on 30 October 1998
This is an important book in American literature. This collection truly shows off the massive range that Mark Twain had. From the author of books as divergant as Huck Finn and Joan of Arc, to the humorous travel writings and all the way past the bitter, hateful scribblings of his later life.
These are some of the highlights, as I see it:
"The Story of the Bad Little Boy", an early version of Twain's comprehenisive pessism and it proves that there is really no such thing. There's optimism and there's realism. "A Day at Niagra", an obvious parody of his own early newpaper feature writing. Perhaps it was an abandoned assignment on a trip to the falls and Twain had such a bad time he wrote this vicious, sarcastic piece. There are numerous other wonderful stories along the way, hilarious, mean-spirited, touching, beautiful, gently humorous and smile factoring. After the dreadful 1890s of Twain's life (lost a wife, a daughter, a fortune and another kid got sick), sometimes a few of the stories are near-misses. Still always amusing, but something is missing. Then, at recurring times over the last decade of his life, Mark Twain got angry. He popped the blister that became "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyberg", a brutal profile of mankind's inate greed and selfishness and how there will always be someone out there to laugh and enjoy your misery. "The $30,000 Bequest" is a heart-breaking tale about delusion and wasted lives, and how even the thought of money corrupts absolutely. "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" is a mercilessly blasphemous account of Heaven being no different, really, from the earth, the same classist behavior, the same tragic dreams of a better life never to be had. It shoots a hole the size of, well, Heaven in this shaky mythology.
Finally, we visit with "The Mysterious Stranger", a categorically violent attack on the idea of God. It demystifies so many absurdities organized religion tells you to take for granted, don't be surprised if you lose your faith after reading this short novel. It is one of the ultimate masterworks of satirical tragedy ever produced by a writer and is desperately in need of some ingenious filmmaker to produce an R-rated animated movie. Hell, anyone out there who may chance across this add, I'm willing to write the screenplay or assist in production in some way. I have some experience and can do this one TOP NOTCH.
Enough advertising--all in all, a beautiful, necessary book.
Mark Twain was a pretty versatile author, writing everything from the story of Huck Finn to a time-traveling Arthurian satire.
And in addition to writing articles, novels and travelogues, he wrote a lot of short stories. Everyman's Library's "The Complete Short Stories" brings together all of Twain's short works, from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous (there's a story called "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"!).
The stories include stories of Jim Smiley and his trained frog, the Capitoline Venus, a missing elephant, the "orneriest-lookin'" cat Tom Quartz, the overwrought romance of Alonzo and Rosannah (via phone), a tragic Inuit maiden, a wild sketch about an odd couple on the Russian border, Captain Elias Stormfield's voyage through the startling expanses of heaven, and countless other tales. It also has some stuff that is not quite as easily classified as short stories, such as the demonic fable "The Mysterious Stranger," a scathing poke at organized religion.
"The Complete Short Stories" has a lot of different kinds of tales in it, from the tragic ("The Esquimau Maiden's Romance") to the hilarious ("The Belated Russian Passport"). But since Twain was a noted humorist, most of the stories have a wry, biting edge -- sometimes it's gentle, and sometimes it's pretty vicious.
Heck, even the romantic stories in it -- such as the tale of Alonzo and Rosannah -- have the vague feeling that you should be laughing at the overwrought emotions and reactions of the lovers.
And that edge permeates all the stories, however they are written. Some are conventional 19th-century prose, with splashes of color and clever wordplay. But he experiments with style at times -- sometimes he's being told a story by a fictional third person, sometimes the story is almost all dialogue, and so on.
Above all, Twain was a brilliant wordsmith, able to conjure up the mundane with as much color as the ethereal and exotic. His stories tend to be brief, but they pack a lot of punch -- even if they're barely more than sketches (like the membranous croup story), they have clever, colorful writing.
"The Complete Short Stories" (which isn't QUITE complete -- there are a few stories missing) is a good way of getting Mark Twain's short stories all in one. Vibrant, sharp and witty.
on 23 September 2010
This volume claims to present the complete short stories of Mark Twain. It contains sixty stories but is far from being complete.
Indeed in other editions I have collected thirty-three more tales, some of them absolutely extraordinary, and worthy to be anthologized.
For instance 'Mr Bloke's item' published in 1865 seems completely forgotten. But one of the funniest stories I know.
Nevertheless this book is very entertaining, if not complete.
on 23 August 2015
This may seem like good value but if you're looking for a particular story, such as "The Belated Russian Passport", you won't find it because this misnamed collection doesn't have it; it also seems to includes essays. articles and speeches under the description 'short stories'. Not complete. Not even short stories half the time. A list of titles would have helped. Be warned, also, if you're looking for "Russian" in "The Complete Mark Twain", it's not there!
on 12 June 2015
This is a huge book. I started to read it about six weeks ago and have still not come to the end. Mark Twain was very well traveled considering the times he lived in and his short stories are endlessly inventive, very witty, wicked at times and always entertaining. A very good read most of the time - only occasionally did I skip rapidly through one of his stories. I now look forward to reading his novels.