I have no doubt that Mark Twain was one of the greatest writers ever and if you've read his more popular work then I suggest that you sit down with these rarely printed short stories to prove to yourself just what a genius he was. The stories here are so good they're unavoidable for Twain devotees. They amount of imagination crammed into these pages could provoke years of inspiration and pondering.
While they are mostly all unrelated tales, Twain does have one main subtext for pretty much all of them-the futility of religion. Like myself, Twain believes that the romantic, fantastic notion of a judging, ever-watching and vengeful God to be absurd and works in so many ironies and injustices that give them a cruel, but somewhat realistic edge. The story of the Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper is but one shining example.
A lot of the stories are told from Twain's point of view, whether they are true are not I cannot possibly tell, but it's amusing to think of him at the centre of all these adventures.
Of the 23 stories on offer some only last a few pages while epic yarns such as Captain Stormfield's Visit To Heaven can fill-out 51 jam-packed pages. My favorites stories would have to A Private History of a Campaign That Failed (in which Twain and his Rebel pals spend the Civil War hanging around, swimming in ponds and hiding from the Yankees, until they accidently kill an unarmed enemy) and Political Economy (where Twain finds it appropriate to attach a thousand lightning conductors to the top of his house only for it to attract the mother of all lightning storms).
It's a perfect book for any Mark Twain fan, anyone who loves good literature or anyone studying English.