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Is He Dead?: A Comedy in Three Acts (Jumping Frogs: Undiscovered, Rediscovered, and Celebrated Writings of Mark Twain) [Hardcover]

Mark Twain

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Book Description

17 Oct 2003 0520239792 978-0520239791
The University of California Press is delighted to announce the new publication of this three-act play by one of America's most important and well-loved writers. A highly entertaining comedy that has never appeared in print or on stage, "Is He Dead?" is finally available to the wide audience Mark Twain wished it to reach. Written in 1898 in Vienna as Twain emerged from one of the deepest depressions of his life, the play shows its author's superb gift for humor operating at its most energetic. The text of "Is He Dead?", based on the manuscript in the "Mark Twain Papers", appears here together with an illuminating essay by renowned Mark Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin and with Barry Moser's original woodcut illustrations in a volume that will surely become a treasured addition to the Mark Twain legacy. Richly intermingling elements of burlesque, farce, and social satire with a wry look at the world market in art, "Is He Dead?" centers on a group of poor artists in Barbizon, France, who stage the death of a friend to drive up the price of his paintings. In order to make this scheme succeed, the artists hatch some hilarious plots involving cross-dressing, a full-scale fake funeral, lovers' deceptions, and much more. Mark Twain was fascinated by the theater and made many attempts at playwriting, but this play is certainly his best. "Is He Dead?" may have been too 'out there' for the Victorian 1890s, but today's readers will thoroughly enjoy Mark Twain's well-crafted dialogue, intriguing cast of characters, and above all, his characteristic ebullience and humor. In Shelley Fisher Fishkin's estimation, it is 'a champagne cocktail of a play - not too dry, not too sweet, with just the right amount of bubbles and buzz'.

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"Sparked by enough over-the-top humor, it is laugh-aloud funny to read."--"Booklist

About the Author

Shelley Fisher Fishkin is Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities, Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Stanford University. She is the author of Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (1997); Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices (1993), selected as an Outstanding Academic Book by Choice; and From Fact to Fiction: Journalism and Imaginative Writing in America (2000), winner of a Frank Luther Mott/Kappa Tau Alpha Award for outstanding research in journalism history. She is also the editor of the 29-volume Oxford Mark Twain and the Oxford Historical Guide to Mark Twain. Barry Moser is one of the foremost wood engravers in the United States and is the proprietor of the Pennyroyal Press. Among other books, he illustrated Huckleberry Finn (California, 1985), Moby Dick (California, 1981), Dante's Inferno (California 1980), Purgatorio (California, 1981), and Paradiso (California, 1984), and the Holy Bible (1999). The Mark Twain Project is housed within the Mark Twain Papers, the world's largest archive of primary materials by this major American writer. Under the direction of General Editor Robert H. Hirst, the Project's five editors are producing the first comprehensive edition of all Mark Twain's writings, more than thirty volumes of which have so far been published by the University of California Press.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful bit of Fun from Mark Twain! 13 Oct 2004
By Gwen Geisinger - Published on Amazon.com
I must preface my review with the truth that I am totally and hopelessly Twain obsessed. I won't say that only a Twain lover will "get" this play but it certainly wouldn't hurt! I enjoyed it immensely and laughed out loud many times. Theatre was one of Twain's passions and he struggled all his life to write a successful play with variable results. This effort is delightful!

I found the interactions between the two couples sweet and touching and the comeraderie between the group of artists was good natured and engaging. But the best part was the gender reversal which was the funniest part of the play. It is amazing that Twain wrote this upbeat and optimistic piece as he was clawing his way out of a deep depression after his daughters death. The introduction and afterward are fascinating, both produced by the excellent and much appreciated Bancroft Library Mark Twain Project. I can't wait to see what they publish next!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely hysterical 20 Feb 2008
By Fashion Girl - Published on Amazon.com
this is one of the greatest plays i have ever read/seen. i laughed so hard during act II that i almost could not continue. mark twain really hit something brilliant here and it is a shame it is not more well known. i am also a fan of humerous plays such as "the importance of being ernest" so if you like satire such as that, you will absolutely love this. also i greatly recommend seeing this at a playhouse if at all possible, it is spectactular on the stage!
4.0 out of 5 stars Close but no cigar...see the play 9 Mar 2010
By 216Bruce - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased this after seeing the play "Is He Dead?" done live in stage at The Beck Center in Lakewood. Well, I usually enjoy the book more than the movie/play and expected the same here. Wrong. While enjoyable for Twain-ites (myself), the play onstage is much more entertaining and funny as it is substantially edited content-wise and shorter. So, if you are a Twain collector- buy this, read it and treasure another piece of Twainia. If you are a casual fan...see the play. It's a night well spent.
5.0 out of 5 stars TWAIN on stage 27 Jun 2009
By T. G. Harpster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'll be stage managing IS HE DEAD in November, and I needed to read the
script now. Although it is slightly different from the Acting Editon used on Broadway, I got the essence of what the story is about, and the number of characters on stage. Thanks! TERI
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is He Dead? 5 Feb 2010
By W. Sabater - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Condition of the book was just as stated, cost was reasonable and delivery was timely. I would do business again with this vendor.
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