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4.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective, A Challenge, and a Snapper!, 7 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Those who read The Atlantic Monthly will probably be curious about how this book compares with the material that appeared in the August 2001 issue. As best I can tell, the primary differences are in the illustrations. The book has four larger facsimile pages of the manuscript while the magazine material had two smaller ones. The book has 9 water color illustrations while the magazine has three. Obviously, a bound book is a more handsome item than part of a magazine. But anyone who is interested in this book might want to examine the magazine version first.
The "Skeleton Novelette" will probably seem to most people like just a slightly more developed version of a short story. Its text encompasses 8 magazine pages.
By itself, this work would attract relatively little attention except for its newness to the reader. What makes the story appealing are the foreword and afterword by Roy Blount, Jr. Combined, these essays are longer than the story.
The foreword explains the history of how the work came to be written and published. Of particular relevance is the reference to Mark Twain's "How to Tell a Story." Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, depending on your preference) wrote that "the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it." Mr. Twain warns that "the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way . . . ." The risk, naturally, in using this approach is that the reader will fail to grasp or appreciate the snapper.
You will also learn how Mark Twain conceived of this story in 1876 as his entry into a challenge against the leading writers of the day, including potentially William Dean Howells (The Atlantic Monthly's editor and his friend), Henry James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and Bret Harte. Mr. Twain charged Mr. Howells with interesting the other authors. Although Mr. Howells did his best, the project went nowhere. Fascinated by it, Mr. Twain went on to write his version. Mr. Twain had already written Tom Sawyer and was about halfway through Huckleberry Finn at this time. Mr. Twain did not pick up writing on Huckleberry Finn again until 1879 or 1880, and it was not published until 1885.
The story itself is an unusual one for its time. As the title indicates, there's a murder and a mystery. The story also leads to a marriage, as the title also indicates. I can remember few short stories with so much action and diversity in them. The story also has several other unusual elements that I cannot comment upon without spoiling the story for you.
The site of the story is Deer Lick, Missouri (which will remind most of Hannibal, Missouri. Two young people are interested in marrying, Mary Gray (aged 20) and young Hugh Gregory (aged 27). Mary's father, John, has his eye on the potential money involved. Young Hugh Gregory's father is one of the wealthiest men in the area, second only to John's estranged brother David. Complications arise that shift John's idea of how to get the most for his daughter.
The story will strike many as strange. It takes a darker view of humanity than exists in Tom Sawyer. The afterword does a good job of addressing that shift. It has some unexpected elements which are also well explained in the afterword. I highly recommend it to you.
As to the snapper, I thought it was out in plain sight all along. The answer to the "mystery" also seemed pretty obvious to me in its simplest form. Neither element worked well for me. As a result, I graded the story down to three stars. For although it is done by one of our greatest American writers, I don't think that most will find it to be an example of his best writing. In its twists and turns, it will remind you of O. Henry's irony, but not as skillfully done. There's a meanness here that pervades the story that reduces its power. I thought the foreword, afterword and illustrations were five star efforts. So I averaged all that to my four star rating.
If you liked either Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, you will probably be glad you read this story. It provides some interesting insights into the shifts within the focus of Huckleberry Finn.
After you finish this book, I suggest that you think about where in your life you try to make too big an impression, and reduce the effect. Try doing less.
Be open to the letting the reader or listener supply more of the appeal to a story or review by extending their imagination, rather than forcing it in a certain direction.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective, A Challenge, and a Snapper!, 16 Sept. 2001
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Those who read The Atlantic Monthly will probably be curious about how this book compares with the material that appeared in the August 2001 issue. As best I can tell, the primary differences are in the illustrations. The book has four larger facsimile pages of the manuscript while the magazine material had two smaller ones. The book has 9 water color illustrations while the magazine has three. Obviously, a bound book is a more handsome item than part of a magazine. But anyone who is interested in this book might want to examine the magazine version first.
The "Skeleton Novelette" will probably seem to most people like just a slightly more developed version of a short story. Its text encompasses 8 magazine pages.
By itself, this work would attract relatively little attention except for its newness to the reader. What makes the story appealing are the foreword and afterword by Roy Blount, Jr. Combined, these essays are longer than the story.
The foreword explains the history of how the work came to be written and published. Of particular relevance is the reference to Mark Twain's "How to Tell a Story." Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, depending on your preference) wrote that "the rambling and disjointed humorous story finishes with a nub, point, snapper, or whatever you like to call it." Mr. Twain warns that "the listener must be alert, for in many cases the teller will divert attention from that nub by dropping it in a carefully casual and indifferent way . . . ." The risk, naturally, in using this approach is that the reader will fail to grasp or appreciate the snapper.
You will also learn how Mark Twain conceived of this story in 1876 as his entry into a challenge against the leading writers of the day, including potentially William Dean Howells (The Atlantic Monthly's editor and his friend), Henry James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and Bret Harte. Mr. Twain charged Mr. Howells with interesting the other authors. Although Mr. Howells did his best, the project went nowhere. Fascinated by it, Mr. Twain went on to write his version. Mr. Twain had already written Tom Sawyer and was about halfway through Huckleberry Finn at this time. Mr. Twain did not pick up writing on Huckleberry Finn again until 1879 or 1880, and it was not published until 1885.
The story itself is an unusual one for its time. As the title indicates, there's a murder and a mystery. The story also leads to a marriage, as the title also indicates. I can remember few short stories with so much action and diversity in them. The story also has several other unusual elements that I cannot comment upon without spoiling the story for you.
The site of the story is Deer Lick, Missouri (which will remind most of Hannibal, Missouri. Two young people are interested in marrying, Mary Gray (aged 20) and young Hugh Gregory (aged 27). Mary's father, John, has his eye on the potential money involved. Young Hugh Gregory's father is one of the wealthiest men in the area, second only to John's estranged brother David. Complications arise that shift John's idea of how to get the most for his daughter.
The story will strike many as strange. It takes a darker view of humanity than exists in Tom Sawyer. The afterword does a good job of addressing that shift. It has some unexpected elements which are also well explained in the afterword. I highly recommend it to you.
As to the snapper, I thought it was out in plain sight all along. The answer to the "mystery" also seemed pretty obvious to me in its simplest form. Neither element worked well for me. As a result, I graded the story down to three stars. For although it is done by one of our greatest American writers, I don't think that most will find it to be an example of his best writing. In its twists and turns, it will remind you of O. Henry's irony, but not as skillfully done. There's a meanness here that pervades the story that reduces its power. I thought the foreword, afterword and illustrations were five star efforts. So I averaged all that to my four star rating.
If you liked either Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, you will probably be glad you read this story. It provides some interesting insights into the shifts within the focus of Huckleberry Finn.
After you finish this book, I suggest that you think about where in your life you try to make too big an impression, and reduce the effect. Try doing less.
Be open to the letting the reader or listener supply more of the appeal to a story or review by extending their imagination, rather than forcing it in a certain direction.
Donald Mitchell...
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