Mississippi writings

by Mark Twain

Paper Book, 1982




New York, N.Y. : Library of America, 1982.


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User reviews

LibraryThing member wildbill
I have always enjoyed the humor of Mark Twain but have only read two of his novels.
I had started this book a few times but never got interested in it and put it down. This time I started by listening to an audio version and finished it by going back and forth between audio and print.
I enjoyed the
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book very much. It was originally an adventure story for young adults and now it is a classic of American historical fiction showing warts and all what this country was like.
Reading the book helped me to appreciate how important the Mississippi River was in shaping the lives of millions of Americans since that area was settled. The river is a focal point for the action in the book and the lives of the characters in the book are intertwined together around the river. For me one of the most pleasant scenes in the book was Huck and Jim on the raft floating down the river at night looking up at the stars.
The characters in the book are a cross sample of the people who lived beside and traveled on the river in that time period. Miss Watson, Aunt Polly and the Judge are examples of upright solid citizens and on the other end of the spectrum are Huck's Pap and the King and the Duke. Huckleberry Finn was my favorite character. Huck seemed pretty smart, a good friend, mostly honest and always trying to do the right thing if he could. The more I read about him the more complex and likable I found him.
I don't think that Tom Sawyer holds a candle to Huck. Tom is well meaning but he gets real silly at times and everything in his world seems all about him and his crazy ideas.
The author does an excellent job of making the reader a participant in Huck's adventures. The writing is clear and concise and the varied dialects add spice to the story. The main story is about Huck and Jim running away from Huck's Pap and Miss Watson. As this is proceeding there are various sidetracks that keep the story moving well. I was never sure how things would work out until the end but I always had a feeling from the author's tone in telling the story that all of the dangers would be overcome. The last adventure which is a Tom Sawyer special is a real hoot that gets funnier the more I think about it.
Jim was portrayed as a good person but his character, the fact that he was a slave and always referred to as a n*gg*r brought out the ugliness of racism in America. Jim was very childlike in his speech and his thoughts. An important aspect of American racism was that African-Americans didn't have the abilities of whites and needed to be taken care of. I grew up in an era when the word n*gg*r was still used and I had to teach myself not to use it. Even when I hear it used by black people it is a derogatory term with offensive connotations. The worst part is that I cannot say that the author goes out of his way to be offensive or that his portrayal is not accurate. That is the way things were and I sometimes wonder if all the death and destruction of the Civil War wasn't the price that was paid for the shame of it all.
All seriousness aside I thought this was a really good book and one I would consider to have the necessary attributes of a classic. There was adventure, joy, suspense and a happy ending. I look forward to reading some more of Mr. Twain's novels and reading this book again.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
Mark Twain wrote four books featuring the Mississippi River and based in part on his home town of Hannibal, Missouri. Among these is what some consider the greatest American novel, Huckleberry Finn; also Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi; but the last and least read of the four is a comic gem,
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Pudd'nhead Wilson. Twain was always fascinated by themes of twin hood and exchanged identity. Earlier in his career he wrote a fantasy, The Prince and the Pauper, that was a favorite of mine in my youth and explores the theme of exchanged identity. But in 1894, twelve years after that novel and ten years after Huckleberry Finn, he returned to the Mississippi with publication of The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins. The book was published at a low point in his personal and business life as he succumbed to personal bankruptcy upon his return from a trip to Paris in that year having previously suffered a bout with pneumonia (in 1892) while his family was also ailing. The comic inspiration of Pudd'nhead Wilson betrays none of these travails but adds to the reputation of Twain the great American humorist.
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LibraryThing member BeaverMeyer
Here we have a book that collects the three greatest works written by Mark Twain. The first three-quarters of Huck Finn are flawless. Life on the Mississippi is hilarious. Tom Sawyer is brilliant. This has a permanent spot on my primary bookshelf.
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
I have only read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn out of this book. Both excellent books and ones I shall probably read again.
LibraryThing member CurrerBell
The Library of America volume is worth getting for the sake of LoA completeness, but for actual reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are better read in the Norton Critical Editions for the sake of the supplementary material – and ditto, almost certainly, for Puddn'head Wilson in the Norton
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Critical, though I've read Puddn'head Wilson only in the LoA.

My overall rating for the LoA volume, 3½***, is rather low for an LoA. This is motivated by the preferable use of Norton Critical Editions, in which all but Life on the Mississippi are available. And note that the NCE of Puddn'head Wilson also includes its predecessor inspiration Those Extraordinary Twins.

Tom Sawyer and, most importantly, Huckleberry Finn are of course 5***** American classics. Life on the Mississippi, however, loses its charm once Twain's youthful river pilotage has ended and the book has turned into a rather mundane travelogue. Puddn'head Wilson I have mixed feelings about (on a first reading it seems really questionable racially), but it's certainly not up to the level of Twain's historical "romances" – The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee, and Joan of Arc, though it is superior to such a triviality as Tom Sawyer, Detective.

Yes, yes, I know, Puddn'head Wilson is racial satire, but somehow I feel edgy about it. The two look-alike master/slave infants are just a little too patronizing for my taste and certainly not up to the level of HF's Jim.
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