The Mark of Greatness (Mark Twain Week)
Mark Twain is an American icon, a master storyteller, who has captivated audiences for over 100 years. He is known and loved for his humor and remembered most notably for bringing the adventures of two boys to life: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He didn’t stop (or even start) there, though. If you like his writing style, his sarcastic humor, you have many, many more books of his to enjoy. This week I’ll take a closer look at a few of his books.
Roughing It by Mark Twain
A weaver of wit, sarcasm, and astute observation, this memoir of Twain’s life is a trip through Nevada, California, and the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii in the mid 1800s. In 1861 Twain travels by stagecoach to Carson City, Nevada, where his brother, Orion, was appointed Territorial Secretary of Nevada. Twain recounts frontier life in Nevada with humorous tales of thieves, murderers, miners, Chinamen, buffalos, and coyotes. He tells of Mormon immigrants, of life in the desert, prospecting, and the dreary and laborious task of processing silver ore.
Though both my husband and I read this book years ago, we still laugh at the “spider” incident. It’s also hard to forget Old Miss Wagner and her glass eye. With one amusing anecdote after another, this book is pure entertainment. They say laughter is the best medicine. So, the next time you, or someone you know, is feeling down, pick up a copy of Roughing It. It might not cure what ails you, but it should definitely make you smile.
“I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson’s seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homeopathic pill, and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 3.
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 30.
“And the next instant,” added my informant, impressively, “he was one of the deadest men that ever lived.”
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 44.
Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872; reprint, Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1994), 72.
Partial List of Mark Twain Works
(In order of publishing year. Click on titles in red to read review)
· **The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories – Book of humorous short stories including a frog race in Calaveras County. 1865
· Innocents Abroad – Non-fiction travel book about Samuel Clemen’s journey through Europe on a chartered vessel. 1869
· **Roughing It – Non-fiction, autobiographical account of Mark Twain’s six years he spent in the West (Nevada, California, and even Hawaii) in the 1860s. 1872
· The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Story of a cunning boy’s adventures in small river town. 1876
· A Tramp Abroad – Non-fiction travel book. 1880
· The Prince and the Pauper – Story of a poor boy who resembles the prince so much, the prince decides to switch places with him to experience life outside the palace. 1882
**Life on the Mississippi- Non-fiction musings of Samuel Clemen’s life as a riverboat pilot and what it took to navigate those precarious waters. This book is filled with not only Clemen’s personal exploits, it is also aimed to be more educational with a few facts and figures of the Mississippi and towns around it. Mainly though, Twain drew me in and kept me there with his signature clever storytelling and amusing way with words. 1883
“…as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie, and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 443.
“I managed to get around this question without committing myself.”
“I crept under that one.”
“I climbed over this one.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 200.
· **The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – The story of a boy raised by a drunk father who runs away and rafts down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. 1885
· A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court - An American engineer is transported back to the time of the early Middle Ages in King Arthur’s court where he captivates the locals with his modern technology. 1889
· **Those Extraordinary Twins - A novella about conjoined twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. 1892
· The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories – More short stories, essays and reflections by Mark Twain. 1893
· Tom Sawyer Abroad – The last of Tom’s adventures, this short novel takes Tom, Huck, and former slave Jim, cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon; destination, Africa. There they encounter new sights like the Great Pyramids and engage in wild escapades. 1894
· **Pudd'nhead Wilson - A young misunderstood lawyer has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. 1894
· Tom Sawyer, Detective – Tom solves a mysterious murder involving his uncle. 1896
· A Double Barrelled Detective Story – Novella about Sherlock Holmes in California. 1902
· The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories – A collection of short stories. The $30,000 Bequest is the tale of a couple who are to receive a large inheritance and start thinking of ways spend the money. Also includes A Dog's Tale – Told from the perspective of a dog, this short story relays how a dog saves a child from a burning house but is misunderstood and beaten. 1904
· **The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider - Published posthumously in 1917 Sam Clemens chronicled his life from childhood to adulthood. In the preface of this book, he notes that he is speaking from the grave as he knew this would be published after his death. He declares that what is written is a true an honest account of his life. “It has seemed to me that I could be as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter if I knew what I was writing would be exposed to no eye until I was dead, and unaware and indifferent.” Twain tells of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, the inspiration for St. Petersburg, the fictional setting in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A life that spanned 75 years, we learn of his time as a printer’s apprentice, a typesetter, a riverboat apprentice and later riverboat pilot, a silver miner, publisher, world traveler, lecturer, and of course, author. We get to know his wife, Olivia, and their children, and learn of the devastating death of their daughter, Susy, and later another daughter, Jean. We are also told of his financial troubles forcing him to return to the lecture circuit. This book is a thorough glimpse into highs and lows of an author, entertainer, husband, father and beloved American treasure.
** Denotes books I have read
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