For anyone who’s grown up in the United States, you’ve more than likely been exposed to Mark Twain in one form or another, whether it’s having read one or more of his books in high school, seeing a biographical story about him on TV, or hearing one of the many hundreds of references about him; to many his is the quintessential “Great American Author.” And just a little over a century after his passing, Everyman’s Library has released a beautiful hardcover edition collecting all of his short stories. What makes these different stories compared to his novels? Twain is freer and seems to have more fun with his short stories, being more uproarious, satirical and rollicking in the short prose than with the long. This is the Twain that many may not be as familiar with, but it is well worth the read.
There is the strange tale of “The Facts in the Great Beef Contract” about a debt owed to a family by the US government for beef, and how as each family member passes without the payment being fulfilled, the next member ventures forth to try and get back what was owed. There is the famous “Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” set in the familiar Northern Californian “Angel’s Camp.” “Journalism in Tennessee” is about a journalist taking on the agriculture section of a local newspaper, even though he knows nothing about farming, and proceeds to spew complete lies and fiction, incurring the ire of the local farmers.
Collectingall of Mark Twain’s sixty short stories, this collection shows the great author’s full breath from writing entertaining fiction, to travel pieces, to contemplative nonfiction; the only problem is that at times the line between fiction and reality becomes somewhat blurred. But with Twain’s conversational and comforting voice, readers will be welcomed and taken on a truly great adventure.
Originally written on September 13, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.
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