mention an author and initiate a discussion on one to unearth significant interest and reading experience of one or more other members. It's quite the coincidence that you're on a Twain kick yourself, and indeed, way, way ahead of me with regard to your prior reading of the great man. But I shall continue to read him over the next few years. He's one of those authors who I always meant to read a lot of but never got around to for whatever reason. I've read maybe three books by him prior to this current effort.

I think that, to do justice to the greats, there's a case for limiting oneself to a few favourites and concentrating on them, rather than perhaps trying to read all the 'classic' authors. I have a few favourites and will continue to focus my 'classic' reading on them, I suspect: Dickens, Balzac, Hardy, Twain. Though I do harbor a wish to delve into 2 others: Elliot, and Scott.

Incidentally, I just read (in the LoA volume that arrived today), Fennimore Cooper's Literary Offences. What a hoot! Great stuff.
 

Alex The G and T

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I got a good chuckle, merely reading the title: Fennimore Cooper's Literary Offences. A Hilarious piece, indeed.

I wonder if your collection dares to contain the unpublishable secret titles. Not to be missed, they can be found online with a bit if digging.

1601 A fireside chat among the court of Elizebeth I, featuring some familiar historical figures. Quite bawdy.

and

Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism. A hilarious speech given to a men's literary supper club in Paris.
 
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Alex The G and T

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Just finished a re-read 10 days ago.

This is a wish-fulfillment fantasy that stretches the "Suspension of Disbelief" to the breaking point. But much more.

Our protagonist, son of a blacksmith ,has risen, through technological genius, to the position of shop-steward of "thousands of men" commanding the height of 19th century technology. A blow to the head sends him into a reverie of "Transmigration of Souls" where he finds him self in sixth century England, stumbling into Camelot. A bit of high tech trickery saves him from being summarily cloven asunder or cast into serfdom.

The timeline is vague for the first half of the book. He seems to accomplish an enormous amount of infrastructure in industrializing the age in a short amount of time. by the third chapter he has established a secret university to train his secret techno-posse. By chapter 4 he has minions stretching miles and miles of telephone and telegraph wires all over the kingdom; with blithe disregard for the infrastructure required to produce all of tha t copper wire. And he has an encyclopedic almanac, in his head, of celestial phenomena (eclipses in particular, that fall at just the opportune momet) that occurred 1200 years before his time.

The joy of the piece is the skewering of Mallory. There are chapters where the author soars, in hilarious Mark Twain fashion, Lampooning the legends. One chapter, in particular contains a 2 page direct quote from Le Morte d'Arthur. (I haven't read the Mallory for 40 years, either, but I was thinking that it read remarkably Mallory.) The kind of passage where there is breaking of lances, smiting and smoting and dismemberments, from dawn until the noon dinner break; then more smoting and smiting until dusk. Then Twain breaks in, admitting that it was a direct quote and satirizing how ridiculous it is that this class of people have nothing better to do than barge around the countryside bashing each other.

Other chapters become serious screeds comparing the feudal system of subjugating serfs, under a vacuous caste of elites; as heinous and dehumanizing a system as the institution of enslaving of Black Africans in 19th century America.

There is much more to this book than meets the first glance; but overall it is a quite enjoyable adventure story.

And Merlin was a piker.
 

Bick

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Re: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which I finished) - I did mostly enjoy it, but, contrary to the generally held wisdom on this, I thought The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was better in several ways. It's more consistent in its tone (Huckleberry Finn skips between being very dark and then being child-like in a manner that disjoints the narrative), and the verisimilitude in how Twain captures youth and childhood is actually superior in Sawyer also. I'd go so far as to say I rate Sawyer as significantly more successful as a novel. I can see why Huckleberry Finn has been highly rated and appreciated by many critics; however the first use of dialect vernacular language in an American novel and literary sympathy for a black slave are more of historical value than things that actually raise the book in it's quality.
 

Randy M.

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Sawyer is probably the more cohesive work, but Huckleberry tackles something deeper, Twain letting his satirist side deal with weightier issues. The generally held opinion, with which I agree, is that Huckleberry is a great book up to the time Tom Sawyer reappears. At that point, the silliness in their attempt to save Jim nearly overwhelms all that came before.

And then there's that last line, which almost saves the book.

I recall Sawyer with fondness, the first school reading that I recall really enjoying. But my respect and deeper admiration goes to Huck.
 

Hugh

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The generally held opinion, with which I agree, is that Huckleberry is a great book up to the time Tom Sawyer reappears. At that point, the silliness in their attempt to save Jim nearly overwhelms all that came before.
I didn't know this, but this was pretty much my experience on my recent read.
 

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