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Life on the Mississippi (Bantam Classics) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Oct 1983
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Offers a history of the river, describes Twain's experiences as a riverboat pilot, and shares tall tales, character sketches, and observations about the Mississippi.
About the Author
Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, led one of the most exciting of literary lives. Raised in the river town of Hannibal, Missouri, Twain had to leave school at age 12 and was successively a journeyman printer, a steamboat pilot, a halfhearted Confederate soldier, and a prospector, miner, and reporter in the western territories. His experiences furnished him with a wide knowledge of humanity, as well as with the perfect grasp of local customs and speech which manifests itself in his writing.
With the publication in 1865 of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Twain gained national attention as a frontier humorist, and the bestselling Innocents Abroad solidified his fame. But it wasn't until Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), that he was recognized by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.
Toward the end of his life, plagued by personal tragedy and financial failure, Twain grew more and more pessimistic—an outlook not alleviated by his natural skepticism and sarcasm. Though his fame continued to widen—Yale & Oxford awarded him honorary degrees—Twain spent his last years in gloom and exasperation, writing fables about "the damned human race."
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There's a potted, but detailed history of the river area when first discovered by European settlers along with anecdotes about Twains apprenticeship as a steamboat pilot and the difficulties of navigating a wide and fast flowing river. The latter part of the book is an account of a steamboat journey he took from St Louis to New Orleans and how railroad, new buildings and other industrial developments were influencing and altering life. It's a fabulous travelogue and a great slice of social history.
It was full of useful little stories that give a flavour of past lives , told with great panache by one of America's greatest authors. You really need to get a sense of size of the river and its flood plain and this is the book that helps do it, and tells how a River Pilot through sheer determination mastered his art.
The books mixed culture, the civil war and its long term legacy on Civil Rights, the ever changing landscape with something of a prophesy of the future into a still highly readable book. This is a great companion to more modern books on the Great River
and highly recommended if you want a good introduction the US.
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