Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Re-Reading Twain

Re-Reading Twain

So, it shd be easy to spot the theme that links my recent reading:






I'd read the first two of these years ago, probably not long after I bought a paperback copy combining the two (on Sunday January 12th 1986). I didn't think much of TOM SAWYER, DETECTIVE then and don't think much of it now, though the trial scene at the end is interesting to the extent that it shows how far back the 'Perry Mason' tradition (Defense Counsel Explains All) goes. At any rate it's better than the two other detective stories by Twain I've read, "A Two Barreled Detective Story" (which includes a parody/pastiche of Holmes, whom Twain hated, as a character) and PUDD'NHEAD WILSON (which starts with a good idea --twins separated at birth, one raised 'white' and the other 'black'--and utterly fails to do anything with it).

ABROAD isn't much better, but at least it links Twain up with the Poe-Verne runaway balloon tradition.

The third entry, HUCK FINN AND TOM SAWYER AMONG THE INDIANS, I read years ago (as in decades). Back when I was in high school or junior high this is one of the many, many books I read while working as a shoe shine. The edition I hunted down for reading now, on Kindle, prints the start of the novel by Twain which then segues into a much longer continuation and conclusion by a Western writer I've never otherwise heard of: Lee Nelson. His contribution, while interesting for its historical backdrop (something Twain tended to keep vague), isn't anything I'll be needing to read again. The same applies to Twain's fragment as well -- although Twain is my favorite American author* there's a smattering of works by him I've never read, and I'd rather read on them and re-read some favorites than to give this one an undeserved third try.


That just leaves SCHOOLHOUSE HILL, the only one of these I don't think I've read --though I've had the book it's in since August 18th 1979,** and despite the fact that I've marked up other sections of the book (which contains three variant texts of Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER. I was surprised by how good it is. After three duds I was prepared with lowered expectations, but he really came through. Pity he broke off and left this version unfinished.

So I'll certainly need to read the other two alternate versions of the story (posthumously assembled from his papers). I'll probably skim several more Twains I don't think I'll need to keep, I'll definitely be adding other Twains to the read-this-at-last shelves.

--John R.

current viewing; think now's a good time to dig out and re-watch Hal Holbrook's MARK TWAIN TONIGHT.

*some of my favorites of his works including THE LETTERS FROM THE EARTH, THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, THE DIARY OF ADAM AND EVE, and of course stories like "A Day at Niagra", "His Grandfather's Old Ram",  and "Journalism in Tennessee", not to mention the lecture "Advice to Youth"

**only about a week after I graduated from Magnolia, moved to Fayetteville, and started graduate school:: clearly I picked it up pretty much the first time I was able to get into a bookstore

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